I Love The Lunar Chronicles And So Should You

Posted February 15, 2018 by Kate in Gush Posts / 0 Comments

I’ve been trying to find a way to write this post constructively, but I’m going to tell you right now that I’m not entirely sure that’s possible. You see, I have this undying, all-consuming love of The Lunar Chronicles and the people and worlds that make it everything that it is.

See? No perspective or objectivity whatsoever.

When I read Wires and Nerve last winter, I was so antsy to return to that world, that I swore to myself I would re-read the whole series in time for the second volume to come out. Well, I didn’t pick up another Lunar Chronicles book until I was scrolling through my library’s available audiobooks late last fall and saw Stars Above. I got it and started listening. Not only was I reminded (again) how much I love Cinder and crew, but the narrator, Rebecca Soler, was AMAZING. Then I looked at a calendar and realized that I had approximately two months until Gone Rogue was coming out, still had to do an absurd number of holiday things (nine Christmases, people – NINE!), and I had a TBR list longer than I am tall. I didn’t think there was any possible way it was going to happen.

Enter my local library’s amazing OverDrive collection. Also, my complete lack of self control that lead to acquiring an Audible account, because putting a hold on things meant waiting too long. One month later, I had accomplished my goal, and it made me SO HAPPY! If Paige had a dollar for every time I freaked out about how great the audiobooks were, especially Winter, she could buy herself several Diet Cokes. (It’s not as weird a barometer as it sounds. Trust me.)

To circle back to the point here a bit, I would like to encourage any of you maybe not read this series to give it a shot. Cinder was a debut novel, and though both it and Scarlet had the markings of an author finding her footing, they were still complex and unique enough to compel the me forward. They also stood the test of time years later, when both my evolving taste and the warm light of nostalgia had the potential to create far too much expectation as I was reading them.

On top of that, Marissa Meyer does an incredible job of making these stories their own. I don’t Cress and think, “Oh goody Rapunzel tropes.” I read it and think, “Holy crap! This is amazing! What’s going to happen next?” It makes it so much more gratifying to be able to read a retelling that way, because I’m being propelled through this new story on it’s own merits. I still expect and am very excited when Cress is rescued from her “tower”, but the world, events, and characters, that populate the story and surround the rescue make it something new. Not to mention all the badass feminist ways Meyer turns a bunch of old fairy tale tropes on their heads, my personal favorite being how Winter sticks it to Levana, but I’m not going to spoil that for those who haven’t devoured this series yet.

Here’s the bottom line: just read these. Read them and experience them and love them. And if you don’t love them as much as I do, well, you’re entitled to that opinion, but I couldn’t hold in my stupid levels of excitement about it any longer!

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Review – By a Charm and a Curse

Posted February 6, 2018 by Paige in Book Reviews, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – By a Charm and a CurseBy a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
Published by Entangled: Teen on February 6th 2018
Pages: 300
Format: eARC from Netgalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.
Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.
Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

I discovered this book somewhere through the book Twitter grapevine, and I was super excited a few weeks ago when I got an eARC on NetGalley. I mean, look at that cover guys. Aesthetic, much? I actually finished it in the middle of January, but I put off reviewing until now because today is its book birthday! I was about halfway through the book when I preordered it, if that tells you anything about the book.

Our main character is Emmaline King, who attends a traveling carnival with her best friend. She has recently returned to the small town she lives in to stay with her father while her mother is abroad, and she’s having a hard time fitting back into the space she left there. When she is taken in by the young fortune-telling box worker, she suddenly finds a different place in the world, and one that is more than she bargained for. And this is all I can really tell you without being too spoilery!

Let me tell you guys, I love this book. Ever since reading The Night Circus, more good circus-y books are like my white whale. While Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic is a little more modern than Le Cirque des Reves, it still definitely drew me in. The carnival has all the attractions one would expect – trained animal acts, acrobats, fortune telling, and ferris wheels. Like your usual enchanted circus, the performers never age, and are protected from harm and from failing during their performances. This all starts to go haywire when Emma gets involved, and we start to learn more about the carnival’s origins and exactly where the protection comes from. While this carnival is grittier and less dreamy than the one in TNC, it serves the story well. We get to see the inner workings of carnival life, and we get to know the characters pretty intimately. Our other main character and alternating viewpoint of the story is Ben, who is the master carpenter’s son. He isn’t himself a performer, but he reaps the benefits of the protection the circus gives its inhabitants.
Ben is a sweet cinnamon roll of a character, and I adore his friendship with Emma and the way he gets to know her. He helps Emma grow from a timid, listless girl to someone who can fight for herself, and he grows a little bit along the way as well. I’m not normally a fan of first person narration, but dual POV stories are an exception to that blanket rule. Questell absolutely rocks the alternating chapters, giving you just enough of one POV before yanking you to the alternate one, and it keeps the pace going when the book could have otherwise dragged on.

