Friday, June 22, 2018

Checking in

Surprise, I'm still alive.

So here I am checking back into my blog after like 2 solid months of nonstop chaos. I apologize for abandoning my poor little bloggie yet again. I love her so but no matter how much I try to do some reading and keep up with the book world and get involved with blog memes and schedule posts ahead of time, life keeps getting in the way. And I keep trying to tell life to leave me alone and just let me do fun things. And then life is like, haha but you have a baby and you're in grad school and you fall asleep at like 9pm so fun things are just not in your schedule sorry.

And then I die a little inside.



Aaaaanyways, I'm trying to carve out a little time each day to do *something* book-related. Read some chapters, schedule a post, browse NetGalley for hidden gems, whatever. So hopefully that will help get me back on track. 

Also, I'm trying to come up with better ways to write reviews. Because I do so love writing my epic-novel-length reviews, but it's just not working for me, obviously. I'll finish a book and then I put off reviewing it because I know I need time to write the long review I have in my head... but then I never get time. And if I do finally get time, it's been so long since I read the book that I can't remember what happened. 


So, I'm thinking maybe do some mini reviews? Or try a video review?... orrrr, because I'm like so crazy introverted, maybe like a podcast-type audio-only review? Because the thought of making a video of myself that the world can see is just... no thank you.



So yeah, still brainstorming solutions. But I'm working on it! If you have any methods that have helped you become a more consistent blogger/reviewer, please leave me a comment and tell me your secretssss!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

{ Top Ten Tuesday } Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

{ Top Ten Tuesday } was started by The Broke and the Bookish but is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. She says, "It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together."


Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

{ #1 }
City of Ghosts
by Victoria Schwab

I have read and fallen in love with many of this fabulous author's books (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, especially the entire series of Exhibit C), so any book of hers is on my automatic MUST READ list.







{ #2 }
A Court of Frost and Starlight
by Sarah J. Maas

I devour every A Court of Thorns and Roses book I get my hands on... I'm sure this novella will be no different.







{ #3 }
For a Muse of Fire
by Heidi Heilig

I fell in love so hard with The Girl from Everywhere, I can't wait to read another book by this author. And it contains EPHEMERA. (Be still my heart.)






{ #4 }
Hullmetal Girls
by Emily Skrutskie

This is getting high ratings on Goodreads, and it's maaaybe LGBTQ*, possibly with an asexual MC, if rumors are correct? That excites me - seems to be not a lot of representation for aces.






{ #5 }
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy
by Mackenzi Lee

And SPEAKING of aces, here's the fabulous lady who got me interested in reading more books with ace MCs! I loooved everything about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and I can't wait to read more of Felicity's story!!





{ #6 }
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
by Lauren James

This one is getting great reviews, and the one-liner from the synopsis alone hooked me! "A surprising and gripping sci-fi thriller with a killer twist," says Goodreads... I'm so ready.






{ #7 }
The Long-Lost Home
by Maryrose Wood

The final book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series! I've listened to the series on audiobooks all the way through and I can't wait to read the last book! Although it won't be the same without the amazing Katherine Kellgren narrating... :(




{ #8 }
Not the Girls You're Looking For
by Aminah Mae Safi

Really high ratings on Goodreads for this one too. Readers are saying it's a great look at female friendships with strong writing and a Muslim MC. I'm in!






{ #9 }
Sea Witch
by Sarah Henning

I looove a fairy tale retelling, and this one is calling out to my soul. LOOK AT THAT COVER.







{ #10 }
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings
edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

An anthology of East and South Asian mythology. YES. I am so here for this.







What books made your list this week? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

The Boy from Tomorrow
by Camille DeAngelis

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition
Pages: 268
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publication date: May 8, 2018
Suggested tags: middle grade, paranormal, spiritualism




From Goodreads:
"Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are twelve years old but a hundred years apart.

The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leave Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house and afraid for their safety, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. Can he help them change their future when it’s already past?

