Friday, December 6, 2019

Month in Review: November 2019

Okay guys, this time I feel like I just made my October wrap-up! This year has truly gone faster than I could have ever expected and it's been a doozy of a year so far. Let's hope December goes well for all of us!

November was sort of chaos for me. We're nearing the end of my first semester as a grad student and it's been extraordinarily stressful--I don't have the slightest idea how people manage to hold down a full-time job, go to school with a full course load, and still get all their reading/blogging done without losing their minds? I'm barely hanging in there and my mind is most definitely gone at this point, haha. Some of you may or may not have noticed my major delays in responding to comments or commenting on other people's blogs and for that I'm so sorry--I'm still trying to keep up with everything, but I've been pretty slow at getting back to everyone lately and I'm hoping to organize my time better next semester (and catch up once the semester ends this month!). Right now I'm working on two papers and an exam so I'm a bit fried, but we'll get through it!

In reading news, I still managed to speed through a lot of books this month for which I'm eternally grateful. I particularly loved Realm of Ash and House of Salt and Sorrows and I fell back in love with The Diviners with the start of my slow re-read in preparation for the next book's release next year (I think?). I hope you're all reading some great books as the end of the year approaches!

 So finally...How was your reading month? Did you read any great books? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know!

# books read: 14

The Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo, #1)The Tenth GirlDaughter from the DarkRealm of Ash (The Books of Ambha, #2)
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring 
Source: Owned (Giveaway) | Format: Hardcover

Daughter from the Dark by Marina Dyachenko 
Source: eARC (NetGalley)

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri 
Source: Publisher | Format: Paperback

Queen of the ConqueredHouse of Salt and SorrowsThe Diviners (The Diviners, #1)At the Mountains of Madness
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender 
Source: Publisher | Format: Paperback

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Diviners by Libba Bray (re-read) 
Source: Library | Format: Paperback

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft 
Source: Library | Format: Paperback

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of MadnessHowl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave DiverMaster of Sorrows (The Silent Gods, #1)
The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones 
Source: Library | Format: Paperback

Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

Master of Sorrows by Justin Travis Call 
Source: eARC (NetGalley)

The God GameWhere the World Ends
The God Game by Danny Tobey 
Source: Physical ARC (publisher)

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean 
Source: Physical ARC (publisher)

Unnatural MagicConfessionsThe Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo, #1)Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha, #2)Spit and Song (Ustlian Tales #2)Queen of the ConqueredWhere the World Ends
Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner  
Confessions by Kanai Minato 
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 
Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri 
Spit and Song by Travis M. Riddle 
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender 
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean 

(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, December 5, 2019

Review: A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

A Secret History of Witches
A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
Hardcover. 496 pages

About A Secret History of Witches:

"An ancient and dangerous power is being handed down from mother to daughter through some of the most consequential historic events of the last two centuries. 

After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew. 

From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures."

I read The Witch's Kind, Louisa Morgan's second release, earlier this year and really fell in love with her writing and storytelling. I finally got around to picking up A Secret History of Witches recently and once again fell back in love with the charming, meaningful lives of some incredible witches from different periods of life.

A Secret History of Witches falls more into what I would call historical fiction with a touch of magic or maybe historical fantasy than it is straight up fantasy, but regardless of what you want to call it, there's no denying that it's magical and enchanting journey through the ups and downs of five generations of Orchiére witches.

The story begins in the year 1821 and continues until just past the end of World War II. It's a lot of time and history to cover, but Morgan managed to write it in a way that allowed it flow naturally. I'll be honest and say that I was slightly skeptical of how five entire generations could be explored in a book under five hundred pages, but I'm really impressed by how Morgan decided to explore the lives of each Orchiére daughter. I worried that there would be a bit of repetition at play and although there were elements throughout the generations that had similar elements and there tended to be patterns you could predict (which was a bit of a drawback at times), there was enough difference within each woman's life to make each snippet feel unique and engaging. It also made it feel almost like a folklore setup where there are similar main story elements, but they differ according to each specific story. At times, it almost felt as though I were reading interconnected novellas or short stories with how we got to experience a certain amount of time with each woman before encountering a momentous moment and moving onto the next, all while keeping the long Orchiére story and tradition alive in each one.

The Orchiére women we follow are Nannette, Ursule, Irène, Morwen, and Veronica. I found Morgan development of each woman really strong and well done and I was satisfied by how she managed to make each one's story unique in their own way. There were some that believed the magic from birth, some that were skeptical, some that liked their life, some that hated it--all of the emotions and family struggles that one might expect across five generation were present and made this book such a joy to explore. Of the five women, I would say I most enjoyed Nannette, Morwen, and Veronica's storylines and my least favorite was probably Irène's. Nannette really kicks off the story well with her strong passion for the tradition of her Orchiere witchcraft and understanding of the perils associated with it and Veronica wraps up the story nicely with a great example of her usage of the magic as well. Irene was the hardest for me to get behind (and frankly, I never really did) because of her ungratefulness to her mother and somewhat narcissistic-leaning personality. I appreciated some of her confidence and determination, but it was mixed with too much hatred and selfishness to grab me. I don't know if we were supposed to particularly like Irene or not, so I applaud Morgan for adding such a diverse group of women in this large story.

I really love the way that Morgan incorporated the witchcraft and magical elements to this story. The magic that exists is very much in the fashion of the sort of 'traditional' old-fashion witchcraft you might expect from the time periods this story covers. There are 'simple' spells made to help with small things like nausea, colds, sleeping, etc., as well as scrying stones, rituals, familiars, and a few more similar elements.

Watching the Orchiére family over give generations was truly exciting and it was so interesting to me to see how attitudes towards the witchcraft of the family differed throughout time. There was so much to explore in this book, from social views towards witchcraft and women to family struggles to struggles of social status and economics and so much, this book really has a little bit of something for everyone.