Mildly spoilery, but I also appreciate the way she treats the relationship between Emma and Ben. It is a slow burn type friendship to romance with a payoff that waits until the very end, and I always appreciate that, especially in a YA book. Too often, things get rushed and it feels a little anticlimactic.

What I also appreciate is that she pulls NO punches when it comes to the negative events that start happening in the story. The harshness of the events of the story helps make the good moments even sweeter, and it makes the story feel more mature. Nobody wants a creepy magic circus that has all its edges sanded off.

I really like how the story of the charm and the curse gets slowly unfolded – it makes it feel like an urban legend run through a game of Telephone, and it lends itself to the slow burn I enjoyed so much about the plot.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who was a fan of The Night Circus, especially those who read Caraval and didn’t quite find what they were looking for there. If you’re eternally grateful when an author avoids the instalove trope, this one will also warm the cockles of your heart. If you enjoy found family, strong platonic friendships, supernatural elements, and a little New Orleans flair at times, I invite you to read this book! Happy book birthday to A Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell!

five-stars

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Review – Bookish Boyfriends

Posted February 2, 2018 by Paige in Book Reviews, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Bookish BoyfriendsBookish Boyfriends by Tiffany Schmidt
Published by Amulet Paperbacks on May 1st 2018
Pages: 272
Goodreads

In this contemporary YA, a teenager’s favorite literary heroes woo her in real life
The first of two books in an intended paperback original series about a girl whose classic literary crushes manifest in real life. Merrilee Campbell, 16, thinks boys are better in books, chivalry is dead, and there’d be nothing more romantic than having just one guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. She’s about to get the chance to test these daydreams when she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer into Reginald R. Hero High, where all their fantasies come true—often with surprising consequences. 

I requested this book on NetGalley on a total whim, thinking it would be a fun, fluffy read, and I was not disappointed! I love reading books about books and readers, and the addition of potential for a bookish boyfriend doesn’t hurt either.

This story begins when Merri, Eliza (her best friend), and Merri’s younger sister Rory start their first year at their new private school, Hero High. Previously, the girls had all attended the same all-girls school, but the influence of a powerful future family member gets the girls to join the more prestigious Hero High. Merri’s other best friend, Toby, also attends Hero. Merri’s hopes for her new beginning are twofold – to find “her thing” and to maybe meet a boy. Eliza is book-smart, being the child of two famous biologists. Toby plays sports. Rory is an artist. Merri is a voracious reader, but she wants to have a creative hobby that she is known for. Upon reaching campus, Merri sees a cute, brooding boy, and attempts to strike up a conversation. She is immediately shot down, and our story progresses from there.

This story pulls in elements from several other stories, most notably Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice. Merri’s class studies Romeo and Juliet, which Merri thinks is the most romantic story to ever exist. When Merri starts seeing parallels between events in her life, including a whirlwind romance with a handsome classmate, she wonders if everything she had wished for was really what she wanted. Is everything as it seems?
I was definitely not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. Merrilee, the protagonist of this story, isn’t your usual bookish protagonist. She is a romantic at heart, and her head is always in the clouds. So often, bookish main characters are studious and serious, but we don’t get that here. Eliza is the studious one, while Merri daydreams and is often caught up in her own head. It’s nice to find a character who breaks the quiet, shy booknerd trope a little bit, even if I found Merri a tiny bit irritating before her character started to develop a little more.

Another positive, at least for me, was the Pride and Prejudice elements. I unabashedly will read or consume almost anything P&P, and I am not ashamed of it. When Merri’s life started to veer away from Romeo and Juliet and start mirroring Pride and Prejudice, I probably audibly signed in relief and happiness. I read this book in about 2 good sittings, and once P&P showed up, I couldn’t put it down.

One thing I didn’t enjoy was the presence of a love…square? Merri’s best friend, Toby, has been in love with her for a while. Merri mentions that they had laid boundaries during a conversation from the past, but Toby makes it known every once in a while that he feels the same way. When Merri starts dating the Romeo character, it becomes a love triangle, and there’s tension. However, when the Darcy character becomes apparent, the love from Toby’s direction almost completely fizzles. I don’t usually like love triangles/squares/other polygons, but this one felt especially useless. It doesn’t really do anything to further the plot, and it just makes it feel like men and women just can’t be friends without someone developing romantic feelings. More opposite sex platonic relationships 2018!

I’m interested to see if this book is as successful a read for someone who isn’t a huge fan of the source material. I find Darcy to be an incredibly romantic character, but I know that not everyone feels that way. I’m not sure I would have loved this book as much if I didn’t have such a love for Pride and Prejudice, because that part of the story is what truly made it for me. I was happy and content when I finished the last page, and I recommended it to Kate, who is also a P&P fan.

