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?

Book Review: The Daemonaic

|+| Warnings: Violence, multiple deaths including suicide |+|

“The trap had been set. Now I had only to spring it.” ~Harry

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Author: Kat Ross

Genre: YA Paranormal Mystery, Historical Fiction

Synopsis: It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.

But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.

From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?

My Opinion: This is how you do historical fiction. Ross seamlessly wove historical elements into the story keeping it realistic, while never beating the reader over the head with it. The characters are well fleshed out. There are so many unique elements here (including an incredibly unique reference to Sherlock). There are just one or two things that I would have liked to see more of and sometimes the pacing felt a little slow for my liking. Over all, I loved this book and can’t wait to dive into the sequel! 4.5 stars.

My biggest issues with the book were some ableist dialogue towards the end and the off pacing in one or two parts. There was a couple of incidences that made me uncomfortable simply because of the way mental illnesses were talked about. While it was a bummer, it wasn’t enough to make me stop reading because the book already had so many great things in it. The other issue was pacing. For the most part the pacing was spot on. There was one part towards the start and then again towards the middle where I felt like things were going a little too slowly. In each of these parts our heroine and narrator, Harry, was waiting on something. So in this case this could very much be a a case of great writing where the reader really feels what the heroine is feeling or a me thing.

On to what I loved. If my previous reviews are anything to go by, I really want a story where I can fall in love with the characters and watch them grow. This book delivered on this front. The characters were all unique and I loved seeing Harry’s relationship with everyone, especially John and Collin. I found that all the characters together helped each other shine. Usually I feel a bit bummed after reading a book with a great cast because the minor characters don’t feel as fleshed out. I honestly can’t find a thing to complain about as far as the cast of characters and the characterization of each one goes. Each character was interesting, played an important role, or lead to more twists in the mystery. I also really liked the relationship between Harry and her sister, Myrtle, as well as their relationship with Moran. There’s a lot to be built upon here for the sequels.

As I said, the characters really helped move the mystery forward. The mystery overall was well balanced. We have two opposing sides here, John’s idea that the serial murders taking place are the act of someone who is possessed by a demonic entity. Despite wanting to be a part of the Society for Psychical Research, a paranormal investigative group, Harry doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Throughout the story we see evidence pointing both ways and yet never forced into one side or the other. I really like it when a book can pull that off. But what impressed me so much was the fact that this story is as much about the mystery of the paranormal as it is the mystery of the serial killer. It was very well done, and I felt like I was never beaten over the head with either mystery as both were combined into one.

I love historical fiction but I find that it’s usually very whitewashed unless the story is by an #ownvoices author. There’s also the issue of a lot of racial slurs because “it’s accurate.” I’ve never liked that excuse and it always makes the reading experience uncomfortable for me. In The Daemoniac Ross did a lovely job of avoiding racist dialogue and putting in organic diversity. While I would have loved to have seen more diversity, there was a mixed-race couple who was portrayed very positively and some diversity as well. This is so rare and it was well done to boot so I was extremely happy.

All in all, historical fiction with some diversity, a lovely mystery and unique characters made The Daemoniac a fantastic read. The world building just sealed the deal. History and the paranormal blended together so well and made the history geek in me so happy. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.

TL;DR: If you’re a fan of historical fiction and are looking for a good mystery, start with The Daemoniac. An authentic world, detailed and interesting characters, as well as a strong mystery really makes Roth an author to invest in. I really do recommend this book, especially if you’re a mystery or  historical fiction fan. Best of both worlds right here.

Bookish Recap: June

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This month wasn’t a great month reading wise. While I did get a fair bit of reading time I didn’t have the opportunity to review any of the books. The upside to this is that next month will be chocked filled with reviews!

This month I spent a week in Seattle and most of that time was spent exploring. Seattle is an incredible city and completely inspirational. I can’t go back soon enough! When I wasn’t exploring (and trust me, there is a lot to explore in Seattle) I was writing.

