Meeting Leigh Bardugo

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Last night, I had the chance to meet Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology.  While I’ve only discovered her work this year, she’s quickly become one of my favorite authors.

Bardugo has been busy this fall, with two books released in September.  At the beginning of the month, Wonder Woman: Warbringer (the first of the D.C. Icons series) came out.  I just finished listening to it on audiobook and it was really fun.  This week, A Language of Thorns was released, which is a beautifully illustrated collection of folktales set in the Grishaverse world.

As part of my job as a librarian, I frequently host author talks, but this was my first time attending one that is part of a national tour.  I’m the kind of girl who gets nervous around people I admire and frequently feel like I make a total fool of myself.  (Seriously, it’s the worst when talking to attractive guys… I get sooo awkward.)  Thus, coming face to face with an author whose work I love was really intimidating.  But this was too good a chance to pass up. Continue reading

Review: Monsters of Verity Duology by Victoria Schwab

Book Talk on Keep Your Feet

Format: eAudiobook from Overdrive / physical book

My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars for both books


Over the past few months, I’ve read quite a bit of Schwab’s writing.  Recently, I finished her Shades of Magic series, which I adored.  Several of my friends on Goodreads were reading her YA Monsters of Verity duology, so I jumped on the bandwagon.  In this post, I discuss both books in a relatively spoiler-free fashion.

On the whole I was… underwhelmed by these books.  While there were aspects I really enjoyed, there was quite a bit that just didn’t capture my imagination.  I’m realizing more and more that dark dystopia might not be my thing.

A bit about the books: the series takes place in a dystopian America in which the states are split into territories named after virtues.  The main action takes place in the city of Verity, where monsters roam at night keeping everyone in terror.  Verity is a city split in two, held together by a tenuous agreement that is quickly fraying.  The north is lead by Callum Harker, who reigns through fear and uses the monsters to his advantage.  The south is held by Henry Flynn, an ex-surgeon who heads the military-like organization, FTF.

The series centers around Kate Harker and August Flynn, the children of these two leaders.  Kate is reckless, impulsive, and on a mission to prove her worth to her father.  August, quiet and sensitive, just wants to be human.  Pushed together by circumstances, they forge a deep friendship.

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What I’m Reading 8/21/17

When preparing this post, I realized that I had written way too much content.  Since I’ve begun writing reactions/reviews/summaries in a notebook immediately after finishing a book, I’ve noticed that my comments have gotten a longer.  So I decided to do some shifting around, giving some of the books where I had more thoughts posts of their own.

Here, you can find my thoughts about several of my recent reads.  Keep an eye out over the next week for others–I’ve got a writeup for a fantasy novel primed and ready to go and, as soon as I finish Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, I’ll give the Monsters of Verity duology their own post.

Here’s what I’m discussing this week:

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What I’m Reading 7/3/17

Book talk time!  I’m definitely not a full-fledged book blogger.  I definitely have the reading stamina, but don’t have enough drive to do all the writing.  But I do love informally sharing what I’ve been reading lately.  I used to call these posts Inbox//Outbox, but from here on out will just call them “What I’m Reading”.  Because, really, that’s much more to the point.

So here is what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks!

Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxanne Gay

Other possible title for this book: In Which Roxanne Gay Bares Her Soul.  I can only imagine how much courage it took to write this book.  It follows the trajectory of her life–after being sexually assaulted at the age of twelve, Gay turned to food as a comfort and safety mechanism.  In this memoir, she shares the story of her life thus far and the experience of living in her body.  She covers topics like sexual assault, fat shaming, weight loss TV shows, dating, etc.  The writing was articulate and brutally honest.  It broke my heart more than once.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

This book is the PERFECT summer read!  It’s a soft retelling of You’ve Got Mail, only it takes place in California with surfers and film lovers.  I adored the main characters, Bailey and Porter.  The whole “we are arch enemies” aspect of the plot faded pretty frequently, transitioning to “we bicker all the time because we are super attracted to each other”.  The plot was predictable, but that didn’t diminish the enjoyability of the book.  Sometimes, it’s absolutely lovely to sit down with a fluffy book that you can finish in a day.  That book was it for me.