Overall, if you’re looking for something light and fluffy with classic romantic elements, I’d suggest picking this one up. Bookish Boyfriends is slated for release on May 1, 2018. Come back and let me know what you think if you decide to get yourself a copy!

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Top 5 Wednesday – Hidden Gems in Our Favorite Genres!

Posted January 31, 2018 by A Conjuring of Lit in Top 5 Wednesday / 0 Comments

Kate

Ha. Okay. Fun fact: I’m maybe the most mainstream person on the planet. I am not original. I read what everyone else does, and I like it. However, with the help of the backlog of my Goodreads “read” shelf, I was able to come up with a few things that aren’t as mainstream as the rest. My genre of choice today is YA fantasy. Ready, set, GO!

  1. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – I bought this series on Kindle when it first appeared in my deals email a couple years ago. I enjoyed it so much! It was original and fun and little fluffy. It checked so many of the boxes I needed it to check at the time. Paige reviewed the upcoming fourth novel in the series last week, so I’m excited to see what that brings!
  2. Immortal Circus by A.R. Kahler – This was another series I picked up on Kindle that I probably never would have discovered without digging through the deals section. First thing, I love the circus. Anything with that aesthetic is going to draw me in. But throw in the Fae courts? Jackpot!
  3. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher – Paige pointed the book out to me during one of our many jaunts to Half Price Books. I’d never heard of it, but my library had it, so I read it. Though I’m fuzzy on the details now, I read it and its sequel in a day. They drew me in so completely. I should probably read them again to refresh my memory!
  4. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier – This series is a German translation. It makes the reading a little choppy at times, but the story is fascinating. Time travel, secret societies, assassins, plots, and gorgeous ball gowns on the cover? I’m pretty much set.
  5. The Life Siphon by Kathryn Sommerlot – I know I just read and reviewed this one, but I think it deserves as much exposure as it can get. Even if that exposure is only coming from our little corner of the internet.

Paige

You’re…you’re making me pick a favorite genre? You fiend! I’m going to have to go with fantasy, though I’m not going to pick between adult and YA. You can’t make me.

  1. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones. I absolutely love these stories. There are several different volumes, each comprising short stories. I own the US version, which consists of 3 volumes with 2 stories each. The first volume is definitely my favorite, and the cracked spine shows. If you like books that are about London, but with magic, this is for you!
  2. So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane. This is also a series, and it really speaks to me as a person. Our main character manages to check a spellbook out of a library. Awesome?! Wizards in this world (and yes, girls are wizards) employ The Speech to act upon the world around them (hello, linguistics BA in the house!) I highly recommend checking this series out if you want something a little different than your average magical system.
  3. Enchantment by Orson Scott Card. Everyone has heard of Ender’s Game, but Card wrote some other stuff too. This is his take on the Sleeping Beauty myth, but with a Central European twist. It’s dark and gritty and just the kind of grown-up tale I need.
  4. Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. While I don’t claim that this book, nor the rest in the series, are works of genius, I do genuinely love them. They are about two feuding races of shapeshifters, and they also don’t shy away from issues of race or sexuality, especially as the series progresses.
  5. City of Masks by Mary Hoffman. While I haven’t read much in this series, I have read the first two books. This one is about a chronically ill boy who wakes up one day to find he has travelled to a parallel universe version of Venice. Not only is he in another world, but the illness that has ravaged his body has left no signs. He becomes involved in a political plot, befriends a girl who breaks all the rules, and throws the city on its head. It’s a great deal of fun, and I also liked the second book, City of Stars. I would definitely not mind reading the rest of the series.

That’s it for our hidden gems list! Let us know if you’ve read any of these books!

 

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Review – The Life Siphon

Posted January 30, 2018 by Kate in Book Reviews, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Life SiphonThe Life Siphon (The Life Siphon #1) by Kathryn Sommerlot
Published by Kindle Direct Publishing on March 10, 2017
Genres: YA, YA fantasy
Goodreads
four-stars

The kingdom of Runon has created the impossible: a magical energy source that siphons life from the nearby lands and feeds it back into Runon itself. On the edge of the forest lives a quiet ranger named Tatsu who is watching the drain grow closer to his home country of Chayd.
Arrested for crimes against the crown, Tatsu is taken to the capital’s prison, where the queen offers him a deal. If he sneaks into Runon and steals the magical source that powers the drain, she will return his freedom. Caught in the unimaginable aftermath, Tatsu knows that the only hope is to stop the siphon before it swallows the world.
More and more he finds himself at the mercy of the destruction the siphon leaves behind – and everything he has ever known will fall apart in the revelation of its horrifying truth.