So hopefully July will hold more posts and book reviews. Frankly I’m looking forward to it. I’m really excited about the books I’ve been reading. In the mean time, here’s the posts from this month:

 

On My Wish List

Usually I’m not a fan of dystopian. I think we all know this by now. But Jen at The Bookavid (which is a fantastic book blog you should totally check out), told me I had to read 27 Hours by Tristina Wright. Not only is it filled with representation of PoC and all sorts of sexualities, there is a Deaf person in the book.

As a Deaf/HoH person let me tell you how easy it is to find Deaf or HoH characters outside of contemporaries. It’s not. When I do find one, usually it’s done horribly.  Deafness is magically cured or the Deaf/HoH person is just the sidekick that makes the hearing people look good (“Hey, look at me, I’m cool and hip cause I have a friend who can’t hear and I let them tag along with me!”). Contemporaries have this problem too.

So when Jen told me that 27 Hours had gargoyles and awesome representation including a Deaf character that can hold their own, I was totally down for reading this! Sadly I have to wait until October 8th, 2017. Below is the cover, pre-order links and a link to the author’s twitter. Trust me, you’ll want to follow her twitter.

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Amazon |+| Barnes & Noble |+| Book Depository |+| Indiebound

Goodreads Description: Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

You can definitely expect me to read and review 27 Hours as soon as I get my hands on it. I wish that I had these sorts of books when I was growing up and I’m really happy that the upcoming generation gets to have this sort of representation. while you’re at it, be sure to check out Tristina Wright’s twitter. She has some really cool stuff there and it’s a great way to show support.

TBR Pile: Airport Edition

I haven’t had much time for reading this month. Why? Because for the first time ever I’m getting on an airplane and headed to the West Coast. It’s my first time on a plane and so I’m both excited and a little nervous.

Cure for nervousness and a 6 hour flight (and the 5 hour flight back)? Books of course! I downloaded what felt like a ton of books, but here are the ones I’m putting at the top of my reading list. All links lead to Goodreads if you want more details.

Shiloh (Helena Sorensen)

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I had read this book a while back and adored it. I’m looking forward to re-reading it, although my review of the book is already on Goodreads. It’s a YA fantasy with elements of The Giver in it. It takes place in a beautifully crafted world overtaken by the Shadow, a darkness that has not only pushed the world into a physical darkness, but the creatures as well. First in a trilogy, Shiloh follows the story of Amos and his friend Simeon and their struggle against the Shadow as well as the fears and expectations of their town.

 

The Tale of the Vampire Bride (Rhiannon Frater)

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I have been wanting to read this book for the longest time. Vampires and historical fiction are my vice when it comes to books, and I am so excited to finally read this. The story is a New Adult novel about a young woman who marries Dracula via an arranged marriage. I’ve heard that it’s incredibly dark with lovely elements of gothic horror which is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

 

The Emperor’s Edge (Lindsay Buroker)

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A trusted friend recommended this book to me, and honestly this person has never steered me wrong when it comes to books. I’m a sucker for high fantasy, and when you tell me that there’s a diverse steampunk book out there about a law enforcer who gets in over her head, you’ve sold me.

 

Book Review: Illumine

|+| Warnings: Violence/gore, ableism, strong language throughout |+|

“Don’t fight it. You were created for this.” ~Kayden

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Author: Alivia Anders

Genre: YA Fantasy (Paranormal)

Synopsis: For the past five months Essallie Hanley has been trying to forget about the frightening murder of her boyfriend. Haunted by vivid nightmares and hallucinations of the event she does anything she can to pretend she’s like every other normal girl in High School.

Only Essallie is far from normal. Able to conjure blue fire and a shimmering silhouette of wings from her body, she seeks the only known solace left to her name; her first home in Belfast, Maine.

But she soon realizes that her return home is only the beginning of a long and twisted road taking her as far from her humanity as possible, with Kayden, the demon originally summoned to slaughter her, leading the way. Unable to touch her but oddly curious, he joins Essallie in her search to find out just what she is. But neither of them were prepared for the secrets they’ve begun to unravel, secrets that will change Essallie and everyone around her forever.

