Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Top 5 Disappointing Books of 2017

Photo by Luke Palmer on Unsplash
We're closing in on the end of the year, and this has been, overall, a really good reading year for me. I'll get to the best books I read in 2017 soon enough, but first... the duds. The ones that let me down. That dashed my raised expectations. These are the top 5 disappointing books of 2017.

A couple notes before I start. First, these are books I read in 2017 -- not necessarily ones that came out in 2017. Second, in order to make the list, the book needs to have actually, well, disappointed me. For instance, as much as I loathed The Cabin, I didn't go in expecting it to be "good" in the first place, so it didn't disappoint me. Ergo, it doesn't make the cut. Third, I'm ranking this best-to-worst. (Well, for a small measure of "best.")

5. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Everyone has those couple of books that everyone and their mother has hyped up, but when you actually got around to reading them, you couldn't help but think, "...That's it?" The Raven Boys was one of those for me. I'm glad so many people enjoy this book and its sequels, but for me, it was mostly a dull reading experience. As I mentioned in my review, I think part of it may be that Stiefvater's writing style is just not my cup of tea. It's not the worst book, or even a bad book, but I won't be continuing with the series anytime soon .

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Another book that was seriously hyped up by the bookish community. However, when I read it, I honestly didn't see what the big deal was. I didn't enjoy it much at all, and I found the plot to be slow and tedious, not to mention insanely confusing. I also hated the love interest, but that's a rant I covered in my review. If you liked it, I'm glad, but for me? Nah.

3. The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores by Danielle Vega

This one made the list mainly because I absolutely adored its predecessor, so a merely "meh" followup was a serious letdown. On its own, The Merciless II is a decent enough horror story, but when comparing it to the first book, it just can't measure up. Luckily, the third installment in the series picked up the slack. Here's hoping The Merciless IV can keep up!

2. Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl

The problem with satire is that it is very, very easy to fuck up. Going too over the top, or not over the top enough, can make the whole thing seem lame and forced, or just totally fall flat. This book was meant to satirize reality TV and the whole Kardashian "thing," but it just didn't work. The characters lacked depth and were impossible to care about, and it felt like the author didn't really commit. When you're providing social commentary on something as ridiculous as reality TV stars, you have to go big or go home. Adding in the fact that the book just wasn't very funny, and you've got a real dud.

1. RoseBlood by A.G. Howard


I'm sure most of you know by now that I'm a huge Phantom of the Opera nerd. So when I heard this was a modern redux of the classic story, I snatched it right up. I was expecting a fun, dark, exciting story, maybe with some romance mixed in. What I got instead was a half-baked, kind of racist mess that clearly lacked understanding of what makes Phantom work. I gave up less than halfway through. Look, there's no Phantom of the Opera that's objectively great art, but even most of the shitty ones have something to enjoy. But not this book. I can withstand a lot of crap for Phantom, but not this much.

It's not as bad as the 1998 movie, though.

Nothing will ever be as bad as the 1998 movie.


Thank you so much for reading this list. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute!

What books were you disappointed by in 2017? Let me know down in the comments!

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Top 10 Most Anticipated 2018 Releases

We have less than two weeks left in 2017! I know for a lot of us, the initial response to that is, "Thank GOD." As fucked as this year has been politically, it's been a pretty good year for me, personally. (A few hiccups notwithstanding.) One of the highlights has been this blog. I am impressed with myself for keeping it going for a whole year, and I don't think I'll lose my momentum any time soon.

One way blogging has changed the way I read is that it's made me much more aware of new releases. I used to just read stuff whenever, but the online book community is very conscious of reading things right when they come out -- and I'm no different. For the first time ever, I'm actively keeping track of what's coming out soon. (And what I need to preorder.)

So, without further ado, here are ten books that are coming out in 2018 that I am greatly looking forward to! This isn't in any particular order -- I just ranked them in the order that I wanted to talk about them.

The Merciless IV: Last Rites by Danielle Vega

One of the main series I've talked about on this blog is The Merciless, a Southern gothic horror story with demons, religious fanaticism, and teenage girls being bitchy. This is the fourth (and apparently final) installment in the series, and as far as I'm concerned, it can't come out quick enough.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

This one doesn't even have official cover art for it, but I'm hyped. The sequel to Vicious, I just about died when I found out I'd have to wait an entire year to read it. Vicious left me with one of the worst book hangovers of my life, and I'm desperate to go on another adventure with these characters.

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Another sequel that doesn't have a cover yet! You saw me rave about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue a few months ago, and I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Mackenzi Lee HERE. The Lady's Guide is a companion/sequel focusing on Felicity, who was by far my favorite character in the first book. I can't wait to see where her story goes!

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Uh, hello? It's a magical retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear. Of course I'm going to jump on this.

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth

Another Shakespeare retelling! This time, one of the comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, set at a modern-day summer camp. And, as a bonus, it's gay.