Before I requested this book on NetGalley, I had never heard of it. Not even an inkling. I was a bit hesitant to put off my monster of a TBR pile to dive into something that was a year old and hadn’t hit my radar, but the synopsis was compelling, so I went for it.

The Life Siphon follows Tatsu from his lone existence living in his deceased father’s cabin in the woods through a journey across neighboring countries to stop a terrible force from taking over and killing the world around him. What he learns on that journey about himself, his history, and the kingdoms he hails from, forces him to come to terms with a life he never knew but one that haunts him every day.

There are so many unique elements to this book that I think deserve attention, but I don’t want to give away too much. I’m going to choose some of my favorites, and the rest you guys have to discover for yourselves. Ha!

First and foremost, the magic. HOLY CRAP, Y’ALL. It starts out simply, something we’ve all read before – not everyone is gifted, there are different types of mages, and each kingdom utilizes each power differently to suit their needs. Basic, right? WRONG. Though I’m not going to tell what the siphon ends up being or how it’s powered, it’s so much bigger than that. The reader is lead to believe that the highest form of mage holds enough power to manipulate organisms as complex as human beings, when in reality, the highest form is not even defined in this first book. I would have to say that is the thing I’m most excited to find out going into the second book of the duology.

Second, personal relationships take a back burner in this book. There is a secondary character, Alesh, and she clearly has a history with Tatsu. We don’t find out until the very end, though it is alluded to, what their relationship is. They were both arrested, they were offered the same deal for their freedom, and though their motivations for following through are vastly different, they are in it to be free. Not to spend time together, not to hint at what could be, not to make gooey eyes at each other when there are battles to be fought – they are on a mission, and they are going to complete it. It was so refreshing for an author not to take a five page break to have their main characters throw down in the middle of an otherwise tense and dangerous situation.

And third. The thing that is hardest for me to put into words, but something I think is important. Tatsu is a deeply unlikable character. He is a loner, he has no patience for other people, he has been outcast his entire life, and he has shockingly little sympathy for Alesh despite the fact that she, and her sister, Ral, seem to be the only people he knows or cares about. All of that being said, he is magnificent. Throughout the course of this book, he goes from being a lone hunter to a convicted criminal to a glorified pack mule to a daring hero, and he takes it all in stride. And as he does, the reader is shown how much he cares for everyone in his circle, whether or not he’s good at showing it. He would die for them, and he wants their freedom and safety for them as much as he wants his own. I think that’s admirable, and I like that he was written as someone the reader needed to learn to love instead of someone the reader was told should be loved because he was OH MY GOD SO AWESOME.

The final item, or rather final person, I would like to mention is Ral. She is Alesh’s younger sister, and she is sick. Or at least that’s what we’re told. She was not arrested when Tatsu and Alesh were, so she was not offered a bargain for her freedom, but somehow, she’s everywhere. Ral is a mysterious form of other that’s not explained in this first book. All I know is that she is so much more than what we’ve been lead to believe. She appears when needed. She has an uncanny ability to sense what’s troubling you. She gives advice despite barely being able to speak. And she has an uncanny ability to sense anything and everything happening around her. If magic is the thing I’m most excited to find more out about, Ral is a very, VERY close second. If the role she plays in this world ends up being smaller than I think it will be, I accept that, but I hope we find out what it is that’s made her into the woman we meet reading this book.

Rating this one was tough. You might not think so given all the gushing I’ve done about it, but I promise it was. Conceptually, I adored it. I had never read anything like it, and I doubt I will in the future. But it was lacking something, too. It moved so quickly. It’s rare that I think a series needs to be made longer, but I think this story might be better served as a trilogy instead of a duology. Once Tatsu started his journey, there was no stopping or exposition or change of pace. He, and consequently the reader, were just GOING from that point forward. That being said, it was published via Kindle Direct Publishing, and for something self-published, I think it’s amazing. Even if it wasn’t, I’d say it is well above average. Originally, I gave it a solid 3.5 stars on Goodreads, but I think I’m going to bump it to a 4. The more time I spend mulling it over, the more I realize how nuanced and original it was, and I think that trumps a lot of my complaints.

I hope you guys check this one out. It’s only $2.99 on Kindle, and I would be willing to pay full price for it. The sequel comes out this spring, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it. As of this posting, I can’t find the title or release date information on the author’s website, but the title and cover reveal are slated for this Thursday, February 1!

