Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Reading Goals Review & Yearly Stats

Reading Challenges Review

My first goal was to read 70 books, but I later upped that to 100 books. I'm proud to say that I managed to read 135 books, my best reading year ever!! 

View my Goodreads Year in Books here to see all the books I read in 2020!

My next goal was to read five completed series and finish three series I was currently reading at the start of the year. I managed to far surpass this goal, reading 12 full series and completing 4 currently-reading series, listed below in completion order. 

1. Magisterium series by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare (finished)
2. Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver
3. The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black
4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
5. The Girl from Everywhere duology by Heidi Heilig
6. The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown
7. The Dragonriders of Pern trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
8. Arc of a Scythe trilogy by Neal Shusterman (finished)
9. Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
10. The Blood of Stars duology by Elizabeth Lim
11. The Carls duology by Hank Green (finished)
12. The Poppy War trilogy by R. F. Kuang
13. The Hallowed Ones duology by Laura Bickle
14. A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
15. A Conspiracy of Magic trilogy by Megan Crewe (finished)
16. Forward Collection by Various Authors

My next goal was to read as many books as possible from my TBR and have at least 70% of the books I read be from my TBR because I own sooo many unread books. Unfortunately, I did not complete this goal. Only 71 of 135 books (53%) were from my TBR. My list of owned and unread books was at 350 on January 1, 2020, and I wanted to reduce that as much as possible, but now my TBR is at 390 books! Obviously, I have a book buying problem. . . . I had 16 books that I've owned since high school that I really hoped to get to this year, but I read only 6 of them. This goal will carry over into my reading goals for 2021. 

Yearly Statistics

Number of books I read in 2020: 135
Number of those books that I listened to on audio: 61
Number of books I read from my TBR: 71
Number of books I read that were published this year: 27
Number of series I started: 26
Number of series I completed: 16
Number of books I DNFed: 9
Number of books I reread: 3
Number of books I acquired this year: 135
Number of books I unhauled this year: 31
Number of books on my TBR at the beginning of 2020: 350
Number of books on my TBR at the end of 2020: 390

Books I read that were . . .
Middle Grade: 17 (12.6%)
Young Adult: 39 (28.9%)
Adult: 79 (58.5%)
*Note that I categorize anything not specifically labeled as middle grade or young adult as an adult title, such as nonfiction, humor, graphic novels, or religious books that could be enjoyed by any age group.

Graphic Novels: 9 books
Short Stories or Novellas: 19 books
Nonfiction Titles: 21 books
ARCs I read before the publication date: 5 books

Star Ratings:
1 star: 14 books (10.4%)
2 stars: 26 books (19.3%)
3 stars: 37 books (27.4%)
4 stars: 35 books (25.9%) 
5 stars: 23 books (17.0%)

Reading Survey

Favorite book of the year: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Least favorite book of the year: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Most surprising book of the year: Most Likely by Sarah Watson
Most disappointing book of the year: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Longest book of the year: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (1,001 pages)
Shortest book of the year: Randomize by Andy Weir (28 pages) 
Book that was on my TBR the longest that I read: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (9 years)
Biggest accomplishment: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson 
Most read genre: Fantasy (63 books) 

Reading Reflections

Well, this was certainly an interesting and unprecedented year. I read more than I've ever read before in one year, but I also gave out more low ratings this year than any previous year. Quantity does not equal quality. I hoped to read a lot of my TBR books, and I was doing pretty well on that goal for about six months, but then I veered away to non-owned books over the summer and never got back on track. I'm not mad about it though, because one of the main reasons I read books I didn't own was because I wanted to read some books relating to the Black Lives Matter movement and further my education as a white ally. I own an extremely small amount of nonfiction, so all of these were titles I read from the library, and there were a lot of them. 

Another contributor to my outrageous number of non-TBR books I read was that there were tons of novellas and short stories relating to series I own that were available only as ebooks, and of course I read them all. Plus I had a handful of books I wanted to read that I only had access to via ebook, and I had another set of books I wanted to read before I purchased them because I wasn't sure if I would like them enough to purchase them in the first place. Lots of contributing factors, but overall I'm happy with my reading this year, especially because while only slightly more than half of the books I read were from my TBR list, that was still 71 books! Some years I don't read that many books in the whole year, so while the number of books I read from my TBR was low percentage-wise, it was still high quantity-wise. 

I read some books this year that I had hoped to get to for years. I read new books by some of my favorite authors, and I read some disappointing books that I had hoped to love. I don't think I can ever beat 135 books in a year, but I still can't wait to see what books lie in store for me to discover next year. 

Review: FORWARD COLLECTION (Amazon Original Stories)


This collection of stories is about looking forward in some way, usually involving futuristic technology or scientific discoveries. The stories fall into the science fiction, fantasy, or dystopian genres, and each author has a different take on the idea, producing an eclectic mix of stories. I don't tend to read or enjoy short stories very often, but I wanted to give these ones a try because I recognize all these authors and I do enjoy the general concept behind this collection. 

"ARK" by Veronica Roth3.5/5 stars  

I have come to realize that I really enjoy apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories. This one follows Samantha, one of the last humans left on Earth. Most humans have already escaped to Earth the Sequel to avoid the imminent collision of an asteroid that will wipe out all life on Earth, but Samantha and a group of scientists are the last ones to leave because they must catalogue all the flora and fauna species possible so they can take the data with them to their new planet. There is a lot of talk about plants in this story, and I really enjoyed it; plants are fascinating to me. This story also talks about the value of life and what's worth living for. This was one of the stronger stories included in this collection.

"EMERGENCY SKIN" by N. K. Jemisin4.5/5 stars

This story was so fascinating, but I also don't know how to explain what it's about. It's told in second-person POV from the voice of your commander that's inside your head. You don't say anything or have any thoughts on-page in this story, but it can be inferred what you are thinking based on what the commander's responses are to you. You are from a new Earth, coming back to this, the original Earth, now called Tellus, on a mission to acquire HeLa cell cultures to keep the population on your home planet alive. But when you arrive, the people on Tellus are not the uncultured savages you expected to find. I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this story, but it's amazing; go read it. It's the best in the collection. N. K. Jemisin knows how to write impactful and timely stories, touching on social topics that are relevant to our current society. Her stories have such a unique concept and a distinct voice, and "Emergency Skin" was no different. 

"RANDOMIZE" by Andy Weir1.5/5 stars  

This story was rather confusing, to be honest. Basically, it follows an IT guy setting up a quantum computer at a casino to stop hackers from winning megabucks in futuristic Las Vegas. Not science-fictiony enough for me because it seemed like it took place in the current world and I expected something more. While I love reading about futuristic technology, the stuff in this story went right over my head. I’m not a physicist, and it almost feels like that’s what you need to be to understand the details going on here. I got the gist of the plot, but I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more had it not been full of technical jargon that would be more suited to someone actually in IT. While I normally don’t mind new terminology if it benefits the story, it did nothing for the plot here. I think this same story could have been told using language more suited to us plebeians and it would have been just as impactful. Not to mention the characters are flat, the conversations are stilted and unrealistic, and the story was lackluster, albeit slightly unpredictable. I still want to check out The Martian by Andy Weir, but I sure hope it’s not as technical as this story or I know I won’t enjoy it. "Randomize" is by far the weakest story in the Forward Collection in my opinion. 