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

A queer, contemporary love story, between two young women who have hit rock bottom. This is one of those books that grabbed my attention from the title alone. I've never read anything from this author before, but the reviews all look very promising.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

A new fantasy, centered around Alice, whose grandmother is a famously reclusive author. Following her grandmother's death, Alice's mother is taken away -- by someone who claims to be from the fantasy world in which Alice's grandmother's books were set. This book sounds creepy, dark, and fantastical. So, it's right up my alley.

The Accidental Bad Girl by Maxine Kaplan

Following a poor decision at the end of her junior year, Kendall's senior year gets off to an even worse start when she's framed for stealing from a drug dealer. Forced to publicly play the role of "bad girl" to save her own neck, Kendall gets drawn deeper and deeper into a drug ring that's been hiding in her school, all in an effort to reclaim her reputation. I love (well-written) teenage thrillers, and all the early reviews of this one have been extremely favorable. I can't wait to see if it lives up to the hype.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

Following an emotional crisis and being expelled from her high school, Jane needs a change. Moving into the local college for a high school completion program, Jane winds up on a local reality show that slowly grows from a tiny webseries to a TV show with an actual fanbase. The premise of this book sounds like it could be hilarious, and it's such an odd setup that I'm extremely curious to see how the author pulls it off.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Last on my list is the first in a new YA fantasy series, focusing on a girl named Jude. Ten years ago, Jude's parents were murdered, and she and her sisters were spirited away to live in the High Court of Faerie. Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, but many fey hate humans. In order to keep herself and her sisters safe, Jude must entangle herself in dangerous alliances as the threat of war looms on the horizon. I love stories with fairies (or fey, or whatever you want to call them), so this immediately jumped out at me. I can't wait to get my hands on it. And I won't have to wait long -- it comes out January 2!


Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute!

What books are you looking forward to in 2018? Tell me about them in the comments below! I had a really hard time narrowing it down to just ten for this post, so I'd love to hear what made your list.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

TITLE: Turtles All the Way Down

AUTHOR: John Green

GENRE: contemporary / mystery

PLOT SUMMARY: Billionaire Russell Pickett is missing, and there's a $100,000 reward to anyone that can provide information that will lead to his being found. Aza isn't interested in doing detective work, but her best friend Daisy, has other ideas. Especially when she finds out that Davis, Russell's son, is a childhood friend of Aza's. However, Aza's mental health issues, and her own fear of the world around her, may get in the way -- not just of the investigation, but of life in general.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I've always been a fan of John Green's. Paper Towns is one of my favorite books of all time, and I, like everyone, cried my eyes out the first time I read The Fault in Our Stars. So when I heard he was coming out with a new book, I ordered it right away, without having a clue what it was about. This is also the first John Green book I've gone into completely blind; I managed to avoid all spoilers before I began. (For me, a TV Tropes fanatic with poor impulse control, that's incredibly impressive.) This wasn't my favorite of Green's books, but it was a great reading experience, and I think anyone who's a fan of his will enjoy it.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: By far my biggest complaint about this book is related to the plot. Not that it's bad, or anything -- it's not. It's just that the summary on the inside jacket cover presented the story as a mystery. While the mystery of Russell Pickett's whereabouts does get the story started, it ultimately doesn't play as big of a role as I expected, or would've liked. It gets things moving, but then it sort of disappears from the narrative until you're almost at the very end. The book's what I'd consider a character study; it's not so much about what happens to Aza as it is about Aza herself, and her internal struggle. If you like that sort of thing (which I do, if it's well-written, which this was), you'll probably like this book.

5 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Most John Green books feature a strong ensemble, so I was a little disappointed when the only two characters that were really complex and compelling were Aza and Daisy. That said, both Aza and Daisy are extremely strong characters, and they easily carry the novel. I loved how fleshed-out their dynamic was, and how they both were very layered and nuanced people. As I said, this book is a character study; you gotta have three-dimensional characters in order to make that work. John Green's always been great at having compelling main characters, even when they're not at their most likable. (Aza is likable, but I defy you to find me a teenager who isn't five seconds away from being slapped sometimes.) My only real gripe with the characters is that, since all the depth went to our heroine and her best friend, the love interest, Davis, felt flat and uninteresting by comparison. Out of all of John Green's love interests, Davis is by far the blandest. It's not that I didn't like him; I just didn't know him well enough to care much about him one way or the other, and I didn't really see why Aza was so fixated on him.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This is definitely the John Green I remember! One common complaint about Green's books is that all his teenage characters sound too mature, eloquent, and grown-up. While I do agree that it does sometimes stretch the willing suspension of disbelief, it's never been enough of an issue for me to mind. Personally, I like that about his books -- I like the well-spoken, intellectual characters, and their philosophical ramblings. But I do get why it's not for everyone. This is a very well-written novel, especially in the segments where Aza's internal monologue turns into a "spiral;" when her illness briefly takes over and controls her thoughts, causing her to go down a bit of slippery slope. Those segments were heartbreaking, but also some of the strongest writing in the book.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: First, I'll get the smaller stuff out of the way. This book features several POC characters, including one of the leads, and it also touches on class and financial issues in a really unexpectedly realistic way. However, a lot of the buzz surrounding this book is due to the fact that it has a main character with OCD -- written by an author who has been very open about his own experiences with OCD. As a result, this is not the simplified, one-dimensional portrayal of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that you may know from TV. It's brutally realistic, and shows the ups and downs of Aza's illness in vivid detail. It doesn't define Aza as a person, but it does have a huge effect on her day-to-day living. I have no experience with OCD myself, but I know that a lot of people who do have said that this book's portrayal of the disorder really spoke to them and their experiences. I'm glad to hear that; mental illness is so often portrayed incorrectly or outright insultingly in fiction, so it's nice to find an exception to the rule.

