Nerdy Books

Yep, it’s that time of year again for many of us. Break out the pencils, way too expensive (and heavy) text books, and get ready to take some notes, because once again the school year is upon us.

If you’re looking to show off just how much of a nerd you are (and let’s get real, sometimes it’s fun to be a little over the top when it comes to bookish nerdery), these books will help get you off to the right start. All links lead to their book reviews, unless I haven’t reviewed the book on here, then the link will take you to the Goodreads page.

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The Martian (Andy Weir): I know, I know! I can hear you now: “Anna, how many lists can you put this book on?” and the answer is a lot. But honestly, as much as I loved this book, it’s hard to keep up with at times! The spot on science challenges the best of us. You’ll learn a lot reading it (especially about potatoes) and have a great conversation starter to boot.

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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune (Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell Jr.): I never reviewed this for the blog, but this is one of my favorite non-fiction books. I really wish that it was more widely read. It’s about Hugette Clark and her family. How her family got so much money, how they spent it, and how that impacted American society. I learned so much from this book and my country by reading it. It covers an incredible amount of time too. It’s not as long as you’d think, but well worth the read. Again, another way to start off a really interesting conversation, but also a way to learn what many US history classes have overlooked.

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The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien): Now I’m not talking about the first book (which isn’t called LotR anyway). I’m talking about the version that Tolkien originally intended, all three books in one, a plethora of appendixes, and glorious maps all leading up to world building that helped re-define a genre for generations to come. One, it’s a much more cohesive read. The publishers broke the book into three to keep printing costs down making the end of the first two books rather jarring. Reading the book as intended makes a big difference. Two, if you loved the movies, you’ll get a new appreciation after reading. Thirdly, it’s cool to be able to see just how much influence this book has had, not just in the bookish world, but in the world outside of it too. But if all of that’s not cool enough, Tolkien created his own language for the elves from scratch. That alone is enough to solidify its place on my list of nerdy books.

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Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World (Kathleen Ragan): This is such a cool collection of folktales. While it does lack diversity in stories from certain areas, overall it’s a strong and powerful collection. Each story comes with an introduction and each section is prefaced with a map so that you know the geographical location the stories come from. It’s a fantastic book to add to any personal library but is also a great nerd book thanks to the variety of stories and cultures it covers. After all, why have one story when you can have 100?

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A Madness of Angels (Kate Griffin): Ok so this might not seem like your typical “screams nerd” book. But I really think that’s only because it doesn’t get enough love. The world building is amazing and I know my inner nerd delighted in the complex magic system and how everything so beautifully tied into the real world. It also is a book that makes you think. There’s a plethora of plot twists for one and secondly there’s a layered mystery as well. On top of all that, you also have to figure out just how reliable of a narrator Matthew Swift is. It’s a sophisticated book and I think it deserves a place on any urban fantasy lover’s shelf.

Book Review: Coraline

“Spiders’ webs only have to be large enough to catch flies.” ~The Cat

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Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Middle-grade horror, fantasy

Synopsis: When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

My Opinion: Ah, Coraline. The book of my heart. Clearly I love this book. While there is a bit of ableist language, the creativity, heart, and detail this story holds makes it one of my all time favorite books. The movie is fantastic too, although it’s quite different than the book (in fact, the book wasn’t finished when the movie was made). But I’m not here to talk about the movie, I’m here to focus on Coraline the book. This truly is a winner. Four and a half stars!

As this is a middle-grade/early young adult book, this makes for a quick read. But what makes it so enjoyable for anyone is the wonderful characters. While the cast is small, each character is well developed and purposefully made with their own little mystery. I really did love this, and the limited, unique cast made Coraline’s interactions all the more powerful. My favorite character aside from our heroine was the Cat. The relationship the Cat and Coraline shared is one of my all time favorite book friendships.