"THE LAST CONVERSATION" by Paul Tremblay4/5 stars

Wow, that was a trip! I definitely want to read more from Paul Tremblay after this story. He’s known for horror but this story wasn’t scary, more unsettling because of a constant feeling of not knowing something. This story starts out with you waking up, and you don’t know how long you’ve been asleep or where you are or what’s going on. Slowly throughout the story, you start to become aware of your surroundings and you start to regain your memories. And yes, I mean you. This story is told in second-person POV, which I always love! It’s so rare and unique, and it really fitted the story here. I won’t say anymore because the feeling of being in the dark, both literally and metaphorically, was so compelling for me. I flew through this story and I want more; this is a story that has me wanting it to be part of a full-length novel because I want to know more details about the world. "The Last Conversation" is definitely one of the more engaging stories in the Forward Collection.


This was the most interesting story in this collection. The concept was very intriguing, and Amor Towles sure knows how to craft a fascinating story.

Sam and Annie go to Vitek for an IVF, but the company is unlike any other fertility business out there: they give you the option to customize the personality of your child. Using genetic data from many generations of people in similar socioeconomic backgrounds and with similar nurturing, Vitek is able to hypothesize about what your child will be like. Sam and Annie watch three videos about three options of a future child they could have, videos that show the highs and lows of each model’s entire life. What would it be like to see your child’s life before they were even conceived? The parents get to decide what kind of child they want to raise. This concept was very interesting because it seemed so realistic, like this technology could actually happen within the next five to ten years.

I didn’t really understand the ending though. I tried to find an explanation online of what the implications meant, but it seems like a lot of other people struggled with the ending as well. The story was really strong and thought-provoking up until the last couple of pages where things just went downhill.

I definitely want to check out more from Amor Towles now though because the writing in this book was impeccable and the story was imaginative.

"SUMMER FROST" by Blake Crouch3/5 stars

This story was kind of hard for me to wrap my head around at first, but it’s about Riley, a human, and Max, the AI NPC that Riley created for a video game who ends up becoming self-aware and gaining autonomy through a human body. There is a lot of great characterization in this story with both Riley and Max, especially for it not being a full-length novel. This story talks about what it means to be a human and what the limitations of humanity are. It talks about the relationships between humans and technology. I love stories about video games that go beyond the current boundaries of gameplay, so I enjoyed this story.

There is a lot of philosophical debate in here as well, which I found really interesting. Crouch talks about humanity and consciousness and what happens when artificial intelligence becomes all-knowing—are they more like God or like Satan?

This is the longest story in the collection, and it definitely feels more like a novella than a short story, but the length only benefitted the story and its outcome.

Monday, December 28, 2020


 Rating: 2/5 stars

Unfortunately, I did not finish this book because I wasn’t connecting to the characters or the story at all, and I began to dread the moments I would press play on the audiobook. I debated for two whole weeks if I should push myself through or not, but ultimately I decided to just quit because of my lack of enjoyment. Although this book was not for me, I feel that this would be the perfect book for the right audience.

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a historical fantasy, and fans of that genre will likely enjoy this book. While I love fantasy, I struggle with historical narratives, and this book was much more historical than I expected it to be; it’s very rich in both history and culture. It almost feels like it could be a nonfiction story if only magic had been real.

Set in the late 1700s, this book tackles civil rights and revolution. The story starts out following a common man who uses magic and is put on trial and jailed for using magic since commoners are not allowed to use magic, and this is the basis for the story. Magicians want different rights for the use of their magic, thus the title.

There are a few perspectives here. The main story follows a vampire and his friend in England, but we also have the POV of a slave girl from Jamaica. I didn’t read far enough to hear much about the girl, but her story goes hand in hand with the main storyline as some magicians are working to abolish slavery while they fight for the rules regarding the use of magic to be changed.

I thought the discussion about magic in this book was actually pretty cool. The commoners are forced to wear bracelets that prevent them from using magic, but of course some higher class magicians think this is wrong and want change. There are a few different types of magicians in this book too, and my favorite part was that that blood magician was actually a vampire. Because consuming blood is how he got his magic to work. 

If heavily historical novels with lots of politics and moral discussions and magic are your cup of tea, then I encourage you to give this book a go. 

I feel like I could potentially enjoy A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians at a different time in my life, and I hope eventually I will be willing to pick it up again and finish it. I do know, however, that I would get a lot more out of it and feel more connected to it reading it with my eyes, so I can say with certainty that if I were to come back to this story, I would not be continuing the audiobook. The narrator had a nice voice and I feel that he adequately portrayed the characters and the story, but something about either him or this book just wasn’t letting me grasp what was going on while listening to it. So maybe if you want to give it a shot try reading it instead? Even though this book wasn’t exactly my thing, I still want to read The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H. G. Parry, and I would definitely consider reading other novels from her in the future too. 

I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Review: WE MET IN DECEMBER by Rosie Curtis


Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I’ve been trying to read one Christmas romance every December, and We Met in December was my pick for this year. 

I really wanted this book to be similar to One Day in December by Josie Silver, which is one of my favorite books, but this wasn’t as deep or exciting as I expected it to be. There’s nothing wrong with We Met in December—it’s a fun holiday romance—but I was also hoping it would be more than that.

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to connect to the characters in this book or care about their relationship as much as I should have. Plus I kept getting the other flatmates and various side characters confused with each other. No one was very dynamic, in my opinion. I blame my feelings partially on my mental state this time of the year; working in retail has completely fried my brain right now. But also I blame it partially on my expectations being too high going into this story.

Jess and Alex (and some other people) share a flat and their friend/flatmate/flat owner put forth one rule: no dating. But Jess finds herself falling for nice guy Alex, who gave up his job as a lawyer to retrain as a nurse. The story follows them in dual POVs during the following year as we learn about their feelings and escapades while they avoid dating but still have “feelings” for each other.

This book was alright, one I’d recommend if all you’re looking for is a cute holiday romance story to bring some light to the bleak days of winter, but it’s not overly original. It plays on some cliches and stereotypes I frequently see in romance stories, including the “let’s not communicate and let the other person get the completely wrong idea about what’s going on” trope, which frustrated me a bit. And this book’s definitely not memorable like the poignant, surprising, and emotional One Day in December either, which I suspect no Christmas romance will ever live up to. I shouldn’t compare one book to the other, but with the books’ similar titles and themes, I guess I just wanted them to be more alike than they were. That’s my own fault, not the book’s fault.

I was debating during the whole time reading this book if I should give it 2 or 3 stars. I like it but it’s just okay. Not as bad as some other 2-star books I’ve read, but not as enjoyable as some other 3-star books I’ve read; my feelings are right in the middle. There’s nothing wrong with We Met in December, but nothing really standout either. A predictable, cute, fun, and mostly clean holiday romance that I’ll probably forget about in a month. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review: THE FROZEN CROWN by Greta Kelly


Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Askia is the rightful heir to the Frozen Crown, but her cousin Goran currently rules the kingdom of Searvesh and wears her crown. Askia wants to save her people from his deadly leadership and claim her throne, but she needs an army to do that. She ventures to nearby kingdoms in the Empire of Vishir to ask for aid, and of course, she gets swept up in more than she bargained for.

“I’m here for an army, not to play court politics.”

I loved Askia. A badass orphan princess and witch who wields death magic—what more could you want? She knows what she wants and cleverly plays her way through the court with a quick tongue. Early on, she runs into her childhood friend Iskander who’s the current prince of Eshkaroth, and she realizes it might easier than she thinks to persuade him to help her. But naturally, events don’t go according to plan, especially when she realizes there are enemies on every side and one of them expects her to marry him so he can claim the crown instead! 

I also loved Nariko, Askia’s lady-in-waiting and newfound friend in the court of Eshkaroth. Her soft but firm personality made her my favorite character. In general, the characterization in this book was well done. Each character had their own identity and felt distinct from one another. 

I’m giving the book five stars because I rate books based on my personal enjoyment of them and I loved this book; I really enjoyed my time reading it and I actually looked forward to reading it whenever I put it down, which is kind of rare for me, but there still is a lot that could have been done better here.