8 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: I was so glad to read a John Green book again. I associate reading his work very strongly with being high school, so it was a nice little trip down memory lane. (Even though I wasn't in high school all that long ago.) If I were to rank Green's five solo works so far, this would be dead in the center. (For the record, my ranking, favorite to least favorite, is Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down, An Abundance of Katherines, and Looking for Alaska.) I heard some rumors that John Green wasn't planning to write another book after TFIOS, so it was a real relief to find that that wasn't the case -- and that his return to the page was as good as this was.



Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute!

If you've read Turtles All the Way Down, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

The next book I'll be reading is The Hate U Give, but after that, I'm putting it up to a vote for my Patrons! Patrons, vote HERE! Remember, you only need to chip in $1 a month to get access to polls like this one.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

OwlCrate, December 2017

OwlCrate is a monthy subscription box where you get sent a new YA book and all sorts of cool merch and goodies, all pertaining to a certain theme.

This month's theme was SEIZE THE DAY! Here's all the stuff I got in my box this month. If you want to sign up for OwlCrate, their website is here.

This month's box included...

  • Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills. Claudia didn't mean to overhear a messy breakup between Iris, one of the meanest girls in school, and her girlfriend. Now that she's on Iris's bad side, she's especially unhappy that the two have been forced to write a paper together -- and audition for the school play together.
  • A Christmas ornament inspired by Everything, Everything.
  • A candle inspired by The Names They Gave Us.
  • A tote bag inspired by Harry Potter, with the quote, "Don't let the Muggles get you down."
  • A planner designed by OwlCrate, specifically for readers!
  • A double-sided bookmark with quotes from The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Serpent King.
  • A magnet with a quote from the Percy Jackson series.
There's also a preview for next month's theme: FEARSOME FAIRY TALES. Can't wait!


Thank you so much for reading this unboxing post. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute!

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Friday, December 1, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

TITLE: An Enchantment of Ravens

AUTHOR: Margaret Rogerson

GENRE: fantasy, romance

PLOT SUMMARY: Isobel is a painter, which makes her highly coveted by the fair folk. The fair folk can't create Craft, be it paintings, writing, or even food, without crumbling into dust, so artists such as Isobel are highly prized. After taking on her first royal patron, Rook, prince of the autumn court, however, Isobel gets herself into a bigger mess than she can imagine. When Isobel paints genuine emotion in Rook's portrait -- a weakness that could cost him his throne -- he spirits her away to the world of the fair folk so she can stand trial. However, there are forces at play much greater than Isobel or Rook anticipated, and the two are forced to work together for their own survival.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I bought this book for two reasons. One: Regan of PeruseProject spoke highly of it. (Hi, Regan, if you're reading this! Big fan!) Two: The cover is simply beautiful. Buying books based on the cover art or based on another review has backfired on me before, so I really wasn't sure how it'd work out for me this time. However, I'm happy to report that it turned out great! I've always loved stories focusing on fairies, and I especially enjoyed this book's unique lore and worldbuilding. It did take me longer than usual to get through this book (thank you, finals season), but I enjoyed every page.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: I don't normally enjoy books that are primarily romance-based, but this proved to be an exception. I was especially surprised by how much I enjoyed the book's Forbidden Love™ aspect, since in most YA books, it comes off as lame and forced. But it didn't in this case; Rook and Isobel being together will cause actual problems, far greater than pissing a few people off. The stakes are high, and that's what makes the book work. "Star-crossed lovers" stories are only compelling if there are real reasons why they can't be together. I also really enjoyed the story's focus on the politics on the fairy world, and the road trip Rook and Isobel take through the enchanted forest. I wasn't expecting the plot to go the direction it ended up in, but I really liked it.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Isobel is a mixed bag as a protagonist. There's a lot to like about her -- she's smart, self-assured, and noble. However, she's also very lowkey, which isn't bad in itself, but it means that she does get overshadowed by the other characters. I really liked Rook -- when I read the book's synopsis, I expected him to be the aloof asshole love interest that YA uses so often, but he wasn't like that at all. Haughty, sure, but in a clueless, ridiculous way, rather than an annoying emo way. I just really liked how genuinely nice he is, a couple stress-induced outbursts aside. The side characters in this book were also lovely, especially Gadlfy, one of Isobel's eclectic patrons, and Aster, who's surprisingly complex and sympathetic for her limited pagetime.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: By far this book's strongest aspect is its prose. The writing and narration are simply beautiful. It reminded me a bit of Laini Taylor's works, especially with the descriptions of the world and Isobel's paintings. I also really enjoyed the worldbuilding and the way the "rules" of this universe were established. It never felt infodumpy, but you were always given enough background to know what was happening, which isn't always easy, especially since our protagonist grew up in this world, and isn't learning as she goes. I've never read anything by Rogerson before, but I'm definitely interested in checking out anything else she's put out, especially any other fantasy.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Like many books, this is an example of a story that isn't politically offensive... but it's also not progressive. There are no POC or queer characters in the story, which is disappointingly common in YA fantasy. (Seriously, though -- what is it about fantasy that makes people completely skimp on the diversity department? You can have dragons and fairies and witches, but not gay or black people?) It's not bad, politically speaking, but it's not good. Books like Six of Crows, The Hearts We Sold, and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue have really raised the bar when it comes to diversity in YA fiction and fantasy, and I hope that more books will meet it in the future.

