Hiatus Recap: June

Finally! I’m all caught up after abandoning my blog for seven months. This is the last set of books I read during my hiatus. June consisted of nine books, five of which were so good that I need to talk about them below. Now that I’ve reviewed every month from my hiatus, it’s clear that June was above average in enjoyment levels.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Set Outside the US

Hello! I’m posting a suuuuper last-minute TTT because I forgot to queue something up last night. The prompt this week, provided as always by The Broke and the Bookish, is to list our favorite books set outside of the US. On one hand, this was hard because I live in the US and the book landscape is here is definitely US-centric. On the other hand, this could have been easy because we also read a lot of books by English authors. I tried to avoid including too many books from the UK.

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I would most like to highlight A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston and The Wrath and the Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh. I’m not entirely sure in what current-day countries they take place (especially because they’re both fantasy, so they might not even be on “Earth,” in the strictest sense), but they’re both great takes on One Thousand and One Nights. Plus they’re the only books I’ve read recently that didn’t take place in a Western/English speaking setting (For the record, I also read Soundless, but I wasn’t crazy about it).

3. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta: My queen is Australian. Saving Francesca is probably my favorite of her contemporary novels, but that statement makes me feel guilty. Everything Her Excellency writes is great and I have trouble choosing between her books.

4. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K Johnston: This book takes place in Canada, which was cool because I don’t think I’ve read any YA that takes place in Canada. Or…anything, actually. I don’t think I’ve read anything Canadian at all. But anyways, I wanted to include this because I read it recently and really liked it.

5. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray: This book was so interesting! I loved how it jumped settings! I loved the alternate version of Russia! Everyone should read this! I want a print of the cover art!

6. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: I did cave and include two books that take place in London on this list, but I feel like I can justify them. They were both a fantastical take on London, and the city was central to the feel of both stories. Like A Thousand Pieces of You, this involved alternate versions of London/the world.

7. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: This is obviously the other London book. I read this years ago, before I studied abroad in London, so I’ve been wanting to do a reread and see whether the story feels different now. In any case, I loved this when I read it in college.

8. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: I caved again. Here’s another book by Queen Marchetta, also set in Australia. Like all Marchetta, it makes me cry.

I feel like there were a lot of borderline books for this topic. I could have included Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I love and takes place in Prague, but the series has another non-Earth setting that made me reluctant to include it.The biggest takeaway for me is that I need to read less US-centric/Western lit. I’ll definitely be checking other TTTs for recommendations this week.

Thanks for stopping by!

Top Ten Tuesday: 2016 Anticipated Releases

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we’re talking 2016 releases. I’ve mentioned this before, but I never really know about new/upcoming releases until I hear about them from other bloggers. So this is my attempt to scrounge together a list of books I will definitely be reading once they’re out. Be forewarned, there are only four of them.

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: I feel like they started doing press for this book forever ago, so long ago that I actually assumed it had already come out. I’m curious about this book, though I also feel like these aren’t true witches. (Lately I’ve been keen to read a book about more “legitimate,” traditional witches.)

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh: The ugly blue of this cover kills me. I feel like it wouldn’t be that bad if it weren’t such a terrible blue! But anyways, when I first finished The Wrath and the Dawn, I was furious that I had to wait almost a year for the next book.

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke: On one hand, the cover is gorgeous and the blurb sounds interesting enough. On the other hand, that same blurb was frustratingly vague and it compares this book to We Were Liars (which I hated) and The Raven Boys (towards which I am very indifferent). But let’s be honest, I’m still going to read this. That cover alone would be enough.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton: That cover, that concept, that blurb. There’s not a single part of this that isn’t working for me.

 

Clearly I’m no good at this type of TTT. I’m never on top of the new release scene, so if anyone has any recommendations, let me know!

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

In this retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, Shahrzad volunteers to marry the caliph, who has been marrying young women every night and having them killed the next morning. As she learns that the caliph and the murders are not what they seem, she finds herself faltering from her quest for revenge.

I was very excited for Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn and it did not disappoint. I love the story of One Thousand and One Nights. It’s an interesting premise for a collection of folk tales, and it’s great to see a female character use her wits and her talent for storytelling to stay alive. The characterizations of the two main characters are both well done, as they gradually reveal their true natures and motivations. The obstacles they face feel very true to their situation and the end left me eager for the next book.

