Book Birthdays : November 5 (+ Mid-October / Other Late Fall Releases)

Welcome to another installment of Book Birthdays, where I spotlight books on their release date along with other relatively recent releases. While many books were released last month on October 1st; for some reason, the main titles of note in this post are seeing release today- November 5th. Go figure. I hope this post is helpful in informing you of what’s new and finding some new titles to TBR. (Note : Title links are Amazon Affiliate links, if you have plans to purchase would greatly appreciate the use of them.)

First I’ll start with three books I was lucky enough to be approved for on Netgalley, all of which are released today. Reviews will be coming soon.

1.) Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

A dark-seeming YA Fantasy about sirens. I love this cover, it’s just beautiful. Summary – Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

2.) Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner

Almost done with this one. VERY unique novel. I’d file it under just-plain-fantasy, not quite YA, not heavily fixated on romance- though there is romance. Heavily descriptive and realized world-building where trolls and humans are the foremost races and have interestingly contrasting social norms. Summary : Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy.  Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them.

3.) The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

So excited for this one! I love fairytale reimaginings that invert the original tellings or explore characters in new ways. Summary : Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot. To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live.

4. The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

Release Date : October 15th, 2019

My heartfelt thanks goes out to Leelynn of Sometimes Leelynn Reads <- Click there for a recent post on her wonderful book blog. She gave me an extra copy (a hardcover moreover) that she had of this book when we were chatting about it on her blog. So happy and excited to have received it, very much looking forward to reading it this month. You’re amazing, Leelynn! ❤

Now time for even more November 5 releases. Note to self for 2020 : beware of the 5th day of the 11th month of its propensity for wondrous-looking book releases.

5. Call Down The Hawk by Maggie Stiefvator

Release Date : November 5th, 2019

I don’t know if Amazon is having some sort of sale on hardcovers right now or if this is targeted pricing but these pretty huge releases are $13.99 USD right now, Call Down The Hawk and even Holly Black’s Queen of Nothing. Very tempted to bite even though my reading month is already wonderfully crowded. I’m still planning to finish The Raven Cycle but Call Down The Hawk sounds like a fun character-driven title.

6. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Release Date : November 5th, 2019

Love books about mysterious, dark family secrets and creepy mansions. This title has all of that. I’ve checked out many reviews and luckily its plot twists have not been spoiled for me yet.

7. Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

This book had me at haunted woods. I might be an easy-to-please reader but seriously, combine woods + haunted, I will want to read it.

Summary – Be careful of the dark, dark wood… Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even. Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.


To round this out is a Kindle Unlimited paranormal pick released a few days ago (October 31st) 8. Heist by Kezzy Sparks, and two titles on my TBR from October, 9. Tarnished Are The Stars by Rosiee Thor and 10. Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao. I was lucky enough to win those two in a Twitter giveaway last month. They were both released on October 15th.


And that is it for this ten-entry list of titles that came out (or are coming out) in mid-to-late October and early-to-mid November. It could be much longer but I only have the strength to cover 10 for now, lol. Are you interested in reading any of these titles, or have read them? Are you familiar with work by any of the authors mentioned? Thanks so much for checking out this post. ~ Kitty

October Reading Wrap-Up + Reading Challenge Results

October was an exciting month and honestly, I kind of wish there were two Octobers. There are so many other horror/spooky/just October-centric books I want to read. Will end up reading them anyway, but there’s just something special about reading Halloween-ish books up to and around Halloween.

You might recall a post some weeks ago about a reading challenge called All Hallows Read. Am glad to announce that it was a success! I completed the prompts but ended up choosing some very different reads for each. I’ll probably take a break on challenges though until the next major theme that fits. Probably Valentine’s Day since there are countless romances on my TBR. But without further ado, here were the challenges and the titles I finished for each.

