Top Ten Tuesday: Recent TBR Additions!

Oh hello Tuesday! Aren’t you just going so splendidly!! I didn’t think it was possible for a perfect day to exist! (FYI: I’m pre-writing this post so I’m trying to send out positive vibes to the future)

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List! (I’m interpreting this as additions to my owned TBR) I’m trying to be better about buying books this year since I have the tendency to buy more books than I read. I have recently had a few additions to my TBR thanks to ARCs and some gift cards because those totally don’t count against my unofficial book buying ban.

  • The Binding by Bridget Collins – So, technically this one doesn’t come out in the US until April, but I ordered a copy from Book Depository because I CANNOT WAIT on this one. Go read the synopsis and try to tell me you don’t want to read this book immediately.
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – Do I even need to explain myself with this one? IT’S NIKOLAI FREAKING LANTSOV!
  • The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden – So I’ve had The Bear and the Nightingale on my shelves for ages, but I just bought the last two books in the trilogy. I’m hoping to binge read them in March, while it’s still a bit chilly outside.
  • Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – I was on the fence with this one for a while. There is a lot of hype around it and like I mentioned earlier, I’m trying to buy too many new books. But I’m in the middle of Enchantee right now and I’m really feeling the whole french themed story thing.
  • The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories by Various Authors – I blame this one on my deep love of The Daevabad Trilogy and the kindle sale I found it on. I’m trying to get into more short stories this year so hopefully I get to this one sooner rather than later.
  • The Fever King by Victoria Lee – I cannot begin to describe how stoked I am to get to read this one. It sounds like it has a good mix of science and magic and I do love me a good mash up.
  • Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames – I bought this book thinking that it wasn’t part of a series…I was wrong? I feel like I’ve read people saying I don’t need to read Kings of the Wyld first but I don’t remember where I read that. And honestly, my brain could have been making it up just so I could buy this flipping gorgeous cover.
  • The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera – I have been eyeing this book for a little over a year. I finally pulled the trigger on buying it because the cover just draws me in and promises an epic story.
  • To Best the Boys by Mary Weber – This books sounds all kinds of intriguing. Girls dressing up as boys to enter a scholarship competition that is only for men. Oh, and the competition is a maze! So much yes!
  • The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen – Let me just say that I audibly gasped when I opened my mail the other week and saw this ARC waiting for me. Ever since I read the synopsis I have been aching to read this. It’s not out until July but I’m reading this the moment I am done with any Feb/March ARCs that I have.

What are some books you’ve added to your TBR recently?

ARC Review: Warrior of the Wild

This book was sent to me by the publisher per my request. I chose to review it on my own and all views and opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced.

Warrior of the Wild
Author:
Tricia Levenseller
Release Date: February 26th, 2019
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Rating: 1.5 stars
Synopsis: How do you kill a god? As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.

Warrior of the Wild really missed the mark for me and a lot of it had to do with the main character. And the world building. And the side characters. And the romance. I guess I just need to say it: I really did not like this book very much.

Let’s start with Rasmira, the main character. I was expecting a fierce, feminist female main character because that’s what the hype around this book was saying. What I got was a girl who by page two of this book was obsessing about a boy kissing her. And sure, fierce warriors can want romance, but it grated on me because there was nothing about Rasmira that seemed fierce to me at all. Rasmira, to me, is the equivalent of a rich white girl who excels at a school sport and receives nothing but praise because her parents are donors to her private school. I got so annoyed whenever she was thinking her “poor me” thoughts. I never connected with her and found her to be whiny, immature, and unlikable.

And then there was the world building. The whole premise of this book is how Rasmira is banished to *The Wild* and must survive to win back her honor. The Wild…isn’t that scary. It’s basically a forest with some wild creatures in it (creatures that never attack unless it is important to the plot, which is basically never). Color me unimpressed. Like, how have so many of the “warriors” from villages been banished to the Wild and then died? Sure, if you go poking around the dwelling of the Peruxolo, the “villain” of the book, you might find yourself at the wrong end of a knife, but by and large the Wild seems like a place where you could take your family camping as long as you have some mild campsite fortifications. And outside of the very not scary Wild, there wasn’t much to be learned about this world. There are a couple villages, we get their names…and that’s about it.