I was given access to this ebook by NetGalley and Kindle Direct Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

four-stars

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Review – The Plastic Magician

Posted January 26, 2018 by Paige in Book Reviews, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Plastic MagicianThe Plastic Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #4) by Charlie N. Holmberg
Published by 47North on May 15th 2018
Pages: 236
Goodreads

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg returns to the enchanting world of The Paper Magician.
Alvie Brechenmacher has arrived in London to begin her training in Polymaking—the magical discipline of bespelling plastic. Polymaking is the newest form of magic, and in a field where there is so much left to learn, every Polymaker dreams of making the next big discovery.
Even though she is only an apprentice, Alvie is an inventor at heart, and she is determined to make as many discoveries—in as short a time frame—as she can. Luckily for her, she’s studying under the world-renowned magician Marion Praff, who is just as dedicated as Alvie is.
Alvie’s enthusiasm reinvigorates her mentor’s work, and together they create a device that could forever change Polymaking—and the world. But when a rival learns of their plans, he conspires to steal their invention and take the credit for it himself.
To thwart him, Alvie will need to think one step ahead. For in the high-stakes world of magical discovery, not everyone plays fair…

Hey everyone! Today I’ve got a review of an upcoming release for you. A few years ago, I read Charlie N. Holmberg’s Paper Magician trilogy, and I was instantly smitten with the entire world. I love it when an author can create a new magic system, and Holmberg’s world reminded me over a modernized version of bending from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I inhaled the books, and while I was disappointed a little bit in the finale, I truly enjoyed my time with the books. They were short, kind of fluffy, and compelling, and sometimes that’s just what I need. Color me pleased when I was browsing Netgalley and found that Holmberg had written another book in the series, slated for publication later this year. I was even more excited when I was approved for an ARC!

This book, which feels like the first in a new series, follows a new main character and takes place a few years after the initial trilogy. Our main character is Alvie Brechenmacher, an American-born German student of magic. She has just graduated and received her assignment as an apprentice Polymaker, or plastic magician, to the illustrious Marion Praff, a lead Polymaker who lives in London, and who is descended from the Praff magician that had founded the London school from the initial trilogy.

Magic in this world is incredibly unique. Magicians are able to interact with and control any man-made substance, such as paper or glass. However, a magician can ONLY become a master of one material. Additionally, nature-made instances of the material (such as glass created by lightning striking sand in a desert) are not controllable by magicians (glass magicians, for example, are called Gaffers.)  After school, a magician becomes an apprentice to a mentor in their field, and they are bonded to the material for life. At this point in the timeline, Polymaking is a relatively new field, and that’s what attracts Alvie. She wants to get in at the ground level of technological innovation.

I absolutely ADORE Alvie. She’s eccentric and wildly intelligent, not unlike her mentor (or Robin Williams in Flubber). She wears pants and large glasses, and she’s unapologetically herself. When she meets and befriends an amputee girl, Ethel, during her volunteering hours at the local hospital, she is struck with a brilliant idea for her and Magician Praff to research – enchanted plastic prosthetics. This sets in motion the meat of the plot, including a jealous rival Polymaker, as well as meeting a family member of Ethel’s that becomes quite important to Alvie.

This book did feel a bit predictable when it came to plot, but that didn’t put me off. I felt that way about the original trilogy, and it was totally okay then as well. I’m enamored enough with the characters and the world-building to be happy with a pretty standard plotline. I’m also very excited that the ending of this book feels like it’s ripe for sequels, because I would love to read more books in this world. The Plastic Magician is set during a time period where more and more innovations are bearing fruit, and I’d love to see her become a famous inventor in her own right, especially since her father has a famous invention of his own under his belt. I enjoyed this book about as much as I enjoyed the first two Paper Magician books, and I definitely liked it more than the finale. I also enjoy Alvie more as a character than the main character in the first 3 books, Ceony Twill, who actually makes a sneaky appearance in this book. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who needs or wants a palate-cleanser type book, but who still wants an element of magic and fantasy in their life. This book comes out on May 15th, 2018.

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24 in 48 Readathon Post!

Posted January 26, 2018 by Paige in Events / 0 Comments

Hey guys! If you’re not a member of the online bookish community, or if you haven’t been involved very long, you may not have heard of the 24 in 48 Readathon. The creator, Rachel, was a big fan of Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, but she wanted an event where she could still get some sleep. And I mean, who doesn’t love reading and sleep? And lo, 24 in 48 was born. It starts at midnight EST on Friday night/Saturday morning, and goes to midnight Sunday night/Monday morning. The goal is to read 24 of the 48 available hours while still being able to sleep and eat and whatnot like a real human.

As you may have guessed, the next occurrence of this excellent event starts tonight! I am SO jazzed. I cleared my calendar, it’s supposed to rain all day Saturday, I’ve got fixins for crock pot food, and *drumroll* I GOT ETHAN TO JOIN ME! Many of my fellow bookworms may know the plight of having a loved one who likes to read, but also likes to do other things (who does other things?) and therefore doesn’t make time for reading. That would be my husband. He’s got 8 billion interests and not nearly enough time to do this. So I was super stoked when he agreed to hole up all weekend with me and our pets and our books and do this thing! If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, it’s not too late to sign up! There are Instagram challenges, prizes to be won, and tons of people participating across all sorts of social media. I’ll be chiming in on my person Instagram and Twitter accounts, which I’ve linked if you’re interested in seeing our shenanigans! There will 100% be pictures of puppies and kitties. Just sayin’.

