January Recap

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Books Read: 33

Notable Favorites:
Dreadnought by April Daniels (Nemesis #1)
Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Collapsing Empire by Jon Scalzi (Untitled #1)
Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott (The Moonlit Land #2)
Six Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Reviews Posted:
Two Minute Review: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles -
The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley - ★½
Book Tour Review: Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn -
Dreadnought by April Daniels (Nemesis #1) -  ★½
Two Minute Review: Teen Hyde by Chandler Baker (High School Horror Story #2) - ★½
Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley -
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Untitled #1) - ★½
The Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDermott - ★½
Two Minute Review: The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser -
Windwitch by Susan Dennard (Witchlands #2) -
Two Minute Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson -

Fun Stuff:
Cover Reveal: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright
New Year's Blog Resolutions
January TBR Planning
Top Ten 2016 Covers
A Year in Reading
Top Ten Hidden Gems
Bed-Time Book Tag
Early 2017 Book Haul

Favorite Instagram:



Books Read: 10

Notable Favorites:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May (The Falconer #2)
Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #4)

Fun Stuff:
Link Up and Giveaway: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Cover Reveal: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

Monday, January 30, 2017

27 Hours by Tristina Wright
Series: The Nightside Saga #1
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pub Date: expected October 3 2017

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.
But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.
Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother's shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon's darkest secret.
They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.
During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

And.. finallly.... the cover!

 Preorder Links:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

About the Author:
Tristina Wright is a blue-haired bisexual with anxiety and opinions. She’s also possibly a mermaid, but no one can get confirmation. She fell in love with science fiction and fantasy at a young age and frequently got caught writing in class instead of paying attention. She enjoys worlds with monsters and kissing and monsters kissing. She married a nerd who can build computers and make the sun shine with his smile. Most days, she can be found drinking coffee from her favorite chipped mug and making up more stories for her wombfruit, who keep life exciting and unpredictable.
Still trying to figure out the mermaid thing.

Snapchat: @tristinawright

Two Minute Review: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Sunday, January 29, 2017
Title: The Edge of Everything
Author: Jeff Giles
Genre: supernatural
Series: N/A #1
Pages: 368
Published: expected January 31 2017
Source: ARC via publisher
Rating: 2/5

It's been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods--only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

Oh boy. Ohhh boyyy. This was a rough read. For one, while there are some interesting action sequences and new ideas for worldbuilding in The Edge of Everything, I do not understand the hype building for this. It is just another rather generic YA supernatural novel that's more romance than anything else. 

The love story between two just-acquainted teens is half-cooked, underwhelming, and made of tired YA tropes. Things get way too intense and involved, way too quickly. The sad part is there is chemistry between the two, but the story doesn't do the work of building a real, solid relationship. The writing is serviceable but nondescript, though capable of pulling off a twist or two. The characters in the story have some charm (at least Zoe does) but it's not the same for the secondary characters.

There were some things I liked about The Edge of Everything -- at least enough of them to finish. The bond between Zoe and Jonah is one of them. The intriguing system of bounty hunting that 'X' is a part of is another. The ending of the story is rather half-done, and follows an easily predicated outcome. This kind of storyline is rarely my favorite and while it wasn't entirely bad (two stars out of five) I won't be continuing the series.

Review: The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

Saturday, January 28, 2017
Title: The Stars Are Legion
Author: Kameron Hurley
Genre: science fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 400
Published: expected February 7 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.75/5

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution. As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation - the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan's new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion's gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion's destruction - and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and Dune, The Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about tragic love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre's most celebrated new writers.

There are a couple science fiction writers out there that reviewers and fans liked to call "the New Weird" in the nineties and early 2000s. Though that term's fallen out of use, author Kameron Hurley is a surefire fit into that niche with her new nonfantasy novel due to come out in early February. The Stars Are Legion is a book that's wildly creative, completely unique, and unarguably very, very weird in a genre often known for just those attributes. There are a lot of cool, fun, or just plain odd ideas permeating every layer and culture of this totally, 100% all-female space opera, and while some of those new concepts are better explained and thus easier to grasp than others, it's a pretty well envisioned and developed universe. 