I really wish we got to see more magic and that the author went more in-depth with how it works and about the seven different kinds of witches. I also wish I had a better idea of what the characters looked like because I don’t think any physical descriptors were mentioned other than Askia’s red hair. I also would have liked the world to be slightly more fleshed out. We get some descriptions but there’s still so much about the empires that we don’t know. As this entire story takes place in Eshkaroth, we don’t learn much about the surrounding lands. Askia mentions them in passing, which is better than completely ignoring their existence like I sometimes see in epic fantasy novels, but I still wanted a little more. I also wanted to know more about the Frozen Crown, like why is that its name? Is it because it’s cold up in Seravesh? We sadly don’t learn much about Askia’s homeland. I wish a little more detail and description would have been included, and that’s my biggest criticism of this book. 

The Frozen Crown is not perfect, but it was still an impressive debut that I immensely enjoyed way more than I expected to. I’m now eagerly waiting for the sequel and final book in this duology, which I believe is set to come out later next year (2021). 

“There was nothing I wouldn’t do—nothing I wouldn’t give, to convince the emperor to save my people.”

I don’t know why I loved this book so much but I did. The Frozen Crown is an adult fantasy but feels like the perfect mix between young adult and adult, so a good book for someone looking to transition into adult fantasy or for someone who likes fantasy on the lighter side. There is no gore, mild language, and mild romance. The prospect of a future romance has me curious to see how this will play out in the sequel because the ending definitely goes in a direction I didn’t expect! 

If you like epic fantasy with uniquely imagined worlds, gritty heroines, midnight magic lessons, and lots of political scheming and drama, you should check out The Frozen Crown. As a bookseller, I can’t wait to recommend this as much as possible when it comes out; in fact, I’ve already got a few coworkers excited to read it too! 

SPOILERS HERE: There were some things didn’t make sense to me that I wish we’d gotten answers for, such as why Iskander insisted Askia win the duel against Armaan, and why Askia suddenly had feelings for Armaan out of NOWHERE when she’d previously expressed feelings for Illya. She was adamant about not marrying Armaan, about getting an army without getting married first, and then one night she seduced him and was suddenly attracted to him and contemplating marrying him, like what??? That whole scene was uncomfortable and left me completely shocked at how out of place it felt in the story, and I did not understand the thought or reason behind it at all. That was definitely my least favorite part of the book, and I wish we got to see more of Askia’s thought process during that scene because I just couldn’t believe that she was displaying genuine feelings for Armaan. 

I received a copy of this ebook from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Review: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone


Rating: 3.5/5 stars

This Is How You Lose the Time War has jumped up to the top of my list recently as I’m trying to read more sci-fi stories and this novella is only 198 pages with super short chapters. I could have finished it in a single sitting if I wanted to had I not been busy with life responsibilities.

I honestly had no idea what was going on during the entire story, but I was compelled enough to keep turning the pages one after the other until the end. The writing was gorgeous and poetic. And oh my heart, that ending.

This story follows two individuals, Blue and Red, who are on opposite sides of a war across time. They leave letters for each other in different locations on different strands of time, not knowing if the other will ever find them or not. At first, they are enemies, and their letters tease and taunt. But eventually, you can see them becoming friends and looking forward to the consistency and comfort of each other’s letters in an ever-changing world. And eventually still, you can see them finding solace in the other and falling in love, despite them still technically being enemies. They become star-crossed lovers, so to speak, yearning for what they can never have.

The idea of enemies falling in love through letters exchanged across space and time really appealed to me. This book was confusing and weird but I also liked it. I still don’t even know if both Red and Blue are human though? I think yes but also maybe no? There is virtually no world-building or plot or details about the futuristic technology or the shadows that keep following them or really about anything. We don’t even know why they are fighting the war or what it’s about. And there’s only minimal character development to the point that I kept getting Red and Blue confused with each other. The book isn’t quite what I expected it to be, but I also still liked it.

Red and Blue communicate via steganography, or the practice of concealing secret messages within other messages or objects. That part was really cool, but I didn’t even realize what they were doing until over halfway into the book. A whole message would be concealed in a berry or in a bee sting; it was pretty wild and it took me a minute to wrap my head around it because I think it’s slightly beyond the bounds of current technology so my dumb brain just wasn’t getting it.

This Is How You Lose the Time War was a weird but clever novella that I couldn’t stop reading. I suspect it will take me a few rereadings to fully grasp the story and the world, but luckily this is a book I plan to return to in the future because it seems like the kind of book that will evoke new meaning with each reading. I’ve never heard of either of these authors before reading this novella, but now I’m interested in checking out some of their solo works. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020



Rating: 1.5/5 stars

All my friends are going to hate me for this review since I’ve had at least five different people asking me since the day this book came out when I was going to read it, but . . . umm . . . this book was pointless and utterly unnecessary.

I truly believe that Holly Black only wrote this short story collection because fans wanted more content than what she gave us in The Queen of Nothing since it was published way sooner than intended, but The King of Elfhame didn’t fill any of the plot holes she left us with or give us any relevant content, and it’s obvious this was published 100% for the money.

The book contains eleven chronological stories all told from Cardan’s perspective, but they were all stories about nothing. Literally nothing. Like this entire book is filler content about Cardan merely existing in the mortal world and talking to Aslog the troll and it’s all super unmemorable, and that’s the truth. The stories are all quite short and interspersed with pictures—I would say that over 60% of this book is actually pictures just to fill space so the publishers actually had something halfway substantial to sell. At least 44 (I counted) of the 173 pages are full-page illustrations, many of them repeats from page-to-page, and I’d estimate that at least 80% of the other pages have partial-page illustrations on them, with all the pages that contain text having larger-than-normal margins and spacing and font size. It is crystal clear that the book designer tried to fill as many pages as possible, when all eleven stories could have likely filled less than thirty pages if you removed the illustrations and abnormal layout choices.

The pictures are honestly the only part I enjoyed about this book though, so I’m glad they were included. The drawings are beautiful sketches of scenes from the stories, and Rovina Cai does a really good job even if the actual content of the stories was less than satisfying. I’d love to read a graphic novel of the Folk of the Air trilogy illustrated entirely by her, or even a no-text picture book by her because that would have been more enjoyable than this book.

Back to the book though. Not a single one of these stories served a purpose or added any new details or depth to the original trilogy. I don’t feel like I know Cardan any better now than I did before. I have learned nothing from reading this book. I would guess that only diehard fans are going to enjoy this collection, of which I am not one. I didn’t like it, and I’m super disappointed, and that’s that. Come at me.

Review: FEARLESS MAGIC by Megan Crewe

 Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Tensions are at an all-time high between mages and Dulls, or non-magical people, and between mages themselves. One faction is campaigning for the use of magic only when it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything, while the other side thinks magic should be used for war and destruction, and meanwhile, the Dulls want all mages out of their city, beneficial or not. Everyone is at odds in this concluding installment in the Conspiracy of Magic series.

I loved the first two books, Ruthless Magic and Wounded Magic, with the second book having some incredible character arcs and trope inversions that I rarely see in young adult literature to the point that it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Fearless Magic was a fantastic conclusion to this trilogy, continuing the story of our amazing protagonists, Finn and Rocío. I loved the further character development that Crewe gives us in this book. Her writing is so captivating and draws you right into the story.

This book takes a look at political activism and what it looks like and means to stand up for what’s right and fight for the truth and good in the world. There were some scenes that drew strong parallels to the events prevalent during the summer of 2020 with the riots around the world and the Black Lives Matter movement. In this book, it’s not white versus black but instead mage versus non-mage. There were protests and disagreements galore, and both parties were seeing each other as the enemy. I couldn’t help but look at parts of this book’s plot as representative of the real world, and it’s eye-opening to see social conflicts like this from a third-party view because you see that both sides have valid points and also that both sides feel hurt by the conflicts. I thought Crewe did a really good job at writing this aspect of the story. 

