Monthly Recommendations: A Years of Recommendations

Kayla Rayne and Trina do such a good job of running the Goodreads group for the Monthly Recommendations meme, coming up with suggestions, creating their own videos, and so on. I’ve been lax in making my own monthly recommendations list, but this is the perfect month to come back to the fold because the topic is Mash Up! Instead of a specific topic, it’s one recommendation based on the topics that have been touched on this past year.

 

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Monthly Recommendations is a monthly meme hosted by Kayla Rayne (YouTube) and Trina from Between Chapters (YouTube). You can find the Goodreads group, including the monthly prompts, here.

 

1. Best First Book in a Series

 

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Published: 2 May 2017

Publisher: Tor.com

Category: Science Fiction/Novella

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Murderbot is one of my new favorite characters this year. All it wants to do is be left along to enjoy its media and figure itself out. How relatable is that? But no, the humans have to muck things up and who has to protect them and figure things out? Murderbot, of course. This is the first in the Murderbot Diaries and I am so looking forward to the rest of the series.

 

2. Graphic Novels/Mixed Media

 

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Published: 23 October 2018

Publisher:

Category: Sequential Art/Humor

Adam’s comics deal with weightier topics like seasonal affective disorder and struggles with self-esteem, while also touching on the silly and absurd—like his brief, but intense obsession with crystals. With a bright, positive outlook and a sense of humor, Super Chill tells a story that is both highly relatable and intensely personal.

Adam’s humor never fails to be both humorous and relatable, whether it’s his love for his cats (including his tripod kitty) or the trials he faces in day to day life. I could not recommend this collection, and his ongoing comic, more.

 

3. Duologies

 

Rise of the Empress Duology

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns/Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

I read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and reviewed it on The Book Bratz (review here) earlier this year because I love villain origin stories. While it didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would, I still think that Julie C. Dao has immensely writing talent and would recommend her books. I still have to read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, but you best believe it’s at home here and waiting on my tbr. 🙂

 

4. Mental Health Representation

 

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Published: 11 September 2018

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/LGBT+

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

If there’s one author that I’m sure knows how to write about mental health issues, it’s Akemi Dawn Bowman. After reading her previous book Starfish, I knew that Summer Bird Blue would be on my list and I am so thankful that it was. For all the heartbreak and toughness that was in it, it was a superb read that handled difficult subjects well. You can read me review here.

 

5. Books that Booktube Made Me Read

 

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Published: 24 October 2017

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Young Adult/Fantasy

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

This one isn’t strictly accurate because I haven’t watched a whole lot of BookTube this year, so I couldn’t pinpoint a book I’d read because of BookTube specifically. However, there was a readathon near the middle of December hosted by a BookTuber (Book Roast) that had, as its first challenge, a requirement to finish up our current read. Close enough? For me and for this recommendation, I’m counting it! lol

This retelling of the Scrooge myth was an interesting one and it certainly had a good time with its twists and magic affecting the modern take on the old story.

 

6. Audiobooks

 

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Published: 13 June 2017

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Category: Fantasy/Horror/Fiction

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Any of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series would be a delight to listen to, but I’m highlight the second in the series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, because it is read by the author. Technically this book is a prequel, so I suppose you could read it before Every Heart a Doorway, though I think there might be just the slightest bit lost in character surprise if you did. So, read them in order, but I think you’ll  be in for a real treat when you listen to this, book #2, because Seanan does such a good job of reading her children to life.

 

7. Books Worth a Reread

 

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Published: 12 August 2005 (originally 1943)

Publisher: Harper Audio

Category: Classics/Historical Fiction

A moving coming-of-age story set in the 1900’s, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn follows the lives of 11-year-old Francie Nolan, her younger brother Neely, and their parents, Irish immigrants who have settled in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Johnny Nolan is as loving and fanciful as they come, but he is also often drunk and out of work, unable to find his place in the land of opportunity. His wife Katie scrubs floors to put food on the table and clothes on her childrens’ backs, instilling in them the values of being practical and planning ahead.

When Johnny dies, leaving Katie pregnant, Francie, smart, pensive and hoping for something better, cannot believe that life can carry on as before. But with her own determination, and that of her mother behind her, Francie is able to move toward the future of her dreams, completing her education and heading oft to college, always carrying the beloved Brooklyn of her childhood in her heart.

I’ve read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at least twice a year for a couple years now, so I can definitely say it’s worth a reread. Whether you decide to pick up a physical copy, an e-copy, or listen to the incomparable Kate Burton read this classic story aloud, you’re in for a treat.