Another reason I think this book is so timeless and ageless is because everyone can find something that’s downright creepy in it. Perhaps it’s the old house with odd doors that go nowhere and somewhere, or maybe it’s the fact that adults are to be trusted, yet clearly can’t be. Perhaps it’s the button eyes that the Other Mother and those who inhabit her world have. There’s plenty more examples that I could share, but for the sake of length and to prevent spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. Coraline is completely atmospheric, with just the right amount of creepiness, humor, and suspense.

In a way this book is very straight forward. A girl goes on an adventure and has to save herself. And yet, the story is packed with so much more, yet these lessons never beat the reader over the head. Through Coraline’s growth, we learn lessons in hope, courage, and resilience. This has now become a go-to book when I’m going through a hard time. It’s quick, it’s fun, yet it’s deeply important. I also loved that Coraline reminds us that even when others have our best interests at heart, that’s not always what’s right for us, and those who say they have our best at heart, don’t always. It’s such an important lesson for anyone, especially upcoming generations to learn. Coraline is a journey of self discovery and an honest (although fantastical) depiction of that.

There really is something in here for everyone, whether it’s the humor, the moody atmosphere, or the relationships. The writing is lovely as well and completely absorbing.

TL;DR: I have no idea why you’re still reading this and not hunting down your own copy of Coraline. An important, unique, and fun book, I really do think very people wouldn’t enjoy it. If you’re a fan of Gaiman or are looking for a good introduction to his works, Coraline is a must read.

 

Book Tour: The Thirteenth Gate

Book Tour: The Thirteenth Gate

Welcome to my stop for The Thirteenth Gate book tour! I’ve been pumped for this book for what feels like ages and I’m thrilled to be a part of this tour. Below you’ll find my review, a giveaway (a signed print copy of the first book, The Daemoniac), and a bit about the author. Be sure to check out the giveaway (a signed print copy of the first book, The Daemoniac) and take a look at the rest of the tour here.

|+| Warnings: Death, violence, mild language, mild sexual situations |+|

“[…] monsters are real, Harry. It’s just that some of them are perfectly human.” ~John

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Goodreads |+| Amazon |+| Barnes & Noble |+| iBooks |+| Kobo

 

Author: Kat Ross

Genre: YA Historical, Mystery, Paranormal

Synopsis: Winter 1888. At an asylum in the English countryside, a man suspected of being Jack the Ripper kills an orderly and flees into the rain-soaked night. His distraught keepers summon the Lady Vivienne Cumberland—who’s interviewed their patient and isn’t sure he’s a man at all. An enigmatic woman who guards her own secrets closely, Lady Vivienne knows a creature from the underworld when she sees one. And he’s the most dangerous she’s ever encountered.

As Jack rampages through London, Lady Vivienne begins to suspect what he’s searching for. And if he finds it, the doors to purgatory will be thrown wide open…

Across the Atlantic, an archaeologist is brutally murdered after a Christmas Eve gala at the American Museum of Natural History. Certain peculiar aspects of the crime attract the interest of the Society for Psychical Research and its newest investigator, Harrison Fearing Pell. Is Dr. Sabelline’s death related to his recent dig in Alexandria? Or is the motive something darker?

As Harry uncovers troubling connections to a serial murder case she’d believed was definitively solved, two mysteries converge amid the grit and glamor of Gilded Age New York. Harry and Lady Vivienne must join forces to stop an ancient evil. The key is something called the Thirteenth Gate. But where is it? And more importantly, who will find it first?

My Opinion: If y’all aren’t familiar with my review for the first book in the series, check it out here. I adored it. This sequel somehow managed to match it. With a diverse cast, wonderful representation, and a stunning plot I gave this book four stars.

I’ll start with the two things that frustrated me. The first is that there is a plethora of characters that were sometimes introduced too close together. I had to go back and re-read to make sure that I had gotten all the names right. This book is filled with suspects and interesting people, but keeping up with them all was a bit of a challenge. I also wanted to see more of Harry and John. I fell in love with their friendship and was a bit bummed to find that most of the book focused around Lady Vivienne and her partner Alec.

