Friday, October 20, 2017

OwlCrate, October 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 FIND ME IN THE FOREST! 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...


  • Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. A magical realism story focusing on a family of women who can make beautiful plants grow anywhere they wish, but at a cost: they can never leave the grounds of their garden estate, and anyone they fall in love with will vanish. I've never heard of this book, but I'm excited to see what it's like -- the cover is gorgeous, and the plot sounds intriguing.
  • A coaster with a cute drawing of a fox on it.
  • A mug with a picture of the Hogwarts grounds on it.
  • A tea blend that's inspired by Robin Hood -- the package says it's flavored to taste like blueberry pie, so we'll see how that works.
  • A candle inspired by The Raven Cycle.
  • An art print of San from the anime classic Princess Mononoke.
  • Magnetic bookmarks inspired by Where the Wild Things Are (which I actually didn't realize where in there at first and nearly threw out with the box. Oops).
There's also a preview for next month's theme: CASTLES, COURTS, AND KINGDOMS. Can't wait!



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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Books Featuring Demons

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 books featuring the fantasy creature of your choice!

This topic will revolve around one type of paranormal creature of your choice. So books featuring vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, demons, fae, zombies, etc. 

I decided to go with demons because I find their place in pop culture and folklore to be fascinating, and it's always fun to see how they're presented in different canons. I ranked this list by taking into account both how much I enjoyed each individual book, and how good the demons are in them. So, while some books may be better than ones on this list, if their portrayal of demons wasn't, they don't make the cut.

5. Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill


Bug is eighteen and alone in the world. She's about to lose her crappy apartment and her job delivering pizza, and on top of everything else, she now has a demon knocking on her door. It turns out that her deceased grandfather quite literally sold his soul for his (admittedly awesome) Cadillac, but somehow managed to dodge payment after he died. And he put up Bug's soul as the collateral.

I ranked this book on the low end of the list because, as much as I enjoyed it, the demons were actually pretty disappointing. But as a book, I highly recommend it -- it's funny, touching, and blends a familiar urban setting with a unique plot and memorable characters.

4. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the demon king, and since birth, she has been training to kill him. No one expects Nyx to survive when she's shipped off to the king's castle on her seventeenth birthday, and all she can hope for is that she can bring him down with her. However, as she gets to know the king, Nyx finds herself sympathizing with him, and gradually, falling in love.

This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and, as I mentioned in my review of it, it's gloriously trashy. It's a very quick beach read, perfect for when you want something that's not too serious.

3. The Merciless series by Danielle Vega


This teen horror series of three books and counting begins when Sofia moves to a new school in a small, rural town in Mississippi. There, she befriends a trio of popular, ultra-religious girls, who induct her into the group by baptizing her in the school bathroom. When the clique's leader finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her with the school troublemaker Brooklyn, she tells Sofia she thinks they can "save" Brooklyn. Sofia isn't sure what she means, but agrees to help... but when she comes to the basement and sees Brooklyn tied up and screaming, and the rest of the girls preparing for an exorcism, she realizes she's bitten off more than she can chew.

This series has had its ups and downs, but I really love it, especially with the spooky, Southern Gothic setting. The fourth book is slated to come out sometime next year, and I hope it holds up to the rest of the books -- or even surpasses it.

2. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett


As I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, this novel about a demon and an angel teaming up to avert the apocalypse is my favorite book of all time. It's hilarious, from start-to-finish, and hosts an incredibly strong ensemble cast. Namedropping everything from obscure religious figures to rock stars of the 1990s, this book is a journey that I enjoy every time I take it.

And, hey, it's getting an Amazon miniseries next year!

1. The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones


This book isn't even two months old yet, but it's already become one of my favorites. In a world where humans can make deals with demons -- one body part in exchange for one wish -- our main character Dee makes a deal with the Agathodaemon; a two-year lease on her heart in exchange for tuition money. As long as the Daemon possesses her heart, she has to work for him. In two years, Dee will get her heart back, and be free to go.