 

8. Underrated Books

 

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Published: 28 July 2016

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Category: Sequential Art/Young Adult/Fantasy

Eons ago, it was prophesied…four distinguished champions would be chosen to lead the universe into a new age of strength and peace. They were expecting warriors; what they got was a little bit…different. Join Amie, an art student, Sandy, a single mom, Kevin, aging athlete and Silas…a goldfish?…as they learn to navigate Earth and each other as the most unanticipated powerful beings in the universe!

Created by New York Times-bestselling writer Kate Leth (ADVENTURE TIME, BRAVEST WARRIORS) and illustrator Matt Cummings (BATTLE DOG), POWER UP is a super team-up with a twist…and in the end, finding a family where you least expect it.

This hilarious, bright, wonderfully illustrated comic does not get talked about enough! The team behind it, Kate & Matt, are just amazing. The story is so out there that you can’t quite believe what’s going on, but that’s half the fun! 😀

 

9. Marathon Worthy Series

 

The Illuminae Files

These are honking big books, but I think you’ll want to marathon them despite that. With the twists, the unique formatting, and the cliffhangers in the first two books, it would be impossible not to marathon this series once you start. The characters, the scenarios, everything just draws you in so that you have to know what happens next to the various crews in their quest for survival and justice.

 

10. Witchy Reads

 

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Published: 13 March 2018

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Paranormal

From the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender comes a haunting maelstrom of magic and murder in the lush, moody Pacific Northwest.

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

This book is packed full of witches and witchy themes. You can read my review here.

 

11. Relatable Characters

 

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Published: 9 March 2017

Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

Category: Fiction/Contemporary

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible, and heart-rending audiobook from author Stephanie Butland

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never, ever show you.

Into her hiding place – the bookstore where she works – come a poet, a lover, and three suspicious deliveries.

Someone has found out about her mysterious past. Will Loveday survive her own heartbreaking secrets?

Loveday’s got it. Books to people? Sounds about right. The Lost for Words Book Shop is her refuge and I think a lot of us can agree that it sounds like heaven, being able to have that sort of place to go, to have support us. Archie, the owner, is such a dear and is just the best support network for Loveday. The overall bookish feel of this story, obviously of Loveday, is totally relatable.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

 

 

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books You Didn’t Get to in 2018

There are so many books to read in a year and so little time to do it in. If I finish my goal this year, I’ll have read around 200 books. That’s great, but that doesn’t even touch on all the wonderful titles I wish I could have gotten to in 2018, whether they were new releases or back list titles that were holdovers from 2017 or earlier! Today I’m sharing with you five titles I wish I could have gotten to this year, but sadly did not have time to read.

 

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

 

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Published: 4 September 2018

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Category: Young Adult/Mystery/Contemporary

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

 

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Published: 8 May 2018

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/Romance

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

 

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Published: 15 May 2018

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/Mystery

Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .

 

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Published: 15 May 2018

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Category: Young Adult/Music

Seventeen-year-old Mira has always danced to her own beat. A music prodigy in a family of athletes, she’d rather play trumpet than party — and with her audition to a prestigious jazz conservatory just around the corner (and her two best friends at music camp without her), she plans to spend the summer focused on jazz and nothing else.

She only goes to the warehouse party in a last-ditch effort to bond with her older sister. Instead, she falls in love with dance music, DJing… and Derek, a gorgeous promoter who thinks he can make her a star. Suddenly trumpet practice and old friendships are taking a backseat to the packed dance floors, sun-soaked music festivals, outsized personalities, and endless beats of the EDM scene.

But when a devastating tragedy plunges her golden summer into darkness, Mira discovers just how little she knows about her new boyfriend, her old friends, and even her own sister. Music is what brought them together… but will it also tear them apart?

 

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Published: 16 October 2018

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Hope I Find Under My Christmas Tree This Morning

I’m always hoping to get books, but today of all days especially! Will any of these books make their way into my hands? I’ll have to wait and see when the unwrapping begins. Until then, I’m sharing with you some of the titles that I’m especially hoping will be nestled under my Christmas tree this year. Are any of them also on your wish list? Be sure to let me know in the comment section and check my Twitter soon to see whether any of them did arrive. 🙂

 

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. Upcoming topics and past TTT topics can be found here.

