Wednesday, April 26, 2017

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Authors I Need to Read More From

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 authors you want to read more from!

Talk about some authors that you've only read one or a few books from, and you NEED to read more! 

As many books as I read, there are still many, many, MANY more books to be read, and it'd be impossible to read them all. Here are some authors whose work I've greatly enjoyed, but haven't tackled their entire bibliography just yet.

5. Danielle Vega


You've heard me rave about Danielle's "The Merciless" on here before (and yes, the review to the sequel IS coming, I promise), and I know Danielle has other books outside that series, but I haven't gotten to them yet. I definitely want to change that! I own a copy of her novel "Survive the Night," so hopefully I can get to reading that one soon.

4. Ray Bradbury


One of the classic sci-fi authors, I had to read Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" for a class back in my freshman year, and I fell in love with it. It's one of my favorite books of all time, which is why I'm surprised at myself that I haven't gotten to reading any of his other work yet. Part of it is, I don't know where to start -- there's kind of a lot!

3. Gillian Flynn


I've read "Gone Girl" four times now, I've seen the movie twice, and I actually own a copy of "Sharp Objects." And it's a short book -- I have no excuse. And yet, I haven't gotten to reading any of Gillian's other works yet. Every time I think I might start "Sharp Objects," I just reread "Gone Girl" instead. Oooops.

2. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman


I'm lumping these two together because the only work I've ever read by either of them is "Good Omens," a novel they wrote collaboratively. And it is my favorite book EVER. So why haven't I read anything else by them? Uh...

Part of it is the same issue with Ray Bradbury -- there is TONS. Reading all of "Discworld" could take years, and that's not even the half of their combined works! But someday. I hope.

1. Jane Austen


I ranked Jane as my #1 pick because, while she has a very impressive career, she didn't write a bajillion things the same way others on this list have. Eleven books total, thirteen if you count the unfinished works -- overall, quite manageable. And while I have read "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma," I have yet to tackle the rest of her work, which is really dumb of me since I ADORE Jane Austen -- both her writing and the woman herself. First on my list is "Love and Friendship." (Primarily because the movie looks BEAUTIFUL and I want to read the book first. Is that shallow?)


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Thanks for reading this post! What authors do YOU want to read more from? Tell me about them down in the comments!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads

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 favorite LGBTQ+ reads!

Talk about your favorite books that feature LGBTQ+ characters or are by LGBTQ+ authors.




Since I'm queer myself, I was excited to tackle this topic! There are so many great LGBT books I haven't gotten a chance to read yet, but here are the ones I've read that are worth a read.

5. Misfile by Chris Hazelton


Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat -- this isn't a book, it's a webcomic. But I'm still going to count it. I've read "Misfile" on and off for years; the webcomic started in 2005, and it's still going. It focuses on Ash and Emily, two victims of a "misfile" up in Heaven. The mixup leads to Emily suddenly becoming two years younger (thus losing her acceptance to Harvard along with the two years), and Ash, a young man, suddenly being viewed as and treated as female by everyone, despite still being male. The reason I ranked this pretty low on the list is because I'm of two minds of how being trans is portrayed in the comic. While it doesn't shy away from the fact that Ash is a trans male, and does its best to deconstruct the standard "gender bender" comedy plots, it can still be problematic, due to the comic using language and ideas about being trans that were acceptable in 2005... but here, twelve years later, now seem iffy at best. I know trans audiences tend to be divided on this webcomic, and, as a cis woman, it's really not my place to judge. I will say that it has a great cast of characters, and an admirable pro-acceptance theme, and it was the first piece of fiction I ever read that had a trans lead, so I'll let you be the judge.

4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel


I admit I'm a bit more fond of the musical "Fun Home" than I am of the graphic novel from which its adapted, but the graphic novel is still great. (Otherwise, it wouldn't be on this list.) Alison Bechdel's autobiographical comic about her discovering she's gay, and subsequently finding out her dad is gay, and his death shortly afterwards, make for a compelling, heartbreaking story about sexuality, family, isolation, and growing up -- and connecting with one's past. The artwork is lovely, and Bechdel's writing style really helps pull the reader into her world, and feel her heartbreaks as the story unfolds. If you liked the musical, I'd definitely suggest giving the original a read.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


True, this novel only has two LGBT characters (one leading character and his boyfriend), and the story isn't primarily about them. This is not the most bountiful representation in the world, or even on this list. But as a novel, "Perks of Being a Wallflower" is truly incredible. The story, told through letters, is well-known by most people; a cripplingly awkward and depressed teenage boy attempts to navigate his first year of high school, and is helped by a pair of older students who take a liking to him and induct him into their group. The novel is an exploration of fitting in, sexuality and all its consequences, and how one views themselves effects how they relate to others. It's a beautiful novel, one that means a lot to me, and I think anyone who's ever felt isolated and alone can relate -- LGBT or not.

2. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden


I've talked about my love for this book before. Nancy Garden's 1982 novel focuses on the blossoming friendship, and later romance, between serious, studious Liza, and carefree, artistic Annie. The first half of the story follows their developing relationship, while the second half deals with the fallout, since, you know... 1980s. This is a book I read very briefly after coming out, and it's by far one of my favorite books of all time. I love the nostalgic, lovelorn feeling the entire story has, and Annie and Liza are adorable together. It also features a much-needed happy ending for our leading ladies -- something we could all use, especially for the LGBT community under this presidency.

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


And finally, a book that I've read multiple times, and I think of as a modern classic. "Aristotle and Dante" is sort of the 2010s response to "Annie," as they're very similar in a lot of ways -- an "opposites attract" queer romance set in the 1980s, with a lot of emotional drama before an ultimately happy conclusion. However, what makes me rank this book #1 is the phenomenal writing. This is the only book I've read by Sáenz, but his prose and character voices are wonderful, and I definitely want to read more from him. Ari and Dante, our two leading men, are both blessed with clever, unique, witty voices, and they have amazing chemistry, even on-page. You root for them almost immediately, and as their relationship develops and changes, you empathize with all of their struggles, and cheer when they come out on top. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. I read it all in one day, and I enjoyed every second.

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Thank you for reading this list! As I wrote up this post, I realized I do not know NEARLY enough LGBTQ+ books. What are your suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

SPRING BREAK BOOK HAUL!


So as some of you may know, I grew up in Ohio, and my father still lives there. So during vacations, I go up to visit him -- in fact, I just got back last night from visiting with him over spring break. And as some of you may know, the only Barnes and Noble in the town where I live currently just closed. Meaning that this visit, I saw the inside of a Barnes and Noble for the first time in four months. And I had just gotten paid.

Yeah, I went a little hog-wild. Time to go over the books I bought, and had significant difficulty fitting into my luggage when it was time to go home!


The first book I'm going to talk about is The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores by Danielle Vega. I actually read all of this book during my vacation, so you can expect to see a full review of it soon. It is a direct sequel to "The Merciless," which I've already read and reviewed. (You can find that post here.) It follows our main character Sofia in the aftermath of the first book, which resulted in a lot of bloodshed and a lot of PTSD. Sofia is sent to a strict Catholic boarding school in hopes of starting over, but bad luck follows her wherever she goes, and soon, it's a threat to any chance Sofia has at a normal life. 

I was really excited to read this book, as I adored "The Merciless." While I ultimately didn't enjoy it as much as the first book (I'll elaborate in my review), I think it's a worthy successor to it, and I'm looking forward to the third book, which is slated to come out this summer.


Next up is Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. This is a highly praised contemporary YA romance that's getting made into a movie starring Amandla Stenberg. I love Amandla, so I'm eager to read this before the movie is released. It follows Maddy, a teenage girl who, thanks to a rare disease, is literally allergic to the outside world, and has not left her house in eighteen years. She has never met anyone aside from her mother and her nurse, until a family moves in next door, and their son, Olly, begins texting and emailing with Maddy. I've heard wonderful things about this book's story and writing, and the trailer for the movie looks like it'll be good, so I'm eager to pick it up sometime soon.


Next on my list is RoseBlood by A.G. Howard. I'm going to be honest with you: I know virtually nothing about this book's plot, except for the fact that it's a retelling of "Phantom of the Opera." But I am such Phantom trash that I bought it the second I had the chance. I've heard mixed reviews of this book, but, honestly, I love the Phantom story so much that even if it's bad, I'll probably enjoy it, at least a little.


This is a book I already mentioned wanting to read on this Top 5 Wednesday entry. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is the first book in the Witchlands series, which I've heard hyped up a lot on booktube and other bookish communities online. It's set in a world of many, many types of witches, and the main character Safi is a Truthwitch, a rare type of witch that can always tell a lie from the truth. She and her best friend have to use their powers to stop a war from breaking out, but Safi is in great danger because many people would do anything to use her abilities for their own gain. I've heard great things about this series, and it sounds like such a unique and intriguing idea, that I'm excited to get started on it.


