Top 5 Wednesday – Love Interests You Would Have Broken Up With

Posted February 20, 2019 by A Conjuring of Lit in Top 5 Wednesday / 0 Comments

These February topics have been super fun to answer! This week’s was no exception, even though Kate might have gotten a little bit too fired up with her answers.

Paige

I’m gonna try to not copy Kate, but you should know by now that I make no promises.

Prince Emory from Damsel

*clears throat*

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck that doucher.

Chaol Westfall from the Throne of Glass series

I was, admittedly, a Chaolaena shipper quite early on, and I am not ashamed of that. HOWEVER! He became a shitlord, he didn’t really redeem himself in my opinion, and Yrene can do so much better. Yes. This. All of THIS.

Griffin from History is All You Left Me

Dude this guy was terrible. What a manipulative asshole. I detested him.

Leah from Leah On the Offbeat

LEAH WAS SO RUDE AND TERRIBLE. Jesus Christ I would have broken up with her both romantically AND platonically.

Inan from Children of Blood and Bone

Are we sensing a theme here? Actually the worst.

Kate

Tamlin from A Court of Thorns and Roses

First and foremost, let’s talk about everyone’s least favorite high lord of the spring court. Not even ACOTAR Tamlin is someone I would have wanted to spend much time with, ESPECIALLY now that I’ve re-read the series a couple times. So needlessly violent and possessive.

Mal from The Grisha Trilogy

Next up, we have Mal Oretsev, the childhood love interest from hell. I’m all for the movement for flawed, human male characters, and I think he could have been a good example for that if he had stayed on the trajectory we saw in book one. But when he started complaining about her relationships with the Darkling and Nikolai (despite continuing to fool around with other people) and asking her to give up her powers, I immediately dismissed him as any kind of love interest, let alone friend. Imagine my dismay at the end of Ruin and Rising. RAGE.

Locke from The Folk of the Air

This is a new addition to the list of Love Interests I Think Are Garbage, but his name is currently in all caps on said list. He was bad in The Cruel Prince. He was despicable in The Wicked King. I can’t prove it, obviously, but I’m fairly certain he will continue his downward spiral in The Queen of Nothing.

Joseph Malone from Three Dark Crowns

I was just so thoroughly unimpressed by him as a character. Yes, there are others in this series that are worse. There’s no doubt about that. I think my biggest issue with Joseph is that, like Mal, he’s portrayed as the good guy, and it’s implied that the good guy-ness can’t be countered or undone no matter his actions. I’m not here for that.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read Two Dark Reigns.

Maven from The Red Queen

I just really have no words for my hatred of him, and I was flabbergasted when Aveyard used him as a romantic interest. I have no nuanced opinion on him at all. I just think he’s trash. Sadistic, bitter, childish trash.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read War Storm.

*****

We both learned an important lesson this week: we’re either completely here for the romantic pairings or we DETEST them. There is no in between. And that made this week’s prompt that much more fun to answer!

Who are some of your least favorite love interests? Let us know in the comments below.

See you next week for more T5W fun! Happy reading!

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Top 5 Wednesday – Independent Ladies

Posted February 13, 2019 by A Conjuring of Lit in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

–Favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest (they can still have a romance subplot – this is going to be subjective based on what you think is ~too much~)

Paige

Kate is in London until the end of the week, so I’m flying solo for this one. I’M THE INDEPENDENT LADY! I’ll…I’ll leave.

Theodosia from the Ash Princess series by Laura K. Sebastian

Romance is a decent part of this series, but Theo NEVER lets her feelings for anyone stand in the way of her goal of rescuing her country from the hands of a tyrannical warlord and reclaiming her throne. Theo comes from a country where the women rarely marry, and polyamory seems to be the norm. It is FASCINATING and I love it. OT3??? Please???

Citra from the Arc of a Scythe series by Neal Shusterman

I refuse to acknowledge the “romantic subplot” in this series because I think it is irrelevant, but MAN do I love Citra. She is a boss bitch who gets shit done, and I adore her. Remove the romance plz.

Queen Bitch Jasnah from the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson

I have my own headcanon that Jasnah is actually aromantic (at least so far, and also pansexual despite there not being anything on the page about it. I just think it would be great.) She is the heretical, intelligent, badass scholar of my heart.

Ama from Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

I don’t want to go too in-depth because I think people should discover this book on their own, but that ending had my heart absolutely soaring. Ama is such a strong, badass chick.

Kelady in Mindelan from the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce

Although this isn’t the first series in the Tortall universe, it is the first one I read. While Kel has romantic dalliances at some point (WITH ON PAGE MAGICAL BIRTH CONTROL!), she is foremost the first girl to pursue her knighthood after Alanna paved the way for women to be allowed into the ranks. While Alanna is the OG for many, Kel is the OG for me, and she truly shaped me as a reader.

That’s it for this week’s top 5, friends! Do you love any of these ladies as much as I do? Comment down below with your favorite independent ladies, and please make sure you’re listening to Kelly Clarkson while you do so!

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Top 5 Wednesday – Favorite Nostalgic Ships

Posted February 6, 2019 by A Conjuring of Lit in Tags, Top 5 Wednesday / 3 Comments

–Discuss the first fictional couples you ever got butterflies over, or couples you used to be really into when you were younger.

