Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang

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:

Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang
Publication Date: February 21st, 2017 
Little, Brown Books
Amazon Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

From Goodreads:

Dragon Springs Road: A Novel
That night I dreamed that I had wandered out to Dragon Springs Road all on my own, when a dreadful knowledge seized me that my mother had gone away never to return . . . 

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai. Jialing iszazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Until now she’s led a secluded life behind courtyard walls, but without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Murder, political intrigue, jealousy, forbidden love … Jialing confronts them all as she grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother. Through every turn she is guided, both by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past toward a very different fate, if she has the courage to accept it.

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books I Read in School

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly book blog meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic is anything book related, so I decided to go with my top ten favorite books I read in school. Some of these are ones that were assigned, and some were ones that I chose to read from a list of suggested titles that was required for either a project or something like SSR. 

A Separate Peace
It was my freshman year and we were given a list of titles that we were allowed to read for SSR. I had heard of most of the titles on the page, as most were big classics, but then I saw A Separate Peace and thought, 'huh, I've never heard of this one, let's look it up.' And then I read the summary, and then I picked it up, and then I fell in love. This is heartbreaking, beautiful, and all around perfect. 

The Things They Carried
This was also on a list of suggested titles, though to be honest, I'm pretty sure I just chose to read this one on my own because I don't recall using it for an assignment.. Regardless, this is an extremely raw and intense book about a man in the Vietnam War. I'm a bit surprised it was on the list now that I think of it, but I'm more impressed that my school didn't shy away from heavy topics and somewhat graphic books. I really loved this one and even went on to pick up more of O'Brien's books!

The Hungry Tide
This was assigned during an introduction to critical methods course by a really great (though intense) professor. This was an interesting book, but I enjoyed the writing style and incredibly unique atmosphere that Ghosh created.

Technically I read this before I read it in school, but since it was also eventually assigned while I was at school, I feel that it is okay to include it (mainly because, you know, I just really enjoyed it). Reading this was a total eye-opener for me; I was so used to the traditional stereotypes of Frankenstein that I was shocked and excited to find out the true story of Frankenstein and his monster. 

The Indian in the Cupboard
Okay, so in recent years there has been a bit more backlash against this book for encouraging racial stereotypes, but I still can't help but love this book. I have distinct memories of my fourth grade teacher reading this book to us every afternoon, and it was easily one of my favorites times of the day. I loved this magical story of a boy's toys coming to life in a magic cupboard and all the chaos and fun that ensures. I just loved this one.

Pride and Prejudice
This was assigned during an introduction to Britsh literature course, and also my first introduction to Jane Austen. I was incredibly skeptical that Austen's work would be too romantic and flowery, but wow was I wrong! Austen is hilarious and I absolutely love her work now. If you have never experienced Austen, please do not be fooled by the perceived stereotypes - go check her out!

Brick Lane
I'm honestly not sure how much I enjoyed this one while I was reading it, but now whenever I look back on it I have fond memories of the themes and lessons explored throughout. I read this as part of an introduction to critical methods course (yes, the same one that I read The Hungry Tide for), and I am incredibly grateful that this book was assigned by my professor.

I was never a huge Shakespeare span until I read "Macbeth." Prior to "Macbeth," I had only read "Romeo and Juliet" and "Othello," both of which were assigned reading. I enjoyed both, but neither really grabbed me. Then I read Macbeth and was super entertained by the antics of the characters and the entire storyline, and suddenly the whole world of Shakespeare opened up for me. I realized how witty and exciting his work is, as well as all the allusions and various intricate details thrown in, and I have since tried to expand my Shakespeare reading.

The Turn of the Screw
I also picked The Turn of the Screw off a list of suggested titles for SSR (I think it was SSR...), and I really enjoyed it! I was hoping for a bit more of a 'creepy' factor, but it was still great. It was moreso the writing and atmosphere created that really enticed me, and in fact I would say  that James' bleak and somewhat haunting writing is what made the book somewhat creepy and so intriguign.