Another book that I mentioned during Top 5 Wednesday! Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in the Grisha Trilogy. Set in a world where magic is rare, the main character Alina discovers that she has magic, surprising everyone, including herself. Alina's dormant but powerful abilities may be the key to ending a war, so she's whisked away from everything she's known to become a member of the Grisha, the magical elite forces. These books were ones I always saw in the bookstore, admired the covers for a minute, before putting them back down, but I've heard a lot of great things from almost everyone who's read them, so I've decided to finally get started on them!


Next up is The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. This is the first book in the Raven Cycle, a series following Blue, a girl who has been warned since childhood that she would cause her true love to die. Her clairvoyant mother can see and speak to the soon-to-be-dead, but Blue has never been able to see them -- until this year, when one of them speaks to her. I admit I put off reading this series because I've also read the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Stiefvater, and I wasn't too impressed with them. But even people who don't like those books seem to like these, and from what I've seen on Tumblr, these books have a wide appeal. And hey, they're getting made into a TV series soon -- so why not give it a shot?


Last on my list is The Cabin by Natasha Preston. It is a murder mystery, focusing on a girl named Mackenzie as she goes out for a weekend of partying with her friends at a remote cabin, when two of them wind up dead. It soon becomes evident that only someone at the cabin could've done it, and so Mackenzie and the other survivors are forced to suspect each other, as everyone's a suspect -- and the killing isn't over. I'll admit this doesn't sound like the most original plot in the world, but I do love a good whodunnit, and it seems like a good book for when I need something quick and fun.

So those are the seven books I bought over spring break! I can't wait to tackle them... and I hope you all will enjoy hearing me talk about them on this blog later on!

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Monday, April 10, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Merciless by Danielle Vega



TITLE: The Merciless

AUTHOR: Danielle Vega

GENRE: horror

PLOT SUMMARY: Sofia Flores is used to always being the new girl, the one without a real social group. She finds people to kill time with at every new school, and then, six months later, she moves, like clockwork. So she's surprised when the trio of popular girls at her new school in an ultra-religious town in rural Mississippi not only take a liking to her, but induct her into the group by baptizing her in the school bathroom. Sofia, for the first time ever, feels truly included, like she's really part of the gang. So, naturally, when she finds out the clique's leader's boyfriend is cheating on her with the school bad girl, Brooklyn, Sofia tells her everything she saw. The leader of the pack says that can "save" Brooklyn, but Sofia isn't sure what she means by that, until she comes to the clique's usual meeting spot and finds Brooklyn tied up and gagged in the basement, the other girls preparing for an exorcism. Certain that Brooklyn's possessed by the Devil, the other girls are determined to banish the demon, no matter how much damage it may do to the host, while Sofia must find a way to rescue Brooklyn without putting herself in harm's way.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I loved this book. Like, really, really loved it. I don't think of myself as much of a horror fan, but the spooky and atmospheric tone of the book drew me in instantly, and I read it all in one day. I was beyond thrilled when I found out that this book was the first in a series, and I actually went out to buy the second book, so I can be prepared for the release of the third this summer. I've been talking it up to all my friends, too. Admittedly, I'm worried I may be over-hyping it a bit, but seriously, this book is great. Keep reading to find out why!

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: The best way I can think of to describe this book is Stephen King meets "Mean Girls." Or, if you prefer, "The Craft," but in reverse. What starts off as a standard high school drama quickly sinks into a horror show as Sofia becomes more entwined with the other girls and their madness. This isn't a scare-a-minute book; it takes its time, slowly building as things gradually get worse and worse, with only a few really big scares. This helps to make the really scary moments leave that much more of an impact, and I've always enjoyed the slow, creeping sort of horror more than the jumpscare-based horror most movies tend to favor. It's like watching a trainwreck in slow motion; you know everything's going to go to Hell, probably very shortly, but it's impossible to look away, especially once the shit really hits the fan. My only real complaint about the plot was the romantic subplot. It's very minor -- so minor, in fact, that it very easily could've been cut and nothing would've been lost. The relationship is pure insta-love, and it feels pointless and boring compared to the rest of the book. The love interest himself is only in about three scenes, which is part of what makes the relationship so weak, but it's also why the romance didn't bog down the plot more -- it's barely even there, to the point where you sort of forget about it until it's brought up again. I'm also unsure of how I feel about the book's ending -- specifically, the very last line. It definitely caught me by surprise, and it feels like a fitting twist, but I'm unsure of whether or not I like it. Mainly, I'm worried about how the sequels will handle it. If they do it well, great, but it's a twist that's really easy to handle poorly. Time will tell if the sequels drop the ball on it.