I’m going to mash my issues of side characters and romance into the next paragraph but first a spoiler warning because the next paragraph definitely has some spoilers:

Okay, I will admit that I like romance in my books. At bare minimum I need one longing glance between two characters to enjoy a book. But never, in all my reading, have I been more annoyed and put off by a romance than I was in this book. When Rasmira is banished to the wild she find two boys who have been living in the wild for the last year. Which I thought was cool at first. And then I got to know the boys. Iric and Soren are from the same village and were basically brothers (by choice, not blood). But Soren is basically a selfish pretty boy and manipulated Iric to go out for the warrior trial, which he failed and was subsequently banished, and Soren decided to get himself banished as well because he felt guilty. The friendship and animosity between the two boys felt wooden at the best of times. Then we come to one of my big issues: the “romance” between Rasmira and Soren. The whole basis of their relationship is the fact that they are the only two hetero characters in the wild and the author even writes this observation into the story. It kinda disgusts me that Rasmira learned to trust again by falling in love with another dumb boy, but I guess we can’t all learn our personal strength outside of relationships with men [insert sarcastic eye roll here].

End spoilers.

So all that being said, I did like certain parts of this book. I thought the revelations about Peruxolo were interesting. I liked that this book went in a direction I was not anticipating. While the writing style wasn’t perfect, I was a least consistently drawn into the story, even though I never connected with it. And…I think that’s about it. This book just missed the mark so hard for me. For a book that has been so hyped as a fierce, feminist story, I felt incredibly let down.

Waiting on Wednesday: ALL THE 2019 BOOKS!

Well folks, it’s the last Wednesday of 2018. Instead of focusing on just one book I’m waiting on, I’ll be featuring one for each month of 2019. And because I am terrible at choosing just one, there are going to be more than a few honorable mentions for the months where more books have already been announced. Seriously, I’m the worst at making choices.

January
Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2)
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 8, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]
I just finished The City of Brass, the first book in this series, the other day and hot damn do I need this next book in my life right now.

Honorable Mentions: King of Scars (1/29), The Vanishing Stair (1/22), Ship of Smoke and Steel (1/22)


February
Smoke and Summons
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: February 1, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]
I read and loved The Paper Magician series by this author. When I stumbled upon the fact that they have a new book coming out I immediately added it to my 2019 TBR.

Honorable Mentions: Spectacle (2/12), A Soldier and A Liar (2/19), Last of Her Name (2/26), Stolen Time (2/5), Four Dead Queens (2/26)

March
A Question of Holmes (Charlotte Holmes #4)
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

This series is one of the few contemporary books I will read. Probably because twisty and dark and just so damned dramatic in all the way I love. Even though the cover makes me want to scream in rage (ORANGE? WHY? WHY? WHY?), I will be picking this one up the moment it is released.

Honorable mentions: The Fever King (3/1), The Waking Forest (3/12), Once & Future (3/5), To Best the Boys (3/5)

April
Wicked Saints
Author:
Emily A. Duncan
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

Look, just go read the synopsis and try to not add it to your TBR. Go on, I’ll wait here…

Honorable Mentions: (April is gonna be a good month, btw) The Devouring Gray (4/2), Descendant of the Crane (4/2), The Raven’s Tale (4/16), We Rule the Night (4/2), The Hummingbird Dagger (4/16)


May
Aurora Rising
Author:
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS ONE OMG IS IT MAY YET

Honorable Mentions: DEV1AT3 (5/2019), We Hunt the Flame (5/14), Dark Shores (5/7), Nocturna (5/7)


June
Blood Heir
Author
: Amélie Wen Zhao
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

I found this one through #bookstagram and damn does it sound good.