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes
I feel like most people had a run-in with this at some point throughout their educational careers. For me, this book opened up the world of Greek mythology and in turn the world of the Ancient Greeks themselves. Although it is a bit outdated now, this is still a really complete yet concise introduction to the biggest myths from Greek mythology. As some of you may or may not know, I am entering my final year at university as a Classics major, so, yeah,  I might be a bit biased, but it's still really great. 

Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite books from school? Did you hate any? Leave a comment below!

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

*Darktown will be releases on Tuesday, September 13th!*

Darktown by Thomas Mullen. Atria Books, 2016. Paperback ARC. 384 pages.

**I received a printed ARC of Darktown courtesy of  Atria Books in exchange for an honest review**

Darktown is set in Atlanta, Georgia in 1948. The police department has hired eight black cops to police 'Darktown,' and although they do act as the authority there, they have no real power to make arrests, nor are they even allowed to drive squad cars or work out of the main police headquarters. If they need to arrest someone, they have to call for backup from their white fellow officers, most of whom do not care to help them out. As soon as I received Darktown in the mail, I was intrigued by how intense it sounded and also curious to see how Mullen would handle this topic. This book was not only a stark, informative look at the treatment of blacks, but also provided a note of relevancy to some issues facing us today.

Our main characters are Boggs and Smith, who attempt to witness a black woman, Lily Ellsworth, being physically abused by a white man; this woman eventually turns up dead, but the white man is not charged. In response to this outrage, Boggs and Smith decide to perform their own investigation, which they must do somewhat quietly and without any direct police help.

We also have the white cop duo of Dunslow and Rake. Dunslow is your stereotypical racist pig, complete with an unattractive body and a downright disgusting attitude. This was actually one area that sort of disappointed me about the story. Why did the main racist antagonist have to be so stereotypical? I feel like a much bigger effect could have been made if Mullen had made this rather despicable man have a somewhat more attractive or intriguing in his demeanor, mainly because not every racist man is going to be like this, and I think it's important for us to realize that racism is alive and present in any number of people. 

The second cop, Rake, becomes a much more redeemable character as we see him interact with Boogs and Smith. In the begining of the book, we become aware that Rake doesn't really approve of how Dunslow treats black people, and he even halfheartedly attempts to get him to stop beating a black man, but he doesn't really do anything. Fortunately, he finds a bit of courage throughout the story to try to do what is right, though he is by no means a perfect character. 

Darktown is much more focused on the racial aspect of the setting and plot than the crime itself, so if you are looking for a pure crime mystery, this isn't quite it. In fact, I think it's much more interesting because of the topic and questions it tackles, and I definitely would recommend this book because of that. The only somewhat disappointing aspect of this was that the focus on racism dominated so much that it almost reached a point in which I felt the characters were overshadowed. Now, I understand that racism itself is indeed a huge issue that dominates so many aspects of life today, but I had hoped to try to see more out of the eyes of some of the characters than I did. I felt like I knew most of the characters, but there was just some aspect that felt like I was kept at an arm's length, which made it somewhat difficult to become fully invested in the story at times. 

Overall, I am giving Darktown four stars for superb handling of an intense and highly relevant topic. 

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

*Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow is now available!*

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow. Delacorte Press, 2016. Paperback. 416 pages.

*I received a print ARC of Girl in Pieces courtesy of Delacorte Press and First in Line in exchange for an honest review*

I'm not really sure what I expected when I started this book, but it definitely wasn't what I read. Girl in Pieces is not your average story of a girl who is struggling, but instead feels like so much more. Based on the synopsis, I already expected this to be a heavy book, but it was even heavier and more intense than I expected. This book hit deep and was hard to read at times, but also impossible to put down.