This novel is simply wonderful. The world and characters are intriguing and memorable, and the story ranges from tragic to uplifting in mere pages. The reason I ranked it higher than Good Omens is because I really love the way demons and their deals work in this world -- I thought it was really clever and creative, and opened the door for more stories to take place in this universe. I really hope more people read and get into this book soon, because it deserves all the recognition it can get.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

TITLE: Uprooted

AUTHOR: Naomi Novik

GENRE: fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Every ten years, a wizard known as the Dragon takes a girl from a small village, who is to work for him for a decade. In exchange, he protects the village from the evil entity known as the Wood. This time, Agnieszka is sure it'll be her best friend Kasia that is picked. Kasia is beautiful, brave, talented, and charming -- just like all the previous girls. But when the Dragon comes, it isn't Kasia he wants.

FIRST THOUGHTS: This is a book I decided to read, and got very excited about, because every person I knew that read it seemed to love it. So, I gave it a go, and... eh. It's okay. I try to avoid DNFing books whenever possible, but this was a struggle to get through -- not because it's horrible or anything. It's not. It's just also not great. I'm honestly kind of baffled about what the big deal was. My main complaint about this book was that it was, honestly, pretty boring for the most part. Which is a shame, because the summary on the back cover sounded awesome.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: I saw another reviewer say that this book read like an entire saga crammed into one volume, and that sums up my issues perfectly. There were at least three plots going on here, and as a result, they all felt rushed. This is a dense book, and it does not work in its favor. While the individual plots on their own were fine, and would've made good stories, mashed up together, it felt confusing and made it a slog to get through, at least for me.

4 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Okay, for this section, I'm mainly going to hone in on the two leads: Agnieszka and the Dragon. On their own, they're both decent characters. I thought Agnieszka was a bit dull and a little too idealized in some places, but she was far from the worst main character I've ever read, so okay. I also thought the Dragon was a good character; mean, snarky, technically on the side of good, noble, but kind of a douchebag. That's not a bad character by any means! The problem, in my opinion, was the romance between these two characters. The Dragon acts like an infuriating tool for most of the book, and Agnieszka is understandably frustrated with his pissy attitude... until the point she starts making out with him. Look, I got from the back cover that these two were gonna end up together, and I enjoy a good hate-to-love story. But the Dragon changed after Agnieszka began to fall for him -- meaning, I have no idea why she fell for him in the first place. Why does she want to be with this guy who's treated her (and everyone else) like crap this entire time? It makes no sense. Honestly, if Agnieszka had wound up with Kasia, it would've been a much better story.

4 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: Really slow-paced. If you've been following this blog for a long time, you know I prefer fast-paced reads to slow ones, 9 times out of 10. In spite of having too much story crammed into one book, this book also managed to take forever in getting to the point. Also, while the prose was nice and the descriptions were very vivid... there's only so many times I want to read a description of a forest.

6 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: I've already mentioned the, uh, "romance" that, for lack of a better phrase, reads like Twilight, so I'll let that go. (But seriously, what does she see in him?) Since the setting is in a medieval fantasy world, there is, naturally, a bit of misogyny to be had. (Some of it coming from the Dragon. Shock. Surprise. To his credit, he gets better.) There are also no POC characters or queer characters in the book. (Ugh.) One thing I will say in the book's favor, however, is that in spite of the fact that Agnieszka is one of those "completely average" YA protagonists (you know the sort; she's plain, and clumsy, and totally not unique at all until the plot goes out of its way to prove that yes, she is the Special), there's a nice lack of Not Like Other Girls syndrome. It would've been really easy for her beautiful, feminine best friend Kasia to be a villain, so I was really glad the book didn't go that route.

4 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: ...I don't get it. I hear there's a movie in the works, so I may check that out, but probably not, especially if I'm the one paying for it. I really don't understand all the hype around this book. Needless to say, this was a huge letdown.