+ choose ONE prompt of your choice – The Unquiet Grave – A Book That Features A Burial Ground – I read nine books this month and am glad to find that 8/9 of them fits each of the prompts here! A totally unexpected title happens to fit this one.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (Review) is an elegant historical fiction read, not anyone’s first thought as far as ‘horror’ but there was one jarring and disturbing sub-plot that involves burials and bodies. Also love how the title The Unquiet Grave happens to also fit in well with the breaking of silence that is at the core of this read.

Do The Monster Mash – Anthology –  I had originally intended on picking His Hideous Heart, a collection of short story adaptations by Edgar Allan Poe. Instead, I finished Cruel Works of Nature by Gemma Amor (Review Link)

Many thanks to Amanda for the recommendation. It’s an extremely varied collection of horror short stories that really surprised me.

Halloween Town – Set In A Magical Place – I picked Spin The Dawn (Review Link) by Elizabeth Lim for this. 

The sequel is coming out Summer 2020 and has one of the most gorgeous covers ever. Glad to be on top of new series instead of years behind. Wasn’t expecting to be so thrilled at seeing the cover reveal. Definitely picking it up!

Pumpkin Picking – A long-time TBR choice – Yay, another one that I kept to my original plans and finished! The Shining by Stephen King.

For being so long (over 600 pages in its paperback form) this book was an effective page turner and I was pretty much glued after a certain point, for hundreds of pages. Can’t wait to explore more works by this author, still mindboggled on where to go next in the sprawling selection though.

Trick or Treat – Have someone else pick a book for you – Same as the Anthology pick, Cruel Works Of Nature, rec’d courtesy of Amanda. ❤ Thanks again!

I did go 2-for-1 in that category but here is another prompt I grabbed-

+ Choose One Prompt from Corpses Or Werewolves – Werewolves – Full Moon – Choose One Book Where A Character Undergoes A Transformation – While I didn’t mention so in my review, Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden (Review) fits this theme perfectly.

A Taste For Blood – Book With A Red Cover – I was going to pick Illuminae for this one then decided on The Beautiful then picked a total unexpected one that has a final release coming soon, Song of the Crimson Flower (Review Link)

This book has a witch rather than a vampire, but the literal red synonym in the title and lovely blood-red flowers seemed appropriate.

Immortal Being – A Gothic Classic –  Stuck with my plans and read We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (Review)

It was a great read. I watched the film too and also adored it, perhaps as much as the book. Definitely featuring it in an upcoming Books To Movie Adaptations post.

Prince Of The Night – A Dracula Retelling –  I was planning to get Dracula by Manga Classics for this but didn’t pick it up in time. Turns out that one of my all-time faves, an episodic horror graphic novel (manga) by the name of Petshop of Horrors has a story in volume 4 called Dracula that reworks/remakes its plot with pretty direct reference. I re-read it for this challenge, and completed the final volumes of the series (ten altogether) October 31st. Will probably take a lot of time in crafting the review since I want to make it special.

Reflection – Read A Graphic Novel –  Though Petshop of Horrors fits this prompt, I also read the first of two large compilation volumes of Orange by Ichigo Takano (Review)

Orange is about as far from Halloween-related as you can get but at least the color orange is a Halloween color? lol, stretching it, but glad to have finished this title this month.

What We Do In The Shadows – Urban Magic –  I was originally planning to read an urban fantasy/romance for this, Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I was surprised to find that a must-read of this month fits perfectly into this description, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Review)

Lucysnovelpurpose also made a wonderful bingo card for this #allhallowsread reading challenge.