Onto what I liked. As I already mentioned, we met a lot of new characters. Of the new folks my favorites were Vivienne, Alec and Count Kohary. As with the first book Ross delivers detailed characters, and I loved seeing the connections between everyone. Another big selling point for me with this book was the diversity. Vivienne is not a native to London and I really enjoyed seeing how she carried herself despite the racism thrown her way. This element was treated with accuracy but also with respect.

Most of all I was impressed with how well this book wove into the mystery of its predecessor and expanded on an already well established world. I was in awe realizing how many little details I missed in The Daemoniac and how beautifully they tied into The Thirteenth Gate. Watching the two mysteries the groups were trying to solve come together was really enjoyable and kept me on the edge of my seat.

If you’re looking for historical fiction with fantastical elements, The Thirteenth Gate is the way to go. If you enjoyed the first book in the series, the sequel is a must read.

TL;DR: What I loved about The Daemoniac was back in full force in The Thirteenth Gate. A diverse cast, fantastic world building and an entrancing mystery made this book a delight. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially historical fiction with a paranormal element, this series is not to be missed.

About the Author:

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Author Website |+| Facebook |+| Goodreads |+| Twitter

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.

Bookish Recap: July

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This month has been a pretty good month book wise! I got a plethora of books for my birthday and read and reviewed a couple of books.

But this recap also brings some news. August is the last month I will be doing book blogging. I will keep the blog up for archival purposes, but I will no longer be posting. Not to mention, I worked hard on those reviews and I would hate to just delete them, especially if someone could stumble across them in the future and find a new favorite book.

This has been a long time coming I think. I have had so much fun sharing my bookish thoughts with y’all and thank you so much for your support over the past year or so. While I have loved so much about book blogging, it’s time for me to go down another path. I can’t write and self publish, work, go to school, and keep up my book blog. I also know that in the past health issues have made it a struggle to post. Something had to give. While I very much enjoy blogging, writing is my ultimate passion.

I will still review books, but through my author website, and only when a book really grabs my attention. My author blog will update once a month starting in September for those of you interested.

That’s the big announcement, but let’s get back to the fun stuff! Back to the recap:

This Month’s Posts:

Bookish Posts:
Book Haul: Birthday Style
TBR List: Publisher Style

Book Reviews:
The Daemonaic (4 star review)
Seeds of Eden (3 star review)

Next Month:

As I’ve said, it will be my last month posting. But it will be full of book reviews! I’m participating in two book tours (a NA paranormal romance, and a YA paranormal historical fiction) and I’ll be re-reading and reviewing one of my favorite books as well. It will be a bitter-sweet month, but I’m looking forward to sharing the posts.

Book Review: Seeds of Eden

|+| Warnings: Detailed deceptions of violence, death, sexual content, and public humiliation |+|

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Goodreads |+| Amazon

Author: A.P. Watson

Genre: New Adult Romance, Paranormal

Synopsis: Visions of decapitated corpses, pools of blood, and a masked executioner have haunted Evey for as long as she can remember. Torn between a life in the waking world and dreams of the dead, she realizes her normal existence is nothing more than an illusion. As the veil between reality and her subconscious dissipates, she begins to question her own sanity. Each night as she closes her eyes, she wonders what wrongs she committed to warrant such a curse.

When a handsome stranger suddenly appears in Evey’s life, he is able to provide her with the answers she seeks. However, the only thing more mystifying than Conrad’s appearance in one of her nightmares is the undeniable attraction she feels for him. It is only when he confesses their fates and souls have been intertwined for centuries that an ancient secret is revealed. Now, the two of them must outrun a great darkness or it will claim their lives again.

My Opinion: Thanks to Xpresso Book Tours for providing me with a free copy. The following is my honest review.

Seeds of Eden has a really unique premise combining idea of reincarnation with many stories from Christianity. This story has beautiful writing, interesting characters, and throws a new spin on history. I really liked these elements but I was disappointed by the slut shaming, girl on girl hate, the way that the love interests all treated each other like property, and the fact that abusive relationships were portrayed as somewhat romantic. The book was really a 50/50 for me, so after a lot of deliberation (because there were a lot of things I liked), I decided to give the book three stars.