While I became very invested in the story by the end, I found this book a little hard to get into. The writing, especially in the beginning, isn’t great. There is too much mention of the characters’ eye colors (Shahrzad’s eyes are referred to as her “hazel orbs” at one point), which seemed clumsy and amateurish. Both Despina’s characterization and her plot-line were ham-fisted. She was, by far, the least believable and least enjoyable part of this book. The writing gets better as the story goes on, abandoning the awkward descriptions and focusing instead on the story and furthering the plot.

As far as setting up the plot for the next book, The Wrath and the Dawn does this very well. The antagonists are introduced gradually and the conflict comes about very logically. People aren’t just motivated by “evil.” Every character that opposes Shahrzad and the caliph does so because it is a natural reaction to the events that preceded it. This may not seem important to the everyday reader, but I think it shows Ahdieh knows her story and has thought her plot through. It is the mark of careful planning.

This review can never do justice to how gorgeous this book is. Even though I didn’t like the writing in the beginning, I got completely sucked in. The sequel The Rose and the Dagger is expected to be published in 2016. I’m sure you will be just as impatient as I am.

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
My rating: ☆☆☆ (4 stars)
Recommended for: people interested in non-Western folklore/fairy tales, or if you’re in the mood for a Beauty and the Beast-like love story.

Ten Fairy Tale Retellings I’ve Read/Want to Read

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is about fairy tales. Guys, I love fairy tales. I took a number of classes in college specifically so I could cover fairy tales and I loved every minute. I couldn’t be more excited for this topic. I’ve broken this up into five retellings I’ve read and eight retellings I want to read. It’s really a Top Thirteen Tuesday, but I couldn’t narrow it down any more.

Retellings I’ve Read

ttt-0803   1. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: We have to start with the queen of retellings, obviously. As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, this was my absolute favorite book as a kid. I think I was about eight years old when I first read this (it was a First Communion gift) and I didn’t realize it was Cinderella until the end. That twist blew my tiny mind and cemented this as my favorite book.

2. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: Moving on to a much more mature book. This collection of fairy tale retellings is dark and sensual, very different from most of the others on this list. My favorite is the title story The Bloody Chamber, which is a retelling of Bluebeard (probably my favorite fairy tale of all time). If you like fairy tales and don’t mind things getting dark and weird, this book is fantastic.

3. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: I have very little experience with non-Western fairy tales, so I’m always interested in branching out. I got entirely too invested in this book and can’t wait for the sequel. ttt-0803-4 4. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine: Another Carson Levine book. This book isn’t based off of a single fairy tale, but incorporates lots of fairy tale elements like magical items, quests, and fairies. I’ve read this book at least twice, and both times I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

5. Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman: This is also not a true retelling, but it has a heavy fairy tale influence. The main character is an academic specializing in fairy tales who teaches at an all-girls boarding school in the forests of Upstate New York (which is where I’m from, so obviously I’m rather attached to the setting). It was a little less creepy and eery than I wanted it to be, but I loved the atmosphere.

Retellings I Want to Read

ttt-0803-2 1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: Everyone and their mother has read this series and yet I, a serious fairy tale nerd, haven’t touched a single one of these books. I need to rectify this as soon as possible.

2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: Supposedly Throne of Glass is also inspired by Beauty and the Beast, but I’m hoping A Court of Thorns and Roses is a truer retelling.

3. Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas: The cover for this book is so aggressively mediocre I can’t stand it, but I love Cinderella. I can put up with an ugly cover for a good story. ttt-0803-3 4. Zel by Donna Jo Napoli: I had a bit of an obsession with retellings as a kid, probably around when I finished reading Ella Enchanted. I have a feeling I read this book during that phase, but I don’t remember it at all.

5. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine: A lot of people like this book, but I’ve never read it for whatever reason.

6. Bluebeard’s Egg by Margaret Atwood: A retelling of my beloved Bluebeard, as told by Margaret Atwood? Has there ever been a premise more glorious? ttt-0803-5 7. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes: I’m so eager to read this! But first, I have to go find the original story in one of my anthologies. 8. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston: After The Wrath and the Dawn, I’m in the mood for more retellings of A Thousand and One Nights. It seems like people who have read both like either one or the other, so I’m keen to see which one I prefer.