First, I thought this was a great portrayal of mental health. Charlie goes through so many ups and downs and they are all completely sporadic and unpredictable. She may take ten steps forward one day, three steps back the next, and then no steps either way after that; the unexpectedness of everything was truly spot-on. You can feel her descent and her tiny victories and the guilt and shame she feels when she thinks she has messed up. Charlie wants to get better, she is trying really hard to follow the rules laid out by her doctor, but sometimes she just messes up, and that is normal and realistic. This is actually something that I really liked about Charlie - she never seemed to be intentionally self-destructive. She truly wanted to better herself and do what it takes to become better, but she was trapped by feelings of being damaged and unable to be loved 'like a normal person.'

In a weird way, I also sort of liked the fact that Charlie was essentially kicked out of her psychiatric hospital because her insurance funds disappeared. How realistic and lifelike is that? I've never read a book about psychiatric wards and mental health that really touched much on that aspect, and I think that's so important. So many people seem to forget or skim over the fact that to be in a psychiatric ward or receive quality help can be extremely expensive or require insurance, so sometimes those that need the help the most can't get it, and that's a horrible problem in our society that has yet to be resolved.

Glasgow's prose - wow. It's effortlessly brilliant and emotional. It flows in a poetic fashion at times, but other times it is raw and blunt and cut up. No matter what, though, it is almost always captivating to read. Glasgow does not shy away from heavy topics, and instead treats them with the care and occasional force needed to make a point. There are certain areas where we seem to get a more harsh inner dialogue from Charlie and it reads so passionately and is so emotionally charged - it's really just some superb writing.

One of my only issues with this book was my connection with Charlie due to the writing style, however. At most points in the book, I felt completely sucked in, right there with Charlie, feeling what she was feeling, experiencing those events in her life. But at other times I felt rather disconnected and as if I was watching everything happen from outside of a foggy window, if that makes any sense. So while I didn't mind the writing or my connection to the story, this somewhat uneven narration drew me out of my reading concentration sometimes.

Overall, I am giving Girl in Pieces four stars for its brilliant capture of mental health issues and a girl struggling to make something more of her life, as well as the wonderful writing used to tell this story. I definitely recommend this one!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

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:

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Publication Date: February 21st, 2017 
Little, Brown Books
Amazon Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

From Goodreads:

Dreamland Burning
Some bodies won’t stay buried.
Some stories need to be told.

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family's property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past... and the present.

Nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what's right the night Tulsa burns.

Through intricately interwoven alternating perspectives, Jennifer Latham’s lightning-paced page-turner brings the Tulsa race riot of 1921 to blazing life and raises important question about the complex state of US race relations – both yesterday and today.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten (or Six) Tuesday: Books That Have Been on My Shelf for Far Too Long

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly book blog meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is books that have been on your shelf (your real, virtual, etc. TBR) from before you started blogging that still haven't been read. I'm surprisingly having a difficult time coming up with a full ten (even though I know that there are far more than that), so here are my top six!

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1)
This has been on my shelf for ages, but since I'm not normally a huge hard sci-fi fan, it always gets pushed back. One day...

The Pelican Fables
Pretty sure this one is still on my TBR simple because I forgot about it. There are a lot of intriguing things about this book, but what initially caught my eye was the fact that the setting is a boarding school. What can I say, I'm a sucker for boarding school books. Time to make a library trip!
(Edit: I just checked my local library and a bookstore near me and neither of them have it, so perhaps that's why I never got around to reading it.)

In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1)
I love Catherynne Valente! So why haven't I read this book? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Map of Time (TrilogĂ­a Victoriana, #1)
This book has so much promise and seems so exciting that I honestly have no justification for why I haven't read it yet. From Goodreads"Characters real and imaginary come vividly to life in this whimsical triple play of intertwined plots, in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence." This could either be really good or really bad, but I'm betting on the former. 

Okay, so I remember thinking the concept of this book sounded really great, and at the time I knew Lev Grossman from his writing at Time magazine (and eventually The Magicians books) and thought I wanted to give him a shot. It has a pretty low overall rating on Goodreads, and I haven't overly enjoyed many of his other books, so... this might stay on my TBR for a while. Sorry, Codex!