4 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a delightful little book. While I can't make any promises at the moment, it's definitely a contender for my upcoming "best of 2017" list. Is it perfect? No, but no book is. I still enjoyed every page, and I think you will, too. I believe it's going to be a standalone, but honestly, I would welcome more stories set in this world. If you like fantasy, road trip stories, or forbidden romances, I'd recommend you check it out.

FINAL GRADE: 6.5 / 10


Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute!

If you've read An Enchantment of Ravens, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

2k17 TBR: Homestretch Edition

As of this writing, there are only 37 days left in 2017, and what an odd, chaotic, and exhausting year it has been. On all fronts -- personally, socially, educationally, professionally, and especially politically. But it hasn't all been bad. In 2017, I've written a book (which I'm currently trying to find an agent for, hint hint), gotten a real job, taken some classes, done some theater, and read the most books since I was in middle school.

Yes, ever since I entered high school and especially college, I've had a hard time finding the time and energy to sit down and read. (And, let's face it, the internet probably hasn't helped.) But ever since starting this blog, I've been motivated to read a lot more. So, in hopes of carrying this momentum with me into the new year, I've made a list of books I hope to read by the start of 2018!

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

The book I'm currently reading! This is a book I bought 95% because of the cover, but so far, it's worked out pretty well for me. This is a fantasy story, where fae cannot create art without crumbling into dust, so human artists such as our main characters are highly prized members of society. Things of course go awry for our hero, and she and a fae prince have to go on a road trip, and try super hard not to fall in love. (Which, of course, they do, because come on.) The writing in this book is beautiful, and I'm really enjoying it so far. I can't wait to finish it!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

The latest John Green book, after a five-year drought! I'm going to be honest; I don't have a damn clue what this book is about. But I love John Green, and I'm so thrilled to get another book from him that I just ordered it straight away. No spoilers!

Warcross by Marie Lu

This is the first in a new YA sci-fi series about a girl who makes her living hunting down people who illegally bet on the world's most popular virtual reality game, Warcross. When she accidentally glitches herself into the game, she's shocked when the game's creator offers her a job. I've heard really great things about this book, and it's been awhile since I've gotten into a new YA series, so I'm eager to give it a go.

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

This is the book that came in last month's OwlCrate. It is a brand-new YA fantasy about a princess who's been raised to act as a spy for her father. When she finds out she has the ability to turn people into gemstone with a single touch, chaos ensues, and she gets pulled into a web of political and family drama. I really don't know what to expect from this one, so I'm just gonna dive in and see where it takes me.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Another book I got from OwlCrate! In this magical realism story, all the women in a certain family can grow the most beautiful, luxurious plants in the world. However, if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish without a trace. I've heard good things about this book, and I know it features a diverse cast, with several POC and queer characters. And I do love a good magical realism tale, so I can't wait to see how it goes.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is a book I've had since the week it came out, but I still haven't gotten to it yet. Inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it follows Starr, a teenage girl who is the only witness to her childhood friend getting shot and killed by a police officer. When her friend's death becomes a national headline, Starr must choose between staying silent and safe, and speaking up for what is right. Everyone who's read this book seems to love it, and I know it's getting a move adaptation very soon, so I hope to read it soon.


Thank you so much for reading this TBR list. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute!

After I finish An Enchantment of Ravens, I will definitely be reading Turtles All the Way Down. But after that, what book should I get to first? Tell me what you think in the comments below!

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Monday, November 20, 2017

OwlCrate, November 2017

OwlCrate is a monthy subscription box where you get sent a new YA book and all sorts of cool merch and goodies, all pertaining to a certain theme.

This month's theme was CASTLES, COURTS, AND KINGDOMS! Here's all the stuff I got in my box this month. If you want to sign up for OwlCrate, their website is here.