If my list didn’t satisfy your need for fairy tales (I can never get enough), check out this comprehensive list from Epic Reads. And let me know if there are any fantastic retellings I should get my hands on!

July 2015 Wrap-Up

I am in a mid-year reading slump, which really isn’t helping my blogging slump. I only got through five books this month, which is down from eight books a month in April, May, and June. But this is still much better than I was doing in January and my Goodreads says I’m still on track to reach my 60-book goal by the end of the year.

JulWU Title: Yes Please
Author: Amy Poehler
Date finished: July 6, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Review: I intend to review this book.
Notes: I preferred Mindy Kaling’s or Tina Fey’s book over this one, but still a fun read. Who doesn’t love memoirs/essays in the summer?

Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Date finished: July 11, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Review: I intend to review this book.
Notes: It didn’t live up to the hype for me, but it’s hard not to root for Elias.

Title: Oh! You Pretty Things
Author: Shanna Mahin
Date finished: July 14, 2015
My rating: ☆☆ (Two stars)
Review: No review planned.
Notes: It was like Mean Girls meets The Devil Wears Prada, in that it was all backstabbing between girls and ridiculous professional demands. So predictable that I spent a fair amount of the book feeling like I had already read it.

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Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Date finished: July 15, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Review: Click here for review.
Notes: I didn’t like the beginning, but I was so invested by the end. What do you mean I have to wait a year for the next book?!

Title: Swerve
Author: Vicki Pettersson
Date finished: July 28, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Review: I intend to review this book.
Notes: All things considered, not a bad book. Plenty of twists, suspense, and grossness.

I’ll be going to Costa Rica for about a week and a half this month (going to see my family/going on vacation with friends), which I think will pump some life back into my reading/blogging. Vacation will give me plenty of time to read (Does anyone else love reading on planes?) and I’ll be forced to queue up a bunch of blog posts before I leave. My goal for this month is 10 books, so we’ll see in September whether I was able to follow through.

Top Ten Tuesday: Last ten books that came into my possession

I’ve been quite the slacking blogger lately, but there’s nothing like a Top Ten Tuesday to recommit myself to reading and writing. This week I’m filling you in on the last ten books I managed to get my hands on, including one unexpected acquisition.

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You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart: The only purchase on this list! I bought this book in mid-June. Almost every other book on this list is from the library.

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix: Before last month, I had never requested a book from my library network. I finally tried it and went on a bit of a binge. This was the first batch I picked up, along with…

Yes Please by Amy Poehler: Requested it from the library, got it with Horrorstor.

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Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta: My last Marchetta book (maybe I’ll stop talking about her now?) and the next book I had on hold at the library.

Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo: Funny story here! I went to pick up Looking for Alibrandi and An Ember in the Ashes, but I didn’t realize until I got home that they accidentally gave me the wrong book. Instead of AEitA, I got this book about a child who goes into a coma and says he meets Jesus. Which is definitely not my type of book. Needless to say, I didn’t read it.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: The day after the library gave me Heaven is For Real, I went back and got the book I actually wanted.

Swerve by Vicki Petterson: I got this book from a Goodreads First Reads. It came in the mail maybe a week or two ago. Haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m hoping it’s good and creepy.

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: I go to a library down the street from my apartment now, but I can’t resist going to my parents’ local library whenever I’m in the suburbs. I happened to see Throne of Glass when I went in a few weeks ago.

Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin: I grabbed this on the same day as Throne of Glass because sometimes I feel weird about being 22 and borrowing YA from the library? I’m a coward and always grab another book to take out at the same time. I’m in the middle of this one and it’s mediocre. And it was due back yesterday.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: I have been waiting for this book for so long and I finally have it! I requested it along with most of the other books on this list and I didn’t get it until weeks after the others. I can’t wait to read this.

And on that note, I’m off to go renew Throne of Glass and Oh! You Pretty Things, as this reminded me that they’re due back tomorrow. Whoops.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List

I love Top Ten Tuesday. While I should really be putting more effort into coming up with blog posts on every other day of the week, I love the interactive nature of this meme (do we call this a meme?). I love clicking random links and seeing what other people are reading. I love commenting on the lists I see and adding new books to my “to-read” list on Goodreads.