The Boy from Tomorrow is a tribute to classic English fantasy novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden and A Traveller in Time. Through their impossible friendship, Alec and Josie learn that life can offer only what they ask of it.
"


The Boy from Tomorrow would have easily been one of my favorite books when I was in the "middle grade" age category. In my tweens, I was reeeeally into ghosts and death and supernatural occurrences and spiritualism. (I'm not sure I knew the term "spiritualism" then, but I knew of Ouija boards and spirit photography and all that awesome morbid Victorian stuff.) I'm still pretty into that stuff now as a 30-something (oh god when did I become an adult how did this happen), so I'm about to rave about this book.

Summary: Alec in the present (-ish, 2015) discovers that he can communicate through a "talking board" (aka: a Ouija board) with "spirits" in his house. Meanwhile, in 1915, Josie and her little sister Cass are communicating with a "spirit" through a talking board in their house too. When they discover that nobody is a ghost and they are actually somehow communicating across time, they chat through the board every chance they get, and Alec and Josie become good friends. But Josie's cruel mother is a spirit medium, someone who supposedly can talk to the dead, and she wants to use Alec's knowledge of the future for her own purposes. They find another way to communicate with each other, and while they love hearing about technology and books and songs from the future, Alec has some other information he's not sure he should share... like the fact that there's a child-sized headstone in the local cemetery with their last name on it. While Alec is trying to decide if he should tell what he knows, Josie is trying to decide if she wants to know ahead of time what will happen to her and her family.

What I liked: This was a great book in so many ways. The story is strong and deals with a lot of complicated time-travel-like issues without dumbing them down. For example, Alec starts finding letters and objects that have been left for him in the house... so Josie must have left them... but when he tells her about it, she hasn't done it yet... so now Josie knows she will leave them, but how, and when, and where...? It had my head spinning (in a really good way) at a lot of points, trying to figure out the mysteries of reaching across time with them. And poor Josie, trying to decide if she wants to know whose headstone is in the graveyard, and what will happen to her in the future, and the dates when people she knows will die... All of this information is at Alec's fingertips through Google, but should he share, and does Josie want to know? Ugh. Such a tough situation for both of them. I really felt for them, which I think shows that this book handled that really well.

Another thing I liked? ALL THE SPIRITUALISM GOODNESS. This is the first middle grade book I've read that deals with spiritualism but now I'm on the hunt for moooore. Talking boards? Automatic writing? Postmortem photography?? The age of spiritualism was weird and awesome.

There's also some tough situations that were handled quite well, I thought. Alec's parents are recently divorced, and he and his mom are both still struggling with a lot of the emotions that go along with that. Josie and Cass's mother is cruel to the point of being abusive towards them - both physically and emotionally - especially towards Cass. Some of those scenes were hard for me to read, but again, I think that shows that the author did a good job with them. Josie begins to realize that it's her responsibility to keep herself and her sister safe, which means she has to make some very adult decisions toward the end of the book.

What I didn't: The only thing I'm wondering is if the very end of the book is a little bit much for middle grade readers? If I was my tween self reading this, would I have wanted to read about the characters in their 20s and 30s and beyond, seeing what happens to them as adults? I don't know. I can't decide. As an adult now, it was interesting to see where they all ended up, but I felt like maaaybe the peek that far into the future wasn't really needed. We are told earlier in the book what will happen to both Josie and Cass, and I think I would have been satisfied with that. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Alec finds out that Josie is going to be a reporter, and Cass is going to be a famous actress. So we know they don't die young, and they seem to end up with careers that suit them. Yay!) Did I need to know in detail what will happen to them at a few different stages of their adult lives, reading about it scene by scene? Mmm, *shrug*, I feel like I could have done without it. I did really like seeing a peek into Alec's future though. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Where he follows the letter to another house and meets Cass's great-granddaughter?? And it's implied that he maybe likes Josie and hasn't met the right girl in his own time that can compare with Josie yet, but suddenly here's this girl in the present who's related to Josie that he seems to really hit it off with?? *sigh*... Maybe it's a little over the top, but it worked for me. Got me right in the feels.)