The depth of the world and its many unique cultures is impressive, especially considering that The Stars Are Legion is a standalone effort. Hurley builds her universe and its imperiled tentacled worlds (see? Already weird) with both intricacy and inventiveness; she uses the entire four hundred available pages to expand and show the imagination and originality behind Zan and Jayd's world and their own entangled history. There's a lot of background information that helps to illustrate how everything functions or how the families operate in this mad universe, but some of the story's finer points can have clarity issues during the big scenes. And honestly, some of the novel is just so weirdly described it's hard to wrap your head around it, (The whole... women giving birth to whatever part [???] the ship needs? ARE THE SHIPS ALIVE? What's the substance covering the metal? I still have so many questions....) even for readers with a very agile suspension of disbelief.

The secret at the heart of Zan and Jay'd intertwined tale is intricate and hard to predict; it also provides most of the motivation for both of the POV characters. I loved the unforeseeable nature of how their plot developed, though it hinged on one of my least favorite plot points: characters acting secretively about pivotal information because it's "better" for the main character to not know. I will say despite that, Hurley pulls that narrative angle off rather well. She keeps her characters complicated enough to compel interest; there's more to all of these women, even the antagonists, than what is immediately seen. Zan may not know her own history to start and everyone else is keeping their secrets, but the action and mystery keep the plot moving, as does Zan's own irrepressible drive to figure out the truth for herself.
The lingering questions left by the novel's end are small issues by themselves, but there are a few too many to not mention. The sheer amount of creativity and imagination at work is obvious and two of the best elements about The Stars Are Legion, but the lack of clarity or explanation does detract from the novel's overall appeal. The adventure level is high (Space battles! Planetary exploration! Trash monsters!) but the pacing is a bit uneven -- Zan's plotline just after about midway stalls for several chapters. Some of Jayd's storyline is redundant and unnecessarily drawn out. Still, these are small issues in the face of so much more awesome (did I say there's no men? None. Zero. Not. Even. An. Offhand. Mention.) A unique and strange, fun book, I can say that The Stars Are Legion is definitely one I won't forget.


Two Minute Review: Two Empresses by Brandy Purdy

Friday, January 27, 2017
Title: Two Empresses
Author: Brandy Purdy
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 384
Published: January 31 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 1/5

1779, France. On the island paradise of Martinique, two beautiful, well-bred cousins have reached marriageable age. Sixteen-year-old Rose must sail to France to marry Alexander, the dashing Vicomte de Beauharnais. Golden-haired Aimee will finish her education at a French convent in hopes of making a worthy match.

Once in Paris, Rose’s illusions are shattered by her new husband, who casts her off when his mistress bears him a son. Yet revolution is tearing through the land, changing fortunes—and fates—in an instant, leaving Rose free to reinvent herself. Soon she is pursued by a young general, Napoleon Bonaparte, who prefers to call her by another name: Josephine.

Presumed dead after her ship is attacked by pirates, Aimee survives and is taken to the Sultan of Turkey’s harem. Among hundreds at his beck and call, Aimee’s loveliness and intelligence make her a favorite not only of the Sultan, but of his gentle, reserved nephew. Like Josephine, the newly crowned Empress of France, Aimee will ascend to a position of unimagined power. But for both cousins, passion and ambition carry their own burden.

From the war-torn streets of Paris to the bejeweled golden bars of a Turkish palace, Brandy Purdy weaves some of history’s most compelling figures into a vivid, captivating account of two remarkable women and their extraordinary destinies.

This is not the first book by Brandy Purdy that I have read during my blogging career, but it will certainly be the last. The narrative is short on detail, long on repetition,  and the technical aspects of the story don't hold up. Josephine de Beauharnais was a fascinating and unpredictable woman who enchanted a global tyrant, but there's little charisma or interest for this fictional version of her. Two Empresses is above all a rote, lifeless rendition of her life; it holds little entertainment and less satisfaction.