 


 

 

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The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas

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Published: 18 September 2018

Publisher: Amulet Books

Category: Horror/Young Adult/Paranormal

True Detective meets The Exorcist in this gripping YA mystery debut about one girl’s exorcism—and her desperate quest to reunite with her demon

Clare has been miserable since her exorcism. The preacher that rid her of evil didn’t understand that her demon—simply known as Her—was like a sister to Clare. Now, Clare will do almost anything to get Her back. After a chance encounter with the son of the preacher who exorcised her, Clare goes on an adventure through the dark underbelly of her small Southern town, discovering its deep-seated occult roots. As she searches for Her, she must question the fine lines between good and evil, love and hate, and religion and free will. Vivid and sharp, The Good Demon tells the unusual story of friendship amid dark Gothic horror.

 

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Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein

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Published: 4 October 2016

Publisher: Clarkson Potter Publishers

Category: Nonfiction/Travel/Art

From beloved New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein, Footnotes from the World s Greatest Bookstores invites you into the heart and soul of every community: the local bookshop, each with its own quirks, charms, and legendary stories. 

This collection of seventy-five of the most cherished bookstores from around the world features evocative paintings by Eckstein paired with colorful anecdotes about each shop, featuring a roster of great thinkers and artists of our time, including David Bowie, Tom Wolfe, Joe Frank, Tracy Chevalier, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Palin, Roz Chast, Deepak Chopra, Bob Odenkirk, Robin Williams, Patricia Marx, Philip Glass, Paul McCartney, Dave Berry, Michael Jackson, Jonathan Ames, Terry Gross, Mark Maron, Neil Gaiman, Ann Patchett, Jo Nesbo, Diane Keaton, Chris Ware, Molly Crabapple, Amitav Ghosh, Patti Smith, Mo Willems, Alice Munro, Dave Eggers, Roxanna Robinson, Garrison Keillor and many more. 

Page by page, Eckstein perfectly captures our lifelong love affair with books, bookstores, and book-sellers that is at once heartfelt, bittersweet, and cheerfully confessional.”

 

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A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh

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Published: 5 June 2018

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Category: Food and Drink/Nonfiction/Books About Books

A Literary-Inspired Cookbook for Voracious Readers at Teatime

Tea and books: the perfect pairing. There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a good book on a lovely afternoon with a steaming cup of tea beside you, as you fall down the rabbit hole into the imaginative worlds of Alice in WonderlandThe Hobbit, and Sherlock Holmes . . .

Fire up your literary fancies and nibble your way through delicate sweets and savories with A Literary Afternoon Tea, which brings food from classic books to life with a teatime twist. Featuring fifty-five perfectly portioned recipes for an afternoon getaway, including custom homemade tea blends and beverages, you will have everything you need to plan an elaborate tea party. Cook up and enjoy:
Turkish Delight while sipping on the White Witch’s Hot Chocolate from The Chronicles of Narnia
Drink Me Tea with the Queen of Hearts’s Painted Rose Cupcakes from Alice in Wonderland

Eeyore’s “Hipy Bthuthday” Cake with Hundred Acre Hot Chocolate from Winnie the Pooh
Hannah’s Sweet Potato Bacon Pastries and Jo’s Gingerbread from Little Women
Tom Sawyer’s Whitewashed Jelly Doughnuts from Tom Sawyer
And more!

Accompanied with photographs and book quotes, these recipes, inspired by the great works of literature, will complement any good book for teatime reading and eating.

 

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Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

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Published: 5 June 2018

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Young Adult/Magical Realism/Contemporary

A magic passed down through generations . . .

Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.

An island where strange things happen . . .

No one on the island of By-the-Sea would ever call the Fernwehs what they really are, but if you need the odd bit of help—say, a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight—they are the ones to ask.

No one questions the weather, as moody and erratic as a summer storm.

No one questions the (allegedly) three-hundred-year-old bird who comes to roost on the island every year.

A summer that will become legend . . .

When tragedy strikes, what made the Fernweh women special suddenly casts them in suspicion. Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, of love, of salt—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms.

 

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Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

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Published: 4 September 2018

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Category: Graphic Novel/Middle Grade/Paranormal

It’s the beginning of the new school year and AJ feels like everyone is changing but him. He hasn’t grown or had any exciting summer adventures like his best friends have. He even has the same crush he’s harbored for years. So AJ decides to take matters into his own hands. But how could a girl like Nia Winters ever like plain vanilla AJ when she only has eyes for vampires?

When AJ and Nia are paired up for a group project on Transylvania, it may be AJ’s chance to win over Nia’s affection by dressing up like the vamp of her dreams. And soon enough he’s got more of Nia’s attention than he bargained for when he learns she’s a slayer.

