Girl of Fire and Thorns Review

So the first book in this year’s family book club was The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. It is a young adult political fantasy set in a Latin American inspired world. One nice thing about this is that it doesn’t just claim to be Latin American inspired there it is s a constant presence in the language, religion, landscape, etc. It follows a young princess, Elisa, who is married off to the widowed king, Alejandro of Joya d’Arena to secure a military alliance. Matters are slightly complicated as Elisa is the Bearer of the Godstone. Once every four generations a light from the heavens grants a blue stone into the navel of a child.

I personally love religion in fantasy novels it’s an automatic buy-in. I think there is so much room to explore, especially when this world where a divine entities existence is unquestionable there are still questions. There are still sects and religious zealots. Carson handles the religion with respect but also the nuance and diversity that an accurate representation requires.

Obviously this book takes place during wartime. As someone who studied political science (focusing in war and genocide), I find any representation of such to be normally lackluster or too brutal. I think Carson tried hard to show the horrors while keeping it Young Adult (more age appropriate/ innuendo instead of description). The opponents in this war are the Irvierne. They are evil and called heretics. My mom and I are in a heated debate about whether they are supposed to be savages or European colonizers. Both work incredibly well in the world and it’s inspiration.

The characters are well fleshed out. While the characters still have their mysteries and more to explore this the beginning of a trilogy. They are multi-dimensional. A vastly intelligent character can have an unhealthy relationship with food. The protector is vengeful. The cowardly wield immense power. Elisa is my favorite Slytherin main character. Hand-to what ever you believe in she is what Salazar Slytherin had in mind when founding his house. All the relationships that develop (romantic, platonic, familial) are rooted so deeply in common purpose, shared interest, a need for attention from anyone, etc. No motivation, word, tear, feels misplaced or put there to move along the plot. It all feels true.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in military or religious fantasy. Or if you just like reading for me this was a 5 star read.

Below are my favorite quotes from the book and a discussion question. (Obviously spoilers) Continue reading “Girl of Fire and Thorns Review”

Top 18 books of 2018

I read approximately 140 books this past year. It was awesome I was so lucky to get to have the time and access to so much reading! I read some incredible books that I want to share, yes most are fantasy and most are female authored but that’s what I read.

I want to keep this short and sweet so I am going to keep my “Why I FREAKING loved it” to 10 words or less per book.

To be honest some slots have more than one book by the same author (Don’t judge I really like books and it’s hard to pick more) So without further ado here are the best books I read this past year.

18. The Mines of the Minotaur by Julia Golding

  • Complex environmental discussion with mythical beasts. Minotaurs. Mental Stability importance.

17. Kings Cage by Victoria Aveyard

  • So many payoff scenes that I’d been waiting for

16. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

  • Hades/Persephone angst/smut. Lots of growth and recovery.

15. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

  • Morally grey. Genius protagonists. So many deaths.

14. The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley

  • Nostalgic LBD. Emotional and mental abuse recovery. Recovery isn’t linear.

13. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

  • Reads like a fairy tale. Morally grey characters. Magical Mystery.

12. The Evertree by Marie Lu

  • End of Spirit Animals series. Heartbreaking. Sweet relationships. Great villains.

11. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

  • Dragons. Napoleonic Wars. The sweetest dragons. Dragons.

10. Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi

  • Religion-based magic system. Nigerian world. Quest to save the world!!!

9. Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

  • The ROMANCE! The TRAUMA! Amazing found and discovered families!

8, Trickster’s Duology by Tamora Pierce

  • Gods. Political plots. Spies. Unending love for Aly.

7. The House of Hades or The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

  • My precious, sad children! All the Rick Riordan!

6. The Fatal Throne edited by Candace Fleming

  • Historical fiction. All the Wives! Slightly educational.

5. The Woman Who Rode Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

  • Alanna! My perfect little found family. Also George Cooper.

4. The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irene Brignull

  • Beautiful witch-y writing. Perfectly creepy. Lovely heartbreaking work.

3. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

  • I cried the whole time. Beautiful family novel.

2. Windwitch (all the Witchlands series really) by Susan Denmark

  • Angsty Romance. Political Intrigue. Discovery of unreliable narrator. Owl!

1. Damsel by Elena K. Arnold

  • The most beautiful writing of your life! Dragons! Feminist fantasy.