One-dimensional, limp characterization is only one of the several problems that plague the pages of Brandy Purdy's latest novel. Josephine's story is paired with that of Rose, an original character, who boasts a plot that feels disjointed from the main one and which never engages the audience. Rose's inclusion to the story is unnecessary, cliched, and underdeveloped. With little emotional investment in either the made-up character or this version of the historical figures of Josephine, Napoleon, etc., Two Empresses was an unsatisfying, unbelievable story.

Book Tour Review: Martians Aboard by Carrie Vaughn

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Title: Martians Abroad
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Genre: science fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Published: January 17 2017
Source: ARC from publishers for review
Rating: 3/5

Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly's plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right—there's more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.
Carrie Vaughn's newest young adult novel is this short but detailed science fiction story/retelling. Updating and altering the premise from the 1960's classic YA novel Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein, Martians Abroad tells the outsider tale of Polly Newton, a Martian-born human journeying to Earth for the first time in her fifteen years. Most science fiction tends to explore the stories of people leaving (or having already long left) Earth for parts unknown, but this standalone imagines the opposite scenario for Polly and her twin brother. Sent away from Mars and Colony One by their ambitious and politically-motivated mother, the siblings face a myriad of issues in a relatively short amount of time: Earth-centric culture shock, mysterious accidents, conspiracies, etc.

Polly narrates and identifies as an outsider, literally and figuratively. Her story is distinct and memorable largely because of the unique and strongly-held views she has on other humans/schoolmates and about the Earth itself. Through Polly, and to a much smaller extent her brother Charles, humanity's ancestral home is viewed as an (often hostile) alien world, full of unknown dangers. This reversal of the usual narrative makes for a fresh plotline; Polly's disbelief at the realities home world (large carnivores! parasitic bugs drinking blood!) is sometimes hilarious, and sometimes thoughtful ("As much as space liked to think it, Earth wasn't totally safe. It's just a different kind of dangerous." "Sure, space would kill you given half a chance, but nobody talked about the millions of ways Earth was constantly trying to kill people.") but always uniquely hers.

The main strengths of Martians Abroad lies in its creative imagination, its unique premise, and in Polly herself. The other characters shown, even her own Martian-born twin, are noticeably much less developed in nature. Charles is deliberately and voluntarily held apart from the rest at their military/boarding school, but even the other cadets Polly is friendly with don't get a lot of characterization or much personality. The various antagonists or competitors that Polly faces manage to be a bit more intriguing and add new interest to the story. They at least have agency, though some of the novel's plotlines end too easily and predictably.

This is a rather short book and it manages to quickly cover a lot within those just-under three hundred pages. Some elements of the plot are executed better than others but Martians Abroad is fun; a creative and fresh take on a genre classic. It's ended up being a mixed bag overall; I liked Martians Abroad but a few issues kept me from loving it. The narration, though distinct and believable as a young teen, is also distant and remote. The secondary characters are unfortunately one-dimensional from start to finish. There's more to enjoy about this than otherwise, but it didn't create the emotion necessary to be a favorite.

Early 2017 Book Haul

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I love new books, and new ARCs are somehow even more fun. I have a few very anticipated reads in this haul for the last couple weeks, but also a few that snagged my attention thanks to friend reviews/raves, or a fun-sounding synopsis.

I wasn't the hugest fan of Lee's first book but the early reviews for this are so good I could not resist. A gay, YA historical fiction that's also FUNNY? I definitely need to read some of that.

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
Favorite author releases new book. Fan gets approved for an ARC. Flails are had. I will be 100% honest and admit I am not entirely sure what this is about but I am sure I need to read it ASAP.

Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller (Kaitan Chronicles #1)
Compared to Dune and Firely? Reminds me also somewhat of The Force Awakens? Please tell me there's also space boyfriends. I need this.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn 
I am a tad leery of the time/setting (I love Quinn's ancient historical fiction soo much!) due to the sheer abundance of WWII books, but it's Kate Quinn and I was never not going to read it.

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
I love the synopsis for this.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
The author's debut (Made You Up) was amazing. I've looked forward to reading her second novel the second I finished her first.

Grit by Gillian French
A dark contemporary that takes on slut shaming and rape culture -- this is probably going to be enraging but it's still worth reading.