Honorable Mentions: Seven Deadly Shadows (6/4), The Beholder (6/4)




July
Dark Age
Author:
Pierce Brown
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

I’ve been reading the Red Rising books since the first one came out in 2014. Brown, besides being brutal to his reader’s emotions, is a creator of worlds and characters that I lose myself in. I am counting down the days until Dark Age is in my hands.

Honorable Mentions: The Merciful Crow (7/30), The Storm Crow (7/9), The Beckoning Shadow (7/2), Grimoire Noir (7/23)

August
House of Salt and Sorrows
Author:
Erin A. Craig
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

I hate Summer and August is the most summery of the summer months. This book sounds dark and mysterious and will be a perfect world for me to escape into during my summer month dread.

Honorable Mentions: Wild Savage Stars (8/27)


September
Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicles #3)
Author:
Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

MIA FUCKING CORVERE. Enough said.

Honorable Mentions: The Girl the Sea Gave Back (9/3), Serpent & Dove (9/3), A Treason of Thorns (9/10)


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October
Into the Crooked Place
Author:
Alexandra Christo
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: October 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

The synopsis has some of my key words: black magic and young crooks. Also, I’m here for the Crooked Place. I love names like that.

Honorable Mentions: Ninth House (10/1), Beyond the Black Door (10/29), The Never Tilting World (10/15)

November
Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)
Author:
Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: November 19, 2019
Synopsis: [Here]

I mean…it’s Shadowhunters. So I’m sold.

Honorable Mentions: The Sky Weaver (11/12)


December
…I’m sure there is something that will be released in December that I’ll be waitin on. I just don’t know what it is yet  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If this has shown me anything, its that there are a lot of good books to read next year!

Book Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

The Afterlife of Holly ChaseHolly Chase
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 24th, 2017
Genre, as told by Kibby: YA contemporary with a dash of weird magic/science-y realism
Rating: 5 Stars!
Synopsis: On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
She didn’t.
And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

Let me start by saying that I DO NOT like YA contemporary novels. qG2h9G9NMRRE4I’ll read them only in the most exact of situations (The Charlotte Holmes novels, for instance), but this book was the selection for my Bookstagram Book Club (GO #TEAMKINGWHALE) and the synopsis had just enough vague magic-y/science-y weirdness to intrigue me.

But The Afterlife of Holly Chase melted even my cold, dead old lady heart.

The novel follows failed scrooge, Holly Chase, through…you guessed it: her afterlife. There is no heaven or hell for her, just the life as a sort of ghost/zombie vagueness that works for Project Scrooge. I felt like some of the intricacies of Project Scrooge could have been fleshed out more, but this novel is about the human aspect, not the technical. I can forgive it leaving out that part of world building.

I was worried that I would hate Holly Chase. There is nothing I hate more than a “poor rich girl” but Cynthia Hand deftly wrote Holly as flawed human that has depth and the ability to grow. I did dislike Holly at first, but very quickly I was drawn into her loneliness. Not the loneliness of her rich, teenage life, but the loneliness of her afterlife. I felt for her and found myself rooting for her to somehow get a happy ending (which is surprising since I’m usually a fan of tragic endings).

There was a fairly large supporting cast in this book and while some were not well explored, I felt I was able to get enough about them to work within the story. I think Boz and Stephanie were my favorite of the supporting cast. And while we got quite a bit of Stephanie’s backstory, I wish we’d gotten to know Boz a bit more. But at the same time, the unknown gives the novel the right feel.

I think what I liked most about the book was that even though I knew something was going to be all plot-twisty, I never could quite put my finger on it. It kept me invested and constantly wondering where this was all going. There were some bits that could be classified as clichéd but they were written in a way that I enjoyed and therefore didn’t care about the cliché.

And then there was the ending…

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I will not say any spoilers but I will say that I cried a lot because even though I try to hide it, I am a total sap. I called one thing about the ending, but not everything. And regardless, I loved everything that came to pass.

At the end of the day, this was not a perfect book. But it made me cry AND it made me happy, which is what I love in a book. So 5 stars on enjoyment alone, 4 stars if I was being critical about clichés and some lack of world building.