The characters and relationships between them in this book were so good. There is lots of tension between characters that propels the book forward. I also enjoyed seeing Finn and Rocío’s relationship progress even more in this book. Their relationship is prominent throughout the series, but the romance always remains secondary to the overall plot, which was really nice to see.

Fearless Magic was a wonderful conclusion to the Conspiracy of Magic trilogy. It’s full of political scheming, compelling storytelling, quality writing, and memorable characters who actually think through decisions before acting on them. I absolutely loved the ending, too. This book is filled with so much hope, and the ending nicely wraps up the trilogy but is still open enough for the reader to infer what happens next. 

I loved this whole trilogy, and I truly think it’s one of the best young adult fantasy series I’ve read. So many of the traditionally published stories all feel the same and it gets tiring and boring to read the same story over and over, but this series was not like that. Megan Crewe brings us a fresh perspective on magic, and she constantly was surprising me with the plot. Often I would think, “I know how this is going to go because this is how it always happens,” but then I would be wrong, and there’s nothing more satisfying than being pleasantly surprised during a book. The Conspiracy of Magic series is severely underrated, and I encourage anyone who enjoys fantasy to give it a shot. 

I received a copy of the ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Review: A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik


Rating: 2/5 stars

I have an interesting relationship with Naomi Novik’s books. This is the third novel I’ve read by her, and all three during this year no less. I did not like Uprooted and I thought Spinning Silver was okay but nothing special. While those two books were more like fairy tales, A Deadly Education seemed to have a totally different feel, so I expected to like it better. I didn’t, though. 

Even though this is an adult book, it feels very much like it’s for young adults because of the high school setting and the sixteen-year-old protagonist who acts as young as she is and because of all of the petty school drama that’s going on between Galadriel and the popular girls. The bulk of this novel is about the relationships between all the characters and the drama that ensues between them, which is not what I expected this story to be about. I really actually can’t tell you what the plot of the story is here because I kind of felt like it had no point?? 

I enjoyed the dark academia setting, and I want to read more books in the future with a similar atmosphere like this one, although I did expect this book to be way darker than it was, and I wish we got to see more of the worldbuilding. I guess with how short the book was, the worldbuilding was what got skimped on, but that was truly the best part. I liked learning about the school setting and the magic spells and the monsters and how the students trained and protected themselves. I did expect these aspects to be more prevalent in the story though, which I think was the biggest problem I had with this book: it severely did not meet my expectations. 

Almost the entire story is Galadriel telling us in narrative format about what’s going on and what the school is like and how it looks, and it all felt like very passive storytelling. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it didn’t draw me into the story as much as I hoped to be; I felt very distanced from the characters and the story. I still enjoyed watching the relationship transpire between Galadriel and Orion, but even that wasn’t enough to make me love this story. 

I wish we got more information about Galadriel’s past and about life outside of the Scholomance. I also wanted more of the story to be about the classes and what they were learning and how they were using the magic. There was a lot of information that I feel like we needed but didn’t get. Like who controls the school? Who cleans it and maintains it? Who catalogues and shelves books? Galadriel talks about rules but who enforces the rules when there are no teachers? There was so much information left out that only would have benefitted the novel. 

I liked parts of A Deadly Education but I also didn’t like parts of it. There’s something about Naomi’s writing that just doesn’t click with me though, but I can’t exactly say what. I have gone into all three of her books so far excited because they all have sounded amazing, yet each one was a disappointing letdown that did not deliver what it promised to deliver. 

My overall opinion is that I feel very underwhelmed with A Deadly Education. I thought it would finally be the book to win me over to Naomi Novik’s stories, but alas, it was not. I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue on with this series or not, but the last sentence single-handedly changed my mind: now I need the next book to know why that thing was said. I probably won’t like The Last Graduate very much either, but I’ll still give it a chance if I’m still interested when it comes out. However, I likely won’t be reading any future series of Novik’s because all of her books leave me wanting so much more—not in a good way—and A Deadly Education was no exception. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Review: THE ORIGINAL by Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal


Rating: 5/5 stars

This audio novella was super cool! I don’t even want to explain the premise because I went into it blind and I think it was better that way, but basically it’s told from the perspective of an AI of sorts who is kind of trying to solve a mystery about herself. That’s very vague and also not totally accurate but I’m sticking with it.

I’ll read anything from Brandon Sanderson, which is why I picked this up. This is a bit different from his usual epic fantasy though; this is a science fiction thriller, more along the lines of Snapshot and his Legion stories. It also reminded me a lot of Scythe in terms of the technology used in the world.

I loved the audiobook experience here. There are tons of sound effects throughout the entire story, like to make it sound like someone is talking on the phone, or buttons are being pressed on a recorder, or even techno music in a dance club. It was fully immersive and at times quite eerie. Absolutely the way I would recommend consuming this story (although I don’t actually know if there even is a printed version of this tale or if it’s audio-only).

I’m really into futuristic technology, and I loved what Sanderson and Kowal brought to the table here. The idea of Themes has me really intrigued and wishing they were real. They basically allow you to change how you see the world to suit your desires. That can get quite dangerous, and those implications are covered here, but I still think the concept is super neat. Plus nanites, of course, are always cool to see in sci-fi stories.

I was a little surprised to hear so much swearing in this novella. Brandon Sanderson is usually fairly clean in his language, so that makes me think that aspect must be from Mary Robinette Kowal. I wonder how they wrote the story, whether taking turns chapter by chapter or doing it all together, I don’t know. I’m interested in reading more from Kowal now though as this is my first book by her and I’d like to read some of her solo works.

I ended up loving The Original. I listened to it all in one sitting, which is also what I would recommend since it’s only a couple of hours long. This was a great experience. 

Monday, November 23, 2020



Rating: 5/5 stars

I LOVED this book! The Girl and the Galdurian was right up my alley.

One day, Bea meets Cad, the last-known Galdurian. They strike up an unlikely friendship and venture out together on a quest across the land to find Bea’s grandfather. But Bea has a magical item that evil beings are after, and they will stop at nothing to acquire it.

The artwork in this graphic novel is GORGEOUS. I loved every single panel. I loved the world of Irpa that Probert has created, and the detail in every scene was amazing. I also loved how the cat is so cute and funny and always doing his own thing in the background.

Bea is a wonderful protagonist. She’s realistic, which can sometimes border on pessimistic, but she has anxiety that can sometimes be debilitating, and I loved seeing how she worked through that at different times in the story. You can even see anxiety around her, drawn with black swirls around her body when she’s feeling that way. I also loved Cad because he was the opposite of Bea: always chipper and excited and looking on the bright side. They both were so great. 

I absolutely recommend this graphic novel. I need the next installment immediately; I can’t wait to read it and continue this beautiful story!

Review: THE SPACE BETWEEN WORLDS by Micaiah Johnson


Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I’ve been really excited to read this book since I first heard about it, plus I’ve been wanting to read more science fiction lately. Multiverse space travel where you can’t travel to a world where you’re still alive, plus that gorgeous cover? Sold.

At the beginning of the novel, I was really enjoying it. I liked the descriptions of the technology and the way she explains the different worlds—382 of them to be exact—that the traversers travel to. I liked our protagonist Cara and her backstory, and I liked the differences between Wiley City and Ashtown.

When part two began, however, I started to get confused. Confused about the relationship between Nik Nik and Cara (you’ll see when you read it), and confused about some of the technicalities of traversing. I felt like events were happening that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen within the boundaries of the world that were explained to me earlier, and I felt like Cara was saying stuff that should have gotten her in trouble but didn’t. I was confused why the direction of the story turned away from where it was going and where I thought it was going to focus on the relationship between Cara and Nik Nik that still confuses me now that the book is over.