Being a mood reader, I had to make a TBR stack that’s a bit…ambitious. Ethan has a much more reasonable stack of 3 books, while I’ve got 6 PLUS several Netgalley ARCs waiting for me on my Kindle.

Without further ado…his and hers TBR stacks!

Ethan’s stack consists of some sci-fi shenanigans and spacey stuff. Red Rising is something I recommended to him (I mean, I DID just review it for you guys). Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is by one of his favorite authors, David Wong of John Dies at the End fame (Weird movie, guys. Weird. Movie.) Artemis is an awesome signed copy that my mother got him for Christmas.

My stack consists mostly of things I’ve gotten from subscription boxes, which is a self-imposed challenge I decided to take up when I received my most recent OwlCrate. I’ve been getting books since August, and up until this week, I had only read the first one I got. Lame. I finished The Cruel Prince and Foolish Hearts earlier this week, so I’ve got Before She Ignites (dragons!), The Glass Spare (badass princesses!) and Wild Beauty (awesome gardens and LGBTQ+ characters!). Additionally, I have The Book of Dust, which I got from a special Philip Pullman Unicorn Crate. And just for fun, because I have book commitment issues, I have Language of Thorns, which I got from my Broke and Bookish Secret Santa exchange, and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisen, because who doesn’t need to start more series?

If I’ve inspired you to try this ‘thon out, hit me up on my personal Twitter or Instagram! I’d love to chat with you throughout the event.

Happy Friday, readers!

 

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Top 5 Wednesday – Books We Hated But Love to Discuss

Posted January 24, 2018 by A Conjuring of Lit in Top 5 Wednesday / 0 Comments

See: Books We Hated But Love To Rage About Semi-Constructively

Everyone has those, right? The books you hated and kind of love to hate? The ones you just can’t forget because of how terrible they were?

Riiiiiiiiight?

Without further ado, here are ours!

Kate:

I’m going to go ahead and warn you – I have a couple of fairly popular things in here. When I hate, my hate runs deep. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of them necessarily, they just REALLY weren’t my jam.

Splintered by A.G. Howard – I saw these at Barnes and Noble, and I was immediately drawn in by the covers. I checked Goodreads to see the reviews, saw that a couple people I tend to align with were pretty lukewarm, and opted to get it from the library instead of purchasing. OH BOY AM I GLAD I DID. This book is Problematic. Its representation of mental illness was archaic and disgusting, and the portrayal of both familial and romantic relationships was clunky at best and emotionally abusive at worst. Rage. Inducing.

The Death Cure by James Dashner – I picked up The Maze Runner series with Paige and another friend for the PopSugar challenge a couple years ago. I enjoyed the first two books, and even though The Scorch Trials felt like a retelling of The Maze Runner in a lot of ways, I was still drawn in by the story. Honestly, two years later, I don’t remember if the thing that made me so angry was at the end of the second or beginning of the third book, but when we find out what the catalyst for such widespread devastation is, I was MAD. It overshadowed the entire story for me. The way the different entities came into play and the cause and effect of various experiments and actions completely undermined the characters in a way I found really unforgivable. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not finish The Death Cure, and I probably never will. My only regret is that you can’t return books on Kindle. (Note from Paige: I also bought them on Kindle, and I outright deleted them from my account. No regrets.)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Read this for a class where the theme was “loss and longing”. It fit the theme, but I just didn’t enjoy the book. Many, many people swear by Cormac McCarthy. I think he’s maudlin for the sake of being maudlin, and that’s not something I enjoy reading.

Fun Fact: I apparently share a birthday with the man, and I find that upsetting.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire – Okay, so I know I mentioned this in the survey back at the very beginning, but I feel the need to bring it up again, because I REALLY hated it. I’ve loved The Wizard of Oz for as long as I can remember in just about all its forms. From the cheesy animated movie to Judy Garland to reading the entirety of L. Frank Baum’s original series a couple of times. Then I saw Wicked on stage and was SO excited to read the book. Man, what a disappointment. It was so very….beige. Just boring. It’s one of my biggest literary letdowns, because I went from ecstatic to bored to upset so quickly.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Ultimately, I respect that this is a well-written book. I would even say that hate is probably too strong for the emotion(s) I feel towards. It was too creepy for me to really enjoy, and every time I see it, it just makes my skin crawl. (I shuddered thinking about it writing this post. Literally.)