Now AJ has to worry about self-preservation while also trying to save everyone he cares about from a real-life threat lurking in the shadows of Spoons Middle School.

 

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A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

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Published: 4 September 2018

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Magical Realism/Mystery

Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave…

 

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You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino

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Published: 25 September 2018

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Category: Middle Grade/Fiction/LGBT+

Jilly thinks she’s figured out how life works. But when her sister Emma is born Deaf, she realizes how much she still has to learn.

A big fantasy reader, Jilly connects with another fan, Derek, who is a Deaf Black ASL user. She goes to Derek for advice but doesn’t always know the best way to ask for it and makes some mistakes along the way. Jilly has to step back to learn to be an ally, a sister, and a friend, understanding that life works in different ways for different people, and that being open to change can make you change in the best possible ways.

 

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The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

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Published: 25 September 2018

Publisher: Redhook

Category: Fantasy/Fiction/Young Adult/Magical Realism

Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

 

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Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

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Published: 14 November 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Category: Horror/Fantasy/Science Fiction

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

 

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Deadline: Harrietta Lee: Book One by Stephanie Ahn

Amazon | Goodreads

Published: 15 May 2018

Publisher: Self-published

Category: Urban Fantasy/LGBT+/Paranormal

Disgraced witch Harrietta Lee has made a lot of mistakes in her life; there’s a reason she’s got a sizable burn scar slapped across the side of her neck and a formal letter of excommunication from the international underground magical community. But who has time to dwell on the past when you’re trying to make rent in New York? Things are mostly clean and simple, until her next odd job is brought to her by a representative of a powerful corporate family—a family she once had close personal ties to. As she unwillingly digs through six years’ worth of personal baggage, she’s also got to contend with an inhuman admirer shadowing her in the street.
But hey, maybe it’ll be worth it for the beautiful women she gets to kiss…

(Warning: Contains elements of BDSM)

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 5 Wednesday: Most Anticipated 2019 Releases

The year is drawing to a close and with the end of the calendar brings…2019 book releases! It’s going to be a blowout of a year for new releases with sequels, debuts, and standalones galore. Today, as part of Top 5 Wednesday, I’m sharing with you five of the titles that I am especially looking forward to in the coming year. 🙂

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

 

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Published: 11 June 2019

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/LGBT+/Romance

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.

There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strong-willed young women falling for each other despite themselves.

 

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Published: 7 May 2019

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

 

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Published: 14 May 2019

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing in Arawiya, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a world inspired by ancient Arabia.

 

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Published: 14 May 2019

Publisher: Push

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/LGBT+

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

 

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Published: 28 May 2019

Publisher: Scholastic

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/Romance

Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

When she arrives in Japan, she loses herself in Kyoto’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival–and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. What begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

For fans of Practical Magic, Leslye Walton’s The Price Guide to the Occult weaves a tale of family magic, a curse, and the dark depths that some will go to in order to get what they desire.

Atmospheric and full of eerie magical repercussions, Nor is the eighth generation of Blackburn daughters, latest in a long line of women gifted/cursed by their ancestor with magic. Since Rona, each daughter has only had one Burden (read: ability/gift). Now, though?

Things are changing. Nor’s mother’s wicked influence in the form of The Price Guide to the Occult is reaching Anathema Island from across the world and Nor’s ability might not be as singular as she’s lead everyone to believe.

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Published: 13 March 2018

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Paranormal

From the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender comes a haunting maelstrom of magic and murder in the lush, moody Pacific Northwest.

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

Rating: 3 Stars

CW: [highlight for content warnings] including self harm (repeated mentions/thoughts), gore/blood, child abuse, child abandonment , PTSD

To begin with, there were a lot of times that I found it difficult to read because there weren’t any trigger warnings in the book. Nor has a history of self harm and there is quite a lot of time spent with her mental state, talking about her scars and her desire to use sharp objects around her. I have to say, without warning, these scenes made me more than a little uncomfortable.

Aside from those moments, however, learning about the history of the island and Rona Blackburn was an interesting part of the book: how Rona came to form her first homestead, the tragic betrayal of the eight families that she aided, the curse that formed from that betrayal, etc.  The closeness of the Blackburn family to one another was its own kind of richness, such Nor’s grandmother and her partner Apothia to Nor.

Characterization outside of the Blackburns, with the exception of a minimal cast, was somewhat lackluster. There were some, such as Nor’s friend Savvy who got some depth and page time, plus the Coldwaters and Reed, but other than that, even the named characters felt like there was not much life to them.