Oh man, guys. We had SO MUCH FUN with this topic. Talk about blast from the past on some of these, especially that sweet sweet Twilight action.

Paige

Is it possible to do this post without mentioning Team Edward? Because guys.

uR sCeNt Is LiKe A dRuG 2 mE

uR mY sPiDeRmUnKy

Suze and Jesse from The Mediator series

Having been reminded of this series semi-recently, I now fully blame it for my adoration of slow-burn, forbidden romances. Y’all it took them like 5 books to KISS. And yes, my adolescent self reread the kissing chapter over and over again. It explains a lot, honestly.

Everything about this series was incredible. Also, same.

Rose and Dimitri from Vampire Academy

FORBIDDEN ROMANCE. VAMPIRES. ANGELINA JOLIE ON THE COVER. So classic.

BUT WHY WAS SHE THERE?! The world may never know.

Danica and Zane from Hawksong

ARRANGED MARRIAGE TROPE! Moody cover. Shapeshifters. A reserved culture of people warring with a passionate culture of people. TEACH THE PRINCESS HOW TO LOVE, ZANE! Also the sequel, Snakecharm, is from Zane’s perpective while this one is from Danica’s. Swewn.

Let’s end on a good one.

HARRY AND DRACO.

Yeah I said it. Been there, done that, read the fanfic. I still stand by it.

Because you’re correct.

Kate

I’m going to do a blanket disclaimer for mine: these books are 10-25 years old, so while I’m not going to go out of my way to spoil things, I’m also not going to be as tight-lipped as I would usually be.

LET’S JUST GET THIS OUT OF THE WAY NOW

I was Team Edward for the books and Team Taylor Lautner for the movies. That Rolling Stone cover really did it for me. Not even kinda sorry.

I mean come on. Just look.

SAY IT.

Gemma and Kartik from A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A while back I wrote a post about my loathing of the ending of this book, and I stand by that. It was garbage, because of that damn tree. HOWEVER I also recognize that the reason that was so effective was because of how invested I was in them as characters and as a couple. This might have been the first ship that brought me to tears.

A. FUCKING. TREE.

Jace and Clary from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

I was TRASH for Jace reading this series, and I was entirely too invested in his and Clary’s happiness as I read it. It’s part of the reason I’ve put off rereading this series – I know that Jace is objectively kind of a dick, and I don’t want to have to reconcile that in my mind and ruin some quality warm and fuzzies from my high school years.

Currently reading them. Really looking forward to the “Surprise! Not actually incest” reveal.

Henry and Diana from The Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen

So, fun fact, I actually DNF’d this series (I Wikipedia’d it lololol), because one of those characters gets killed off, and I was too angry and sad to go on. I would try to finish them now, but I’m too worried I would hate them as an adult, and I just have no faith I wouldn’t be disappointed by the outcome. After all this time, I still haven’t looked up a synopsis. ANYWAY. I just loved Henry and Diana, probably because they were both terrible and unapologetically obsessed with themselves. Thinking about it has me itching to jump back in and allow myself the needlessly smutty guilty pleasure I remember the first couple books of this series to be.

Additional fun fact: I’ve spent most of the last decade wanting this to be my wedding dress, and I’m more disappointed in myself than I’d like to admit that I didn’t succeed.

Her actual wedding dress was rull pretty, guys. And I can say whatever I want because I AM THE ONE POSTING THIS MWUAHAHAHAHA

Eragon and Arya from The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

I wanted them to happen for real SO BAD. It was true 10 years ago, and honestly, it’s still true now. I understand why they don’t, especially after my reread last year, but I still hope, deep down in my heart of hearts, that they find a way.

God same.

I have an honorary number six, because I can.

Stephanie and Ranger from The Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich

I am firmly Team Ranger, and I ways have been. My love for the bad boy runs deep, what can I say? This series lead to a lot of absurd debates with my book club girls in high school and early college, everywhere from a German train to my best friends basement to the sales floor at Barnes and Noble. The nostalgia factor is REAL. This would probably be farther up the list, but I kind of doubt any of you even remotely care or even know what I’m talking about, and I didn’t want to bore you completely.

So that’s it guys! Let us know down in the comments what you thought of these couples, especially if you swooned as hard as we did. 

Team Edward for Life

*mic drop*

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Paige’s January Wrap Up

Posted February 2, 2019 by Paige in Monthly Wrap Ups, Reviews / 2 Comments

Where did January go, you guys?! I read a ton of fun things this month, so let’s just dive right in!

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I chose this as my first read of the year in a fit of rage. I follow the author on twitter, and she was fielding a lot of homophobic comments from a variety of places, so I wanted to put some good juju out into the world and appreciate her beautiful book. This is a hard-hitting Asian-inspired fantasy novel with warnings for rape and sexual assault, animal cruelty, and general violence. Our main character Lei finds herself being chosen as a Paper Girl, a human concubine for the Demon King. While many other girls find it to be an honor to their families, Lei, who lost her mother to the demon caste many years prior, wanted nothing to do with it. We follow her struggle to come to terms with her fate, making friends with the other girls, and FINDING LOVE. Yes, I adored it. The world was well-crafted without info dumping, the plot made me even more invested in the characters, and I think the commentary Ngan makes about violence against women is very important. Five stars!