Paige:

This week’s post brought to you by my “No Thanks!” shelf on Goodreads.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: This book creeped me right the fuck out. I listened to it on audio while I was working, and I kept texting my husband every time one of the main male characters did something gross. Spoiler alert – I sent a lot of messages. This book is supposed to be a romance, but it’s really a case of Nice Guy Syndrome. The book is written beautifully, but the main male character is an absolute gross individual, and he ends up getting the girl in the end. I hated the message this book sent.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Okay. Okay. Guys. I just want to bludgeon anyone who compares this book to The Night Circus with every copy of TNC that Kate and I own (we could do some damage). This book had instalove, creepy dude characters, a wishy-washy plot, and it straight up wasn’t a circus. Don’t compare yourself to a book with the word “circus” in the name and not give me a circus. Rude. (Note from Kate: I refused to finish it, because I couldn’t handle the writing, and reading the synopsis after I considered giving up sounded awful.)

Extras by Scott Westerfield: I LOVED this series when I was in high school. And then Westerfield went one step too far and wrote the 4th and final book. It made no sense. It didn’t follow the main characters. It was way out in left field. He took something beautiful, and he trashed the ending. I hate that. Leave well enough alone!

The Magicians by Lev Grossman: Now this book comes with a caveat. When I read the first in the series, I thought it was GARBAGE, and that every single character was a whiny baby. However, the help of an exceptional audiobook narrator has gotten me back into the series. A favorite Booktuber swears that the 2nd and 3rd books redeem the series, so I’m giving it a go again. I’m about halfway through The Magician King, and I’ll say that it’s entertaining. But also, Quentin sucks and I hate him. Don’t @ me.

A Widow for One Year by John Irving: This is the only Irving book I’ve ever read, and man was I not ready for the weird, mildly pedophilic young man-cougar relationship that runs through the entire storyline. When I closed the book, I just felt like I had finished a book about a bunch of horribly unhappy people that do horrible things to one another, and nobody ends up happy. Not the kind of thing I need in my life.

*****

That’s it guys! We welcome your comments, especially if you think you can sway our opinions about any of these books. I warn you, it will be quite difficult. We’re quite…obstinate. Happy Wednesday!

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Review – Red Rising

Posted January 19, 2018 by Paige in Book Reviews, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Red RisingRed Rising (Red Rising, #1) by Pierce Brown
Published by Del Rey (Random House) on January 28th 2014
Pages: 382
Goodreads
four-half-stars

"I live for the dream that my children will be born free," she says. "That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them."
"I live for you," I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. "Then you must live for more."

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Red Rising is a book I had heard quite a few positive things about on various Booktube channels I watch, and when a lady on a Facebook B/S/T board that I frequent was selling the original paperbacks for dirt cheap, I snapped them up. I decided to try and go in mostly blind, and all I really knew that it was set on Mars and was similar to The Hunger Games.

Our main character is Darrow, who is a Red and a Helldiver, which is the most dangerous position in a team of miners. In the Red Rising world, humans are broken up into different social castes based on their color. Reds are the bottom of the social structure – they mine deep under the surface of Mars, providing resources necessary for the terraforming of Mars so that it can be colonized. However, not is all as it seems. While the Reds believe they are working for the future, in reality, the surface has been inhabited by the upper castes that have essentially subjugated the Reds without their knowledge. When Darrow’s wife, Eo, defies the upper castes, Darrow is thrust into reality against his will, and his fury drives his desire to overthrow the system.

THIS BOOK IS SO INTENSE GUYS. It isn’t a super-long book (sub 400 pages), and the pacing is fantastic, but I absolutely had to keep setting it down to process things. Pierce Brown pulls no punches when he tells you a story, and I absolutely adore that. I felt Darrow’s every pain, both physical and emotional, and it helped me connect to a character who ends up being quite callous and harsh. Darrow isn’t inherently likeable, especially after the first trauma he suffers in the book, but I care deeply for his well-being and his mission.

The second thing I adore is the Roman imagery. It makes total sense that a society based on Mars would adopt Roman nomenclature when rebuilding society after the fall of Earth. While Darrow, being a lowly Red, does not a Roman-sounding name, the upper echelon of Mars absolutely do. For example, one of the main characters is Cassius au Bellona. Implementation of different mythologies is a big draw for me, especially Greek and Roman mythology.

I am also incredibly intrigued by the social hierarchy of the Red Rising world. I really like it when certain social groups are relegated to certain roles, like when each District in The Hunger Games is responsible for a certain industry. It’s even more compelling for me when the people themselves physically represent their caste. For example, the Pinks are incredibly physically appealing, as they are society’s “prettymen” and “prettywomen” (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.) Darrow himself is a Red, and his hair is flaming red. The Golds, who are the highest caste of all, are literally golden and shining. Something about an author building that social hierarchy with strong boundaries really works for me, because it usually means someone is about to subvert those boundaries.