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau
So I admit that I don't have high hopes for this. Her first series was undercooked and limp and this synopsis seems a bit... gimmicky. Still, I am interested enough to try it.

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby
Finally we get a new Jessi Kirby YA contemporary! So exciting -- it's been so long since Golden came out.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
I just hope this is more like Tiger Lily than The Vanishing Season when it comes to how much I love it at the end.

Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren
I don't read a lot of MG, but Furthermore blew me away in 2016. This sounds like it has a lot of potential and I do love the cover a lot.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves (Blood Rose Rebellion #1)
Magic! Fantasy! REBELLION! WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED? Well, a lot, actually so ... pleasebegoodpleasebegood.

Review & Giveaway: Dreadnought by April Daniels

Monday, January 23, 2017
Title: Dreadnought
Author: April Daniels
Genre: science fiction
Series: Nemesis #1
Pages: 276
Published: expected January 24 2017
Source: received an ARC from publishers for review
Rating: 4.5/5

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world's greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, she was trying to keep people from finding out she's transgender. But then her second-hand superpowers transformed her body into what she's always thought it should be. Now there's no hiding that she's a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but between her father's dangerous obsession with curing her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he's entitled to date her, and the classmate who is secretly a masked vigilante, Danny's first weeks living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined.

She doesn't have much time to adjust. Dreadnought's murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, still haunts the streets of New Port City. If Danny can't sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Most of the time, in movies or in books, the big superhero stories tend to feature and promote the same type of story over and over: the experiences of adult cishet straight male heroes. Dreadnought by April Daniels shatters that cultural expectation from its first page. This creative, thoughtful, and occasionally heavy supernaturally-inclined young adult novel is centered on a young transgender teenager named Danny (her chosen name both pre- and post-transition) Tozer; a 15-year old girl who unexpectedly inherits the mantle of the most powerful metahuman known to her world. Evenly balancing the high-stakes action with the just-as-pivotal mundane moments that make up a life, Dreadnought is an original, layered, and diverse take on a superhero plot.

Set in an alternate world where metahumans and special abilities exist, Danny's home and school life is sadly familiar to our real-world in a lot of recognizable ways. Her parents are less than enthusiastic about some of the hard facts of Danny's existence: namely the fact that she's a girl, and a lesbian, and that they never even had a son. Danny's relationships with both her parents are hard to read; her father's treatment both before and after the mantle is obviously abusive in a number of ways, and though her mother's reactions aren't as visibly harmful, they are just as toxic. They misgender her intentionally and repeatedly; they use slurs and bully their child. It's not always easy to read, even before the TERF "hero" also mistreats the MC.

The personal struggles -- both internal and external, mundane and magical -- that Danny is experiencing are handled with care, sensitivity and honesty. It can be an incredible amount of fun to read about Danny's escapades out caping with her friend Calamity, but Dreadnought doesn't sugarcoat the other aspects of her transitioning so publicly and so abruptly. In addition to the undeniable entertainment value and pure joy (the airplane!) that the novel offers, April Daniels also shows a lot of the harsh truths that a lot of transgender teens will face in their lives.

Danny Tozer is a great character, hands down. Even working within the short amount of pages in this first novel of the Nemesis series (less than three hundred!) she is one of the most developed, complex protagonists I've read in a long while. She's vibrant and bursts from the page; a determined, stubborn, a little bit foolhardy girl, but one who is also genuinely goodhearted. The voice is strong, even as Danny is openly conflicted about what having inherited the mantle of being Dreadnought means to her personally. Her POV is sadly rare to find in any kind of traditionally published story, much less one where they are the hero tasked to save the world from an all-consuming evil/supervillain. The fact that this is an Own Voices author just proves how important it is to have authors that understand diverse stories be the ones to tell them. April Daniels understands her main character in ways others purely can't and her main character, and the story, is better for that.