Waiting on Wednesday: Never-Contented Things

Never-Contented ThingsNever Contented Things
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Genre: FAIRIES! (Okay, not a genre, but still…FAIRIES!)
Publisher Website/Pre-order Links

Goodreads Synopsis:

Seductive. Cruel. Bored
Be wary of…

Prince and his fairy courtiers are staggeringly beautiful, unrelentingly cruel, and exhausted by the tedium of the centuries―until they meet foster-siblings Josh and Ksenia. Drawn in by their vivid emotions, undying love for each other, and passion for life, Prince will stop at nothing to possess them.

First seduced and then entrapped by the fairies, Josh and Ksenia learn that the fairies’ otherworldly gifts come at a terrible price―and they must risk everything in order to reclaim their freedom.

Okay, first off: when you use words like “seductive”, “cruel”, and “fairy” that is a sure fire way to get me to pre-order a book. Which is exactly what I did when I stumbled upon this book. I cannot wait until I have this sumptuous looking book in my hands.

I love different author’s takes on fairy lore and I am excited to see what Sarah Porter brings to the table. I’ve never read anything by this author so I’ll be going in with a fresh slate when I get this book.

 

What are some key words that get you excited about a book?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Audiobook Performances

The theme for today’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, was basically DO WHAT YOU WANT! And what I want to do is scream from my blog rooftops about my DEEP AND UNDYING LOVE FOR AUDIOBOOKS! I’ll save my full rant for another post next year (yay for future rants!), but I’m just gonna throw this out there: AUDIOBOOKS COUNT AS READING!

Okay, now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff…THE LIST!

  1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – Narrated by James Marsters
    Storm Front, the first book in the Dresden Files, was the first audiobook I ever listened to. I will admit that the first few books were a little rough with narration, but once Marsters gets into his groove it is AMAZING. His voice has always been highly pleasurable to listen to (anyone else a fan of his from Buffy?) and I will never say no to a chance to listen to a 14 book series read by him. Side note: his voice for Toot-Toot is stellar and never fails to bring a smile to my face.
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  2. Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown – Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds
    The narration of this trilogy is bloodydamn brilliant! The rawness of Tim Gerard Reynolds voice brings such depth to this already fiercely beautiful story. There were moments where I had to stop what I was doing because I was so intensely drawn into the story through the narration.
  3. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown – Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, John Curless, Julian Elfer, Aedin Moloney
    Okay, yes…this is book 4 of Red Rising, which went from a trilogy to a saga this year. But I decided to do a separate entry because Iron Gold is told from 4 different POVs and there are 4 separate narrators. Each narrator brings a unique depth to their POV character and once again the intensity of Brown’s words are dialed up to 11 via the narration.
  4. Ready Player One & Armada by Ernest Cline – Narrated by Wil Wheaton
    I mean, was there anyone else more perfect to narrate these books?
  5. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas – Narrated by Elizabeth Evans
    The voice of Elizabeth Evans IS the voice of Celeana Sardothian. There is no doubt in my mind. She brings to life the brash, confident, and vulnerable parts of Celeana. I intend to finish my audio reread of the series next year (I only made it through Heir of Fire before Kingdom of Ash came out and I HAD to read that book ASAP) and I am nervous about listening to the final book. Evans brings a lot of emotion to her narration and Kingdom of Ash was hard enough to read.
  6. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – Narrated by Pearl Mackie
    Pearl Mackie’s voice is like butter. Smooth, delicious, emotional butter. I actually couldn’t get into this book when I was trying to read the physical copy. But the moment I tried the audiobook, at the recommendation of Delara over at @bookwnoname, I was hooked.
  7. Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo  – Narrated by Jay Snyder, Brandon Rubin, Fred Berman, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris
    This was the first full cast audiobook I listened to. And with the exception of the person who narrates the Jasper chapters, I was thoroughly impressed with the narration in this duology. It was surprisingly easy to track each different narrators versions of all the character voices. My one problem was the narrator for Jasper. His voice was wonderful, but there wasn’t enough distinction in his inflection when he spoke for other characters. Other than that, the performances were spot on and full of emotions that added a whole other layer of “feels”.
  8. Lord of Shadows and Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare – Narrated by James Marsters
    Yes, James Marsters gets two mentions on this list because he is JUST THAT GOOD. Lord of Shadows had one of the most emotionally traumatic endings in a recent YA book and it was made all the more painful with Marsters’ narration. I was full on sobbing in my cubicle. He uses his voice to evoke such emotions. I’ve been listening to Queen of Air and Darkness while waiting for my physical copy to show up and it is tearing me apart listening to the subtle dread and despair he brings to the opening of this book. Also, as always, his pixies voices are spot on and delightful.
  9. Mistborn (ERA 1 AND ERA 2) by Brandon Sanderson – Narrated by Michael Kramer
    Kramer is like a narrating god. According to my friend who got me into audiobooks, Kramer narrates a lot (and often with his wife, Kate Reading). I’ve never listened to anything by him except the Mistborn books and if those are any indication of his talent, then I consider myself a fan. I am partial to Mistborn Era 2, and Kramer really shines with the rawness of Wax and the many accents of Wayne. This is one of my favorite fantasy series, in both physical and audio form.
  10. The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  – Narrated by Olivia Taylor Dudley, Lincoln Hoppe, Johnathan McClain
    Okay, so…this is cheating a little bit because I haven’t actually listened to these yet but I just KNOW I’m going to love them. Illuminae was my favorite book I read this year and I’ve heard the audio is beyond stellar. I also realized as I was looking up the narrators that Olivia Taylor Dudley does some of the narration and I LOVE HER (y’all, go watch The Magicians RIGHT NOW! She plays Alice!). The books are incredibly unique in their format and I can’t wait to hear how it all plays out via audio. These will be my first audiobooks of 2019.