9 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: This book has a relatively small cast; the protagonist, Sofia, the clique of girls, Riley, Grace, and Alexis, and the girl they're trying to "save," Brooklyn. There's also Sofia's family, Riley's boyfriend, and the boy that Sofia takes an interest in, but they're all such minor players that they don't get any real development, and aren't nearly as memorable as the core five. Sofia is a deeply endearing and likable protagonist, and even as she does some morally questionable things to survive, she's still easy to root for, and incredibly sympathetic to the audience. Sofia is also our narrator, and her voice helps build the world the story is set in, and clue us in to what she thinks is coming next -- and how wrong she often is. Riley serves as the antagonist for much of the book, and she is terrifying. She alternates between being charitable, friendly, and forgiving, and being vengeful, hateful, and ruthless, but the shifts never feel forced -- and both sides of her feel very genuine. She's not faking her concern for the other girls; she really is that messed up. Riley firmly believes she's doing the right thing, which only serves to make her both more pitiable, and more threatening. She's essentially every condescending-yet-well-meaning fundamentalist, mixed with Regina George and Cher Horowitz, and taken to its logical, terrifying extreme. Grace and Alexis don't receive quite as much depth as Sofia and Riley, but neither of them are flat characters. They're not just lackeys to Riley (as much as Alexis acts like she is sometimes), they're their own people with their own motivations, and their own issues that act as obstacles towards them as they try to get through the night, one way or another. By far my favorite character, though, was Brooklyn. Brooklyn is obnoxious, condescending, rude, and sarcastic, but she's so well-written and sympathetic that it's hard not to root for her, even when it's unclear whether or not we should be. Even when she's not at her most likable, I still found myself cheering her on, especially as she talks back to Riley even as she's being tortured -- it's hard not to admire her tenacity. She's the anti-Riley in terms of her values and the things she says, but deep down, the two of them are just alike, which makes her a great foil, as well as the perfect victim.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: The atmospheric writing of this novel is by far one of its greatest strengths. It builds a tense, uneasy tone right from the get-go, and helps the reader identify with Sofia's increasing discomfort. The atmosphere the prose builds is spooky, and reminds me of old Gothic horror stories, placed in a modern, but isolated, setting. It's also a very fast-paced story -- most of the book takes place over one awful night, with some chapters covering all the drama that can unfold in a mere five minutes. It takes a few chapters for the action to really pick up, but once it does, it's a wild ride. And the preceding chapters don't feel like a waste -- they serve to build the characters and get us invested in them and their relationships before everything goes downhill.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Five leading ladies here, with two of them being WOC -- including the protagonist, who is Mexican-American. In fact, there are barely any male characters in the story at all; even the protagonist's family is just her, her grandmother, and her mother. This isn't exactly a "girl power" story (in fact, the plot hinges on how terrible teenage girls can be to one another), but it is refreshing to see such a female-driven novel. There is a bit of slut-shaming, but the character who does it is clearly meant to be in the wrong, and given the setting, it's not exactly surprising. There's also a lot of talk of mental illness -- not to mention some "you're crazys" thrown around, which could be viewed as ableist, though probably not intentionally so -- and Sofia is shown to have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts in the past. I'm of two minds of how religion is portrayed in the book. On the one hand, the plot is driven by religion-based hatred and hysteria, but on the other, Sofia at one point reflects on how religion can be a beautiful, positive force in someone's life, and while she's not religious herself, she's tolerant of the others' beliefs, and even expresses an interest in them when they offer to induct her into their group. Not to mention the fact that people on both sides of the theology thing are viewed in varying shades of gray. (Though the various twists and turns in the book throw his into question. I'm not sure how to explain it without spoiling it -- read the book and you'll see what I mean.) Now, I'm not religious in the least, so I'm probably not the best person to judge, but I never viewed the book as being anti-Christianity or pro-Christianity. More a story about how religion does not a good person make -- but a lack of religion doesn't necessarily signify that someone's a bad person, either.

7 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: I can't wait to read the sequel to this book -- I actually just got my hands on it yesterday, and I'm sure I'll be starting it soon. With such a strong start, I'm excited to see where the series will go, and I really hope this doesn't turn out to be one of those series that takes a swan dive in terms of quality after the first book. Danielle Vega is a good enough writer that I have faith in her ability to keep the series afloat. If you're a fan of horror and Southern Gothic stories, I'd definitely recommend this book -- it's one of my new favorites, and I hope it'll be one of yours, too.