I kept wanting more than what I got. Even twenty extra pages of description interspersed throughout the narrative would have been beneficial to this story. The book wasn’t long enough for me to feel attached to any of the characters besides Cara, and even she feels rather forgettable. There was a lot of backstory about her on the different worlds and her family and Dell and Nik Nik and his family backstory, but we really didn’t see more than a few sentences about any of that; we needed way more but didn’t get it. I’m still really confused about who’s related to who on which worlds.

I really feel like the story lost its direction. It had a strong start but eventually, it started going downhill and didn’t recover. New in-world terminology kept being brought up that was so infrequently used that I forgot what it meant but was never explained again, and there’s also a ton of other stuff that wasn’t explained well enough the first time that I still don’t know what it means. I felt very disconnected from the whole story, more and more the longer I read it.

This could have been a really neat book, but ultimately it just needed more work. This doesn’t feel like it’s ready for publication yet as I had a ton of issues throughout the entire narrative that could have been fixed with a little editing here or a little more added description there, etc. I’m disappointed with how it all turned out because I expected to love this book. I also think I wanted it to be more science-fictiony than it was and less focused on character relationships. And that ending was . . . lackluster? Yeah, unfortunately I was just glad to be done with it.

The Space Between Worlds has a cool concept, but it suffers from poor execution in my opinion. I feel like the synopsis partially lied so I expected something different than what I actually got, but I also feel like the story was just too underdeveloped. I constantly wanted more—more from the world-building, more from the character development, and more plot structure. There was a large portion in the middle where I felt like too many detours were taken and the entire focus of the book changed to be about the relationship between Cara and Nik Nik, or different events that were happening that I had no idea why they were included because I didn’t feel like they added anything to the story.

I also felt like I needed a map of the city and surrounding areas because I still can’t tell the difference between Ashtown and the Rurals and the deep wastes. All I know is there is Wiley City and there is Everything Else.

There was a lot to like here, but there was also a lot that could have been improved. I liked The Space Between Worlds enough that I plan to read future stories by Micaiah Johnson when she releases something new. I liked her writing style in this book, but I feel that with time and practice, she will become a much better author than what she has to offer here, as this very much feels like a debut novel. I want to give her a chance when she has had more time to hone her writing skills.



Rating: 5/5 stars

This is a cute book of poems about the reader’s life and what it’s like to have a book addition, presented in the form of comic strips with entertaining drawings to accompany the text.

I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf is so very relatable to fellow book lovers like myself. Grant Snider talks about what it’s like to be surrounded by the temptation to buy more books, what it’s like to want to read rather than be social, and what it’s like to own more books than you’ll ever have time to get to. He talks about the highs and lows of reading, the evolution of a reader, the ways to organize your bookshelf, the dilemma with deciding to DNF a book you’re not loving,

I love that the artwork is so very clever, and it accompanies the poems so well. Plus this book is just plain funny. There are tons of puns and plays on words and panels where the words use one definition while the pictures use another definition for a smart and thoughtful outcome.

My favorite comic was "Adventures of the Ampersand." So cute and funny.

I absolutely recommend this short book to any book lovers out there. You will appreciate this collection immensely and relate to it on every page. At least I did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Review: THE SECRET KEEPER by Kate Morton


Rating: 4.75/5 stars

This book was not what I expected, but it was still so amazing. The Secret Keeper is my third Kate Morton book, and it did not fail to surprise me. 

When Laurel was sixteen-years-old, she witnessed her mother stab a stranger to death in her own front yard. Laurel has been haunted by this event her entire life. Now her mother, Dorothy, is about to celebrate her ninetieth and likely final birthday, and Laurel realizes this is the last chance she will have to uncover the truth about that shocking day in 1961. 

This story simultaneously follows Laurel in present-day England (2011) and Dorothy in 1941 London during the war. We learn about Dorothy's life and her friends and lovers during that time, including about the lives two important people in her life, Jimmy and Vivien. The two timelines interweave as Laurel tries to solve the mystery while we learn about Dorothy's life leading up to that day as well. 

The Secret Keeper is a twisty and engaging tale that I could not put down. I love how Kate Morton slowly reveals answers while also posing more questions throughout the entire book. This novel felt more historical than the other two I've read so far (The Forgotten Garden and The Lake House) since it takes place during the middle of World War Two and the characters are constantly facing the consequences of war, such as bombs being dropped in their neighborhood, family members going off to war, friends dying during the Blitz, etc. The other novels were historical but had a very different feel than this one did. I will admit I enjoyed her other books slightly better because of this aspect, but I obviously still loved this one. And HOLY COW THAT TWIST AT THE END!! I thought we had all the answers and the entire mystery was solved and then she throws that at us? I was dead. So good. 

I absolutely recommend The Secret Keeper to any historical mystery fans out there. Morton is exceptionally skilled at creating realistic and compelling atmospheres that make you feel like you are there with the characters. She's descriptive without going overboard. I've loved everything I've read by her so far, and I will continue to read all of the books she releases until the day I die. 



Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I absolutely loved Allie Brosh’s first book, Hyperbole and a Half, and I actually enjoyed it more than this one. Like Hyperbole, Solutions and Other Problems is a compilation of humorously relatable comics about Allie’s life. She has changed a lot in the seven years since her first book though: her sister died, her parents got divorced, she got divorced, and she’s battled debilitating depression. That’s a lot of really hard stuff to deal with, and this book reflects that. While a lot of the comics were funny and lighthearted, she also included comics that were sadder and more serious, touching on these events that have happened in her life.

While I liked most of this book, there was still a handful of comics and stories here that felt like filler, and some didn't even make sense to me at all and I don't think they should have been included. I definitely laughed out loud more during the first book than I did with this one, but I still will read anything Allie releases in the future. 

Review: SEANCE TEA PARTY by Reimena Yee

Rating: 3/5 stars

Séance Tea Party is a tender and uplifting magical coming-of-age story with a heavy focus on friendship. 

I saw this book at the bookstore one day and knew immediately I had to read it; the title and cover completely sold me. This story is about Lora when she summons a ghost named Alexa during a séance tea party that she holds. Lora struggles to make friends with the mortals at her school because they just don't get her quirky personality, but Alexa is the perfect friend.

This graphic novel covers about one year in Lora's life in middle school, and it's all about her friendship with Alexa and some other unexpected friendships she makes along the way. There are also some great discussions about growing up and growing old. It's an adorable story and a perfect read for the fall season. 

"Growing up is . . . not knowing and being confused. No adult has any idea what they're doing all the time . . . and that's not a bad thing. You get to make your own choices and see those choices through. You'll lose yourself sometimes and then discover something new. You'll be remaking and developing who you are as you live and love. Do you see it, Lora? This is magic by another name--freedom."

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: THE BURNING GOD by R. F. Kuang


Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Burning God is definitely Kuang’s best work and the most well-crafted installment of the Poppy War trilogy. Fans will be excited for this conclusion full of unexpected events at every turn and a bittersweet ending that I still don’t fully understand. 

The Burning God is just as dark and violent as the previous two books. War is raging in Nikan, and the Nikara are up against not only the Dragon Republic but also the foreign Hesperians with their new technologies.

This book focuses on Rin and Nezha, allies-turned-enemies on opposite sides of a war that neither of them wants to fight.

This book takes a look at what it means for invading forces to completely take over your city and your country and put you under their rule without your consent. Rin is both awed and terrified by the Hesperians’ technology and doesn’t know whether to embrace it or shun it, but ultimately the Hesperians are the colonizers, and they obviously don’t take into consideration what’s best for the people they’re colonizing because they think their own way of life is the best and the Nikara are subhuman at best. It’s interesting to see colonization from the other point of view; so often in school what we learn was written by the victor—by the people and forces who took over—but this book shows us what it’s like for all the other people on the inside.