Monthly Recommendations: Witch-y Reads

This month for the Goodreads group we are recommending books that are… witchy. Now especially in books it’s hard to define what makes a book witchy it could be anything from Harry Potter to the Crucible.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft – I was super lucky to get to pick up this new anthology from my library. It was about witchcraft but focused much more on feminism, independence, forging ones own path in all variations of witchery. My favorite of these stories: The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma, Divine are the Stars by Zoraida Cordova, and Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May.

toil and trouble

The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard – This is a fantasy series but the magic is witchy enough for me to justify putting one of my favorite series on this list. The magic is derived from 6 natural wells of magic and have nature as their base. All those with powers are required to have prominent witchmarks. It’s a story of female friendship saving the world and if that doesn’t sound witchy fight me.

truthwitch

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani  – Though both Agatha and Sophie have magical powers. Hester, Anadil, and Dot are probably one of the best covens of all time is in this middle grade trilogy. Their fantastical prowess is a perfect fit for the school of evil. Not to mention this is just one of my favorite series of all time.

the school for good and evil

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – This more a type reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials set in 17th century New England. Kit doesn’t feel like she fits in until she meets the town witch…

witch of blackbird pond

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull – This is an occult  magical realism novel that follows a witch prophecy as two babies are born. It’s beautiful and spooky the witch culture and coven is exactly what one wants this time of year. Highly recommend for witch fans of Laini Taylor.

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Monthly Recommendations: Underrated Reads

Every month a Goodreads group gives a category to recommend books from, August’s theme is Underrated Reads. I am really excited about this because I really need to talk with other people about some books that it feels like no one else has read and I want to read more, everything I haven’t heard of.

Catwings (series) by Ursula K. Le Guin – This is my favorite children’s series of almost all time. It’s so cute and it’s about stray cats with wings. It’s very fun and all about found family. Also if you have small children it’s a great way to indoctrinate them to the master of Ursula K. Le Guin

Diadem: Worlds of Magic by John Peel- This is a 12 book epic fantasy series. It is so fun and each book takes place on a different world. This is more middle grade but is so fun and has one of my favorite magic systems that works through creatures and crystals. I honestly feel like it’s such a good baseline for fantasy characters, creatures, and world. But I think about it like at least twice a day so more people need to read it.

Susan Dennard (all of her books) – The Something Strange and Deadly trilogy is criminally underrated. Not only is the main magic necromancy but we follow a problematic main character who has to get over her own prejudices. This takes place all over the world and has just the angst-filled romance. I still believe that her Witchlands series will gain popularity as people realize her genius. It has a great elemental magic system, even the healers are beholden to their element in healing. There is so much political intrigue and the most three-dimensional characters I’ve ever read in YA.

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irene Brignull – Honestly I just read this book and made me realize how much I wanted to do this theme this month. It was just the creepiest most beautiful written witch novel. It was so up my alley and I had never heard of it. It is about a witch and a human switched as they are being born to fulfill a prophecy for someone. It’s cruel and dark and beautiful and I really need to talk to someone about it.

Frontier Magic by Patricia C. Wrede – This alternative history trilogy is fantastic. It follows the United States as it expands west, except you know magic is real and there are great mythical creatures. There are so many magic systems that go with different culture and doesn’t overlook the civil war or the racial discourse of the time. In this the main character is from a family that follows a numerological magic system as the Thirteenth Child in her family she is curse and must overcome her fear of herself. SOO GOOD!

Sun Wolf and Starhawk (series) by Barbara Hambly – It is a great adult fantasy series that follows mercenaries (always the best). There is very cool and cult-like magic. Probably some of the best characters that respect you know other people and women. It does follow the trope of a chosen one but Sun Wolf makes decisions that make sense and Starhawk is a badass warrior who never relinquishes her femininity .

Mid-year book Freakout Tag

Holy poop the year is half way over! Also I really read a lot of books, almost 60! Working weird hours and having an easily accessible library has really helped my reading life. So I have always seen this tag going around booktube and book blogs and I thought I would try my hand at it.

  1. Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2018?
    • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. The hype is real but also well deserved. I thought it was beautifully written and I love fantasies that seemly integrate politics and religion. cbb
  2. Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2018?
    • Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire. The third in the Wayward Children series but this is the first direct sequel to Every Heart a Doorway. I love seeing so many worlds and finding out about different travelers and magic systems and it was delightful.beneath the sugar sky
  3. New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To?
    • Either Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian or Furyborn by Claire Legrandash princess
  4. Most Anticipated Release For Second Half of 2018?
    • Either of Kiersten White’s new books: Bright We Burn or The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankensteinbright we burn
  5. Biggest Disappointment?
    • The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser. I really wanted to like but I didn’t know Melville enough and I feel like there wasn’t enough suspense to care about the twists.
  6. Biggest Surprise?
    • To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. It was really good and I don’t usually like contemporary. to all the boys I've loved before
  7. Favorite New Author?
    • Maria V. Snyder. I read the first 3 of the Study Series in like a month and am totally obsessed. I want to read the rest of the series this year!poison study
  8. Newest Fictional Crush?
    • Cassian from ACOTAR
  9. Newest Favorite Character?
    • ISEULT! from the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard. I have never felt so connected to a character and her arc and I just feel like we need more always because she is smart and fierce and scared and important and I love her. truthwitch
  10. Book That Made You Cry?
    • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Obviously spoilers involved.the lies of locke lamora
  11. Book That Made You Happy?
    • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. This is the last book in the Heroes of Olympus Series and it made my heart feel so good and wrapped up.
  12. Favorite Book To Movie Adaptation You Saw This Year?
    • N/A
  13. Favorite Review You’ve Written This Year?
    • N/A
  14. Most Beautiful Book You Bought So Far This Year?
    • So I only recently borrowed this from the library but Death Sworn by Leah Cypess is stunning so I’m saying it counts.death sworn
  15. What Books Do You Need To Read By The End of The Year?
    1. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
    2. Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
    3. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
    4.  Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher
    5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