My Opinion: When I first read this book (soon after it came out in 2012) I adored it. I thought that despite the pacing issues and a few too many pop culture references, it was a fun read. I decided to go back and re-read it for old times sake. And I was very disappointed. This time around I found a plethora of ableism that made me extremely uncomfortable or downright offended me. I have no idea how I missed it all the first time. Despite a cool idea and fun characters, due to pacing issues and a shocking amount of ableism I gave this book 1.5 stars.

As I like to end my reviews on a positive note when possible, I’m going to start with the issues that I had with Illumine then move on to what I liked.

While over all I really liked the concept of the book, I had issues with the pacing. The book starts off with a bang and for the most part goes steady. The end of the book though, was extremely rushed. I found myself having to go back and re-read things multiple times because I was sure I had missed something. I hadn’t, the information simply wasn’t there. I would have loved to have seen the ending expanded a bit more. I feel like more information would have added to the overall suspense. Instead, because things were so rushed, I wound up confused, the tension lost on me.

This also ties into the world building. I understand this is the first in a series but there were so many unanswered questions that could have easily been answered then expanded upon later on. Yes this book takes place in our world, but we’re still left with a lot of missing details. For me this contributed to the ending feeling rushed and left me feeling disinterested in the story.

While the majority of the characters were interesting, I was frustrated with how much girl-on-girl hate there was. Essallie and Ursula disliked each other from the get go, and this is never fully explained or resolved. At the beginning, after the murder of her boyfriend, Essallie and her best friend comment on the cheerleaders and the popular girls. They imply that being popular means being loose, fake, and a brat. Ironically, Essillie becomes the exact thing she was looking down upon but excuses her own behavior. I’m so over this mentality and it really did nothing to help move the story forward.

My biggest issue with this book is how mental illnesses were treated, specifically PTSD. I really disliked how closely linked the author made PTSD and as our narrator says, “asylum worthy behavior.” I know many people with PTSD and how it’s portrayed in the book is not at all what it’s like. Once Essillie discovers her abilities, she realizes that she had never been hallucinating in the first place and she essentially no longer has PTSD. Magical cure at its finest. In this book PTSD was a gimmick to make the story more edgy, not a valuable part of the story. Once she accepts her powers, Essellie never struggles with anything PTSD related. I wish I could say that was the only example I had. But the language the narrator uses about herself and her mental state is awful, making her mental illness into a joke. She frequently jokes in anger about how people should just cart her off to a mental institution or how she’s “crazy.” In fact, all of the parts related to mental illness (weather it was in relation to our heroine or her mother) were extremely ablest and I found them to be incredibly offensive.

There is a light here though. Kayden was an interesting character. We don’t have an Edward Cullen here as Kayden never hides what he is or what he wants. He never tries to redeem himself, yet he does have flickers of kindness. While Essillie didn’t interest me, for the most part I didn’t mind the story being narrated by her. Ursula was my favorite though. She had a surprising amount of depth and she really does come into her own. For such a short book and for such a minor character, Ursula does the most growth. She made the book for me.

The over all concept was set up to be a win. Not only do demons and angels exist, but so does everything in between. Ultimately it’s the idea that all faerie tales are true to some point or another. For such a short book there was quite a bit of diversity when it came to mythical creatures.

But not even a hardcore lady like Ursula could redeem everything this book has going on with it. Nor could the interesting concept. A rushed ending, horrible portrayals of mental illnesses, and fake drama in the form of girl hate was simply too much for me to overlook.

TL;DR: Illumine was a let down for me. I was hoping to fall in love with the world again and instead I was offended by the portrayal of PTSD, worn out from petty girl-on-girl fighting, and confused by a rushed ending. Even if the girl hate and ending were fixed, I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending this book simply because of how harmful the portrayal of PTSD is. If you or loved ones struggle(d) with PTSD, pass on this book. An interesting concept and fun characters couldn’t make me overlook the flaws Illumine has.