 

Do you listen to audiobooks at all? If yes, what are some of your favorites?

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

PridePride
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.
Okay, I have to start this out by saying that I am NOT a contemporary reader. I just…always want to smack these teens upside the head and tell them they are being dumb. Teens in fantasy or sci-fi are just easier to stomach for me. But this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling, so I decided to overlook my aversion to contemporary for my love of Austen. That all being said, I mostly enjoyed this book.

Let’s start with what I liked: the setting and supporting cast. The author brings Bushwick, New York to life in a way that dropped me right into the streets inhabited by the Benitez family. You can hear it, you can smell it, you can taste it. I truly felt like I had experienced a piece of life in this neighborhood.

Then we have the supporting cast, who were all so perfectly characterized. Specifically, Carrie (Caroline Bingley) and Warren (Wickham). Carrie is snobby and uptight, but also has a likable side that her counterpart lacked in the original story. Warren on the other hand, is somehow more despicable than Wickham ever was. The updated version of his past discretions are so good, but in a way that just makes you sick. The Benitez family is also nicely updated and are just as wonderfully ridiculous.

My main problem lies in Zuri Benitez (Elizabeth Bennet) and Darius Darcy (Mr. Darcy). Darius, while aggravating at times because he is a teenage boy, was not that bad. He just lacked any smoldering or brooding or chemistry. He wasn’t a lovable grumpy rich guy, he was a teenage boy and nothing more. And then there is Zuri. I kinda hated her and it is really hard to like a book when you strongly dislike the main character. Zuri, at first glance, is smart, streetwise, and wants to take care of her family. But the moment the Darcy boys move in to the newly renovated Mini Mansion across the street, all that goodness goes out the window. Zuri is ridiculously rude, judgmental, and hypocritical, in ways that go beyond her original counterpart’s flaws. She gets all twisted about her sister, Janae (Jane), being happy with Ainsley (Mr. Bingley) and constantly complains about how she’ll have no time with her. But then once her sister is heartbroken, Zuri decides that trying to date two guys and spending NO TIME with her sister is what she wants to do. Um, excuse me? The more the story went on, the more I disliked Zuri and it just wore me down because I love the character of Elizabeth Bennet.