My first week of work

Surprise! I got a new job! (I have not left my old job this is just a second job on the side) I am working in a local warehouse for a used bookstore. Currently I am assigned to the sorting division.  I am only working part time so I am going to work 3 8-hour shifts through out the week.

My job is very different then any job I have experienced before sitting by a computer. For one I am physically active for 8 hours which  I don’t think has ever happened before in my whole life. I got orthopedic insoles for my sneakers by day 3. They did really help but I feel very old. I have never had to punch in and out before I always just checked in with a supervisor. I like punching in and out though.

For the most part it’s solitary work. I have a station and I rarely ever have to talk to anyone other than when people come to bring in or clear out palettes of books. This I like my other job is mostly completely social and I like having time to myself. I get to have my iPod in and headphones on all day. I don’t remember the last time I heard some of my favorite songs. It does make me very self-conscious though because I have to make sure not to dance or lip-sync cause there are a lot of people everywhere.

However, I have also eaten lunch by myself every single day and will probably continue to do so. I get so nervous around new people and I just want a chance to unwind a little and have fresh air. Also, I forget where the break room is and I am too afraid to ask again. In addition I take my lunch break pretty late in the day. For me, after lunch time seems to pass much slower until the end of the day. So I try to push it to when I come back I only have 2 or 2 and half hours left in the day versus four, that way I feel like I can get through it better.

I don’t know how long I’ll be at this job I don’t. Maybe I’ll be there until my vacation and maybe I’ll be here until November or maybe even a lot longer. I don’t know. But right now I like it. I like the schedule and waking up early and my guess is I’m going to be in the best shape of my life (past or present). We will see where it goes.

Wish me luck.

Favorite Summer Reads

So I like summer because typically I have more downtime to read, either on vacation or on break from school. This summer there is no break but I am going on vacation in a month and hopefully will get some extra reading done. For me I like to go back to some of my favorites. I frequently re-read Harry Potter over the summer. Here are some other excellent books to read over the summer.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares -This 4 books series follows every summer as 4 best friends grow-up between their sophomore years of high school and college. It’s a very sweet series that gives each character individuality and focuses on all relationships and growth versus just the romantic.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Every love letter Lara Jean has ever written was mailed to them, without her knowing. It was a really sweet story that dealt with a lot of the male tropes, the player and the nice-guy wanna-be player. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. This summer is the perfect time to read it because the move comes out on Netflix in August!

Codex Alera by Jim Butcher – This adult military fantasy combines the magic systems of Avatar the last Airbender and the Golden Compass. In other words, it is AWESOME! If you need a large mass market paperback to bring to the beach or on a flight this is the book for you! Plus over the summer you’ll have more time to commit.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – As most know this series happens at Summer camp! though for some it is year-round. It is a camp for demi-gods or humans with a godly parent. I’m pretty sure everything else is known if not what are you doing with yourself

Pern by Ann McCaffery – Pern is not a series but a world. This world has lots of series and standalones with in it to jump around with as you will. It’s a wonderful world of dragons and firelizards and young people who have to make serious decisions. Plus the northern continent is pretty much all desert so you can relate to the heat the characters are facing.  (I recommend starting with the Harper Hall trilogy but do as you will)

 

 

Monthly Recommendations: Mental Illness

This month’s topic for Monthly Recommendations, a Goodreads group, is Mental Illness Rep. A big problem today is the stigma against mental illness and those who suffer from it. I am only choosing to include fictional books on this list although there are some excellent non-fiction and reference books on the subject.

The most current that I’ve read and probably one of the most popular is Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. The main character in this has OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which John Green also has. It’s really fun mystery but the anxiety representation is really well done. It also deals really well with grief.

Wintergirls by Laurie Anderson Hale is also one of the most reference but for a reason. CW: anorexia, bulimia, self-harm. It was the one of the first books I read that shows eating disorders as a form of self-harm and didn’t pull punches in the consequence that follow.

Another classic is Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. It is an diary by a real person from the 80s I believe that chronicles a teen girl’s spiral into addiction. Addiction is a serious public health problem as well as mental health. It is very gritty but it is a true story and a fast read as it is journal entries. It is a CW: rape, self-harm.