We see new types of shamans in this book, which I loved. I won’t explain anymore so as not to spoil, but I’m super glad they were introduced so we could see wider implications of this magic than just Rin’s abilities.

This isn’t my favorite fantasy series out there but I can’t deny how well it’s written and the impact of its harrowing story. None of the characters in this series are particularly likable and there isn’t a whole lot of hope, but I still enjoyed the journey nonetheless. The Poppy War trilogy is way darker than I normally prefer my books to be, and I want to emphasize the huge amount of trigger and content warnings in this series. It is full of horrific and descriptive scenes of war and all the brutalities that happen because of that. Basically if you can imagine a trigger warning, this series probably has it, so make sure you’re in a good headspace before you start reading it. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Why the future of physical books is important to me.

We live in a rapidly growing technological era. Almost everything has become digital these days, from touring a home to applying for jobs to watching movies, playing games, and even reading books. And especially now that the pandemic is raging outdoors, we have all been forced to stay inside and confront the expanding digital nature of the world we live in. It seems like nearly everyone agrees that digital means better, cheaper, more efficient, and in some ways it does. But what does this increased digitization mean for the future of physical books?

Sure, an ebook might cost a few dollars less than a hard copy, but potentially saving a little money might mean sacrificing the full experience integral to reading a printed book. Reading is about more than just the storyit's about feeling the gorgeous glossy cover of a special edition, holding the book close to your chest during a heartwarming scene, hearing the spine crack and knowing you're the first person to open an anticipated new release, and opening the book wide to inhale the musky scent of paper and ink. You can breathe in the scent of your e-reader, but it won't smell the same as the well-read pages of a beloved novel. 

Reading in an all-encompassing experience that is very dear to me; it has always been as much about the tangible book as it is about enjoying the actual story inside the covers. 

I love to look at all my books lined up on my bookshelves, reaching from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. I love to change up how I organize them, sometimes by genre, sometimes by author, and sometimes by color. I love to hand a book to a visiting friend and say, "You will adore this story! Take it and read it." Those are all special moments to me that I can't replicate with ebooks. Scrolling through my ebook collection is not nearly as fulfilling as wandering the isles of a bookstore or library, where the titles and colors on the spines beckon me to come closer and take a peek inside the pages.  

Now don't misunderstandI don't dislike ebooks. I think they're great for the price and for traveling, and I have read a few of them myself during situations when pulling out my paperback wasn't feasible. But I sincerely hope that ebooks never completely overtake physical books, as they could never fully replicate the experience of reading a physical book. 

It has become increasingly harder for brick-and-mortar bookstores to remain open. I know of many that have closed and others that are struggling as more and more people turn to the digital alternative or even toward buying printed books online. My fear is that if too many people decide the experience of reading isn't worth the price of a hardback, then the stores will close their doors forever and the printing presses will cool. We must preserve the legacy of a tactile reading experience by keeping bookstores open and printed books relevant. 

I have thought for a long time that physical books should come with a kind of code, maybe a QR code, that allows readers to download the ebook with the physical book purchase. Buying a hard copy pays for rights to read the author's story, the publishing and printing process, and the transporting and selling of the book. Ebooks do not have to be printed or shipped, which is why they are often much less expensive. But if a reader could get the hardcover and the ebook for the price of just the hardcover, that might be an incentive for more people to shop at bookstores or at least buy the physical books. 

As the trend toward the digital increases and the trend toward the printed declines, I often wonder if physical books will eventually go extinct. I have faith in my reader friends to keep supporting the printing of tangible books, but I can't say how the future will unfold. I'd like to think that we readers are too stubborn to ever allow the ink wells to run dry and the printing presses to stop moving, but we don't know what a few more decades will bring. Thirty or fifty or a hundred years is a long time. Even one year is a long time, as evidenced by our current era. 

Holding a physical book in my hands while I read, turning the pages one by one, looking at my bookmark between the pages to see how far along I am—these are all special experiences that make reading more than just consuming a narrative. Fellow readers, you understand. The printed book is important to you too. I have hope in a future where my children can grow up with a library of books they can reach out and touch instead of a tablet, by which they will undoubtedly get distracted by whatever the internet has to offer. Books have so much to offer us individually and collectively, and we need to preserve their printed treasures. 

Review: THE WAY OF KINGS by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Way of Kings has been both my most anticipated book and the most intimidating book that I own. For starters, Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author, so my expectations were sky-high. But this is the longest book I've ever read, it's a multiple-POV book with intense magic and expansive world-building, and it's the first in a ten-book series, of which only three books are released so far (although Rhythm of War does come out in just a few months). I am terrible at remembering what happens in books, so my biggest qualm with starting the Stormlight Archive was the concept of trying to remember what happens in each book while waiting for the next twenty years for all ten books to come out. But I finally decided to just do it; I couldn't wait any longer to start the magnum opus from my favorite author. 

The Way of Kings is over one thousand pages of an awesome action-packed magical adventure story. I lost count of all the perspectives this book is told from, but there are four main ones I want to focus on: 

Kaladin Stormblessed: Kaladin is the son of a surgeon and was on the path to becoming a surgeon himself, but he ended up as a soldier in the army, and later became a slave on a bridge crew. He really is the embodiment of hope in this series as he takes his dire circumstances and completely turns them around. In this book, we get flashback chapters from Kaladin and learn about his youth and how he ended up in Bridge Four. 

Dalinar Kholin: Dalinar is a Shardbearer and high prince of Alethkar. He has been fighting for his country for so long, but his desire to shed blood is fading as he begins to have visions of the distant past that give him a new purpose in the present. He is reading an ancient text called The Way of Kings that seems to be hiding secrets within its lines. 

Shallan Davar: Shallan is an artist and scholar-in-training, but her main focus is on saving her family from financial ruin. She attempts to become heretic Jasnah Kholin's new ward, but her plan is more sinister than simply learning all she can from the massive library in Kharbranth: she intends to steal Jasnah's Soulcaster, an ancient artifact with magical properties. Shallan was my favorite character by far. 

Szeth-son-son-Vallano: Szeth is an assassin who weeps as he kills. He doesn't want to be an assassin but he is being controlled by a greater force. We only see his POV in the interludes, but he is still a central character to the story. 

Each of these characters is in a different place in Roshar with different goals and motivations and does not know any of the other characters. This makes it kind of hard to tell you what the book is actually about since each character's storyline is vastly different. 

One gripe I did have with this book was that I wanted more POVs from ladies. I prefer reading about women in stories, especially epic fantasy where there is a lot of fighting and political intrigue. I don't actually like action scenes or reading about great battles, and there was a lot of that in this book. Nothing wrong with the book, but that just wasn't my style. 

Enjoyment-wise, The Way of Kings is closer to a 3.5 or 4 stars, but plotwise and character-wise it's absolutely 5 stars. Sanderson knows how to weave a clever and intricate plot full of reveals and surprises and easter eggs, and this book was no different. I read snippets of information about the cosmere, the overarching universe that this series and many of his other books take place in, and it has me so excited for when they start to cross-over later on in the series. 

I loved learning about the history of this world. We get little pieces of history here and there, but there is still the overarching mystery of what happened 4,500 years ago to cause the Radiants to forsake their Shardblades and abandon the people? This story is rich in history and myth, and I can't wait to learn more about it in future installments. 