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Top Ten Books that Feel Like Summer

I’m joining in Top Ten Tuesday once more, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s theme is a summer freebie.  I’ve decided to do my list around books that feel like summer–which, for me, means a lot of things.

Some summer reads actually take place in the sunny season–featuring fluffy, light romances that are prefect for reading on the beach.

Others are funny and fun, which put me in the mindset of summer no matter the season.

Something about summer always puts me in the mood for epic fantasy… or just something really long that I can sink into.

And then there are the books that are a summer tradition.  Not a year goes by that I don’t listen to Tolkien on audiobook.

Here’s the list…
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Inbox // Outbox 5/1/17

Inbox:

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

THIS BOOK COMES OUT ON TUESDAY AND THIS IS ME RIGHT NOW:

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I feel like I don’t even need to say anything else.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I keep seeing this book everywhere and am deciding to give it a go.  While it looks pretty trippy and weird, it has a high Goodreads rating.  And the main character is a librarian… which, of course, is awesome.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

This has been on my TBR list for ages… in a moment of weakness, I ordered the audiobook from the library.  I love Sanderson’s fantasy books, but I honestly don’t know if I can handle listening to this one.  It is 45 hours long–which is even longer than the Geroge R.R. Martin books I listened to earlier this year.  So, while I still really want to read this book and am including it in my list this week… might not actually get to it for a while.

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Inbox // Outbox: November 28, 2016

I continue to surge through my reading lists and here is a bit of what I’ve recently covered and what I’m reading next.

Inbox:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

An old favorite… I’m usually drawn to it at least once every year.  This year, I’m listening to it on audiobook during my commute.  Rowell is one of my favorite YA authors and this book brings back so much.  As a former fan fiction author, I deeply relate with Cath’s obsession with fictional worlds.  Her journey through her first year of college brings me back to my own lonely, often miserable time as a freshman. Continue reading

On the Shelf: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I’ve noticed this book every time I’ve browsed through the Young Adult Fiction section at Target and finally decided to give it a shot.  Being a bit of a world explorer, I’ve always been drawn to coming-of-age-in-Europe tales and was excited to get a taste of Italy.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

25756328“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

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On the Shelf: Winter by Marissa Meyer

FINALLY, the conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s fantastic Lunar Chronicles series.  This book was released on my birthday and it was one of my favorite gifts.

This post contains spoilers.

winter-finalMy rating: 4 / 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

To answer the question in the summary: Yes they can.

I knew that these books would tie up neatly.  The tone in which they are written doesn’t imply defeat.  It was clear that all would end well, that Cinder would cast down Levana and reclaim the the Lunar throne.  I knew that the four couples would get together.

But, oh, how I loved the ride.

The thing about this series is that it’s not perfect.  To be honest, the characterization is patchy at points.  I like most of the male characters, but some of the heroines *cough*Scarlet*cough* are boring.  The plot tends to be predictable.

But what Meyer does is create a world and enjoyable that is so original that I can’t help overlook the weak points.  I loved my time in these books.  There are a lot of dystopian YA worlds out there and while the way her Earth is structured is similar to many of its contemporaries, the existence of Luna makes hers unique.  I mean, she’s got a society of magical aliens who can manipulate people’s minds who live on the moon!  How cool is that?

I adore the way Meyer merges dystopian lit with fairytales.  She balances them well.  Throughout the series, we see familiar moments: Cinderella losing her shoe, Red Riding Hood searching for her grandmother, Rapunzel escaping her tower, Snow White eating a poisoned apple.  But they’re morphed: Cinder is a cyborg and loses a foot and Cress is a computer-hacker and escapes a satellite.  Meyer strikes a wonderful balance between reteling stories from long ago while creating something new.  She has the hallmark moments, but those moments don’t overwhelm the story.  It’s almost as if the story pauses over the moments, acknowledges the source material, and then pulses forward into something entirely new.