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish, as always) is Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List. I scoured my “to-read” list to find the 10 books I’m most keen to read. You’ll notice it’s a lot of YA. I love YA, but the library I’ve been going to has the dinkiest little YA section, so I haven’t been reading much of it. I need to start requesting books from other libraries.

TTT1   1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This was on everybody’s list a few weeks ago when the Top Ten Tuesday topic was about film adaptations of books. Clearly it’s something I need to get my hands on. The Goodreads blurb is vague, so all I know about it so far is that it involves lady pilots during WWII. But that’s really all I need to know, to be quite honest.

2. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I love memoirs, especially in the summer. I just finished You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart this week (it’s every bit as weird and hilarious as I expected), so I’m in the mood for another book of essay stories. Plus, I’m honored that this book came out on my birthday.

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I had no idea who Sarah J. Maas was about a month ago, but everybody’s been raving about her books. She resurfaces later in this list, but I want to start with her first series. Plus, I’m intrigued by the female assassin main character. Just give me all of the fierce YA heroines.

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4. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

I’m not big on horror movies, but I have heard good things about this book. I’m a fan of anything with an innovative concept or execution. I’m sure this will scare the pants off me, but I’m too curious to leave it alone.

5. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

This book has such good buzz and the concept is right up my alley. A retelling of One Thousand and One Nights sounds amazing and I’m fully prepared to love Shahrzad as a character.

6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book won’t even come out until September but I’m SO PUMPED. The synopsis calls it a medieval fantasy Ocean’s Eleven and it’s hard for me to think of something more beautiful than that description. I love stories about teams with complementing skills. I need this book immediately.

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7 & 8. Looking for Alibrandi & Ferragost by Melina Marchetta

I’m so sorry. I promise I’ll stop writing about Melina Marchetta some day, but today is not that day. I know it’s hard to believe because I’m so obsessed, but I haven’t actually read all of her books. I’ve found Looking for Alibrandi and Ferragost to be elusive, so my goal for the summer is to track them down and read these last two works.

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9. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

From what I can tell, fae/faerie stories are pretty popular, but I haven’t had any experience with them. Hopefully the illustrious Maas will be a good introduction for me.

10. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I chose both Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows when jotting down my list and I didn’t realize until this moment that they’re written by the same author. She must be good! This is another book found from  a past Top Ten Tuesday. And that cover is just glorious.

I can’t wait to see what other bloggers are excited about, though my currently 232-book-long list doesn’t need any new additions.

Six Books for my Beach Bag

It’s 80 sweltering degrees Fahrenheit in my town today, so I’m calling it. Summer is officially here! In honor of the warm weather, I’ve compiled a list of six books I want to read by the water this summer (assuming I actually make it to a body of water).

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1. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Everyone likes some YA for the summer (or at least I hope everyone does, because this list is YA-heavy). This retelling of A Thousand and One Nights just came out earlier this month and I’ve already heard great things.

2. Dare Me by Megan Abbott

This is another coming-of-age thriller by the author of The End of Everything. I’m always interested in books featuring teenagers on the brink of adulthood and struggling with power and secrets.

3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has a box of secret letters, written to every crush she’s ever had. She hides the letters under her bed, until she discovers that someone has found them and mailed them out. This is another book that has had great buzz, especially since the sequel just came out this week.

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4. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

This book won’t actually be out until October, but I’m still including it because there’s a Goodreads giveaway for it that ends in August so you could still possibly read it by the pool this summer. What could be more summery than a book taking place in historical asylums?! …My taste may be better equipped for Halloween book lists.

5. You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart

I’m not usually one for silly humor, but anyone who has seen Mamrie Hart on YouTube has to admit that her wit is as sharp as it gets. I always find myself impressed with her work, whether it’s a drink recipe video or the movie she wrote (Camp Takota is on Netflix, for those who haven’t seen it). I have no doubt her book of essays will be ridiculously funny.

6. A Magic Dark and Bright by Jenny Adams Perinovic

How gorgeous is this cover?! It’s been a while since I’ve read a good ghost story and this one sounds wonderfully eerie. And I’m officially blaming my spooky taste in books on the fact that I’m born at the end of October. Clearly my Halloween recommendation list is going to be stellar.

Topic inspired by this week’s Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish.
All cover images from Goodreads.