Another very small nitpick of mine is that some of the transitions from one scene to another were a bit abrupt and awkward, so I had to read back and little to figure out what had just happened. Like, one minute we're walking down the street with Alec and his friend Danny, and then all of a sudden Alec is talking to Josie. Oh, ok, I guess Alec and Danny made it back to their houses and Alec went up to his room and is talking to Josie... gotcha. Obviously that's not a big deal, and I don't expect the author to spell all that out for readers step-by-step in detail (cuz that's boring as heck and I don't want to read all that anyway). But I could have used a transitional something, like those little symbols in between paragraphs like * * * that show things have jumped ahead, or even one-liner like "Later when Alec got home," or something. Also it's worth noting that I read an ARC so this could be completely resolved in the final version.

TL;DR: As a tween, this would have been on my birthday wishlist SO FAST. As an adult, I still loved it! It's a really well done story of friends communicating across a century, sharing their everyday lives and some really tough things too, with a lot of interesting spiritualism info included.


Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars


{ Follow Camille DeAngelis }

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval
by Stephanie Garber

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 407
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: January 31, 2017
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy



First in the Caraval series. From Goodreads:
"Remember, it’s only a game...

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.


Welcome, welcome to Caraval...beware of getting swept too far away."


I read this last year when it came out, and I didn't *love* it like I expected to from that synopsis. But I mean, I was reading it during middle-of-the-night feedings with my then-newborn, so I thought it must have just been me and that I needed to reread it when my brain wasn't so mushy to fully *love* it.

But here I am, rereading it with a clear head, and... nope. It's still not complete *love* for me. Let me explain.

(And before we begin... I made all kinds of notes and highlights in my Kindle book that I borrowed from the library, but it expired and now my library mysteriously no longer owns any version of this book?? Thanks, county library, that's much appreciated. So I'm going from memory here...)

What I liked: To be fair, the first half was *LOVE*. I remember that from my first read. The beginning is like the perfect combination of the nonsense and magic of Alice in Wonderland meets the puzzle-solving and item-collecting of the old King's Quest games, both of which are obsessions of mine. So obviously I was IN IT. I tore through those pages, devouring all the clues and strange characters and lovely descriptions of enchanted gowns and magical settings. I was THERE with her, completely lost in this book and reading along like "yes, YES, you open up that secret passage and see where it goes!!"

What I didn't: But then it started to lose me a little. Because the clues were...not really clues? I appreciated that Scarlett's clue sheet was updated as she went along so we could follow along with how she was "solving" the clues, except...she wasn't, really. The clues didn't lead her to anything, and she never seemed to make any progress in the game. It wasn't like this clue led her to this new location, and she progressed from there... Every night she came back to the same room and started over again the next day. The clues just felt kind of pointless to me.

Then the last half-ish of the book lost me completely. After (SPOILER - highlight to read: Scarlett falls into the water from the carousel), it felt like the rest of the book was almost written by a different author. It lacked the polish and finesse of the first half, like it was a draft that hadn't yet been fully fleshed out. And aside from the writing style, the wrap-up of the plot didn't do much for me either. Even though everything was being revealed and all the game's secrets were coming out, there was no magic in it for me. Too many things get re-explained too many times...identities and motives are revealed, then proven wrong, then re-revealed, then proven wrong again... It was just twist after over-the-top twist, leaving me feeling a little baited-and-switched instead of awestruck.

...And is it just me or (SPOILER - highlight to read: did Scarlett NOT EVEN HAVE TO PLAY THIS GAME?? She could have waited and spectated till someone else found her sister, then swooped in and did her sister-saving wish. Because apparently she didn't need to win the game, since Legend can't "give" her a wish anyway. She had the power to save her sister within her all along. ... Sooo why did we do this, again???)