As I stated before, I mostly enjoyed this book. I think it is a smart and well-done update of Pride and Prejudice. It is not a carbon copy of the original story, but instead a timely retelling that tackles gentrification and classism. This book makes no apologies in how it portrays the lives of characters that are usually relegated to token ethnic characters and I know that we need more books like this. At the end of the day, I’ve decided to give this book a 3.5 star rating because while I thought the writing was phenomenal for the most part, I felt the two leads had zero chemistry and I didn’t like either of them.

I was blessed to have a reading buddy for this book, which helped immensely, and that buddy was Sabreena over at Books And Prosecco. You should 1000% check out her blog and #bookstagram.

Have you read Pride? What did you think?

Blog Tour: Strange Days by Constantine Singer [Review + Author Guest Post

StrangeDays_BlogBanner

Happy Tuesday all and welcome to day two of the Strange Days Blog Tour! I was ecstatic when Penguin Young Readers reached out to me to be a part of this blog tour. I have been craving a good science fiction book lately and this one definitely hit the spot for me.

Strange Days by Constantine SingerCover
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Genre: Contemporary/Science Fiction (YA)
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Contemporary fiction with a sci-fi edge, perfect for fans of Ernest Cline and Marie Lu. 

Alex Mata doesn’t want to worry about rumors of alien incursions–he’d rather just skate and tag and play guitar. But when he comes home to find an alien has murdered his parents, he’s forced to confront a new reality: aliens are real, his parents are dead, and nobody will believe him if he tells. On the run, Alex finds himself led to the compound of tech guru Jeffrey Sabazios, the only public figure who stands firm in his belief that aliens are coming.

At Sabazios’s invitation, Alex becomes a Witness, one of a special group of teens gifted with an ability that could save the Earth: they can glide through time and witness futures. When a Witness sees a future, that guarantees it will happen the way it’s been seen, making their work humanity’s best hope for stopping the alien threat. Guided by Sabazios, befriended by his fellow time travelers, and maybe even falling in love, Alex starts feeling like the compound is a real home–until a rogue glide shows him the dangerous truth about his new situation.

Now in a race against time, Alex is forced to reevaluate who he can love, who he can trust, and who he needs to leave behind.

Debut author Constantine Singer’s fresh-voiced protagonist leaps off the page in this captivating novel that weaves sci-fi and contemporary fiction.

Strange Days by Constantine Singer is a fun science fiction/contemporary YA novel that will keep readers invested and intrigued in Alex’s journey through his new reality of alien invasions and time travel. Singer deftly brings Alex and all of his inner turmoil to the page in a way that is accessible to readers, regardless of their age or gender. I have always had issues feeling anything for male POV characters in contemporary fiction besides wanting to smack them upside the head. While I did want to throw things at Alex every once in a while, I also genuinely felt for him and understood why he did the things he did. I think many young readers will see themselves in Alex. The rest of the characters in the novel are well written and while there is a pretty full and diverse cast, each character gets enough time for you to know and love them.

The technology was one of my favorite parts of the story. I loved the idea of “glides” and how they worked. While I consider myself a huge fan of time travel (where my Whovians at?), I have a hard time with time travel novels. But the way time travel was used in this story was unique and it didn’t make my brain hurt.

While I did figure out the plot twist early on, it did not mar my enjoyment of this novel at all. This story is one heck of a ride and I’m glad I went on it. The writing style is pretty straight forward and while it isn’t the usual fantastical style I go for, it felt right for this story. There was a grittiness and immediacy to this novel that got its claws into me. I read the book in a day and a half because I just wanted to know how it was all going to play out. Strange Days is the kind of book that will act as a gateway for readers of all ages looking to get into science fiction.

Thank you to Penguin Young Readers and Constantine Singer for the opportunity to read an advance reader copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and not influenced in any way.

About the Author

2148587_singer_constantine_jConstantine Singer grew up in Seattle, then earned his BA from Earlham College and his Masters from Seattle University. He currently lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his family, and teaches history at a high school in South LA. He is of the opinion that all foods are better eaten as a sandwich or a taco. This is his first novel.