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

This book was a gift from the OTSP Secret Sister project (thank you Christina!), and man was it creepy and weird. It is a story of a young girl, Alys, who encounters two sisters. These sisters had been wronged by society and transcended to become the Soul Eaters. They visit her town and reap the souls of most of the inhabitants, and Alys must do what she has to survive. This novel is hard to describe, but if you enjoy creepy forests, religious overtones, and girls who don’t quite fit the mold, I would recommend this one for you. 4 stars.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

This book was another gift, although I listened to most of it on Scribd. It is an Asian-inspired fantasy retelling of the Evil Queen story (like from Snow White), following the ascent of Xifeng from a peasant to a woman adored by the emperor. I really enjoyed this one. It was refreshing to follow a character who stubbornly insisted on always reaching for more for herself. She was a little bit unlikeable a lot of the time, but that might be because I knew her ultimate fate. I’m excited to read the sequel! 4 stars.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Yet another Snow White inspired story! This one also pulls from another folktale, and I even got some Frozen vibes. I have seen some reviews that get a little more in-depth with the synopsis, but I honestly think that would cheapen some of the reveals, which would make it harder for you to connect with the characters. I would suggest just going into this one with as little information as possible – if you like fairytale retellings and female/female romances, check this one out! 4 stars.

The Lost Sisters by Holly Black

This is just a tiny novella touching on the events of The Cruel Prince, but from Taryn’s perspective. There’s not much I can say about it, but I’m glad I read it right before tackling The Wicked King!

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

This book is one of my most anticipated books of 2019, and it absolutely did not disappoint. I wrote a full-length review of it a few weeks ago, so go ahead and check it out for my in-depth and spoiler free thoughts. As always, I adore this series, and Seanan can do no wrong. Also, you guys should absolutely go support her on Patreon because her short stories are out of this world. 5 stars.

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

This is a fun urban fantasy based on Alice in Wonderland, but sprinkle in a heaping spoonful of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and with a black main character. Sign me up??? We follow Alice (duh) who has to travel to Wonderland and…FIGHT MONSTERS. She has to manage this while also attending high school, maintaining her friendships, and not making her mom kick her butt. I would love to see this one turned into a movie. If the references to Alice in Wonderland and Buffy piqued your interest, I recommend checking this one out. The audio narrator was pretty good! 4 stars.

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Okay. Okay. What the heck, Holly? You can’t just write books like this and expect people to be okay. As this is a sequel, I can’t go too in-depth into it, but suffice to say that I could not put it down once I picked it up. I was as on-guard and paranoid as Jude the whole time, there were definitely blush-worthy scenes, and the end killed me. But what else is new? 5 stars.

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

This was my first traveling book of the year, and I adored annotating it and reading what the other ladies had said in the margins. It follows Grace, who has been sent to an insane asylum for falling pregnant outside of wedlock in a time where that was simply not done. Grace finds herself in the care of a very eccentric doctor, and they fall into a symbiotic relationship. This one felt very thriller-y, and I was intrigued the whole time. 4 stars.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

While And I Darken wasn’t really for me, this book was. Elizabeth is our main character, and she is a ruthless young woman trying to make a place for herself in this world. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family as a companion for Victor (yes, the one with the monster). Victor is as eccentric as you would imagine, and present-day Elizabeth has to hunt him down while reminiscing about events from her past. I listened to this one, and the jumps between present and past weren’t the most obvious with the narration style, but I still really liked it. Kiersten gave us a badass female character who takes no prisoners, and I really loved the ending. 4.5 stars.

Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway

This is another one where I’ve written a full review, so check it out if you’d like more in-depth thoughts. This WWII-inspired fantasy kept me turning the page – I read an eARC, and seeing how thick the finished copy is surprised me. I had no idea it was such a long book since it flew by so quickly. I was charmed by our duo of main characters, and I really enjoyed the prologue chapter that set you up for how this book was going to end. I’m definitely interested in continuing the series! 4 stars.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Yeah, I know. I’m like a decade+ late to this party, but that’s okay. I’m doing a gigantic buddy read with my friend Alex over at Booksy Daisy where we are catching up on the entire Shadowhunters world. She has read a few of them, but I am basically starting from the beginning! I wasn’t nearly as annoyed with Clary as I was the first time I tried reading this one back in high school, so I have high hopes for being able to read TMI. I’m much more excited about reading the Infernal Devices, which we are tackling after City of Glass! 3.5 stars.

Pulp by Robin Talley

This is another eARC experience, but I wasn’t approved for it until a couple of weeks before release date, so it slipped through my fingers pretty quickly. I don’t tend to read many contemporaries (if that isn’t obvious), but this one piqued my interest. It follows dual timelines – one in the 1950s, where a young woman named Janet discovers lesbian pulp fiction and starts to learn things about herself. Another is in 2017, following Abby, who is studying the same fiction for her senior thesis. As I progressed through both timelines, I started getting more and more attached to both women, especially as they worked through their struggles and heartache with the help of books and reading. I think a lot of us can relate. 4 stars!