While some of her characters get old, the rest are incredibly endearing.  Cinder is probably my favorite.  For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know I’m a sucker for a good Cinderella retelling and Meyer’s princess has stolen my heart.  I mean… she’s a cyborg mechanic!  How cool is that?  She meets the fairytale requirements, but also throws them off entirely.  I also really love Carsewell Thorne, the dashing, obnoxious thief who is the hero of the third installment of the series.  Cress is timid to the point of being annoying, but definitely grew on me.  I couldn’t help love Winter and Jacin’s relationship.  Iko, though, remained one of my favorite characters.  Even though she’s an android, she is incredibly human.  She’s the perfect companion for Cinder, matching Cinder’s quiet intensity with her bubbly charm.  More than once, her swooning and sighing over attractive men and beautiful fashion made me laugh out loud.

I won’t go too far into revealing plot details, but the story doesn’t disappoint.  Characters are constantly coming together and becoming separated, various storylines weaving together towards the final conclusion.  The final showdown between Cinder and Levanna is extremely satisfying.  The happily-ever-after wraps up all the loose ends.

When I reached the end of Winter, all I wanted to do was go back and read the series again.  Meyer’s fairytale retellings are endearing, successful, and I know they will grow on me the more time I spend with them.

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Fan art by candy8496 on DeviantArt

Be sure to check out my review of Fairest: Levanna’s Story as well!

On the Shelf: Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Of my most recent library haul, this was my favorite.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Summary from GoodreadsDuring a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.  New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can’t help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

My Thoughts:

This was one of the most poigniant YA novels I’ve read in a while.  Wood beautifully captures the awkwardness, messiness, and pain of being a teenager without making me roll my eyes once.  So often, YA protagonists are either unrealistically shallow or unrealistically intelligent.  Wood’s are somewhere in the middle.

Wildlife is all about discovery.  In a way, it’s the story we all go through as teens.  It’s about finding a way through the messiness of life and figuring out who you are.  Her main characters are beautiful and complex individuals that captured my heart.  Their stories highlight different aspects of the teenage experience that felt authentic.

Until recently, Syb had never been popular and she was always okay with that.  But when her aunt scores her a modeling gig, her face plastered on a billboard becomes her ticket to the cool table.  Suddenly, the most popular boy in her grade likes her, she’s the center of attention, and her childhood best friend is right by her side, urging her to take advantage of the opportunity.  Deep down, she knows that popularity and the behavior surrounding it just isn’t her.  But, at the same time, she really likes the popular boy.  Stuck between two worlds, she has to decide what really matters–being with the cool kids or being true to herself.

Then, there’s Lou.  Dear, dear Lou.  Devastated by the death of her boyfriend, Lou is still in deep mourning when we meet her at the beginning of the novel.  She has no desire to engage with the world.  She attends therapy, but puts on a show to make them think she’s getting better.  She’s empty inside.  All her thoughts go to the one she lost.  When all her friends go spend a term in Paris, she decides to transfer schools just in time for their wilderness survival term.  Lou steps up to the challenge, finding solace in grueling hikes and beautiful scenery.  Forced to live in close-quarters with a handful of girls, she can’t help but become slowly involved in their lives.

Wildlife isn’t the most gripping novel out there, but what strikes me most is its honesty.  Wood poses questions and gives realistic, truthful answers.  Is popularity worth it?  When is it right to start having sex?  What is it like to lose a loved one?  What does friendship look like?

The best part?  It’s all set at camp!

Sample Quote:

“The trouble is that keeping [memory] alive, giving it all that energy, will, determination, stops me being alive in the present.  I’m not stupid.  I don’t need Esthers and Merills to tell me that is not a brilliant way for a sixteen-year-old to live.  I know what you would say.  You’d say, get on with it, Lou m’Lou.  There’s a lot more to do than thinking about me.  Don’t hang out somewhere that isn’t anymore.  Don’t haunt the landlost past, you’d say… I’ve written you a hundred unsent letters.  Maybe if I keep writing and sealing them, they can sit somewhere safely.  Our story is a one-sided correspondence–I know that’s oxymoronic–and I can allow that to be it.  I can put a lid… I can just go there sometimes… I can know it’s there, safely; we are there.”

You Will Like This Book If: You enjoy Young Adult fiction, wilderness, camp life, and coming of age stories.