War and Peace
Look, I know it's probably a cliche to have a book like War and Peace on here, but it's true. I've been putting it off and telling myself I'll read it when I 'finally have the time,' but let's face it: when do we ever have enough to sit and read a book like this? Never, so just dive in!

What books have been sitting on your shelf (virtual or real) for far too long?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Over the Underworld by Adam Shaughnessy

*Over the Underworld by Adam Shaughnessy will be released Tuesday, September 6th!*

Over the Underworld by Adam Shaughnessy. Algonquin Young Readers, 2016. Paperback 304 pages.

*I received a paperback ARC of Over the Underworld courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.*

Over the Underworld is book two in The Unbelievable FIB series, and it brings with it just as much excitement and adventure as book one.

A little backstory: When I initially received Over the Underworld from Algonquin, I had never heard of The Unbelievable FIB series, so I went over to Goodreads to check it out, and there I discovered that this was actually book two in a series. So I did what any other person who refuses to read books out of order did and set out to my local library (aka placed an interlibrary loan request online and waited for it to be filled because my library is incredibly small and under-stocked) and picked up the first book, The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB (which I immensely enjoyed it), and was then ready for this ARC! I would definitely advise anyone looking into this series to read the first book, prior to reading this second one; I wouldn't say it's completely crucial, but it will definitely help you understand just about everything.

I love middle grade books. I don't read them nearly as much as other books, which is a shame, but I still love them all the same. It never ceases to amaze me how well most are able to entertain both adults and children. Over the Underworld is one of those magical middle grade books that completely fits into that category, and I am excited to share it with the world.

Over the Underworld picks up about a year after the first book takes place as Pru and ABE are about to begin seventh grade. Nothing exciting has happened in Middleton since the events of the previous year, and Pru is feeling both angry at Mister Fox for disappearing and bored with the lack of excitement. Although ABE also misses Mister Fox, he is more true to his nature and is mainly just excited for summer to end and school to start back up. Soon enough, however, Odin once again returns to Middleton and brings with him news that the events for Ragnarok - the end of the world - have begun, and thus the children are once again sent off a new adventure mission.

Unlike the first book, Over the Underworld focuses less on the town of Middleton and instead takes up more time in new settings, which were exciting to explore. However, as much as I enjoyed this, I felt like there was something missing. I still can't quite place my finger on it, but there was just a little bit of magic missing from this book that was present in the first book.

I love how Shaughnessy incorporates Norse mythology into this book, as I am a huge fan of myths and myth-inspired tales. He stays true to the traditional tales, but also adds on his own effects and storylines to make the story flow smoothly and understandably. And just as Shaughnessy does in the first book, he continues to showcase clever, quirky writing and characters that add even more life and effortlessness to the story.

Pru is back with her feisty personality intact and eagerness to find an adventure. Shaughnessy does a really good job of showing the three-dimensional traits of Pru; she's a little bit of an accidental troublemaker with a quick temper, but she is also a young girl  struggling through some tough times and wants others in her life to understand her. I felt a special connection to Pru because of her loss of her father, and it is probably partly due to this connection that I identified and enjoyed this book so much. Pru lost her father at a young age that is just about the same time that my own father died, and I felt that many of Pru's emotions and questions regarding her father's death were spot-on. One particular instance that struck me was when Pru had to part with a special token of her father's that she constantly carried around with her. I also have a specific item that I constantly wear as sort of token/memory of my father, so when she is anxious and upset about losing it or having to give it away, I completely identified with that.

Over the Underworld also featured much more of ABE, who I felt really seemed to develop and show many more sides to his personality throughout the events of the story. We get to see act as a levelheaded partner to Pru's short-tempered manners, as well as a somewhat more emotional side of ABE that lets us understand more about who he is and why he is the way he is. Another thing I really like is the fact that as much as I connect with Pru's character for the reasons mentioned above, my personality is much more like ABE's, and I absolutely fell in love with his slightly awkward manner and penchant for sometimes acting like a 'know-it-all'.