The magic in this book is super cool! Brandon Sanderson always creates such unique magic systems. Everything here is based on storms and stormlight. There are Highstorms that sweep the land, which are basically super strong, destructive storms that have debris and walls of water that are very intense. During the Highstorms, the Stormlight in spheres is regenerated. The spheres are their monetary system, but they also provide light; different values and sizes of spheres give off different colors of light. The stormlight can be inhaled by certain individuals who can then infuse objects with stormlight to give them certain properties for a short time. We do not see very much of this magic in the first book, so I might have some of it wrong and it's probably way more expansive than what I've seen so far. 

The writing style in this book is fairly straightforward; it's not hard to understand what's going on. The hard part is just remembering all the details and reveals, some of which seem like passing information at the time but later turn out to be details crucial to the plot. This is definitely a series that will need many rereads to fully pick up on all the clues and details hidden throughout. 

I really enjoyed my time reading The Way of Kings, and I can't wait to continue on with the series. I'm not looking forward to waiting so long between books, but at least Brandon Sanderson is reliable at releasing books on a reasonable schedule. It's also lucky that I'm able to read these books with my husband, who basically has a photographic memory and is able to help me remember all the details I forget. I definitely recommend this book to any epic fantasy fans out there looking to be committed for the long haul on an unforgettable series. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Review: A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas


Rating: 4/5 stars

This book has been on my list for a while, but I picked it up right when I did for the book club with my coworkers. 

I didn't love Maas's writing style in the Throne of Glass series, which I still haven't finished reading yet, but I ended up enjoying her writing style a lot more in A Court of Thorns and Roses

I like Feyre as a protagonist. I never had an opinion about Lucien and Tamlin because I had heard so much before starting this series about Rhysand, who I knew was the main love interest, so I was just waiting for him to appear. Well it isn't until over halfway into the book that he shows up! And then we have a love triangle (square?), so I should have been paying better attention to the characterization of Tamlin and Lucien from the beginning. 

I did like Tamlin, but I heard that he becomes a horrible character in the next book?? I have no idea what's going to happen but I'm very curious because I think he's such a good guy. Especially compared to Rhysand, who's a jerk to Feyre. 

I've never been a huge fan of fey stories, and I don't really know why either. But I did enjoy this book more than I expected to, at least, and it wasn't as explicitly romantic as I had heard it was. I'm excited to read the next two books and see what happens. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Review: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank


Rating: 5/5 stars

I originally read this book in seventh grade, but I never actually finished it. I read more than half but I can’t remember exactly where I stopped or why. Probably just busy with school and didn’t get around to it.

Well, this year I decided to reread the book, and I found myself much more engaged than I expected to be! Anne Frank is a very interesting girl. I love her voice and her personality, and I found myself becoming very attached to her. I kept wishing as I was reading that I could have been her friend and got to know her. 

Anne was very wise and mature for a teenager, and I was continually surprised—in a good way—by some of the things she would say and observations she would make. She’s very smart and self-aware. She was also very forward-thinking for her time: “I believe that in the course of the next century, the notion that it’s a woman’s duty to have children will change and make way for the respect and admiration of all women, who bear their burdens without complaint.”

It is so sad that she died so young because I think she would have grown up to make a difference in the world. Anne wanted so much to be a writer and for her spirit to live on after she died, and that’s exactly what happened with her diary. I think it’s wonderful that her father was able to fulfill her dream and publish her diary. 

“I’ve made up my mind to lead a different life from other girls, and not to become an ordinary housewife later on. What I’m experiencing here is a good beginning to an interesting life.”

Even though this memoir is about a Jewish girl and her family in hiding during World War Two, it is not a sad book. Anne mostly writes about her feelings and about the quarrels and conversations between the eight people living in the annex. She writes about the food they eat and the activities they do to pass the time. And sometimes she writes about the philosophical musings of her mind. Rarely does she mention the war and what’s going on outside the annex, probably due in part to her not always knowing. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to live in such a confined space for two years, everyone getting on everyone’s nerves and no one being able to leave for fresh air.

I am glad Anne Frank kept a journal and that it was posthumously published so the world can learn more about her and about life during that awful time. I am eager to see the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam now that I know her story, and I hope I can visit it someday to learn more about her. 

I would definitely recommend reading Anne’s story if you have any interest in what Jews had to go through during Hitler’s tyranny during the 1940s. The Diary of a Young Girl was a very interesting and engaging account of her last two years of life. 

“A quiet conscience gives you strength.” 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Review: SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik


Rating: 2/5 stars

I really wanted to love this book. Like Uprooted, Spinning Silver has a gorgeous cover and the synopsis sounds amazing; I was sure it was going to be a new favorite. But it wasn’t. . . .

I listened to the Spinning Silver audiobook, and the first hour of the audiobook read like a summary of a whole novel: all telling, no showing, and it spanned months and months, a kind of build up to the actual story and a way to set the stage and introduce us to the characters and tell us about their lives and what they did. We learned about Miryem being the moneylender’s daughter and going around and demanding payment from the loan borrowers because her father was never able to get them to pay and how she turned the whole town around and basically became very wealthy. Except that this “summary” was what I thought the entirety of the book was going to be about, so once we moved on to “the present day” in the story, I was very confused about what the rest of story would actually be about.

Just like Uprooted, this book is an example of misplaced expectations. I thought this book was going to be about one thing and it turned out to be about something else with only a small presence of what I originally expected. I hate when publishers market a book incorrectly because it attracts the wrong kind of audience. Spinning Silver is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, but it’s also not. There’s so much more story going on than just her spinning silver into gold, and there’s so many other characters telling their own separate stories as well. 

One of the moneylenders refuses to pay so Miryem demands his daughter come work for her family. The daughter’s name is Wanda and this book is told partially through her perspective as well, and partially through the POVs of about six different people, but the problem is the same person narrates all of characters, and all six perspectives are told in first person, so there were some instances where I had no idea who we were reading about, or a situation was happening to one girl and then I later realized it had actually happened to someone else, and it was all very convoluted and confusing. The voice of the characters is too similar if I can read chapters without being able to tell a difference, and that’s a problem. And especially when I finished the book and had to go online to look up how many perspectives this book had and was surprised it was so many. I literally had no idea while I was reading that there were so many POVs and that’s a big issue. 

So then I went back and read the whole story again from the beginning. I desperately wanted to understand it and enjoy it, so I did what I never do and read it twice in one year. But honestly, that didn’t help me. I understood only a tiny bit better what was going on, but this book did not need six POVs. Some of them were minor characters, side characters whose eyes we did not need to see from. Instead of writing so many perspectives, Novik should have written only a couple and had them be in third-person. In my opinion, that would have combined a lot of POVs and made the narrative much easier to follow.

After reading and then rereading Spinning Silver, I was able to grasp a little bit better why I think I don’t jive with Naomi Novik’s books: it’s her writing style. I’ve mentioned in many reviews previously that an author’s writing style is the biggest factor in whether or not I’m going to enjoy a book. Not the characters, not the setting, not even the plot; it’s the writing style. And I’ve realized that I don’t like Novik’s writing style. So even though Spinning Silver’s (and Uprooted’s) plot sounded amazing and the characters were really cool and we had a beautiful setting with some cool magic, I didn’t like the book because I didn’t like how she wrote it. Now don’t get me wrong, she has some beautiful writing at times, and I can’t explain exactly all the reasons why, but I just don’t like how she describes details or writes characters. 

Spinning Silver also feels like it takes place in the same world as Uprooted. They are both very atmospheric and magical in a way that I feel like the stories are on opposite ends of the same world. The writing style and descriptions and even the characters all felt very similar to me (and even the covers match). I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but it’s something that really stood out to me, and maybe to the story’s detriment; maybe I can’t like one without liking the other to some extent also.