TL;DR: All that being said, there are so many glowing reviews of this book out there, so please take my opinion as just my own humble one. Unfortunately, I had to knock it down from a rating of 5 BEAUTIFUL SHIMMERING STARS to a shaky 3, because the ending just left me so disappointed. But I will still be reading the next book in the series, Legendary, because if it gives me the feels of the magical questing and puzzle-solving first half of Caraval again, it will be totally worth it no matter how it ends.


Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars


{ Follow Stephanie Garber }

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

{ Waiting on Wednesday } April 11, 2018

{ Waiting on Wednesday } is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we can share upcoming releases that we just can't wait to get our hands on.



A Court of Frost and Starlight
by Sarah J. Maas

Expected publication date: May 1, 2018
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 224
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy, fairies



Part of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. From Goodreads:
"The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we'd have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I'd now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it."

I am absolute trash for this series. As soon as I get my hands on one of these novels, I lock myself away (for as long as I am able to persuade someone to babysit my small monster... I mean, toddler) and deeevour it. This is a novella but I don't care, I'm all about it.



What reads are you waiting on this week? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

{ Top Ten Tuesday } Books I Loved but Will Never Re-Read

Look at this awesome party that I'm super late to! I've been wanting to get into blogging more than just book reviews, and this sounds like the perfect way to get my mind thinking about books I've read in new ways.


{ Top Ten Tuesday } was started by The Broke and the Bookish but is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. She says, "It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together."


Books I Loved but Will Never Re-Read

{ #1 }
All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven

This is a brilliant, wonderful book... and it absolutely destroyed me. I don't want to voluntarily do that to myself again, so I don't think I'll be rereading it. But if you haven't read it yet, definitely give it a try! (Just have lots of tissues and ice cream ready for your post-reading recovery period.)




{ #2 }
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy
by L.A. Meyer

This (and the entire Bloody Jack series) was such epic perfection as an audiobook narrated by the late Katherine Kellgren that I don't think I could ever read it in print and have the same experience. I don't even have the desire to try. Rest in peace, Ms. Kellgren - you brought so many stories to life for me in such amazing ways.


{ #3 }
The Book of Tomorrow
by Cecelia Ahern

I loved this book when I first read it... But now I can't remember anything that happened. At all. And usually I can rave to people about my favorite books in probably too much detail. So I guess if it didn't stick with me, maybe it's not really a favorite after all?





{ #4 }
Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson

See: All the Bright Places, above. This is a tearjerker. I read this when I was in like 4th or 5th grade, and I didn't understand it fully at the time. I read it again recently as an adult and I UNDERSTOOD EVERYTHING. It's such a heavy, painful book and I wasn't ready for that!! I mean, it's a great book, don't get me wrong, but... I just don't want to go through that again. And I'd like to try other children's classics.


{ #5 }
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
by Lynne Truss

As a proud grammar stickler, this was hilarious to me on the first read... but would I ever want to read it again? Nah. I got the humor the first time. I'm not sure it would be as funny the second time around.




{ #6 }
Girls to the Rescue, Book #2
edited by Bruce Lansky

This was one of my favorites when I was younger. A collection of fairy tales and fables from around the world with young heroines getting stuff done and generally being awesome. I read it over and over and over... and I would read it again now! This one makes the list because I can't find it anywhere! *sob*




{ #7 }
Heartless
by Marissa Meyer

I'm pretty picky about my Wonderland retellings, and I haven't really enjoyed any since I found Splintered. While I was reading Heartless, I was like "YES!! Finally! Another Wonderland series that I can get lost in!!" ... But sadly, I was mistaken. This is not a series. And I was so disappointed by that that I just don't think I want to read this one again knowing I can't go any farther in the story. I want more, and there isn't any more. :(


{ #8 }
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

Ok, this was definitely a favorite the first time I read it, and I keep trying to reread it... but every time I try, I give up! This is a HARD book to get through! It's soooo looooong, and there are so many footnotes... gah. I just can't do it. But it is one of my favorites, so if you're up for a challenge, try it!