FINAL GRADE: 4 / 10

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Monday, October 9, 2017

If You Like That Movie, Try This Book!


Finding new books to read can be hard, especially if you already have an idea of what you like. Here are ten popular movies, and a book you might enjoy if you liked it!

1. The Craft -- The Merciless


THE MOVIE: Sarah, a telekinetic teenager, moves to a new town, and is taken in by a clique of girls with a dark secret: they're witches. After a ritual grants the girls great power, the consequences soon become more than Sarah bargained for.

THE BOOK: Sofia is new in town, and is relieved when a trio of popular girls take a liking to her on the first day. However, when her new friends decide that a fellow classmate is possessed by the Devil, Sofia finds herself in over her head.

THE OVERLAP: The Merciless could almost be viewed as The Craft in reverse. Both are supernatural stories focusing on interpersonal conflict and violence in a group of girls, with a touch of gothic horror.

2. Ginger Snaps -- The Moth Diaries


THE MOVIE: Brigitte's best friend in the world is her older sister, Ginger. The two girls are outcasts for their obsession with the macabre and deadly, and only have one another. When Ginger gets bitten by a werewolf and undergoes radical personality changes, it's up to Brigitte to find a cure and save her sister from herself.

THE BOOK: An unnamed narrator is a student at a repressive, restrictive boarding school for girls. Although the school is strict and uncaring, the narrator sees it as a refuge from her tempestuous homelife, especially because of her friendship with a girl named Lucy. The status quo is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious new girl, Ernessa, who takes an interest in Lucy and slowly causes the narrator to be overcome with paranoia. Is the narrator lost in her own head... or is Ernessa really a vampire?

THE OVERLAP: Female dynamics, hot monster girls, and a whole lot of bloodshed. Great Halloween viewing/reading.

3. Gone Girl -- Reconstructing Amelia


THE MOVIE: Nick Dunne finds himself as the primary suspect when his likable, beautiful wife Amy goes missing. As he attempts to clear his name, we find out he's been keeping more secrets than he can keep track of. We're also shown flashbacks to before Amy went missing, but there are hints that something's been left out.

THE BOOK: Kate is heartbroken when her teenage daughter Amelia dies suddenly, from falling off the roof of her exclusive private school. Amelia's death is officially ruled as a suicide, and Kate has no choice to accept it -- until she gets a text message from a blocked number that reads, "Amelia didn't jump."

THE OVERLAP: Dark and addicting thrillers, with more plot twists and unreliable characters than you can shake a stick at, focusing on the ways people manipulate and lie to each other for the sake of appearances.

4. Enchanted -- Extraordinary*


THE MOVIE: Giselle is the archetypical Disney princess... who's just fallen into modern-day New York City. Giselle must find a way home, while at the same time learning how to navigate the real world, where you can't just burst into song, and where dreams do not always come true.

THE BOOK: Everyone knows the story of how Jennifer Van Den Burg's life was changed forever by the sudden arrival of her fairy godmother, who made her a princess and hooked her up with the man of her dreams. However, it's just that: a story. Jen is now setting the record straight -- starting with the fact that her "fairy godmother" was a creepy, unpleasant man who had a nasty sense of humor and a murderous streak a mile wide.

THE OVERLAP: Hilarious fractured fairy tales that mercilessly make fun of the standard Disney formula, while at the same time paying tribute to it.

5. Heathers -- Kill the Boy Band



THE MOVIE: Veronica is an unhappy member of the school's popular crowd, who falls hard for a rebellious new boy named JD. But when the bodies start piling up, Veronica realizes that JD isn't so much a mysterious and disaffected loner, and more of a murderous psychopath. One that's hopelessly in love with her.

THE BOOK: Four teenage girls are bonded by one thing: their favorite boy band, The Ruperts. They rent a room at a hotel where the band is staying, all in the hopes of meeting them. But one thing leads to another, and soon, they've got a member of the band in their room... tied to a chair against his will. (And on top of that, he's the lamest member by far.)