Not only is Deadnought an original spin on the ever-popular superhero tales in many ways, it's just plain engaging to read start to finish. The action is taut and unpredictable -- and there's definitely a learning curve for our young heroine in all aspects of her new role. The story moves quickly after an initial infodump but doesn't sacrifice developing the plot or characterization for that fact. The many different kinds of tech mentioned are interesting if a tad unclear (I don't quite get the hypertech?) but doesn't overwhelm. It's an inventive alternate world and one that is open for further exploration in the forthcoming sequel(s). The characters are strong and unique individuals, from the main characters to the secondary. The villain especially has potential for further development and a larger role to play in the overall series plot.

The only issues come very late in the narrative: the ending is a bit abrupt and under-developed. There is the possibility of further resolution to come, but the way Dreadnought ends seemed a bit... easy. There is some clever authorial sleight of hand but it's not quite enough to compensate. Though the finale lacks the satisfaction of a story completed, this debut novel is a fantastic read. Through the high moments and the low, Danny's story is unputdownable but it's also obviously just beginning.

Since I was sent a review copy of this book, I'd like to giveaway a finished copy as well. Since I was given a platform (as Dani said) I'd like to use it to both review and promote this book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Two Minute Review: Teen Hyde by Chandler Baker

Sunday, January 22, 2017
Title: Teen Hyde
Author: Chandler Baker
Genre: retelling
Series: High School Horror Story #2
Pages: 272
Published: January 10 2017
Source: ARC from publisher
Rating: 2.5/5

High school meets classic horror in this YA contemporary twist on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Head Cheerleader Cassidy Hyde’s life should have been perfect. But it really, really wasn’t, and she’s about ready to give up and disappear. Until, the first time she takes Sunshine. This new experimental drug makes Cassidy feel like the perfect, golden girl once again. A little memory loss seems like a small price to pay to get her life back . . . at least until boys start to go missing . . . boys that Cassidy NEVER wanted to think of again . . .

Thus begins Chandler Baker's second twisty-turny retelling of a familiar tale, once again set in the town of Hollow Pines, Texas, where high school is truly horrifying.

There are a couple good things about Chandler Baker's new novel, Teen Hyde: it's pretty readable, even if you have not read the series first book, Teen Frankenstein, and it's also pretty short at less than 275 pages. I wanted to enjoy this adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde with teen girls but outside of the story's basic premise, there's not much new or memorable about this modern retelling. Cassidy has a few moments where she stands outside the YA milieu of protagonists but on the whole, she is as been-there-read-that as the rest of this story.

There's a basic plot that anchors Cassidy's actions in Teen Hyde. Her blah boyfriend cheated on her, friends have died, and Cassidy is not handling it well -- memory loss included. There's so little depth given to her as a character or to her relationships, that the inciting incident has no emotion or involvement on the part of the reader. I didn't care about Cassie because she never felt real or dimensional, though Marcy did from early on. There are a few plot elements in play that are obviously tied into the events of book one -- Sunshine for example -- that didn't make any impact on me, or would on other new readers. Still, this was modestly entertaining... if shallow and forgettable.

Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Saturday, January 21, 2017
Title: Our Own Private Universe
Author: Robin Talley
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Published: expected January 31 2017
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5

Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she's only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to. When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki's mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating. But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.

Robin Talley's latest young adult novel is also her lightest in tone, but that doesn't mean Our Own Private Universe is short on emotion or that it doesn't have important things to say in its all-too-short three hundred pages. Like before with her debut Lies We Tell Ourselves, Talley tackles multiple hot button issues with depth, care, and empathy. She does so within a contemporary novel that spans only the length of a high school summer but this is a story that rarely feels rushed or superficial in handling heavier elements. Themes that touch on culturally significant topics like feminism, faith, immigration, civil rights, and gay marriage are central to both the plot and to the development of the main character Aki. 

The secondary characters that make up Aki's family and friends are a multifaceted, diverse, and inclusive bunch. They're interesting in their own right and in how they interact with each other. Aki's life is rich with culture and family and faith; her brother Drew is a key figure in her plotlines, as is her Dad. Against a backdrop of emerging adulthood and exploring sexuality, Aki learns what it means to be herself; what she wants for herself in life and also what she is willing to fight for. She's presented as a whole teenage girl; three-dimensional in all her vices and virtues. One of my favorite things about Talley as an author is that she allows a lot of humanity for her teen girl characters; they aren't perfect and they also aren't expected to be. Aki is a likeable character, yes, but she's also far more than that. She's complicated and makes mistakes but also grows and changes and matures over the course of Our Own Private Universe.