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

This is a book I received in one of my very last Fairyloot boxes, but I decided to listen to it. It came in a pirate-themed box, but I wouldn’t say this story is overly piratey. It gave me some serious Three Dark Crowns vibes in that it takes place on an island that is steeped in mysterious magic that comes from the land itself. We follow 3 perspectives: Adeluna, who is a former rebel and current politician on the island of Grace Loray, Devereaux, an un-aligned stream raider with something up his sleeve, and Benat, the heretic crown prince of the devoutly religious country of Argrid, the former oppressor of Grace Loray. This book is layered with conspiracy and secrets, all wrapped up in a mysterious setting full of plant-based magic that is deemed heretical and illegal. I’d like to try this one again by reading it in print before the sequel happens, but this was still a 4 star read.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I am so mad at myself for taking so long to get to this one. This was another OTSP Secret Sister gift, but from the beginning of 2018. I forgot how fun a good dystopian book can be (shoutout to Patricia at Bookish Geek for getting to me to just do the thing already), and Shusterman truly is a master. This story takes place in a world ruled by a benevolent, all-knowing version of “the cloud,” now known as The Thunderhead. It has solved natural death – no one dies from hunger, exposure, accidents, old age, or sickness. As such, there needed to be a way to curb population growth. Enter the Scythdom, a group of people tasked with gleaning people. My only struggle with this book is the romance, but I believe you could truly delete it and the plot stay exactly the same. I absolutely adored it. 5 stars.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

After that review, you bet I immediately picked up the sequel. I can’t say too much about this one since it is a sequel, but suffice to say that it was just as amazing as the first. I am deeply saddened that the third book in the trilogy, The Toll, doesn’t have a cover or official release date yet. I am struggling to come to grips with waiting. 5 stars.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

This is the second book in The Mortal Instruments, and I’m still mostly enjoying myself. Jace is somewhat of an eye-rolling character, but I’m still happy to be reading these books! 3 stars.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

This is Moroccan-inspired fantasy set! In! Space! When I received this in an Owlcrate box, I had no idea it was spacey, and I was pleasantly surprised when I started listening to it. 18-year-old Amani is taken from her family and forced into servitude by the ruling regime, trained to be a body double for the cruel princess that is despised by her people. This is a book filled with rebellion, unexpected relationships, subterfuge, and poetry. I enjoyed the story, even the romance aspects, and I’m excited to see where the sequel goes! 4 stars.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

This is a book that, while I know I enjoyed listening to it, I would be hard-pressed to tell you what happened. It is definitely a magical realism story, but that isn’t what tripped me up. All of the characters are named for different types of trees, and that made it difficult for me to keep track of who was doing what, when, and where with whom. It was almost dizzying at times. I’m sure if I had read it in print, I would have had an easier time. I predicted one of the big reveals pretty early on, so that was a bit of a detriment. I enjoyed the Irish setting and the Irish narrator, and I would be willing to give it another go in print. 3.5 stars.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I have complicated feelings about this book. Reading Six of Crows made me realize how much I can enjoy a good heist novel, and I was really optimistic about Roshani tackling a heist of her own. I love French settings, so I was truly amped to see what happened. The first 50 pages or so had me absolutely hooked, but after that, I’m not sure what happened. I found myself seeing where I was supposed to feel a certain way about characters or events, but it just wasn’t resonating. I adored some of the side characters, but the people I was supposed to care most about didn’t really do it for me. I was primed for some angsty romance and it just didn’t connect. I’m hoping this is just a case of right book, wrong time, and I’m going to try it again at some point, especially since there will be more books in the series. I’m hoping my favorite character will be a POV character in the next book! 3.75 stars.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

How was the a debut novel? This book was described to me in a review as Mulan meets Project Runway, but it is so much more! This is truly the time of Asian-Inspired fantasies, and I’m really enjoying it. We follow Maia, the youngest child and only daughter of an ailing tailor. She takes up the mantle of her war-veteran brother and goes to the palace of the Emperor under the guise of being a boy to attempt to become the new court tailor. What stars as a dramatic competition to be the best tailor in the land becomes a quest of legendary proportions, and there even some SWOONY BITS. I LOVE swoony bits. I devoured this book, and I even went so far as to get genuinely angry at myself when I had about 10% left but couldn’t keep my eyes open. The only bad part is that this book doesn’t come out until August, which means I have to wait until NEXT YEAR for the second installment. How dare. 5 stars.

That’s it guys! I started out this year with a bang, and I’m hoping to keep up the pace. I’m currently reading several books: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, City of Glass by Cassandra Clare, and I’ve even already finished up and audio book! I’ve got a few ARCs to get to (including one that is on Kate’s January wrap-up!) and a few buddy reads I’m hoping to start. Let me know down in the comments if you have read any of these books and if we agree about how good they are!

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Kate’s January Wrap Up

Posted February 1, 2019 by Kate in Monthly Wrap Ups / 0 Comments

I read 11 books in January, and I’m really pleased with the start I had to the year. I read one of my major goal books for the year, took on a variety of formats and genres, and overall, really enjoyed myself. I’d been feeling bogged down, but this month made me feel free.

