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!

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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. 

If you liked this interview and would like to support my work, and hopefully see more author interviews in the future. 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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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).


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!

Who are your problematic faves? Tell me about them down in the comments!

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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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If you've read Shallow Graves, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Next on my reading list is Not Your Sidekick, but after that, it's up to my Patrons. Become a Patron and vote HERE to decide what I'll read next!

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