Evey is mostly normal. She has a part time job, enjoys fashion, hangs out with her best friend, and goes to school. But her nightmares that feel much more real than they’re supposed to. Not to mention the fact the nightmares repeat themselves. Pretty early on we discover why. Evey isn’t Evey at all. She’s the first woman, Eve and she has been reincarnated over and over to help bring out the goodness in humanity. The idea over all is really unique, and really interesting. While I can see how this would be uncomfortable to conservative Christians, as a Christian myself I didn’t see a problem with it. I found this an interesting idea that made for an interesting story.

A big focus of the story is Evey dealing with her memories which come in the form of visions and nightmares. The nightmares and memories were incredibly well done. The descriptions were beautiful and I really appreciated the thought that went into them. As a history nerd, I really liked how different memories focused on different time periods. Although around the 200-page mark I got a little tired of them.

My biggest issue with this book is the lagging middle. This book has such a fantastic start. The pacing, characters, and world building, is absorbing. But towards the middle we get tension in the form of too many love triangles and girl-on-girl hate. I was really disappointed, especially because up until the half way mark, Evey was great. Enter the second love triangle and she stops being supportive of other girls and starts slut-shaming before she even knows someone. It felt out of character and far too petty for the book as a whole. It distracted me from the main plotline and took too much tension away for me.

Another issue I had was how romantic relationships were treated. Evey was someone’s. Couples belonged to each other and while there were multiple arguments about how people aren’t property, the behavior and phrases outside of these arguments said otherwise.

So, what kept me going? The plot and the characters. The idea of reincarnation combined with elements of Christianity really intrigued me. This is one of those books where it is impossible to separate plot and character because both are so integral to each other. The way the characters reacted to the situation seemed so plausible that I could really get behind the majority of them and their actions. I adored the relationship between Evey and her best friend Caroline too. I’m glad I kept reading because honestly that ending came with a twist and cliffhanger I didn’t expect. To top it off, the book was unapologetically dark. My kind of thing for sure!

TL;DR: If you’re into dark soulmate stories, interested in religions, and like a flair of drama in your books Seeds of Eden is probably a safe bet! It has fantastic characters and great world building. It’s a dark and sophisticated drama with romance in it. What more could you want? I can see fans of The Mortal Instruments and the Twilight series enjoying this book as well.

Book Haul: Birthday Style

Earlier this week was my birthday. I am one of the lucky bookworms who has friends and family that usually gives me books for my birthday (or gift cards to buy more books). No exception this year! This year actually blew the record out of the water as I got a whopping 13 books! Some books were given to me directly and some I got through a gift card.

Some of these books are old favorites and some are ones I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Hopefully you’ll find some new books that interest you to add to your TBR pile. If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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From bottom to top:

Auto Repair for Dummies (Deanna Sclar): Ok you might be wondering why I was thrilled to get this book, but it’s because despite loving cars, I know very little about them. This book is an excellent starting point and despite reading only a little of it, it’s already been a big help.

The Last Herald Mage Trilogy (Mercedes Lackey) Three books in one here! This is a series I have been meaning to pick up for ages, and to have it in such a beautiful edition makes me even more excited to read it. Lackey is one of my favorite authors, not to mention the fact that one of my friends swears by this series. I’m saving it for when school starts cause heaven knows I’ll need some high fantasy!

Batman and Psychology (Travis Langley): Batman is my all time favorite superhero. Psychology is one of my top three favorite subjects. Batman and psychology? Yes please! I’ve been meaning to check this book out for ages and am so happy to finally be able to indulge in my nerdery.