By A Charm & A Curse by Jaime Questell

This was okay. Most people I know personally who’ve read it really enjoyed it, plus it’s circus themed, so I was excited to finally read it. In the end, I just didn’t care. Everything was just fine, which really isn’t fine. It’s just boring and completely forgettable.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This was an audio re-read, and it was great. It was better than great. It was EVERYTHING. I love them so much.

Rating: 5 (million) stars

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Yeah, so, I’d been looking forward to this for nine months, and it was everything I wanted and more. I still cannot believe all the twists and turns, and THAT ENDING. There just isn’t a whole lot to say that won’t blow this one wide open, and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. But please, if you have even a passing interest in this series, go read it so we can talk about it forever!

Rating: 5 stars

The Lost Sisters by Holly Black

This is a novella from Taryn’s perspective, and I enjoyed it. There isn’t much substance, but there isn’t supposed to be. It was a great bridge between The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. I probably would have LOVED it if I didn’t kind of hate Taryn.

Rating: 4 stars

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

I found a couple short stories I read in college on Serial Reader and decided to give them another shot. I’d forgotten how unsettling this one was, but I enjoyed jumping back into my collegiate days.

Rating: 5 stars

The Bet by Anton Chekhov

Again, this was a college flashback short story. It’s a hilariously heavy handed moral lesson, but I enjoyed the delivery.

Rating: 4 stars

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

DAMMIT THIS WAS GOOD. Paige has been talking about this series for over a year, and it’s been sitting on my shelf almost as long, just waiting for me to get around to picking it up. I am so freaking glad I did. It was eery and unique and special, and I can’t wait to read the next three. I’m also thrilled there are supposed to be four more after that. I feel like I could keep learning about these characters forever and never get bored.

Rating: 5 stars

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

I wrote a full length review on this, but I’m going to put one more plea to preorder and read this book. It was wonderful, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. My only problem with it is that August isn’t closer.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I can’t really talk about this without ruining why it’s so wonderful, but oh my god. The audiobook was heartbreaking and completely worth the pain.

Rating: Another 5 million stars

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I was a little disappointed by this. I listened to a couple of the individual stories on Audible at the end of the year and enjoyed them, but the whole collection just didn’t quite do it for me. The illustrations are gorgeous, and I enjoyed learning more about the lore of Ravka and the rest of that world, but it didn’t entrance me the way I was hoping it would.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Paige and I buddy read this, and we’re going to do a combined thingamajig, so I won’t say much, but this was wonderful. If you’re a NetGalley person, go request this ARC posthaste.

Rating: 4.5 stars

I hope you’re all as pleased by your January reads as I was with mine! I have a couple of goals for February to keep my momentum going:

  • Vengeful MUST be read. Paige and I are seeing Queen V in March, and I’m not going to not be caught up at her event.
  • I’m taking a trip that will involve a lot of plane and train time, so I’m hoping to read at least four books while I’m away.
  • I need to finish organizing my shelves and office. We moved two months ago, and it’s still in shambles, which is making my picture taking and goal setting much more difficult than it needs to be.

I’ll let you know how I did with those in four short weeks! I’m sure February will fly by, as it always does.

Let me know some of your January faves and February goals in the comments!

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Review – House of Salt and Sorrows

Posted January 31, 2019 by Kate in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Review – House of Salt and SorrowsHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Published by Delacorte on August 6, 2019
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Get swept away in Erin A. Craig's mesmerizing House of Salt and Sorrows. As one by one her beautiful sisters mysteriously die on their isolated island estate, Annaleigh must unravel the curse that haunts her family. Be careful who you dance with. . . .
In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.
Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?
When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

I requested this ARC after seeing the cover and description on my Goodreads feed, and I couldn’t believe my luck when I got it. I jumped in immediately, and reading it was a whirlwind of excitement and intrigue.

The story is a retelling of the German folk tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I was not familiar with that particular story, so I turned to my good friend, Wikipedia, to give me a little background.

Twelve princesses, each more beautiful than the last, sleep in twelve beds in the same room. Every night, their doors are securely locked by their father. But in the morning, their dancing shoes are found to be worn through as if they had been dancing all night. The king, perplexed, asks his daughters to explain, but they refuse. The king then promises his kingdom and each daughter to any man who can discover the princesses’ midnight secret within three days and three nights, but those who fail within the set time limit will be sentenced to death.

Wikipedia, The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Honestly, if that doesn’t suck you in, what will? It certainly worked on me!

The prose and world building in this book were so impressive. If I didn’t know this was a debut, I would never have guessed. The care that was taken to develop the settings, characters, and mythos, of this story was so thoughtful and thorough that I felt like a native citizen, living all of the crazy, terrible events with this family and town. It takes a lot for me to be immersed in a book like that, and it always adds such a special element to the reading experience when it happens.

In addition to that, as you can probably guess, with twelve sisters and their related family, friends, and community, this book has A LOT of characters. I was concerned about that going in, because it can be difficult to read about that many people and keep them straight, when they’re all supposed to be important. Craig did a great job handling this. Each sister, the parents, the friends, and the staff, all had a unique enough voice and perspective that keeping them straight was effortless. The story is told from Annaleigh’s perspective, and in reading the book, you were able to really see these people through her eyes, just like the way you’d see your own friends and family. Keeping the cast of characters in this book straight felt almost as effortless as the way I keep my own friends and family straight, despite the volume of people being introduced and playing a vital role to the story.