This month's box included...

  • The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano. Wil is the only daughter of an ambitious king, raised to be a spy for him. When she discovers that her touch can turn people into gemstone, Wil's experiments with her new ability lead to tragedy striking, and Wil going on the hunt for a cure. 
  • Temporary tattoos inspired by the book.
  • Soap inspired by Lord of the Rings.
  • Lip balm inspired by Game of Thrones, flavored with blackberry and mint.
  • A knit cap inspired by Harry Potter. I won't get much use of it in Florida, but it'll be great when I visit my dad up in Ohio!
  • A notebook with a quote from A Court of Mist and Fury on it.
  • A brooch inspired by Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse.
There's also a preview for next month's theme: SEIZE THE DAY. Can't wait!


Thank you so much for reading this unboxing post. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute!

Become a Patron!

Friday, November 17, 2017


Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults, and her short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Atlas Obscura, Crixeo, The Friend, and The Newport Review, among others.  Her debut novel, This Monstrous Thing, won the PEN-New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Her second book, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, a queer spin on the classic adventure novel, was a New York Times bestseller (what is life?), and ABA bestseller, earned five starred reviews, a #1 Indie Next Pick, and won the New England Book Award. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently calls Boston home, where she works as an independent bookstore manager.


Did you always want to be a writer? What made you decide to pursue it as a career?

No! I wanted to be an academic historian when I first started college. What made me change tracts was when one of my professors told me my papers read like novels.

What inspired you to write The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue?

I love the idea of the Grand Tour, and particularly the idea of writing a tropey historical adventure novel—my favorite kind of story—set on a grand tour. However, as someone who is constantly frustrated with the lack of diversity in historical narratives, I wanted to populate my historical adventure novels with the sort of characters that don’t usually get to take center stage in them, let alone get happy endings.

Was it difficult to balance historical accuracy with the story you wanted to tell?

Yes, probably the most difficult part of the process. I wanted the book to be readable and relatable for modern readers—particularly those who often feel like historical fiction is dry and depressing—but I also wanted to depict the time period as accurately as possible. It’s always a give and take, and constantly my biggest struggle.  

Did the book start life with fantasy elements, or did that come along later in the writing process?

They definitely developed with the story, but I always wanted to have fantasy elements because those are my favorite kind of stories—the historical adventure novel with a light magical touch.

Who’s your favorite character in Gentleman’s Guide and why?

Monty, because his voice is so much fun to write (and his arc was so much fun and such a great challenge—I loved writing someone self-possessed and overly dramatic slowly becoming more self-aware), but also because he and I are a lot alike—especially in our humor. I’m still shocked anyone but me finds this book funny.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is coming out in 2018. What made you decide to write a companion to Gentleman’s Guide? Did you always intend to?

I never intended to! It was first proposed to me by my publisher, and I initially turned up my nose because I thought nobody would be interested in a book about Felicity. Turned out—thank goodness—I was very wrong about that. These characters are so much fun and their voices are so fun to write, once the idea was in my head, it was hard to think about anything else. I was just worried about not having a readership! So I’m relieved and thrilled that readers are invested in the characters and excited for more.

What was it like when you got published?

Overwhelming. And it gets more so every day! But in a really great way. It adds a whole new level of stress and pressure and voices to the work and the creative process, but the fact that people are reading the things I write will never not be the most amazing thing in the world. It constantly blows my mind.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process? And your least favorite?

My least favorite part is whatever I’m currently doing, and my favorite part is whatever I’m not doing—everything seems easier when you’re looking back on it rather than in the thick of it.

Do you outline? Why or why not?

Not really? Though every book is different. I always have a general idea of the plot of a book, but I tend to draft in a way that is best comparable to driving at night—I only really know what happens as far as I can see in the beam of my headlights, but I have to keep driving to see more.

If you could have dinner with any three authors in history, who would you choose and why?

An aggressively impossible question. If held at gunpoint and forced to choose, I’d have to say Mary Shelley, Terry Pratchett, and….ack I can’t choose!  This is too hard!

What's your advice for new authors?

Develop a habit of finishing the things you start and following through on projects—the biggest obstacle for most new writers and aspiring novelists is finishing their work. Don’t let yourself get distracted by the shiny new idea! Push through the slogging middle and finish the damn book! 


You can visit Mackenzi's website HERE, and you can buy her books HERE. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Thank you so much to Mackenzi for agreeing to this interview! As a big fan of Gentleman's Guide, I was thrilled for the opportunity. 

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Problematic Faves

Top 5 Wednesday is a Goodreads group that posts a weekly "top 5" list for book reviewers to tackle! If you'd like to join in, the group is HERE.

This week's topic was problematic faves.

Characters you don't want to love, but you can't help liking. 

You all probably know by now that I am a huge sucker for characters that are likable, but awful, awful people. Honestly, the hardest part of this list was narrowing it down to just five, so I have some honorable mentions down at the bottom.