Private, Invitation Only, and Untouchable (The Private series, Kate Brian): Some of y’all might remember me talking about the Private series in one of my previous posts, but this series is one of my all time favorites. It’s a 13 book series and I had all of them. Until I moved and lost the first three books in the series. Unable to go back and re-read the first part of the series, I was never able to finish reading the series period. This has been a problem for the past two years. Now it’s fixed! I now have the first three books in the series, which completes the set. You can bet once I have my reading log cleared I’m binge reading this series.

The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins): Honestly I had no idea that Wilkie Collins was a writer until I ran across him in Drood (Dan Simmons). When I found out that not only was he a real person, but he wrote mysteries, I was in. Not to mention he was a contemporary of Dickens. I finally have Collins’ masterpiece. I’m saving this as one of my October reads.

The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, and The Oath of the Vayuputras (The Shiva trilogy; Amish): I had never heard of this series until a friend of mine gave them to me. I’m always looking for new authors and more diverse reads and this trilogy covers both! The series follows the adventures of Shiva and blends the history of India with the rich mythology of the country. Not only that, but my friend also has the series, so we can essentially read it together then fan-girl over it.

Last but not least, Coraline (Niel Gaiman): Now I have read this book before. But there is something so special, and so unique about Coraline’s story that I had to add it to my collection (yay gift cards!). While you’re more apt to find it in a middle school library, the story is timeless. Dark, spooky, and yet endlessly hopeful, Coraline is really the sort of story that you carry with you. I’m so happy I got to add it to my bookshelf.

And that is it! Although I still have enough on my gift card to buy one more book, that’s all the books I have at present…and frankly about all the books that I can fit in one picture!

Any of these books catch your eye? Have any book recs for what I should get with the last of my gift card? I’d love to hear about your summer reads or book hauls so far, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment.

TBR List: Publisher Style

So I’m not sure how many other people do this, but there are some publishers that I pay a lot of attention to. Firebird is an excellent example and a number of my favorite books have been published by Firebird. When I see a book on a shelf with the Firebird logo, I pick it up. I might not always read it, but there’s a much higher chance I will. This has actually helped me discover new authors, so this strange reading strategy has its perks!

When I was in middle and high school I used to read a lot of books published by DAW. In fact, almost all the books I read were either published by DAW or by Firebird. I haven’t really read a lot of books from any one particular publisher as of late…until I took a look at my Goodreads TBR list. The majority of books that I had recently added were from DAW.

So here’s a list of books that I’m looking forward to diving into that just so happen to come from the same publishing house.

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The Serpent’s Shadow (Mercedes Lackey)

A retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by one of my favorite authors. Sign me up! While it’s not my favorite fairy-tale, I am a sucker for any fairy-tale retelling. Lackey blew me away with The Fire Rose, so I’m looking forward to seeing what new things are added to the original.

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Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

While coming home from school after a fight she’ll most likely get expelled for, Karigan meets a man who is shot through with arrows. He has a “life or death” letter for the king and luckily for the dying messenger, Karigan is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Roped into delivering a message she doesn’t know the contents of, Karigain can only trust her horse. Add assassins to the mix and you have a really promising fantasy book! This is the start to a series that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Hopefully it’ll live up to my expectations.

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The Birthgrave (Tanith Lee)

I honestly have no idea why I haven’t read anything by Lee and considering what a power house she was in the sci-fi/fantasy sector I really have no excuses. But this book has such mysterious undertones. A woman wakes up in the heart of dormant volcano unaware of who or what she is. As she travels through the brutal world she fights to discover who she is as well as find the mysterious Jade…and avoid an evil god who can’t leave her alone. It’s the start of a series too so hopefully this will be a new favorite of mine and I’ll have a new series to dig into.

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The Broken Crown (Michelle West)

So this series leads into a second series and strangely enough I stumbled upon the second series first. But I’ve learned that reading books in order is important, and why read one series when you can read two? This book promises magic and political intrigue which I am totally here for.

No doubt about it, looking at the publisher is a rather atypical way of finding books, but it can bring about surprising results. Are you a fan of any particular publisher or is that the last thing you notice?