There is a stroke of darkness in this story, as well. As you can see from the description of The Twelve Dancing Princesses tale, there’s an element of risk right from the get go. Built into that are the superstitions and realities of a deeply religious society. Each city and region has a god that they worship, and in this world, the gods are real. When they interact with the people of this world, the consequences – the good and the bad, but ESPECIALLY the bad – are awe-inspiring. When all of the forces involved come out to play at the climax of this book, the effect is downright haunting. I loved it more than I’ve loved anything in a long time.

My favorite part of this book is how much it reminded me of Rebecca. (An all time favorite of mine, and you should go read it immediately if you haven’t yet.) The story itself has very little in common, but the setting and the tone are SO similar. I love being reminded of when I first read one of my favorite books. For those of you that might not be familiar, think grand estate with a grand history and a mystery no one quite knows how to solve. It’s dark and frightening and bright and beautiful all at once.

I only have two real complaints about this book, and they were both minor. First, the love story felt a little instalovey to me. There’s an effort to explain that away, but it didn’t really do it for it. I like how it ended up, so I can’t complain too much, but it felt a little like the inception of the romance was the weakest part of the story. It ends up playing an important role, so it’s not just there for the sake of being there, which to me made the weak beginning worse somehow. Second, the ending. It happened SO FAST. The whole book is an amazing slow burn to an explosive culmination and then it’s just…over. It wasn’t a complete letdown, because I still adored this book, but I was disappointed.

House of Salt and Sorrows is definitely going on my “Must Pre-Order” list, and I cannot wait to hold a physical copy in my hands! It will be released on August 6, 2019.

I was provided a copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

four-half-stars

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Top 5 Wednesday – 2019 Reading Goals

Posted January 30, 2019 by A Conjuring of Lit in Top 5 Wednesday / 2 Comments

–This week was a freebie, so we decided to use this opportunity for a goals post.

Paige

  1. Let’s just get this one of the way, guys: The Goodreads Goal. Because I am fixated on a round number, I set my goal at 200 books. I achieved this last year, so I am confident I can do it again this year!
  2. Some of you might know that I have a pretty hefty collection of books that I own but have not read. Like upwards of 150. Yikes. As such, I’d like half of my reading to be books that I own, so that is something I am tracking on my fancypants reading spreadsheet this year. I use the bottom two shelves of my row of shelves to house my TBR books, and it would be REALLY awesome if I could get that down to a single row.
  3. Another goal isn’t a reading goal per se, but it is to get my shelves under control. This includes chilling out on how many book boxes I’m getting (which I am optimistic for! Despite having sprung for 2 six-month subscriptions a couple months ago!) I also want to keep on top of unhauling books and items that I don’t want – if I read a book and know I won’t read it again, I want to get it off my shelves and into the hands of someone who wants it.
  4. This goal is hard to measure, but I already know how I’m attacking it. I’m trying to read more classics – enter the app Serial Reader. I used it at the end of last year to read Wuthering Heights, and I’m currently using it for Anna Karenina and Little Women. While I don’t think it’s super important to read classics just because they are classics, there are quite a few that I want to have read at least once just so I know what the deal is with them. Let me know your favorite classics in the comments! I’m currently striking out HARD with the ones I’m picking.
  5. Lastly, I want to get back on the train with buddy reading, especially with Kate! We just whiffed it spectacularly with two books, but hopefully once she is back from her vacation we can try again. I’m also buddy reading the entirety of the Shadowhunter Chronicles with my friend Alex over at Booksy Daisy, which is a feat in and of itself. It’ll also get me to reach out more to the bookish community (hey, Twitter!) and read with some people there!

Kate

  1. My biggest one is definitely my Goodreads goal. I ended up eleven short last year, which ultimately I was more than fine with, but it does bug me on some level when I don’t accomplish something I know I’m capable of. My goal this year is 100 again, and I am determined to make it happen. I’m off to a good start, so I just have to keep the momentum!
  2. I have a rather hefty number of major releases that I just didn’t read last year. I intended to, but I didn’t prioritize them, and then I missed the hype train. I’m working on getting caught up – ESPECIALLY with Muse of Nightmares and Vengeful, though the full list is longer – as well as stay better on top of it this year.
  3. I want to read more of my adult books. I have several series I enjoy keeping up with, and I have several books on my TBR that are adult books, fantasy and general fiction, that I keep putting off due to the volume of awesome YA releases. I love YA books, and I always will, but I want to get better about reading other things I enjoy.
  4. Last year, I used audio books almost exclusively for re-reads. I really liked that system, because I was able to re-read a lot of favorites I’d been putting off experiencing again. However, there are also several new releases I feel I could have really enjoyed, but I avoided listening to them due to my re-read policy. This will also help me utilize my library better, which brings me to goal number five.
  5. I’d like to better utilize my local library. I have SO many unread books that I already own, but I hope to either work through those or get better about being honest about the ones I’m actually going to attempt to read. By using my library, I can cut down on money spent, better support a local organization, and experience things in ways I’m not generally accustomed to. The fact that they have a built in timeline doesn’t hurt on the motivation front either!