As you can probably tell, this book does not shy away from heavier themes such as death, which are present throughout the book in various ways. Shaughnessy excelled at weaving in such difficult themes into such an exciting and fast-paced story, and I highly recommend this to those who enjoy myth-inspired tales and rich, entertaining characters.

Though I deeply enjoyed Over the Underworld, it wasn't quite as strong as the first one, and for that reason, along with the many listed above, I am giving this book four stars.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Arabella of Mars by David Levine

Arabella of Mars by David Levine. Tor Books, 2016. Hardcover. 320 pages.  

I recently received a copy of Arabella of Mars from a giveaway hosted by Wendell over at Bookwraiths, so a huge thank you to her for the opportunity to read this book! I was really excited to read this book because it sounds a  bit different from what I normally read and I've been in the mood for something new and exciting. Plus, the concept of a 19th century world having great access to space travel is beyond tempting.

Arabella of Mars centers around Arabella, a young girl born and raised on Mars (yes, the planet), which is where she feels most at home. Arabella prefers to spend her time in pants, not dresses, being rowdy with the boys; she does not like the prim, modest young girls that exist back on earth in England. Thus, when she is forced to return to England with her mother and sisters to become a proper lady of society, Arabella is deeply upset. She is now separated from both her brother Michael and her true home. The trouble begins when certain circumstances prompt her to attempt to find quick passage back to Mars, and in order to do this she must disguise herself as a boy and work on a ship during its passage to Mars.

Though the iea of having a girl dress up as a boy in order to do something is a oft-used idea, I really enjoyed Levine's depiction and the many ways in which he made this realistic. He didn't gloss over anything that left us to wonder how she managed to get away with any bothersome aspects of being a woman, which is often a problem I encounter with these types of storylines.

This book is not shy in its use of technical jargon and complicated ideas, and I'll admit there were some areas where I felt myself glossing over, but fortunately things picked up soon after. Levine has created an incredibly complex world with exceptionally intricate mechanisms and he is not afraid to use all of these things to their fullest extent.

I really liked Arabella. She is tough and bold, but not overly so to the point where it becomes unbelievable or annoying, which is a trap a lot of authors seem to fall into and Levine skillfully avoids. She still had her faults and insecurities and there were definitely times when she made mistakes, but these features tied together with her own strength and ever-increasing bravery made her a wonderfully well-rounded character.

Along with Arabella is a cast of characters that bring even more life and vibrancy to the story. While the supporting are all fairly stereotypical characters, they are still well-developed and bring even more interest to the story itself. The most intriguing of these characters if Captain Prakash Singh, an intelligent, stoic Indian captain who gives Arabella the chance to prove herself aboard his ship.

As far as the setting goes, I really love this alternate 19th century! The thought of being able to easily travel to Mars sounds preposterous in a book set in this particular context, but Levine constructs his world in such a way that I found it perfectly believable. It sounds perfectly plausible and I had so much fun with this idea. I also enjoyed Levine's creation of the native Martians, as they were very distinct, but not written in a demeaning manner. They have their own special customs, and it was interesting to see how Levine explored the dynamic between the natives and the humans that have colonized the land on Mars.

I think Levine did wonderful working creating a historical period with the technology and methods to get to Mars and inhabit it, as well as in developing interesting characters and a detailed world, and for these reasons I am giving it four well-earned stars.

You might also like:
Walk on Earth a Stranger  by Rae Carson
Smoke by Dan Vyleta 
A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliffe
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

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:

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
Publication Date: February 14th, 2017 
Del Rey Books
Amazon Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

From Goodreads:

Spindle Fire
Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, Spindle Fire is an enthralling, wholly original re-imagining of a classic faerie story.

Half-sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is
the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood, a Faerie Queen who is preparing for war, a strange and enchanting dream realm—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

Spindle Fire is a tour de force fantasy set in the dwindling, deliciously corrupt world of the fae, and featuring two truly unforgettable heroines.

If this sounds interesting, you can read the first two chapters over at Bustle!

For fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo? Sign me up! I, like many, am a sucker for faerie story re-imaginings, and Spindle Fire seems like a really inventive and exciting take. Stories with strong sister bonds always pique my interest as well, so I'm looking forward to seeing how Hillyer portrays their relationship. Why must we wait until February!?

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedwick

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Diane over at Bibiophile by the Sea. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Diane's blog, or simple check it out to find more new books to read!

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Roaring Brook Press, October 2016. Hardcover | Kindle | 320 pages

I actually just finished this, but I really felt like sharing it because of how gorgeous the writing is

First paragraph:

"Once upon a time, beyond the sunrise, halfway to the moon, and so very far away it would make your feet weep to think about it, lies a land vast in size. From where we sit, on the far edge of history, we can see across Time itself, and yet this land is so big we struggle to see all of it at once.
Nevertheless, here it is: Here's a river as wide as a sea, and into it flows a stream as wide as a river. In summer salmon leap through the cool fresh water, in winter the ice is as thick as a house is tall."

What do you think? Would you keep reading? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!)
If you're enticed by this chapter, be sure to check out the full synopsis on Goodreads!

*Excerpt taken from the novel itself; I do claim to own any part of the excerpt.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Secret Book of Kings by Yochi Brandes

As I'm writing this post, it is approximately ~96 hours post my wisdom teeth extraction (all four removed, all majorly impacted), and as much as I would love to say that this whole process has been a total piece of cake, it's pretty much been the opposite. I've been doing a liquids-only diet since Thursday, and let's just say that that is not a way that I want to continue living, and I could never willingly do one of those liquid detox diets. Here's to hoping for solid foods today!

With all that being said, I'm feeling fairly lucid at the moment, so this review should be plenty coherent, as I did proofread is a fair amount of times, but just in case there is anything a big confusing... we all know why. Now, on to the review!

**The Secret Book of Kings will be published Tuesday, August 23rd!**

The Secret Book of Kings by Yochi Brandes. St. Martin's Press, 2016. Ebook. 416 pages. 

*I receved an ARC of the The Secret Book of Kings courtesy of St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

The Secret Book of Kings is an intricate and carefully crafted historical fiction story set within a Biblical era context. The story follows the character of Shlom'am as he grows up and makes many discoveries and journeys. While I started off this book strong with every intention of reading the whole thing, I slowly felt my interest begin to wane about a quarter of the way through  - something in the book kept me reading, so I did end up finishing it, but I'm not sure what exactly it was that kept me going.

This book is filled with information regarding the time period and the various peoples and lands that existed, which provided a very realistic and thoroughly created setting, which is an aspect of Brandes' writing that I admire. She clearly takes her time with research and the development of her world and setting. However, while I enjoyed much of this background information, I have to admit that often felt rather overloaded by the sheer amount of information and small details, and a result sometimes found the story hard to follow. I grew bored at times and had a hard time drawing myself back into the story.

The characters that Brandes brings to life are all rather alluring when we are first introduced to them, and almost every single character seemed to have a unique, interesting background story that was actually rather interesting to explore. The problem that I had with some of the characters, such as Shlom'am, is that they seemed to end up being rather flat. What I mean is there is initial potential with their personality and role in the story, but as the story progressed, I didn't really become more interested or excited about them - it wasn't very dynamic or multi-dimensional. Also, with such a large cast of characters, it was hard to keep track of certain people, especially since some seemed quite similar to others.

I feel that The Secret Book of Kings suffered a bit through the translation, and perhaps that is why certain parts and dialogue felt jilted and stiff. I wish I could have read this in its original language, as I feel that that would make some areas of the book flow better than what I read.

I would recommend this book to those who are strong historical/Biblical fiction fans rather than those who are casually interested in the genre. Overall, Brandes is clearly a talented and detail-oriented writer, but unfortunately was unable to completely hold my interest, and thus I will be giving The Secret Book of Kings three stars.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead. Razorbill, 2016. Ebook. 400 pages.

I'll just jump right into this and say that The Glittering Court was disappointing, to say the least.