5. Skulduggery Pleasant - Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

He's rude, he's sarcastic, he's a walking skeleton. Skul isn't a bad person, per se, and he's usually trying to do the right thing, but he does a lot of questionable shit, and you sometimes wonder if his (metaphorical) heart is really in it. Despite his many, many flaws, Skulduggery is a really likable hero, and a great foil to the series' other protagonist, Valkyrie.

4. Ignifex - Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Fanart done by Vivi, taken from here. Used with permission from the artist.
As I mentioned in my review for this book, Ignifex is one of those YA boyfriends where, if I had to meet him in real life, I'd punch him in the face. And probably pepper spray him for good measure. But Cruel Beauty is pure, indulgent, escapist fantasy, and in that context, I can't help but love him. The fact that the book's protagonist, Nyx, can hold her own against him, definitely helps -- it doesn't feel like she's being victimized. (Even if Ignifex is still a tool.)

3. Victor Vale - Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Victor Vale could be the poser boy for "why trust fund babies shouldn't have superpowers." Despite being manipulative, self-centered, ruthless, and vindictive, Victor is easily my favorite character in the book, and you honestly want him to succeed. It helps that, when compared to the book's real villains, he's downright take-home-to-Mama material.

2. Amy Dunne - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Fun side effect of your book's protagonist being an asshole: you find yourself siding with the villain. At the end of the day, neither Nick or Amy are good, admirable people you should be rooting for, but with her intelligence and charisma, Amy's easily one of my favorite literary villains. (And Rosamund Pike plays her perfectly in the movie.)

1. Erik - The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Yeah, yeah, most of my Phantom knowledge and fangirling is from the musical. But it was a book first, and he's problematic as hell in both, so screw you, I'm counting it. Erik is a manipulative, jealous, petty, childish stalker... and one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. He's not a good person, but he's a compelling character. In fact, that's true of all the characters on this list

Honorable Mentions: J.D. from Heathers (if this were a movie or theatre list, he would be #1 with a bullet), Crowley from Good Omens (I left him off mainly because he fails even at being problematic), The Squip from Be More Chill (again, he's from theatre -- yes, the show was a book first, but in the book, he's not even a villain), Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby (MY MISGUIDED IDIOT BOOTLEGGER FAVE), L and Light from Death Note (L is a dickwad, Light did everything wrong, and yet I love them both), Mettaton from Undertale (he's such a prick and I love it), Erin from Kill the Boy Band (my murderous queen), Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows (kind of a given), and the Daemon from The Hearts We Sold (didn't make the cut due to being MARGINALLY less of an ass than Ignifex).


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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

TITLE: Not Your Sidekick


GENRE: sci-fi / superhero

PLOT SUMMARY: Jessica Tran is the daughter of C-list superheroes, but she doesn't have C-list powers. To be precise, she doesn't have powers at all. She's disappointed, but is trying to get used to the fact that she'll never be a hero like her parents and sister, and instead focuses on beefing up her college apps. Jess is elated when she stumbles across the perfect internship, but is shocked when she finds out it's a front for the dealings of two of the cities' supervillains... her parents' archenemies. Still, though, Jess sees an opportunity. Specifically, she looks at the situation and can't help but think, "Oh, this will be hilarious." As a nice bonus, she even gets to spend some time with her secret crush, Abby. But, as one may expect, things get real in short order, and Jess finds herself and Abby in quite a bind... and the superheroes can't save them now.

FIRST THOUGHTS: This book has been on my TBR list forever, so I'm glad to have finally gotten to it! I've heard lots of great things about it, but the main draw was the promise of a queer superhero story. Who doesn't want to read that? While I found the beginning to be a bit bumpy, I really, really enjoyed this book, and I think a lot of my friends would, too. I hope this book paves the way for more diverse YA fiction -- especially involving superheroes, because, screw it, I love superheroes. They're the best.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: As I mentioned above, this book has a bumpy start. While it introduces interesting concepts and plot points right from the first chapter, it takes awhile to really get into the thick of things. Until then, it's mostly character-building -- not that character-building is bad, but sometimes it can get draggy or tedious. However, when the plot picked up, it picked up. I read about 80% of the book in a single sitting. The worldbuilding is especially well-done, and the ending of the book leaves many directions the story could go. While I admit I wish it had wrapped up a little neater, it makes sense, since this is the first entry in a series -- of course things are gonna be a little open-ended. I also really enjoyed the romance in this book, which I felt was realistically and adorably written. (See? I don't oppose all YA romance. I just oppose bad YA romance.)