I’m so so sad I didn’t love this book. I wanted to, but it just didn’t work for me. I’m still going to give His Majesty’s Dragon and A Deadly Education a chance because those stories sound way different from Uprooted and Spinning Silver, so it’s possible they could be written differently and I will like them better, but those will be my last attempt at reading Naomi Novik’s stories. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Review: THE SWITCH by Beth O'Leary


Rating: 3/5 stars

I loved Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare, so I was excited to read her sophomore novel, The Switch.

After a panic attack during an important meeting, Leena is forced to take a two-month sabbatical from work to rest and regain her mental composure, but she struggles to let go of her responsibilities. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Eileen, is nearing her eightieth birthday and is looking for new love and some more excitement in her life, but struggling to find any age-appropriate bachelors or new things to do in her very small town. Leena goes to visit her grandmother one day, and they decide that what they need is to swap lives for those two months, letting Leena relax in the countryside and giving Eileen an adventure in London. What ensues is a heartwarming, funny story of second chances, friendships, the meaning of family, and unexpected romances.

Eileen is the coolest grandma ever. I love that we have a POV of an eighty-year-old woman, which is uncommon in literature. I feel like the younger generation subconsciously ostracizes the older generation because we don’t understand them, and they don’t understand us. But this book goes to show that there are a lot more similarities between generations than we realize, and that elderly people are still people—they’re not dead yet—and they are worth getting to know. I love how Leena creates such genuine bonds with all the elderly people in her grandma’s town. She even has a soft spot for cranky Arnold next door. I hope I can be like her someday.

It’s pretty easy to tell early on how the story’s going to end, like who Leena and Eileen are going to end up with, but it was fun to be on the journey with them regardless and see them struggle along the way.

It can be intimidating to step out of our comfort zones, but The Switch shows readers how much we can grow and learn from taking a leap of faith and doing something different and unexpected for once. I loved the morals and lessons this book taught.

This story is less romantic than The Flatshare, even though there’s romance in it. Like in her first novel, Beth O’Leary discusses some difficult topics in this novel too. We have grieving a death in the family, cheating, catfishing, anxiety and panic attacks, and getting out of an abusive relationship. And we also have a strong focus on friendships in the unlikeliest of places, the true meaning of family, and finding a lifelong love.

The Switch was super cute. I’d recommend it to any reader of contemporary literature. I don’t know if I’d say this is contemporary romance since the main plot for both characters was not romance but instead their goals to help their respective communities, but there is definitely a very tender romantic outcome for both of them as well. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Review: THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER by Andrea Stewart

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Bone Shard Daughter is a fun, new debut fantasy with a richly imagined setting and a unique magic system. On Imperial Island, one of many islands of the Empire, the Emperor’s rule is failing, yet he refuses to give up the throne to either of his children, still claiming absolute power. Outside the palace gates, however, a rebellion is spreading as citizens are dissatisfied with his tyrannical rule and his style of governing. In this book, we get to see snippets of this revolution from the eyes of a few different groups across the land who are planning to overthrow the Empire. 

We have five points of view here:
Lin, 23, the daughter of the Emperor, trying to earn her father’s respect and prove her worth to become the next heir to the Empire while also secretly practicing the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Jovis, a smuggler who escaped from the sinking of Deerhead Island. In between time spent looking for his lover who has been lost for seven years, he smuggles children away from the Emperor’s trepanning rituals. Jovis has an animal companion of sorts named Mephi who aids him on his journey.
Phalue, the daughter of Nephilanu Island’s governor and next in line to be governor. 
Ranami, a girl who grew up on the streets, is a member of the Shardless Few, and is Phalue’s lover.
Sand, a girl on Maila Isle, trying to uncover her lost memories. 

Even though we have five POVs, the story is mostly about Lin, as she is who the title is referring to, and Jovis. I never felt like I really got to know any of the other characters very well during the entire story. I feel like this book was just a snapshot into each of their lives but we didn’t go very deep with any of them, aside from Lin and Jovis. I do hope future installments will remedy this though, as this book set up for some interesting situations to occur later on involving each of the POV characters. 

I did struggle to differentiate between Ranami and Phalue as I felt like their voices were very similar despite them being from completely different backgrounds. Even though they have an established relationship in this book, The Bone Shard Daughter is not romantic at all. The relationship exists and that’s about the extent of the book’s romance. I like romance sub-plots in books, but I also really enjoyed the story here without it. To be honest, it has been a while since I read a fantasy that didn’t have a romance as a main part of the story and it was really refreshing. 

The magic system in this book was my favorite part of the story. Even though the Emperor is the only one allowed to practice bone shard magic, all the citizens know of it and see its effects every day. Every child has to undergo a trepanning ritual as a tax to the Emperor, in which a bone shard is removed from behind their right ear and stored for future use. The Emperor uses these shards to create constructs—beasts created from pieces of dead animals sewn together and reanimated with magic. Commands are etched into the bone shards and placed inside the constructs, who then roam the Empire gathering information for him as his guards and spies. When someone’s bone shard is in use, the person who it belongs to can feel the effects of it, and it can even cause someone to become shard-sick and eventually die. I found the explanations surrounding the magic and what can be done with it really fascinating.

The pacing in The Bone Shard Daughter was really well done in my opinion. Almost every chapter left me wanting more from that character, and I never felt like any scenes were boring. There were parts of the story and some characters’ POVs that I just wasn’t as interested in, but nothing that made me feel like any part of the book was dragging on too long. 

For the first three-fourths of the story, my feelings were rather indifferent.  I liked it—but it didn’t wow me. It held my attention the entire time but it didn’t go above and beyond. I expected to love it, especially since the concept of bone shard magic is really interesting to me, but it felt like there was hardly any magic present at times; the bone shards were mentioned in passing, but we didn’t see the magic in action too often, which was a little disappointing. Plus, I was a little confused about some aspects of the plot and historical background that I won’t mention for the sake of spoilers but that left me feeling somewhat distanced from the story. 

Then, however, my outlook completely changed about 80% of the way through the book. Up until that point, the story was fine, but it seemed just average to me. But then something happened with the plot that I thought I expected the outcome of but I was completely blindsided by the reality of it, and it made me so much more invested in the book. I flew through the end, whereas I had merely been meandering through the beginning and the middle. I was feeling rather nonchalant about the story almost the entire time I was reading it, but after that last quarter, I’m now a fan. For most of the book, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the sequels or not, but after that ending, I can now safely say that I am eagerly anticipating the next installment. 

I loved that this was a clean fantasy. I’m always on the hunt for fantasy books with unique magic systems, descriptive settings, engaging plotlines, and realistic characters, but without so much violence (I don’t like reading action scenes), and that’s exactly how this book was. There was no swearing or dirty talk here either, which I really appreciated. This is definitely a book I’d recommend to readers looking for a fantasy story more involved that what one would normally find in young adult titles but is wary of the grittiness and violence that is prevalent in many of the adult titles nowadays. This has all the intricacies that you’d expect from an adult fantasy, but it would still be good for younger or more sensitive readers. There’s still death and other sad scenes in this book, but it’s not overly gory or descriptive. 

One major complaint I had: this book desperately needs a map. I know that it’s very likely that the finished edition will have one, so I can’t fault the book for that since I read an early copy, but this is a story that relies on the reader knowing the placement of the islands in the Empire in relation to each other. I was constantly itching to reference a map that wasn’t there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it will look like once the book is published. 

The Bone Shard Daughter is hard for me to rate because most of it was three stars for me—I liked it but I wasn’t wowed—but parts of the middle were two stars, when I thought it was just okay but nothing special, and parts of the end were four and even five stars, when the reveals started happening and I started getting more invested in the characters and their journeys and really started enjoying the book. I’m going with three, maybe 3.5, stars since that is the average of my feelings, but don’t look at that as a bad rating. This is still a fantastic debut that I would definitely recommend.