I picked up this book without knowing much about it. The first ~30% or so of this book was pretty solid. It wasn't anything groundbreaking, but I was enjoying myself for the most part and was being entertained, despite occasional awkward happenings. It was around this point that I noticed this book had fairly average-to-negative reviews, which completely surprised me. I knew it wasn't great, but it wasn't that bad, was it? Well, I spoke too soon, because eventually it all started to make sense.

As I continued on, I found myself becoming increasingly bored and lacking interest in the story of our main character. I kept waiting for the climactic moment to hit and for the book to start wrapping up, but when I looked at my progress on my Kindle (I checked out an ebook from one of my library's Overdrive accounts), I found that I was only about 40% through. Uh, that's not a good sign. So, here are some of the problems I had.

First, the characters. I was much more interested in some of the side characters, such as Tamsin and Mira, who were Adelaide's roommates. They seemed to have so much more depth and development than Adelaide, our main character, ever had. Adelaide is... uninteresting. She is a high-born woman posing as a woman of lesser status, and let's be honest: she's not very good at it. Her character seems to run very hot and cold and I couldn't find myself caring much about her. Since reading the book, I have discovered that The Glittering Court is going to be part of a series of companion novels, with each one focusing on a different character, so maybe the ones focusing on Tamsin or Mira would be better. Or maybe not, who knows. Cedric, the love interest of Adelaide, was also quite disappointing, and I can't find much that was interesting about him. He was rather dry, and his big 'secret' that he kept from Adelaide turned out to be quite a letdown.

Another problem I had was with the plot itself. The story starts off following Adelaide, a high-born woman who disguises herself as a lower class woman in order to have some independence and attend a school in Adoria, which is the 'New World' in our story. This school is a form of finishing school in which young woman of lesser classes are trained taught etiquette and other skills with the ultimate goal of selling them off to wealthy men in this new world, ensuring a wealthy and enchanting life for the woman. As annoying as this is, I can't be annoyed with the author just yet, because plenty of books have rather horrid institutions like this. But then comes the fact that Adelaide chose to leave her home in order to escape an arranged marriage... and then chose to go to an institution that trains them be good wives for  - yep, you guessed - arranged marriages... what? This was all a little weird to me, but hey, I like to give books the benefit of the doubt, and I was entertained so why not keep going?

The weirdest part occurred when this book suddenly turned into a gold rush-esque story and Adelaide moved into a wild west scenario. I was completely confused throughout this entire portion. The whole time I was trying to figure out what was going on and how this book completely 180'd so drastically. Needless to say, this entire plot just felt jilted and confusing to follow.

Then, the romance. The romantic interest in The Glittering Court is entirely predictable, and although it is a gentle and generally cozy little romantic interest, it lacked any real passion. The two characters involved seemed to just one day decide they were completely mad for each without us ever really getting to see or understand how or why that happened. There were of course various flirtations between the two, but it went from awkward, uncertain flirtations to insta-love in a short matter of time; there was very little development that I could discern. 

The ending was also completely out of the blue for me, and frankly, it just didn't make sense. I think this is partly because this is a companion series, so we don't have all aspects of the story as one, but since the books are not released simultaneously, it makes it hard to understand everything. 

And a quick, final note: The Glittering Court is hardly a fantasy book. I kept waiting (quite patiently, I might add) for some fantastical elements, but alas, they never appeared. I think the fantasy portion derives from the fact that these are made-up lands with made-up names and institutions, but that's pretty much the extent of it. There is a made-up religion that I guess could potentially play the fantasy role, but it's fairly minimal and doesn't really do it. So if you're looking for some fantasy with magic or other fantastical elements, you might want to find something else.

Because of all the reasons listed above, I have to give The Glittering Court two stars, which I honestly feel really bad about. I just could not understand or get into this book very well. But, you win some and lose some, right?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Gilded Cage by Vic James

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!

I swear it gets harder and harder to choose just one book to spotlight each week.. there are so many!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:

Gilded Cage by Vic James
Publication Date: February 14th, 2017 
Del Rey Books
Amazon Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

From Goodreads:

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts, #1)
For readers of Victoria Aveyard and George RR Martin comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule and commoners are doomed to serve.