Author Guest Post

Top Sci Fi Books for people who are just starting to get into SciFi

I put out a request on my Facebook feed for help with this list and was overwhelmed by suggestions from a horde of middle-aged sci-fi nerds like myself, so I drew up some criteria.  To be on this list, a book:

  1. has to have stood the test of time (nothing less than 10 years old),
  2. have at least one tentacle in a realm outside of science fiction,
  3. have wormed its way into the broader literary psyche on its merits as a piece of literature,
  4. use science fiction as a tool to explore human things
  5. be a book I still think about years after reading it.  

I figure if a book has done all of that, even if someone isn’t that interested in science fiction they might be willing to give it a read.

The list, in no particular order:

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    Still one of the silliest, funniest, strangest books ever written in any genre.  Follow Arthur Dent as he travels the universe with his friend who he’s just learned is an alien.  Original home to 90% of the dorkiest references ever made on the internet. If you don’t like sci-fi, don’t worry, it’s so cleverdumb you won’t even notice the spaceships.
  2. The Tripods Series by John Christopher
    Published in 1967, they may be the first YA sci-fi and have all the hallmarks of YA literature – character-based conflict, young mains, and a focus on friendship/interpersonal relationships.   The story is amazing – Europe in a future where alien colonizers have control of the Earth and maintain their control by “capping” all humans in their early teens. The caps render the people compliant, but there’s a small but growing resistance….
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
    It’s the first great book of science fiction.  I read it in high school because I was forced to, but I’ve read it a dozen times since because I love it.  We all know the essential story – a man dabbles in God’s realm, creates life, and it all goes wrong – but the nuance and beautifully human rendering of the monster and the reflections on the nature of humanity and love are what bring me back.  If you like Gothic lit like the sisters Bronte, this would be a great intro to science fiction.
  4. Octavia Butler – Anything but I’d suggest the Earthseed Series
    I don’t think any list of introductory science fiction would be complete without Ms. Butler.  She used science fiction as a venue for exploring the ramifications of and circumstances which created our current issues, specifically with race and gender.  The Earthseed Series also explores climate change and the origins of faith, which make it the ultimate book series for the current time even though it was written 25 years ago.
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Not the whole series)
    To me, Hunger Games is the ultimate blend of science fiction and young adult sensibilities.  The intimate personal relationships are defined by the setting and the setting is a perfectly drawn hidden future-history in which the clues to what led the world to its current place are believable, allowing us to reconstruct the events which created the Hunger Games without ever being told.  On top of that, the technology is astonishingly well visioned.
  6. Rendezvous with Rama Arthur C. Clark
    This series has fallen by the Sci-Fi wayside in recent years, but I’m hoping that the speculation surrounding Oumuamua will bring it back to the forefront.  The story is essentially a visitor from space story but is beautifully rendered and doesn’t bother answering any of the questions it raises until much later in the series.  It is the purest science fiction book on this list because its entire focus is on discovering and interacting with an alien race’s technology, but it reads like a grand adventure.
  7. Contact by Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan wrote a lot of incredible books and it was a toss-up between this and Childhood’s End for the list.  I went with Contact because it’s a great introduction to science fiction in that it focuses entirely on the human story and uses the sci-fi elements to accentuate the humanity in its characters.  It gets a little ethics-heavy at places because Sagan, but it’s well worth the read.
  8. Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
    We can’t ignore graphic novels or anime if we’re talking science fiction – they’re the largest and most fecund subsets of the genre and are the well-spring of amazing ideas and great art that filters into everything we see and read.  Akira is one of the earliest Animes to cross over to the “mainstream” here in the West, and it’s a great story even if you don’t generally think of yourself as an anime fan.
  9. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
    I read this book as an early teen and images from it have stuck with me ever since.  I didn’t understand it at the time – it’s very heady in terms of both science and politics – but it turned me into an anarcho-syndicalist for much of my teens and early twenties.  It’s on this list because it speaks to what sci-fi does best – explores our current world’s problems in a controlled petri-dish scenario and allows us to think through the ramifications of our decisions, our political ideas, our religions, and our social structures.  The other book that would’ve been here is one of my favorites of all time, 1984 by George Orwell, but us teachers ruin that book for too many kids so I left it off.
  10. Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
    I hemmed and hawed about including this on the list.  Vonnegut can be problematic, especially in how he draws women, and this book is no exception.  Even so, it’s still one of my favorites and a good introduction to science fiction for several reasons.  First, it is a perfect exploration of why humans mess things up – the world ends in the book because individual people made a series of understandable and very human decisions which collectively led to disaster.  Secondly, it’s the book in which Bokononism is developed and the world needs more Bokononists.