If you’d like to follow along with our goals, join in on a buddy read, or offer any and all suggestions, you can always comment here or find us on Twitter and Goodreads! So many of our goals this year are somewhat interactive, and as much as we love interacting with each other, we would also like to interact more with all of you!

Paige: TwitterGoodreads

Kate: TwitterGoodreads

Happy reading, and if you’re affected by this polar vortex, please stay safe and warm!

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Top 5 Wednesday – Top of Your TBR

Posted January 23, 2019 by A Conjuring of Lit in Top 5 Wednesday / 2 Comments

This one is self-explanatory, we hope! Can’t wait to hear all about yours.

Paige:

Last year, we had a similar topic toward the beginning of the year that I treated as a sort of mini-goal for myself to accomplish by the end of the year. As such, I’d like to think of this post as very similar – these books aren’t NECESSARILY the next five books I will get to in order, especially since I am a mood reader who has a lot of literary irons in the fire, but I’m making a little pact with myself to get it done before December 31st. If, by the middle of the year, I manage to get through these, then I’ll pick another five! Baby steps, guys.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

I read the second book in this series, Red Seas Under Red Skies, during the summer round of Tome Topple last year, and my plan was to read this one during the round after. Well…that didn’t happen. I completely whiffed that Tome Topple – I got REALLY SICK and basically stayed ill that entire month. Boo. ANYWAY I have loved both books in this series and would really like to get caught up.

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

This book is the last in a trilogy, and I did that cute thing where I read the first two in rapid succession and then promptly got distracted. I simply must finish it.

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

This is a case of a duology where I loved the first book, acquired the second, and then heard TERRIBLE REVIEWS far and wide in the bookish community. While I am super hesitant about it, I really do need to find out for myself.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

This is actually a quite recent acquisition, but I’m putting it on this list anyway simply because I am incredibly excited to read it. I really want to tackle it before winter turns to spring, so here is my motivation!

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

This is another recent acquisition – my friend Andrew got it for me for Christmas – and it’s another one that I’m just incredibly excited for.

I feel remiss for not having commentary for yours, because I haven’t read them…sorry 😐

Paige’s TBR stack, complete with a fancy, tiny Treebeard!


Kate

I’m going to do basically the same thing Paige is, mostly because mine are pretty long. I’m already actively reading five books, and I have another five I keep on my Goodreads current shelf that I plod through when the mood strikes. It’s a whole process, and I know it’s weird, but it works for me, so I don’t want to screw it up too much.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

I was SO excited for fall releases last year, and I ended up dropping the ball on most of them. Paige and I purchased tickets to see Queen V in Columbus this spring, though, so I need to get completely caught up before we get there. I don’t want anything to be spoiled! Do the thing.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

So, Paige’s husband has this friend who is one of our staunchest supporters (Hi Mike!), and he has made it known that we should prioritize The Stormlight Archive. Well, Paige got the first one read last year, and I have yet to start. I’m hoping to read at least the first one this year, but I’m a little concerned that the length will get in my way. We shall see. Do the thing!

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I was planning on reading this when it was released, but that clearly didn’t happen. Surprised, right? My goal is to finish it as soon as possible, because people seem to be really loving it for the most part. While I’m okay being late to the party on things, it can be detrimental if I let myself get too behind the general bookish conversation. Or at least that’s how I feel, and for some reason, I’m feeling that with this book. Do. The. Thing.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Remember what I just said about being late to the party? Well when everyone was losing their minds over Furyborn last year, my thoughts on it were, “Cool cover. Maybe later.” That’s the story of how it’s been sitting on my shelf for eight months. Bottom line, I want to be ready for Kingsbane. DOTHETHING

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Honestly, this is just embarrassing. It must be read. DOOOO THEEEEEE THIIIIIIIING!

Kate’s just holding hers, but the paint color is called “Magical”, so that’s pretty cool.

What are some of the books you’re dying to get to? We’re always looking for suggestions to make our lists ever longer and more difficult to choose from. Let us know in the comments!

As always, happy reading and we’ll see you next week!

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Review – Dark of the West

Posted January 22, 2019 by Paige in Book Reviews, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Dark of the WestDark of the West (Glass Alliance #1) by Joanna Hathaway
Published by Tor Teen on February 5, 2019
Pages: 480
Goodreads
four-stars

He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner's Curse in Joanna Hathaway's Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

I received this book as an eARC from Tor Teen, and I was SO excited when it landed in my inbox. I was anticipating more fantasy aspects than I ultimately got, but once I got going, I was on board. This book is heavily based on World War II, but it takes place in a non-magical fantasy world. I honestly think the full synopsis gives away way too much information, but that’s just personal preference. One of the things I adored the most about this book is part of its construction – the prologue for the book takes place AFTER the events of the book, so you get this wistful and heartbreaking knowledge that creates a little war inside yourself. You’re rooting for certain people and certain events the entire time, knowing full well how things actually pan out in the future. This is a bit of my literary masochism coming out (since I like books that destroy me), but it really speaks to the strength of the narrative and the characters when you find yourself hoping despite all odds.