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: I love Jess. She's simply wonderful; she's funny, smart, capable, awkward, endearing, and good to her core. She also displayed a remarkable amount of character development for a relatively short book, and really grows as a person. Despite her unusual setting, she felt very much like a real teenage girl, especially in scenes she shares with Abby, the girl she has a crush on. Speaking of which, the romance between Abby and Jess was simply adorable. I was grinning from ear-to-ear when I was reading some of their scenes, and it was the rare romantic subplot that actually deepens the characters. The side characters were great, too, especially M, Abby and Jess' boss at their internship, Jess' superhero parents, and her friends Bells and Emma. Jess and Abby definitely steal the show, but the supporting cast is very well-rounded, and serve as great foils and comparisons to our two leading ladies.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This was a book that was hard for me to get into at first. The chapters all felt a little too long, and it felt like some sections were just going on and on and on. There were also multiple grammar errors that slipped past the editor that were somewhat distracting. Still, the plot and characters were engaging enough for me to continue on, and I'm glad I did -- halfway through the book, the plot really began to pick up, and the climax was very well-done. I just wish the level of quality had been consistent, especially since some people may not stick it out. I wouldn't want anyone to give up on a good book because of a less-than-stellar beginning, but it happens. (Hell, I've done it.)

5 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: YESSSSSSSS. What sparked my interest in this book was that the lead character is a bisexual girl of color, and when I actually began reading, I was delighted to find that that was far from the only representation. There are multiple queer characters, multiple POC, and, with the exception of Jess' friend Bells, all the major players are women. None of the minority characters are stereotyped or one-dimensional caricatures; even the minor characters are fleshed out and human. We need more books like this; books that have multiple minority characters, rather than one or two tokens, and books where the diversity doesn't serve any "narrative purpose," it's just there because, well... that's how life works! The world is not male, cis, straight, and white, so why should all our books be?

10 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a fun, cute read, and I'm glad I gave it a shot after hearing so many people gush about it. I'm not sure whether or not I'm going to continue on with the series yet, but I have the first sequel, Not Your Villain, on my "to-read" shelf on Goodreads, so we'll see. I would love to see a movie or TV adaptation of this book; I think it'd work really well in live-action. Overall, it was well worth the time it took to read it, and I hope more people discover it very, very soon.

FINAL GRADE: 7.5 / 10


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Friday, November 3, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

TITLE: Shallow Graves

AUTHOR: Kali Wallace

GENRE: paranormal

PLOT SUMMARY: Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, with no memory of how she got there. She wanders away from her hometown, and finds that she can sense whether or not someone has killed someone -- and that she can deliver some bloody revenge in short order. As she makes her way from place to place, Breezy must decide where she'll go from here. She had her life all planned out, but that was before she died; it doesn't seem like the world has much place for a walking corpse.

FIRST THOUGHTS: This is one of those books that makes you go, "It's not bad, buuuuut..." This isn't a badly-written book by any stretch, and I enjoyed the time I spent reading it, but ultimately, my feelings towards it are pretty lukewarm. It did some things quite well, and it didn't do anything particularly poorly, but I just wasn't very hooked by it. Obviously, it held my interest enough to keep reading until the end, but it didn't pack a particularly big punch for me.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: The plot was, for me at least, by far the weakest aspect of the book. Mostly, we just follow Breezy as she stumbles into one situation after another, some of which are connected, but most not. Breezy is very lost and aimless as a character -- which is understandable, given her situation, but doesn't always make for exciting reading. Really, I found her internal monologue to be way more entertaining than the actual plot. The conflicts in this book felt more like boss fights in a video game; obstacles to be overcome in the moment, rather than problems that weave into the overall story. I also found the ending to be wholly unsatisfying. While I will concede that it's a realistic ending (for such a fantastical premise), it's not very exciting, nor does it tie up the loose ends in a way I would've liked. I also found the worldbuilding to be disappointingly lacking. One thing I will say for it is that there was no romance in this book, which was a seriously refreshing change from most YA.

4 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: I really, really liked Breezy. I thought she was a very realistic and deep character, and, as stated above, I found her internal monologue to be one of the best parts of the book. (If not the best part.) I liked that she was smart, levelheaded, and pragmatic, but also emotional, kindhearted, and prone to making mistakes, as we all are. I also liked the side characters of Jake and Zeke, two ghouls who eat dead bodies but are otherwise pretty nice guys. I thought they had good dynamics with each other and Breezy -- in fact, I wish the book had featured more of that. However, other side characters fell pretty flat, especially the antagonists. Violet, especially, felt like a wasted opportunity since, unlike the other antagonists, she had actual character depth and a sympathetic motive. However, she sort of vanished from the story after awhile, with no real resolution, which sucked. Ultimately, Breezy carried this book -- which makes it a good thing she's such a likable character.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: The first half of this book was great, especially the first few chapters. I was instantly drawn in, and flew threw the first half. I just had to know what would happen next. However, after that, the writing style slowed down quite a lot, and it sort of meandered all over the place. Again, this ties into the problem I had with the book's plot. The character stuff was great -- flashbacks that served to deepen Breezy's character, her existential thoughts and fears, her theories about what she was... those were all great, and wonderfully written. But actual plot stuff? Meh.