{ #9 }
The Rites Wrongs of Janice Wills
by Joanna Pearson

I majored in Anthropology, and no one who asked what I was majoring in ever knew what it was, so imagine my excitement when I found a YA book with a MC who is into anthropology!!! What?? YES, totally my new favorite book, right?? ... Well, actually, meh. I mean, I still think it's AWESOME that someone worked anthropology into a YA book, but the story wasn't so great that I'd want to read it again, unfortunately.


{ #10 }
Wideacre
by Philippa Gregory

At one time, I was OBSESSSSSED with Philippa Gregory books. I devoured them all, and this Wideacre trilogy was one of my favorites. Dark family secrets! A selfish, spiteful, love-to-hate-her MC! Watching everything come crashing down around her in spectacular fashion! YES!!! I was there for it!! ... And then some years later, I reread it. And it was awful..?? I have no idea what happened, because I still like that kind of dark, desperate book. Just not... this book, I guess? Hmm. It's a mystery.


What books made your list this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 9, 2018

{ Something Old, Something New } April 2018

Ugh, I'm a little late with this for this month. Sorry. :(  There has just been a lot going on... I'm taking an impossible graduate class with a ridiculous amount of group work outside of class time (kill me), our house got tented for termites, and we had to say goodbye to our sweet wonderful old dog Josie. So I've been all over the place for a week or so, but I'm starting to get back on track.




{ Something Old, Something New } is a meant to help us focus on the new releases in our TBR piles and also hand-pick some older books that we've been meaning to read.




On my reading list for March 2018 was...

{ Something Old }

The Glass Sentence
by S.E. Grove

Release date: June 12, 2014
Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 439
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Suggested tags: middle grade, fantasy



I haven't posted my review yet... but it will be up soon!


{ Something New }
The Unbinding of Mary Reade
by Miriam McNamara

Release date: March 6, 2018
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 336
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Suggested tags: young adult, historical fiction, 18th century, pirates, LGBTQ



You can read my review here!




On my reading list for April 2018 is...

{ Something Old }

Caraval
by Stephanie Garber

Release date: January 1, 2017
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 407
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy



First in the Caraval series. From Goodreads:
"Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.


Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away."

I read this one once before and didn't *love it* like I expected to, but it was during middle-of-the-night feedings with my then-newborn and I'm not sure my brain was really functioning at the time. It deserves a reread.


{ Something New }

Legendary
by Stephanie Garber

Expected publication date: May 29, 2018
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 416
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy



Second in the Caraval series. From Goodreads:
"Stephanie Garber’s limitless imagination takes flight once more in the colorful, mesmerizing, and immersive sequel to the bestselling breakout debut Caraval

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval...the games have only just begun.
"

See what I did there? :D It's a Caraval-fest this month! I got an eARC through NetGalley of Legendary and I'm excited to read it, but I felt like I needed to do another run-through of Caraval first.



What's on your { Something Old, Something New} reading list for this month? Pick a book that you've been meaning to read but haven't yet (your Something Old) and a new release or soon-to-be-released book (your Something New), read and/or review them, and share a link to your posts here or tweet it at me @PidginPea! I'd love to share your books and reviews when I do my { Something Old, Something New } post at the start of each month. If you'd like to read/review more than 2 books, be my guest! I'm hoping I can do { Something Old, Something New } AND a "something borrowed" and a "something blue" in the future too!

Want to put a { Something Old, Something New } button on your blog? I'd love that! Just copy and paste the code in the box below. I made the button using DeviantArt stock resources from flameshaft, gimei, and spiritsighs-stock and fonts from dafont.com and kevinandamanda.com.