 

Thank you to all for stopping here for this blog tour! Be sure to check out tomorrow’s stop over at The Young Folks with an Author Q&A!

Top Three Thursday: Prettiest Book Covers

Hello all and Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it! I am jumping in quickly to drop some beautiful book covers on you before I am lassoed back into the kitchen to help with the cooking. The theme for Top Three Thursday, hosted by A Cosy Reading Blog, is prettiest book covers.

Damsel by Elana K Arnold (Goodreads)damsel

 

There is something about the way the title GLOWS that just draws me in (also the amazing synopsis). I’ve been wanting to pick up a copy since it came out and I think I’ll finally remember to grab one when I do some shopping at Barnes and Nobel on Black Friday.

 

 

 

unkindnessAn Unkindness of Magicians by Kate Howard (Goodreads)

 

I was first drawn to the title of this book, then the synopsis, and then HOT DAMN THIS COVER! It is even more beautiful in person. Sadly, since I am terrible with keeping up with my TBR, this book remains unread. If I don’t get to it by the end of 2018, I certainly will be reading it in 2019.

 

 

 

The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien (Goodreads)two towers

 

One of the things I love to do most is search through used bookstores for different editions of The Lord of the Rings. I’ve got quite a few editions on my shelves, about 5 different editions of each book. But when I found this copy of The Two Towers I just about died. I love this cover so, so, so much!

 

 

What are some of your favorite pretty book covers?

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Want to Say Thank You To

Happy Thanksgiving week, book people! If you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, HAPPY WEEK IN GENERAL! It’s time for stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Oh, and being thankful! The theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a freebie so I went with Top Ten Authors I Want to Say Thank You To. One thing I’m intensely thankful for is books and the people that create them. Giving words to the world is a terrifying thing and whenever I think about meeting authors of my favorite books the only thing I want to say to them is “Thank you for giving me these words and these worlds.”

  1. Patrick Rothfuss – I need to thank that man for The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. From the first time I read these books, so many years ago, all I’ve wanted to do is thank him for creating these characters and writing these stories. They have brought me such pain and joy and I loved every moment of them.6gljmNkVHxuuY
  2. Tamora Pierce – She gave the world some serious kick ass female characters in YA before kick ass females were the norm. And for that she should be thanked.3oz8xIsloV7zOmt81G
  3. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – For serious snark and reviving my love of sci-fi stories.10avZ0rqdGFyfu
  4. Brandon Sanderson – This man builds the most wonderous and dangerous worlds and I have loved every moment exploring them.3otPoOxyDTXjzpMbIY
  5. Clarie Luana – The Confectioner’s Guild is one of my favorite reads of the year. I spent the whole time reading it with a smile on my face and that is what reading should be.z2HC00n6pfcA
  6. Holly Black – For writing deliciously dark faerie tales that helped me escape some truly terrible times in my 20s.4lpctAAV9Azpm (1)
  7. LJ Smith – Every one of Smith’s books was a friend to me in high school.xT5LMAS7woru73f6xi
  8. Leigh Bardugo – For giving me such good character studies and wonderfully dark worlds to traverse.3o7TKANQ6OeCp3oxvG
  9. Pierce Brown – The Red Rising saga is equal parts ridiculous, amazing, intense, unique, and wonderful. Reading them has taken me on such a wild ride and my reading life would be much duller without them.jr0VZIBH5dKDe
  10. JK Rowling – For everything.3ErmSXChvkv5u

Who are some author’s you want to say thank you to?