Something that needs to be addressed in the book community is mental health in fantasy books. Two books that start to address it are A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling. Both main characters Feyre and Harry, respectively, suffer from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They relive their trauma, through dreams and panic attacks, and experience increase in aggressive and anxious behaviors after these experiences.

My top recommendations for general mental health books are She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. She’s Come Undone follows the story of a young women’s life from her early life to her late 30s. CW: rape, binge eating, sexual abuse. A large portion of this story takes place in a mental hospital and emphasizes the important of therapy, medication, and the myriad of ways to cope. Impulse takes place in a mental hospital following three characters that have recently tried to commit suicide. CW: self-harm, sexual abuse.

If you are struggling with any of these issues, there is always help.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800)273-8255

National Alliance on Mental Illness Crisis Text Line: Text NAMI to 741-741

Monthly Recommendations: Best First in Series

Happy New Year and beginning on another year of monthly recommendations. Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group that picks a topic every month for lovely book nerds such as myself. This month we will be talking about ways to start of the new year right with brand new book series. As a disclaimer I am not including Harry Potter because whether or not you chose to continue the series I expect you to have read at least that one.

Children and Middle Grade 

Book of Names by John Peel (Diadem: Worlds of Magic) – My favorite series that no one has read. This first book starts off with three outcasts, Helaine, Score, and Pixel,  who come from different worlds, literally,  are brought together on the Inner Rim to be taught the art of magic.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) – A princess who doesn’t particularly like being proper or the idea of being married off runs away to become a dragon’s princess. There are wizards with magic sucking staffs, witches with crepe pans, stone princes, etc. Everything one could want in a fairy tale adjacent fantasy.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Shadow Children) – In a dystopia where only two children are allowed per family, Luke is the third. A political thriller series that is written for a younger age group and one of my favorites. It’s also the first series I read where there were consequences for the main characters. Warning: tears happen. 

Young Adult

Legend by Marie Lu (Legend Trilogy) – Most people have read this but everyone who I have recommended it to has loved so if you haven’t yet read it. This dystopian trilogy follows a prodigy of the Republic, a police state, and a young unparalleled criminal mastermind. Also there is a plague. It is amazing and slightly scary and sad and perfect. Go!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Fire and Thorns) – Oh no, another fantasy series about a chosen one, no trust me it’s actually unlike anything I have ever read. In this Latin America inspired fantasy world the series delves deep into political intrigue and religion. Elisa is one of my favorite protagonists of all time and the story goes nowhere a reader expects it to.

Adult

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon (The Deeds of Paksinarrion) – Let’s see if I can mention Paks at least once a recommendations post until someone complains. This first book see Paks join the Duke’s recruits and join the army. It is an easy introduction to a fantasy world that is full of fighting and destruction. It’s great fantasy for those who don’t like magic because while this occurs in a fantasy world Paks herself only interacts with magic users, healers, gods, but is not one herself.

Another Fine Myth by Robert Lynn Asprin (Myth Adventures) – This long and epic fantasy series starts off in the normal way Skeeve, a magician’s apprentice, watches his master killed by an assassin shortly after summoning a demon, Ahaz. Ahaz and Skeeve must then work together. It amazing and hilarious and has one of my favorite dragons. Gleep. 

Monthly Recommendations: Favorite Mysteries

For October the topic for the Goodreads group Monthly Recommendations is Favorite Mysteries. I personally don’t read a lot of mysteries it’s probably my least read genre besides non-fiction books. Here are books I have enjoyed that have mysteries or have a focus on something to solve that are good for those just getting into the genre

mysterious benedictlike me.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: It is such a fun mystery following gifted children that all work together to solve puzzles and infiltrate mysterious academies.

The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: Ahhh the horror and the mystery. I think this is a pretty obvious one but I really enjoyed trying to figure out the Baudelaire’s fate, Count Olaf, VFD, etc.

dick francisSmoke Screen by Dick Francis: Dick Francis is another pretty famous mystery writer. These books are really short fun and easy to get into. Bonus you don’t figure out the murderer on the first page they are introduced!

Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie is a must for any mystery but my favorite is Miss Marple, the unseemly old woman who is always in the right place at the right time. Definitely some of the funniest mysteries.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: I LOVED this book and mystery! Everyone inthe westing game an apartment building is teamed up to solve the will of an old millionaire to receive inheritance. Everyone has their own secrets it’s such a fun read.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: I know this isn’t the world’s greatest mystery but it’s great for beginners like me and has a really cool unreliable narrator and mostly unlikable characters that you can still root for.

The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell: Probably the most obvious and gruesome of the bunch. Probably best not to going in knowing too much but compelling and has multiple layers of mystery. body farm