THE OVERLAP: Dark and hilarious satires of modern (or then-modern) culture, featuring gloriously messed up leading ladies and unhealthy relationships.

6. Shakespeare in Love -- My Lady Jane


THE MOVIE: William Shakespeare has writer's block, and can't seem to finish his latest masterpiece -- the beginnings of what will later become Romeo and Juliet. Viola de Lesseps, meanwhile, is enthralled with Shakespeare's work, and disguises herself as a man so she can audition for his next play. William soon discovers the truth, and the two begin a secret affair.

THE BOOK: Lady Jane Grey has three problems. One: she's been married off against her will to a man she barely tolerates. Two: said man turns into a horse at night. And three: she's about to become Queen of England. Not that she knows that yet. The historical Lady Jane was queen for nine days before being executed, but there's no reason the facts need to get in the way of a perfectly good story.

THE OVERLAP: Lighthearted romances that take place in history, and make a brief nod to it before chucking it directly into the trashcan, for the sake of humor but also the Plot.

7. Pulp Fiction -- Six of Crows


THE MOVIE: Three stories, centering around two assassins, a boxer who's in hot water with the assassins' boss, and a holdup at a diner gone seriously awry, told out of order. Darkly hilarious and bloody, featuring some of the most iconic lines and characters in film history.

THE BOOK: A thief, a spy, a magic-using refugee, a sharpshooter, a runaway, and a convict are forced to team up to pull off an impossible heist. If they succeed, they'll be rich beyond their wildest dreams. If they fail, they die, and the consequences for the world at whole will be unimaginable. No one expects the Crows to survive, much less succeed, but their leader has an unmatched talent for doing the impossible. And as it turns out, pulling off this heist will be easy in comparison to controlling his crew.

THE OVERLAP: Complex and potentially confusing thrillers, focusing on a group of likable ne'er-do-wells. Funny and clever, and worth the extra time it takes to get through them.

8. Coraline -- Skulduggery Pleasant


THE MOVIE: Unhappy to have been moved to a new town, Coraline discovers a secret doorway in her bedroom, which leads to a magical world. The Other World is bright, beautiful, and full of people that adore her -- but once she's there, Coraline's Other Mother isn't too keen on letting her leave...

THE BOOK: Following the death of her uncle, Stephanie Edgley meets Skulduggery Pleasant, a sarcastic but likable man with a mysterious past. When Stephanie finds out her uncle was involved in a world of magic and danger, she insists on being taken along. Which Skulduggery does. Reluctantly. (Oh, and did we mention that Skul is a walking, talking skeleton?)

THE OVERLAP: Spooky and unnerving stories for children, where an ordinary girl is thrown into a fantastic world. Both feature the sort of humor and scary moments that make you wonder if it isn't more for the adults.

9. (500) Days of Summer -- The Romantics

THE MOVIE: When Tom meets Summer, he's convinced that she's perfect, that they were brought together by destiny, and that Summer is his soulmate. These are the 500 days it took for him to realize he was wrong... on all those counts.

THE BOOK: Love has a plan for everyone... but they can't stop you from screwing it up. Gael is absolutely crushed when he finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. Crushed enough to do something drastic like chase the first girl he meets afterwards. In this love story, narrated by Love itself, Gael attempts to navigate his heartache, while dating the wrong girl. (Cue the sounds of Love screaming in frustration in the background.)

THE OVERLAP: Postmodern, hilariously sarcastic takes on the modern romance. Specifically, the idiocy that gets in the way of the modern romance, and all the chaos that ensues.

10. The Big Sick -- Everything, Everything



THE MOVIE: Kumail is an aspiring standup comedian who meets and falls in love with a woman named Emily. He hides their relationship, since his parents would disapprove. This hurts Emily, and she ends the relationship, only to be taken to the hospital soon thereafter with a serious illness.