Speaking of the Coldwaters (Gage in particular) and Reed, the “love triangle” aspect of the book fell incredibly flat for me. I didn’t see any real spark between Nor and either of the two presented choices, though she was pushed together with Reed for the sake of the story and then Gage was there for the other point of the triangle. It felt like having any romantic interest(s) at all detracted from the story because, as I said, with no spark and flat character development, it didn’t add anything and bogged things down storytelling wise.

One of my favorite things in the book were the lighter moments when Nor’s power to talk to animals was able to shine through, particularly when it was obvious that humans so plainly got their pets wrong.

She pointed at the wolfhound lying at the bottom of the stairs. “You do know that Steve’s not his name, right?” Pike patted the dog’s large head .“ Of course it is. We gave it to him.”“What is it then ?” Charlie asked anyway. “Burn,” Nor said simply. “Burn?” Pike repeated. “Yes, Burn . He’s over a hundred years old, and you all seriously thought his name was Steve?”

These would remind me of Doctor Who a little bit (A Town Called Mercy – “he’s called Susan”) and added some much needed levity to the book, considering how much tension there was, what with Fern’s overhanging cloud and Nor’s constant stress and tension.

The plot development was alright, though the epilogue, which detailed the after effects of Fern Blackburn’s actions and the repercussions of the events on Anathema Island, had me more interested than anything that happened in the previous chapters. That seems a bit awkward in the long run, that the epilogue has a more interesting premise. I’m not sure that there is going to be any kind of follow up, so who knows if this is going to amount to anything or not.

I think it’s possible for this book to be enjoyed, but readers really need to be aware of the Content Warnings before doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Bree Howland’s Bring Me Home Blog Tour – An Excerpt of the New Novel!

When her absolute certainty is shattered, Kailey has to learn how to adapt and pick up the pieces to her new life, figuring out whether the past will reconcile with the future she’d once imagined or whether too much will have changed, including her best friend, Cole.

Bree Howland’s new novel, Bring Me Home, will not only provide readers with a warming story to curl up with, but a good feeling knowing that the proceeds of their purchase will assist felines looking for their own home. For more information about the beneficiary, check out Fortunate Felines Rescue’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Published: 1 January 2019

Publisher: Self-published

Category: New Adult/Contemporary/Romance

While Kailey was growing up, she was sure of two things:

1. She wanted to devote her life to helping animals.
2. She would never be without her best friend Cole Martin.

When her father had them pack up and move two provinces away two years before graduation, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under her.

Now she’s in college, finally pursuing her interest in veterinary medicine. Even better, Cole is at the same school. But Cole has changed and so has she. Gone was the innocence of childhood friendship and easy conversations.

Between new friends, unexpected feelings, and a road trip, Kailey’s first year in college will be more eye opening than she ever imagined.

 

Excerpt

 

“What can I get you to drink?” The pretty waitress asked with a smile as we sat down.

I watched Shawn’s eyes peruse over her slowly, lingering in places that I found completely inappropriate. He leaned his elbow on the table and broke out a flirtatious grin. “Hi gorgeous. I’ll take a coke and my friend here will take water.”

I coughed slightly as the waitress and my date flirted in front of me. With how sweet Shawn acted in class, I did not expect this at all.

What was almost worst was that he ordered my drink for me.

The waitress walked away and Shawn stared after her, so I cleared my throat and gave a small wave. “Hello?”

“Hi.” He said distractedly, tearing his eyes away from the waitress as she turned a corner. “Sorry, what were you saying?”

“Nothing.” I held back the urge to roll my eyes. “Want to go get our food?” The faster we ate, the faster I could end this night. I was already losing patience with it.

The food was no better than my experience thus far, but it was still the highlight of the date. For a restaurant that was so busy you would think the food would be fresher, but not even. The heat lamps had dried out even the hardiest of foods.

By the end of the hour I had picked at a small plate of food and Shawn had finished at least three. The annoying part was that the waitress kept coming back and Shawn and her would flirt some more. She would giggle and flip her hair, batting her pretty blue eyes at him. He would lean close, soaking up the attention. I resisted the urge to just leave.

I had given up on trying to eat or trying to make conversation with my date and sat there until he was done. I was hungry, annoyed, and uncomfortable with the whole night. When our check arrived, Shawn left with the waitress and never came back. So I played on my phone for another ten minutes before heading to the cash.

Pulling my debit card out of my wallet case I asked the cashier, an older lady at least in her mid-sixties, how much we owed them. The woman smiled at me. “The handsome young man you came in with paid before he left with Patricia.”