Young adult contemporary is at its best as a genre when its authors don't shy away from tackling controversial subjects, like Talley has unflinchingly done since she came on the scene only three years ago. Our Private Universe is many things, but the normalcy with which Aki's sexuality and sexual curiosity is treated is sadly rare to see for LGBT characters. The romance between Christa and Aki is uncertain and shippy and complicated and involved, but above all, it is realistic without being depressing. Our Own Private Universe is a smart, timely book, but it's not preachy and it doesn't talk down to its intended audience when it comes to any aspect of Aki's journey of self-discovery. Talley crafts an excellent story with developed characters in a short amount of time, but she also includes the relevant information about safe sex and figuring out sexuality while doing so. 

Culturally relevant while still being a fun and fresh YA contemporary, Our Own Private Universe is another memorable and engaging read from Robin Talley. The characters are the high point of the story, but there's little to dislike about this one. The interracial queer romance is sadly notable for its lack of read-a-likes and is hopefully a harbinger to come of more racially and sexually diverse stories.


The Bed Time Book Tag

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I found this book tag thanks to Bring My Books/Lindsey, and the original tag was created by YouTube user Kellys BookSpill, and can be found here!
All of the prompt images for this post were created by Lindsey and you can definitely use them if you’d like! – Just let people know that she made them!

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.
There's actually a quote from this book about needing to stop reading and go to bed. The main character keeps reading. So did I -- until 6am the next day when I was done. And then I worked for 8 hours. #worthit 


Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts.
I am not sure why this one freaked me out so bad way back in 2011 (lol) but it diiid. I stayed up until my then-boyfriend came home before I would go to bed.


The Muse by Jessie Burton
I was so excited for this book (just look at it!) but boooooy is it dull dull dull to try to read. Notice the key words of "try to." I don't think I made it even four chapters into the story before completely mentally checking out... and then actually passing out.


There is no other answer besides Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer. I have been patiently waiting despite the publishing date change. It's so close that I can hardly stand it. And also The Winds of Winter because I'm an optimist that never learns and who JUST NEEDS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS damnit.


Say hello to my husband, Rhaegar Targaryen from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. And also included in this list are: Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom) is my darkhearted love. KIIIIARAN. Lan Mandragoran. GAVRIEL DUVAL. Ignifex. I should stop.


 Hmmm.... I am always tempted to think I would go to the harsh worlds I love reading about (ASOIAF, White London from Schwab's Shades of Magic series, Abercrombie's Circle of the World) if it was possible, but I don't actually think I would survive very long in any of them.



The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May (The Falconer #2)
I cannot complain too much because this sequel is utterly fantastic. I was so caught up in everything EVERYTHING happening at the end that I was kinda smacked in the face when I had no more pages to wildly turn.


Becky Chambers' A Closed and Common Orbit! It makes me want to go stargazing.


I sadly rarely remember my dreams once I wake up. One of the few that I do recall is when I dreamed that  Le Cirque des Rêves from Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus came to my hometown. Once they arrived I somehow was the ringleader once it got there? I knew how all the features worked and I never missed a tent.


Long Lankin from Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough. Example #1 of Why The Hell Not:

"Said my lord to my lady, as he mounted his horse,
Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss.
Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the hay.
Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned,
Except one little window,
where Long Lankin crept in..."


Top Ten Hidden Gems

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is all thanks to The Broke and the Bookish! This lovely header is thanks to APR's own Dani.

This week's topic is about the top hidden gems I read alllll the way back in 2016. 

1. Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell (Greatcoats #3)
It mat be because it's the third in the series, but Falcio's best adventure is, at least so far, his least read. There are less than 1600 ratings for this on Goodreads! The creativity and fun that was present in the first two books are here again, but there are less of the silly tropes that kept the previous books from being perfect.