THE BOOK: Maddy hasn't left her house in eighteen years, due to an illness that makes her literally allergic to the outside world. She only ever sees her mother and her personal nurse, and has no friends. That is, until Olly, a boy about her age, moves in next door, and the two begin secretly texting and exchanging notes.

THE OVERLAP: Dramedies focusing on a romance between two very different people, one of whom is deathly ill. Bittersweet, but still lighthearted and enjoyable.
Well... get reading!



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I'm thinking of making this sort of "If You Like X, Try Y!" column a regular feature on this website, so if you enjoyed it, please let me know! And if you have any ideas for future pairs, themes, or rec lists I should do, feel free to suggest them.


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Monday, October 2, 2017

Series I Won't Finish


When you read as much as I do, you come across some books that just weren't worth the time. These are some books where I started the series, but for one reason or another, I don't intend on carrying on. If I come up with more titles, and people seem to like this sort of thing, I may do a part two at some point in the future.

So, without further ado, here are the series I won't be finishing.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Starting with a controversial one here! If you've read my review of the first book, The Raven Boys, you know that I just did not get all the hype for this series. Like, at ALL. I found the first book confusing at best and boring at worst, and I had a hard time connecting to the main character. I'm glad other people enjoy it, but I just did not.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'll be the first to admit that I probably read this book a little too young. I was twelve -- and I think the book would be perfectly fine for a lot of twelve-year-olds, but not me. A lot of the deeper themes flew over my head, and while I liked the first book okay, I wasn't interested in the second. And, I'm still not. I admit this is partly sheer stubbornness, since back when the first movie came out, it seemed like everyone was obsessed with these books. (The quickest way to make me refuse to give something a second chance is to tell me I'm wrong for not liking it.)

The Program by Suzanne Young

The first book was... eh. I thought the premise for a dystopian world where suicide is a national epidemic was interesting and unique, but by the end of the first book, every character I actually liked was dead or worse. I wasn't drawn into the world or story enough to care to continue.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

A grimdark take on the land of Oz gone seriously wrong. I was apprehensive about this one from the start, since Dorothy Gale is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, and this series makes her the main villain, something even Wicked, the OTHER grimdark Oz book, did not do. Still, I gave it a fair chance, or at least tried to, and was utterly disappointed.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalo

Okay, so I did not expect this book to be great literature. (I mean... look at the title.) But it wasn't nearly fun or entertaining enough for me to just roll with the silly premise, and I found the main character's love interest to be utterly insufferable. Also, if you have a book about Jack the Ripper, and I don't even care who the Ripper is... that's a bad sign.

Confessions by James Patterson

I read the first book in this series, Confessions of a Murder Suspect, and... everyone was a jerk. Everyone. By the end of it, I didn't even care who did it. I found the main character to be unrelatable and boring, and I don't think this book needed a sequel. Much less three.

King Dork by Frank Portman

The main character of this book was an insufferable, misogynist creep. Why would I read another book of that?

The Selection by Kiera Cass

I didn't even make it through the first book. A lot of people have called this series a guilty pleasure, and I can see why others enjoy it, but it didn't work for me. Guilty pleasures need to be equal parts fun and stupid, but this was mostly just stupid. (No offense to anyone that liked it! It was just not my thing.)

The Outliers by Kimberley McCreight

Another first entry I reviewed for this blog, though that one was a bit more scathing than the one for The Raven Boys. I really enjoyed McCreight's Reconstructing Amelia, so I was disappointed that this book failed to grab me the way that one did.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This is another "it's not you, it's me" entry. I thought the premise was really cool, and I especially loved all the photos that were included in the narrative, but it just didn't grab me well enough for me to carry on. Life is too short to spend on series you're not invested in.

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What are some series YOU won't be finishing? Tell me about them in the comments below!

I should also note that I put the book I was reading, Three Dark Crowns, on the backburner. I didn't officially declare it a DNF since I do want to get back to it someday, but I just was not getting into it, at least, not right now.


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