Our world belongs to the Equals aristocrats with magical gifts and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. 

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family s secrets might win her liberty but will her heart pay the price? 

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. 

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate or destroy?

I'm normally one to shy away from modern settings if given the option, but Gilded Cage just sounds too interesting to pass by! This entire concept seems somewhat familiar, but also entirely unique at the same time, and I am excited to see how James develops the story. I also believe this is Vic James' debut novel, so it's always fun (and sometimes daunting) to find new author talent!

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Intimidating Books

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly book blog meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is to choose your own from The Broke and the Bookish's backlist of topic choices. I ended up choosing the top ten most intimidating books!

We all have those special books that, although you may be dying to read them, there's just something about them that is highly intimidating. It could be due to an extraordinarily high page number (1000+ gets a little intense sometimes), the content, the praise surrounding them, or any other reason. But then, nothing feels better than the feeling of accomplishment upon completing one of these vast tomes. I'm always interested to see what books people have been intimidated by, as there are some that are commonly feared, but some that are uniquely intimidated to someone for a reason we never thought of. Here are a few of my most intimidating books I have successfully conquered!

House of Leaves
This is a big book in an abnormal format that is somewhat difficult to get through at times. Though I didn't really find myself as sucked into this book as I've seen others, I still found that story fascinating and I loved the unique format, as this was one of the first books in this format that I ever read.

Infinite Jest
This was by far the most intimidating book that I've ever read. Not only in this book huge, but the extensive footnotes that are crucial to the story make this difficult to get through. The storyline is difficult to follow at times, as well the writing itself. I'm still not completely sure if I enjoyed it or not, to be honest. All I can say is that it was definitely a journey and one that I am glad I did. One day I would like to re-read it and pay closer attention to various things, but for now, I'm satisfied.

The Count of Monte Cristo
The main intimidation factors that went into play with this one were a mixture of the sheer size, along with the fact that this is often considering one of the greatest adventure stories. I felt like there was a lot to live up to - and fortunately it did!

The Magus
I think it was mainly the size of this one that intimidated me, as I was a sophomore in high school and it seemed like quite an intricate novel. The Magus is, in fact, a mind-bending read, and one that I totally recommend. I really want to re-read this one day soon!

The Canterbury Tales
5. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
I always felt like I saw references to The Canterbury Tales everywhere, which made me intimidated that I would read this and not understand things or not find it nearly as humorous as others. Fortunately, it ended up being pretty enjoyable, and I loved the wit. (I definitely used some study aids to help me out, though!)

The Pillars of the Earth  (The Pillars of the Earth, #1)
The length and extensive amount of characters in The Pillars of the Earth are pretty intense. I did struggle a bit through this one, and to be completely honest, I'm not sure I remember that much... maybe it's time for a re-read.

Considered to be one of the ultimate sci-fi classics by many sci-fi fans, Dune is a fairly heft book that took me a while to finally pick up. Sadly, I ended up not finishing this one; I can see where the immense world-building and detail in this book makes it a classic, but unfortunately I just could not get into the plot, characters, or the writing.

Paradise Lost: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
I think this is a a gorgeously written epic poem, but the fact that it is indeed in a poem format and that it is so incredibly long makes it fairly intimidating. My resulting feelingst: if it's something you've been wanting to tackle, go for it! You might just love it. 

A Clockwork Orange
Being a classic filled with tons of made-up words and a rather intense subject matter makes A Clockwork Orange quite a task to read. I'm really glad I put the time and effort into it, though, because it is definitely one interesting story that really makes you think.. and sometimes cringe.

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)
I mean, it's only considered to be one of the greatest fantasy trilogies of all time - no pressure! 
In all seriousness, though, I loved this trilogy. It made me feel so happy and at home in Tolkien's fantastical world - I will be revisiting these soon. (And yes, there are a lot of long descriptions - and songs - but I promise it's all worth it.)

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What books have intimidated you?