Speaking of subverting, I absolutely love the story once it gets to The Institute. Without getting too spoiler-y, the spoiled Golds that get to attend The Institute definitely had no idea what they were getting themselves into. So used to cushy lives and things being handed to them on a golden platter, the stark reality of The Institute and the trials they must face really contributes to the intensity I  mentioned earlier.

While this book is listed as a YA novel on Goodreads, in part because of Darrow’s young age, it absolutely did not feel like YA to me. Even Pierce Brown is straddling the fence. In an interview with Teen Reads, he addresses the matter:

“On January 28th, my debut novel, RED RISINGhits shelves. Since the protagonist is 16 but the book is heavy with adult-centric themes of power, justice and war, I’ve been asked if it’s a YA or an adult novel. Simply put, RED RISING is both”

I agree with Brown. Red Rising is a grittier, more mature version of The Hunger Games, and that’s definitely something to consider before you pick it up. Darrow is only 16, that is true, but he is considered an adult in his own society. However, he only has 16 years worth of experience in the world, and that shows. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who claimed this book was YA, nor would I argue that it is adult.

There is a great deal of violence and implied abuse of different kinds, so I would definitely be aware of that, especially if those things are triggering for you. That being said, the only thing keeping me from continuing on with the series immediately is the sheer volume of other books that I have that I want to read. Brown is a master of action, social strife, imagery, and bone-chilling final lines in chapters. If you are interested in a more mature version of The Hunger Games (especially if you want a version without a love triangle, at least in the first book! I currently can’t speak for subsequent books), I highly recommend this one. I actually purchased it for a friend for a holiday gift exchange because I feel so strongly about it.

Leave me a comment down below and let me know if you enjoyed Red Rising, and if you think I will enjoy Golden Son and Morning Star when I finally get around to them. Happy reading!

four-half-stars

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Top 5 Wednesday – Forgettable Books

Posted January 17, 2018 by A Conjuring of Lit in Top 5 Wednesday / 0 Comments

We both learned a very important lesson today – we have OPINIONS about the books we read. A lone capital letter will not do. But we dug deep and found some things we could barely remember just for you guys! And because it’s fun to remember all the awesome (and garbage) things we’ve read scrolling through our Goodreads shelves.

PAIGE

This is a really difficult topic to come up with answers for due to its nature, so I enlisted the help of my Goodreads “read” shelf to find things that, while I know I’ve read them, I really couldn’t tell you much about how I felt or what they were about.

  1. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – I read this book back in October and literally fell asleep while reading it more than once. I kept trying to get to the point of the plot, and I don’t know if I ever got there. I tried explaining the plot to my husband as I was reading it, and I was not very successful. I can’t even imagine trying now.
  2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I actually read this one as an audiobook, and despite sinking 17 hours of my life into listening to it, I couldn’t tell you the main plot points or how the conflict was resolved. I vaguely remember disliking the male character because he was kind of a pig, but that’s about it!
  3. The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler – I can’t even remember why I picked this book up. Maybe the cover? I read it in about a day, but I don’t think it’s because I was enjoying it. I think it was because I wanted to just get through it.
  4. The Matched trilogy by Ally Condie – Meh. Just meh. Standard dystopian trilogy, I think there’s a disease, and there’s obviously a love triangle. There ya go.
  5. Fallen by Lauren Kate – I honestly don’t remember much about this plot either, but I do know it was another love-triangle-y, kind of faux-angsty YA book that started a series I had no desire to continue. YAY!

KATE

I had many of the same issues Paige did coming up with this list. Only two things came to mind, and the fact that they came to mind, kind of disqualified them immediately. Ironic, no?

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir – Yeah, I know. It just wasn’t my jam. Consequently, I basically remember nothing about it.
  2. The Spy by Paulo Coehlo – I usually enjoy his works, but this one was sorely lacking. It took a lot of effort to finish and was poorly researched.
  3. The Miniaturistby Jesse Burton – I swear on my life, nothing happened. You can’t convince me differently.
  4. Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiana – I read this for the PopSugar challenge a couple years ago, because it takes place in my hometown. Other than being offended at the author’s take on my hometown, I’m a little fuzzy on both my emotions and the events of the book.
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – This book was a BIG DEAL when it came out, and I have no idea why. Math was important somehow I think? I don’t know. I read it, because it was hyped, and my English teacher at the time loved it, but I swear to you I forgot the whole thing 5 minutes after I closed the book.

*****

Honestly, I hope making this list never gets any easier. There’s nothing better than a book really making you feel something and leaving an impression.

…even if that impression is on your wall after you throw it.

Until next week!

 

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