Out two main characters are a princess (Aurelia) and the son of a general (Athan). Aurelia has her place due to divine right of birth, while Athan is a third son of a man who lead a political uprising ten years prior. Despite their fundamental differences, you slowly get to discover parallels between the two of them. I love that we get Athan’s perspective, because it allows us to encounter a confident, semi-cocky male character (yay!) while also seeing him be soft and vulnerable and rattled at other times (double yay!). I also love that Aurelia gets to truly be her own person – she and Athan are as star-crossed as they get (especially due to his concealed identity), but she isn’t just whisked away by him or used as a motivator for his character. SHE is motivated to do what is best for her country, even though she doesn’t always understand what that means.

I adored so many of the characters in this book, but there sometimes were too many side characters that felt unnecessary OR like they should have just been fleshed out more. I adored the camaraderie between Athan and his best friend. And ultimately, I really liked where and how far the romance went. I feel like Hathaway went JUST far enough to make me feel like the relationship was believable without it feeling rushed or, alternatively, too drawn out. Also, blessing of all blessings, there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE DESPITE THERE BEING A BEST FRIEND CHARACTER.

I will admit that sometimes I got a little lost with the politics, but I have seen that the finished copy will have a map inside, so I am sure this would have solved a TON of my problems. In fact, after I finished the book, the author tweeted a link to her website where she had uploaded a map graphic for early reviewers. You can find it at here. If you like realistic fantasy, gritty wartime stories, romance without love triangles, and SO MUCH POLITICAL MANEUVERING, I would recommend this one to you! It comes out on February 5, 2019.

four-stars

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Review – The Last Namsara

Posted January 17, 2019 by Kate in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Last NamsaraThe Last Namsara (Iskari, #1) by Kristen Ciccarelli
Published by HarperTeen on October 3, 2017
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Wow, it’s been too long since I’ve done this! I promise not to go seven months (yikes) without a review ever again.

Now that THAT’S out of the way, let’s get down to business! This is sort of part one of two. I devoured both The Last Namsara and The Caged Queen, and I considered writing about them together, but they are so distinct, that it only seemed to fair to address them separately.

The Last Namsara was a slow burn for me. Despite the dragon hunting and obvious social barriers in Firgaardian culture, I just didn’t see a reason to be invested. It became obvious fairly quickly – I think about 60 pages – that I was wrong. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. I was just WRONG. All of a sudden, the little pieces of information that were dropped in the first couple of chapters started to become important. I don’t know if you know this about me, but the whole breadcrumbs into building blocks thing is a highly effective storytelling style where I am concerned. I am taken by surprise every time, and every time I LOVE IT.

Now let’s talk social institutions for a minute. I want there to be a Language of Thorns-esque book for this series, because the mythology of this world is incredible. Throughout the book, there are flashbacks and vignettes that expose the reader to crucial information, but I want the in-depth info on these beliefs and people. I want to know the Iskari and Namsara. I want to know all about the dragons and their power. I want to know what drove the last dragon queen more than a little crazy. And I’m not talking the surface level details we got to move this particular book along – I want it ALL. I feel like we’re only getting a taste of the stories Cicarrelli cooked up as the foundation of this series, and I hope she shares the whole landscape with us someday. I will eat it up.

Aside from the mythos, there’s the very real and incredibly pervasive ethnic hierarchy in Firgard. It is, quite frankly, disgusting, but I think she handles it well. There are three main groups we face in this story – the Scrublanders, Skral, and Draksors. The Draksors are the ruling class – an almost entirely secular society that demeans anyone or anything that does not adhere to their rule. The Scrublanders are another faction that rules their own lands, but they are under economic rule of the draksors. They are portrayed as the barbarian others, though in reality, they are much the same. They still hold to the Old Ways and religious beliefs. The Skral are the slave race, born of people who came to conquer the continent and ultimately failed due to some highly questionable dragon related shenanigans. There are things that are easy to spoil if you go to deep into how these groups do and don’t interact with each other, so I don’t want to say too much.

There are two things I want to mention, though. First, the fact that Ciccarelli is able to make these social restrictions – and the way people both uphold them and fight to tear them down – so central to the plot, is artistry I really admire. I think it drives the story, and it’s almost an additional character that has to be dealt with. It is not just there for flavor – it is ingrained in these people, from every group, to their very core. Second, the interactions of the individual characters with these rules is fundamental to how their personalities and development are portrayed. This is a simple assessment, but I just think it’s really cool. So often cultural things like that are there as flavor and don’t have any real consequences. Not so in this world.

I dumped so much into the culture and mythology, because frankly, talking about the character too much ruins the plot. The good guys are great, the bad guys are awful, and if I tell you who ends up on which side, it ruins the entire thing. This wouldn’t be a good review if I didn’t at least talk about Asha, our wonderful, strong, and fiercely strong-willed main character. The way she has been raised and the truth she is being exposed to throughout this book are so completely at odds with each other, but as she learns to reconcile them, she grows into an unstoppable, though still completely human, protagonist.

As for the others, the Dragon King, Jarek, Dax, Roa, Saffire, and Torwin are the group to look out for reading this book, but don’t trust what you know about them until you turn the last page. You’ll sell them and the story short if you do.

I know I’m incredibly late to the hype train on this one, but please give it a shot if you haven’t already. It’s unbelievable to me that this was a debut novel, and the series only gets better with The Caged Queen.

four-half-stars

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