2. By Helen's Hand by Amalia Carosella (Helen of Troy #2)
This author has really emerged as a hidden gem for me in the last few years. I have loved both of her Helen novels and am very eager to get to reading both Daughter of a Thousand Years and Tamer of Horses this year.
3. The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie (Mistresses of Versailles #2)
This historical fiction series chronicles the lives of the mistresses of France's infamous Louis XV. Detailed, intricate, lushly-rendered and full of distinct personalities, both books thus far published have breathed new life into the lives of both the well-known (Pompadour) and the previously unknown (all the Mailly-Nesle sisters) paramours of the king.
4. The Status of All Things by Liz Fention and Lisa Steinke
If you liked Taylor Jenkins Reid's Maybe in Another Life, this is going to be your newest favorite book. Heart, humor, banter, and entertainment -- The Status of All Things has these in spades. Creative angle that a lot of people could relate to and it's also charming.

5. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinsin
Though some parts of this are dry and dense with theories/strategies for economics and armies --  a geopolitical fantasy after all -- it also packs a lot of diversity and a few very well-played moments. It's not my normal type of fantasy, since I tend to go for epic/high/low varieties, this is a thoughtful exploration about alternative means of conquest and rule.

6. The Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide by Jen Williams (The Copper Cat #2 and #3)
A creative and fun fantasy that is diverse, inclusive, features all kinds of badass women, interracial and gay relationships... and no rape. There are also dragon-women, wyverns, evil gods, new gods -- it's a fun series.

7. Your Soul is A River by Nikita Gill
I am so nooot the person here for verse or poetry; I rarely read either and even mor rarely do I buy a volume of it. However, I found Nikita Gill on instagram (lol what) and she just... resonated with me in a way few things do. 

8. Quintessence by David Walton
A story that has a flat Earth, alchemy, monsters, and exploration of the unkown --- this book does a lot of stuff and it does it differently than any other book I've read. It's not perfect read, but it is original and memorable.

9. A Song of War by various authors
The H-Team has published several amazing anthologies the last few years, and their take on the Trojan war is their best yet. With new spins on old voices and new ideas for the infamous conflict, it's a must-read for mythology fans.

10. Blackbringer + Silksinger by Laini Taylor
These are hidden gems simply because they can be hard to find. I looked for years for a new hardcover of Silksinger because I'm picky and she's my favorite author. Still, this are criminally underread.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Monday, January 16, 2017
Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: retelling, historical fiction
Series: The Bear and the Nightingale #1
Pages: 336
Published: January 10 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Rich in atmosphere, mixing both the fantastical and the historical elements of old Russia, Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale makes for a strong and memorable debut novel. As the first in a series, the narrative spends quality amounts of time crafting this book's main character of Vasilisa, and also building the recognizable but magical world she inhabits with her large and mixed family. Drawing both on real world history and the beloved folklore of Vasilisa's home country, The Bear and the Nightingale is a well-crafted and enchanting mix of genres.

The fantastical elements of Vasya's life in the wilderness -- the rusalkas, domovoi, evil spirits and much more -- are balanced by the always harsh and realistic life eked out of Russia's unforgiving climate. Her family has known struggle and strife all her life but Vasya remains undaunted in her chosen role and place; a wild, free, uncompromising, and untameable girl. Her chief antagonist is the eponymous Bear of the title, but her secondary opponent arrives in the all-too-familiar form of religion, and religious, men. Vasya's struggle to save her family and home is complicated by the priest Konstantin's need to humble the proud young woman. It's a familiar story but Vasya fights -- for herself, for her home, and for so much more. 
The magical and the mundane aspects of The Bear and the Nightingale come together neatly under Arden's adept plotting and turns of phrase -- and at just the right time before the closing denouement. Her clever writing, strong and defined characters, and the enveloping atmosphere coalesce into a finely-tuned historical fantasy that won't quickly be forgotten. Only a few pacing and clarity issues kept it from a five-star read. This story is one that is rich and detailed; the characters, from its heroines to the human villains, are vibrant and dimensional people. It's remarkably easy to sink into (and enjoy) the story that Katherine Arden is unwinding with her series-opener.

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