Overall, I've given A Secret History of Witches 4.5 stars! I was really pleasantly surprised by how Morgan wrote a multi-generational story in such a compelling and meaningful way. Definitely pick this one up if you like historical ficiton, witches, or stories that explore a lot of family dynamics and lore!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Queen in Hiding, Run Me to Earth, & Scavenge the Stars!

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.

There are a lot of awesome books coming out in January and only so many Wednesdays in December, so for this month I'll be sharing three books every week instead of two! My restraint is pretty much non-existent.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

A Queen in Hiding (The Nine Realms, #1)
A Queen in Hiding by Sarah Kozloff
Publication: January 21st, 2020
Tor Books
Paperback. 496 pages.

"Debut author Sarah Kozloff offers a breathtaking and cinematic epic fantasy of a ruler coming of age in A Queen in Hiding, and all four books will be published within a month of each other, so you can binge your favorite new fantasy series. 

Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cérulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be. 

But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom."
Well, I'm always up for a new adventurous fantasy! "Guerilla fighter" and "unlikely group of rebels" particularly grab me for this one. I'm also intrigued by the fact that this entire series will be published within a month of each other, so there's' a benefit if I (or you) really like the first book!

Run Me to Earth
Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon
Publication: January 28th, 2020
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover. 272 pages.

"Alisak, Prany, and Noi—three orphans united by devastating loss—must do what is necessary to survive the perilous landscape of 1960s Laos. When they take shelter in a bombed out field hospital, they meet Vang, a doctor dedicated to helping the wounded at all costs. Soon the teens are serving as motorcycle couriers, delicately navigating their bikes across the fields filled with unexploded bombs, beneath the indiscriminate barrage from the sky. 

In a world where the landscape and the roads have turned into an ocean of bombs, we follow their grueling days of rescuing civilians and searching for medical supplies, until Vang secures their evacuation on the last helicopters leaving the country. It’s a move with irrevocable consequences—and sets them on disparate and treacherous paths across the world. 

Spanning decades and magically weaving together storylines laced with beauty and cruelty, Paul Yoon crafts a gorgeous story that is a breathtaking historical feat and a fierce study of the powers of hope, perseverance, and grace."
I always enjoy exploring stories from different settings around the world and I'm not sure if I've read many stories set in Laos, so I'm really interested in that. Plus, I think the premise and the three main characters sound really compelling--can't wait for this one!

Scavenge the Stars (Scavenge the Stars, #1)
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
Publication: January 7th, 2020
Disney Hyperion
Hardcover. 336 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

"When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide. Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one… 

Packed with high-stakes adventure, romance, and dueling identities, this gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is the first novel in an epic YA fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo."
It's not every day that I get to see a Count of Monte Cristo-inspired retelling and I am one hundred percent on board for that. This world sounds particularly exciting as well, so I'm really looking forward to checking this one out!

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Great Books to Read in the Winter!

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

This week's topic is: Winter Freebie!

For this week's freebie, I decided to go with a classic 'wintry reads' sort of theme. Whenever I make these they tend to have a bit of a variety of books, but here's my personal 'wintry' criteria: anything that either feels cozy and warm, has a lot of cold/snowy settings, or just features something classic that is always a favorite trope/setting/etc. If any of that sounds like something you also like to read in winter, then hopefully this list offers some recommendations! I also decided to only pull from books I've read this year in order to avoid duplicates from previous 'wintry' book posts.

Greenglass House (Greenglass House #1)Below (North #1)House of Salt and SorrowsA Secret History of Witches

The Greenglass House by Kate Milford: This book absolutely screams 'winter' to me: there's a secluded 'smugglers' inn as the main setting, it's the beginning of the winter season so snow is falling fast, and there are a bunch of people all stuck together in the same inn. It's perfect and I love it.

Below by Alexandria Warwick: Below is perfect if you like to read about extremely cold settings in the winter. There's frigid weather and some really awesome Inuit culture explored in this book!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig: If you like your winter reads a little on the darker and more mysterious side while also hitting some classic fairy tales, then this what you want. It's incredibly atmospheric and magical, but also has a bit of an edge that makes you want to curl up until you can finish it!

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan: Witches are perfect for the fall and winter seasons in my opinion, and this one covers five generations of witches in a truly wonderful way. I had a great time reading this one!

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Unlikely Escape of Uriah HeepNottingham

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend: This is another middle grade that you might've already heard of, but it's so delightful and whimsical and couldn't be better for the winter season.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex E. Harrow: This book is such a comfort read to me. It's all about the love of books and imagination while also exploring a lot of really important topics.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry: Another one that features a love of literature! If bringing book characters to life says 'cozy up by the fire' to you, then you need to read this one. Even if it doesn't say that to you, you should really still read it.

Nottingham by Nathan Makaryk: This is more of a historical fiction sort of story based on the classic Robin Hood story and it has that perfect mix of an atmospheric quality and some great humor and wit that made this such a fun read.

The Illumination of Ursula FlightWinterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)

The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst: If you like your winter reads to be cozy and make you laugh (and maybe tear up a few times), there is no better book than this! The protagonist has an incredibly distinct personality that absolutely fills this book to life and allows her to get through some truly difficult life moments.

Winterhouse by Ben Guterson: And another middle grade that fits the cold and snowy setting perfectly. Much like Greenglass House, Winterhouse has a snowy, stormy setting that takes place at an inn where a bunch of different guests hang out together over the holidays. It's delightful.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: And finally, what better than a cozy classic? I just finally read this book this year and had such a fun time--I think it would be perfect to curl up with on a winter night!

Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite books to read in the winter?