 

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About the Author

 

Bree Howland lives in Atlantic Canada with her husband and two fur children, two finicky felines. When she’s not working, her life revolves around reading, writing and taking care of her foster cats. You will more than likely find her curled up somewhere quiet with a book or scrolling aimlessly through Twitter.

 

Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Website

 

Tour Schedule

 

Bring Me Home Blog Tour

 

A quick reminder that all proceeds from Bring Me Home will be donated to Fortunate Felines Rescue. You can find out more about them on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

 

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Audiobook Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows; Narrated by Fiona Hardingham

Winding elements of classic literature with modern awesomeness, authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows return to their Lady Janies series with My Plain Jane, an homage to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre in which ghosts are real…and so is Jane.

Having never read the original story of Mr. Rochester and Thornfield Hall, Jane and her journey there, and whatnot, I wasn’t sure whether this story would further serve to bamboozle me. Truth be told, I’ve only read retellings (side note: check out The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde). However, if you’ve never read it or if you thought yourself maybe uninterested in classics, fret not because the writing style of My Plain Jane was entirely enjoyable, whether you read it physically, as an e-book, or listen to the audiobook.

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Published: 26 June 2018

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Young Adult/Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Retellings

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Rating: 5 Stars

To start, Fiona Hardingham as a narrator was an inspired choice. I’ve heard her perform before in everything from And I Darken by Kiersten White to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, so I’m confident in saying her range is well displayed from society to action, whether it be swordplay to society scenes.

Some of the vocals for the girls were a bit high pitched for my liking, but I think that is because she was playing to stereotypes of the period novels/film adaptations of those novels rather than because those are her natural choices for those characters.

Now, the narrative. One of the things I loved most was the authors’ asides. Some readers who have also read The Princess Bride by William Goldman may recognize a similar style, which was a nice touch, particularly given that W.G. passed away shortly before I read this book. My Plain Jane had several instances of its own asides which ranged from ones that gave me a smile to ones that, at times, did have me howling at my desk while listening, just picturing the scene being painted for me. Picture, if you will, this relocation of a ghost:

Instead he raised the pocket watch high into the air and bopped the ghost on the head with it. (We understand, reader, this is an extremely pedestrian way to describe something, this “bopping on the head.” But after numerous revisions and several visits with a thesaurus, that really is the most adequate description. He bopped it on the head.)

There were also clever word plays:

“What are you working on?” Alexander asked. “The story about murder from before?” “Not this time.” She patted the leather cover. “This one is about ghosts and the people who bust them.”

Commiserations with the reader:

(But she was a writer, so while she did get this moment of thinking herself somewhat brilliant, it would soon be offset by a crippling doubt that she had a gift of words at all. Such is the way with all writers. Trust us.)

Homages:

“My name is Alexander Blackwood. You killed my father. Prepare to—”
“He keeps it locked in a room guarded by a three- headed dog, which drops into a pit of strangling vines, followed by a life- or- death life- size game of chess, which opens into a room with a locked door and a hundred keys on wings, and then there’s a mirror. . . .”

 

These were just some of my favorites, especial ones that caught my note. I think upon further reading there’d be more to highlight, considering I’d be switching back and forth between two editions. I know there was at least one Lord of the Rings reference the King of England made that had me shaking my head.

To read the characters, going back and forth between Charlotte, Jane, and Alexander’s points of view, was interesting because the authors managed to make their personalities largely a combination of their pre-Victorian reality (or, at least, what Charlotte would likely have been) and some modern sensibilities, particularly regarding the events that were inspired by the events of Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre. There is commentary on toxic masculinity, trust, expectations of women, fashion, and why men are so resistant to be forthcoming with answers in a time of need.

The supernatural elements were fascinating. They provided a source of humor, not least of which because it gave a reason for our characters to become an early version of the Scooby Squad/Ghostbusters. There was also a deeper level of interest regarding the philosophy regarding ghosts and what makes them stay, how they’re relocated, when and if they move on, that sort of thing. This is made especially poignant because one of the secondary characters, Helen aka Jane’s best friend, is a ghost. Also because, through one thing and another, the ghostly element leads to an Easter Egg for readers of Lady Janies Book #1 (My Lady Jane).

This was a fun novel that felt like it was over too soon. It’s combination of classic elements with current methods of storytelling made for such a good book that I was sad to see it go, though that ending did have me chuckling so at least the last page was a happy one. 🙂 What a way to leave off until book 3.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.