6 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Okay, this is where other authors should take notes. Breezy is a queer woman of color -- specifically, she's half-Chinese, and bisexual. (And I don't think this counts as the dead lesbian trope, since she's technically undead.) I liked that her sexuality wasn't a big deal, and that Breezy was open and unashamed of her identity. One of the side characters is also confirmed to be queer as well in a throwaway line. I really liked seeing representation that had nothing to do with the plot -- a common misconception is that diversity needs a "reason" to be there, but that's nonsense. Diverse people should be in fiction because, well... they exist!

8 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: Meh. I'm glad I read it, and I don't think it was a waste of time, but I won't be rereading this one. While I enjoyed some parts of this book, and I wouldn't dissuade you from giving it a go, it was ultimately underwhelming in most aspects. It set up several plot points that could've been really interesting, but it didn't follow through with them in a way that was satisfying to read about, which made for a rather forgettable reading experience.



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Monday, October 30, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

TITLE: Vicious

AUTHOR: V.E. Schwab

GENRE: fantasy/scifi/paranormal/superhero???

PLOT SUMMARY: Victor Vale and Eli Cardale met as college roommates just over ten years ago. In their senior year, Eli chose ExtraOrdinary people -- EOs -- as his thesis topic. EOs are people with supernatural abilities, and, Eli finds, people who have come back to life after dying. Victor decided to assist Eli in his research, and maybe even becoming EOs themselves. Now, a decade later, Victor is freshly broken out of prison, an EO, and aided by a twelve-year-old girl and a fellow escapee. Eli, meanwhile, is on a mission to kill all EOs. (Himself excluded, of course.) Victor is coming after Eli with everything he has (not that he has much), and no matter who comes out on top, it's going to be one hell of a night.

FIRST THOUGHTS: A few months ago, I was in a bookstore, skimming over a few books by this author, and this guy who was next to me asked if I'd ever read anything by her before. To which I replied, "No, but I own Vicious -- I just haven't gotten to it yet." And he said, "Oh, man, that one's incredible. You'll love it." Well, random dude in the bookstore, this one's for you -- because you were so right. This, along with The Hearts We Sold, will probably be the book I annoy everyone with for the next couple months by shoving it at them and saying, "READ IT." Seriously. It's good.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: This is a story told in anachronic order, spanning over about ten years. We see Eli and Victor's origins as EOs, and what they've been up to since they parted ways. No superhero/supervillain is complete without a good origin story, and this one didn't disappoint. I also really love the "how we got here" setup -- we start off with being dropped into the middle of the story, and then the backstory gets filled in around it, so we slowly understand what led us to this point. I really loved how all the characters' personal drama weaved together to create this big, dramatic plotline, and how everyone seeing to their own interests added fuel to the fire. I also really loved the ending of this book -- I know a lot of people found it underwhelming, but I personally thought it fit perfectly.

9 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: One thing I should specify is that neither of our leads are particularly good people. The difference is that Victor is self-aware, whereas Eli... hoo boy. Myself, I am firmly Team Sydney. Sydney is the one true hero in this book. Sydney and Mitch. I like Mitch. Truth be told, I like Victor and Eli a lot, too -- they may not be admirable characters, but damned if they're not compelling ones. It's a classic "black and gray" morality situation. There are no heroes, really. Just comparatively less awful people to root for. But Victor is so well-written, and just sympathetic enough, that even when he's doing awful, awful things, you're still compelled to cheer him on. He's exactly what a villain protagonist should be: despicable, and all the more lovable for it.

10 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: I've heard great things about V.E. Schwab's writing before, so I'm pleased to report that it lived up to the hype. While her prose was very descriptive and painted a vivid picture, it also avoided falling into purple prose. Some of you may have noticed that purple prose is one of my writing pet peeves, so this was definitely a point in the book's favor. I was instantly drawn into this story, and I thought that Schwab's worldbuilding was really, really good. I really want to hear more stories from this world -- and, luckily, with sequels coming, I'll be able to in the future!

9 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: In a book where everything is nearly perfect, it's a shame that this is where it falls flat. There are no queer characters that we know of, and save for one character who's implied to be Latino, no characters of color. (Though popular fandom consensus seems to be that Mitch is black -- his appearance is never really specified beyond "tall and muscular," but I saw some really good fanart that portrayed him as black and I honestly can't picture him any other way now.) There's also a female character who seems to exist largely to further a male character's character arc via dying -- this is called the Disposable Woman trope, also known as Women in Refrigerators. It's been a hallmark of comic books and superhero stories since forever, the most famous example being Gwen Stacy. I can't decide whether the trope's use in this book is a straight example or a parody. (This is a deconstruction of the superhero story, after all.) I almost wonder whether I should bother avoid mentioning said character's name, since it was clear from the moment she appeared that she was screwed. Which was a real shame, because I liked her.

4 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am so hyped for the sequel. Which won't be out for another year. (Hello, darkness, my old friend...) Since the story wrapped up so nicely, complete with a neat little bow, I am curious about where Schwab chooses to take it. I'm excited -- though this story is done, this world seems like it has plenty more to offer. If you haven't read it, please do. You'll be doing yourself a favor.



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