FINAL GRADE: 8 / 10

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

DNF: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalo



TITLE: Stalking Jack the Ripper

AUTHOR: Kerri Maniscalo

GENRE: historical fiction, mystery

SUMMARY: In Victorian London, Audrey lives a double life. Half the time, she's a proper, upper-class lady. The other half, she works in her uncle's morgue, dissecting dead bodies. When a string of corpses begin turning up in the morgue, Audrey finds herself getting caught up in a murder investigation, and trying to hunt down someone known only as "Saucy Jack"

HOW FAR I GOT: 82/318 pages

WHY I DIDN'T FINISH: My main issue with this book was that it was boring. I've had this issue with historical fiction before; it takes so long to set the scene that by the time the plot really picks up, I've stopped caring. And even though the murders began early, since Audrey wasn't really emotionally connected to them, it was hard to care. My other main issues were that Audrey was a bit too "I'm not like other girls" for my taste, and I haaaaaaaated her love interest. Like, oh my God, Audrey, honey, you're too good for him. Once I realized I'd have to suffer 300 pages of this douchebag, I gave up pretty quick.

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Thank you for reading! Hopefully, I'll get through my new book -- "The Merciless" by Danielle Vega. If you'd like to vote on the book I'll read after that, you can check out the poll on my Patreon page! Remember, though; only patrons get to vote!

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: SFF on my To-Read List


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 Top SFF Books on Your TBR!

Talk about the science fiction and fantasy books you want to read ASAP!

Seeing as how I have a TBR list longer than Santa's naughty/nice list, I had a really hard time narrowing it down to five for this week! But, I think I picked a solid five, so let's get started with the countdown. I also included an honorable mentions list down at the bottom.

(I should probably note that which books I'm particularly excited to read changes on a near-hourly basis, so this is just my list for this very moment. And also that I'm more into fantasy than sci-fi. ...And also, I like fairy tale retellings. I like them a lot.)

5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


This is a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. I'll jump on just about any version of it, and most likely enjoy it from beginning to end. (And no, it's not about Stockholm Syndrome, and even if it was, I wouldn't care.) I've heard mixed reviews of this one, but the plot sounds interesting enough, and I love the original story enough, that I definitely want to give it a chance. (And yes, it's also because the cover is gorgeous. Sue me, I'm shallow.)

4. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake


This is a book I never would've heard of without the bookish community (booktube, bookstagram, booklr, etc.), but now, it's definitely one of my most anticipated reads. It's set in a matriarchy where every generation, the queen gives birth to a set of triplet girls, and the girls are raised learning different kinds of magic. When they come of age, the girls duke it out for the throne. I've heard some really good things about this book, and the idea of not one, but three leading ladies in a fantasy monarchy sounds too good to pass up.

3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


This is the first book of a really popular trilogy, but I only heard of it last year. It focuses on the Grisha, wielders of a magic known as "The Small Science." Our main character is a young woman who discovers she is a Grisha unexpectedly, and is suddenly whisked away to train and become a member of the magical elite. I've heard really good things about this series, which may be why I keep putting it off -- I'm afraid it won't live up to the hype.

2. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard


This is the first in a series that I've heard hyped a LOT on Booktube, focusing on different types of magic, and the young women who can wield it. I've been told there's a major focus on female friendship, as well as female power, and from what I've heard, there's no stupid romantic interest weighing everything down. I've also heard that the second book in the series is just as good, if not better, so I hope to jump into this world very, very soon.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern



Another book that made  my list thanks to the bookish community! I'd seen it in Barnes and Noble, but it was one of those books where I picked it up, stared at the pretty cover for a minute, then set it back down. Multiple times. But it seems like everyone that's read it loves it, and the premise does sound fascinating, focusing on two young illusionists who work for the dangerous and mercurial Le Cirque des Rêves. Honestly, the main reason I haven't gotten to it yet is because I'm so scared that it won't live up to the hype. Because, you know, you can't be disappointed if you don't read it, riiiight? On the other hand, it is one of the favorite books of one of my favorite booktubers (hi, Sam, if you're reading this!), and everyone I know who's read it assures me it's good, so I promise, I'll get to it. Someday.

Honorable mentions include Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci, The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein (do I get my nerd card revoked for admitting I never read those?), RoseBlood by A.G. Howard, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Angelfall by Susan Ee, Ensared by Rita Stradling, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by F.J.R. Titchenell, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, Eerie by C.M. McCoy, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and the rest of the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy as, even though I ADORE this series, I've only read the first two books so far!

And that list is only the top priorities. 

...Yeah, this may take awhile.

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Thank you so much for reading this top 5 list! As if I don't already have too many books on my TBR, I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments down below! What SFF books are you looking forward to?

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