Completed

  • Posted A TBR
  • Read 500 Pages
  • Read A Book By A Female Author
  • Wrote A Book Review – Always.
  • Read A Book From The Library – Ninth House ended up being the choice for this one.
  • Complete A Challenge
  • Post A Bookstagram Pic – This is my Bookstagram, feel free to follow. ❤
  • Read A Book With 400+ Pages – The Shining easily fits this.
  • Read For 10 Minutes
  • Burn A Candle While Reading – Almost didn’t do this one until one day toward the last week of October, power went out for about 8 hours. Had no choice but to read by candle light.
  • Free Space (How about, read a book with a terrifying cover- for that I’d choose Cruel Works Of Nature.)
  • Chose A Challenge
  • Watch A Halloween Movie (For this one I chose The Haunting, 1963 version. It’s fantastic.)
  • Read 3 Books
  • Read 1000 Pages
  • Listen To Monster Mash (More like when am I not listening to this, lol.)
  • Rate A Book 5 Stars

Incomplete

  • Take Part In A Reading Sprint (Does anyone know what this is? I probably should have asked in the original post for this one weeks ago haha.)
  • Buddy Read (Was going to tweet looking to do one, but middle-to-end of the month I started feeling reading slumpy (not quite a slump but more like a warning of one?? lol) and didn’t. Buddy reads are incredible though and I look forward to trying another in December/Jan when backlog ARCs should be cleared out.)
  • Buy Something Halloween-Themed (Came very close to doing this one in the form of some curious lovely Addams Family-themed pancakes, but didn’t.)

22/25 finished! I was not expecting to get so many.

Also read Persephone Autumn’s Depths Awakened this month, not Halloween-related, but was a nice change of pace.


I finished 9 books in October, and 8 volumes of manga/graphic novels. 17 reads overall. I’m surprised at that number, as a break seemed appropriate/imminent near the end of the month. I will cover November reading plans in a separate post.

Have you read any of the titles mentioned here or want to?

How was your October as far as reading goes, find any new 5-star favorites?

Thanks so much for reading and as always, appreciate your time and thoughts. ~ Kitty

Book Review : Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Song of the Crimson Flower (Amazon Link)

Author : Julie C. Dao
Published By : Philomel Books, Penguin Random House
Year Published : November 5, 2019 *Preorder Available*
Genre / Tags : Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, YA
Formats : Hardcover, eBook
# of Pages : 282 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Review

Note : I received an ARC of this title from Penguin Teen and Bookish First.

This book has a vibe that is charming and positive. The short length (under 300 pages) and rather fast pace makes this an ideal choice for people who need a break after a large and/or intense read or just want a relaxing reading experience in general. The story presented here is simple but in a classical way, resembling a fairy tale.

What drew me to this title initially is the unusual romance, one of the more notably unique aspects of this title. I’ll just go into details that are already presented in the back cover summary and avoid spoilers. The heroine is Lan, a young noblewoman. Her love interest is Bao, an aspiring physician and orphan. Though of two very different social classes, they were childhood friends.

As adults, she is in love with another and rejects Bao in anger- granted, she has what I think many will consider good reasons for doing so. Her words are cruel nonetheless and tarnish his idealized image of her. Filled with regret after the fact, she wants to make amends and finds that he’s been cursed by a witch. The two go on a journey to locate the witch and undo the curse. Time is ticking and his soul might otherwise be forever trapped. During their journey, she starts to see him in a new light. Conversely, he tries to close his heart off to her.

The nature of their love story is a sort of childhood friends-to-enemies, then enemies-to-lovers setup that I immediately wanted to read about. Both characters grow and change in their perceptions of each other. While I feel the large concept is teeming with the potential for intensity and drama, it’s surprisingly a surprisingly cute and easygoing romance overall. It’s also quite chaste and all-ages friendly, not any problematic aspect that I can recall.

Next area I want to cover- the reversal of fairytale stereotypes. I was very pleased to find this in Song of the Crimson Flower. For example, one of the side characters has a nuanced portrayal despite usually being of a type that is treated as uniformly evil in fables/fairytales. Next, rather than a hero saving a heroine, the hero is the one in dire straits with a heroine keen on helping to save him. Moreover, the female characters are on equal footing with the male ones in terms of power, conversation, and a zest for adventure.

Aside from undoing Bao’s curse, the characters also find out troubling things about a substance called “black spice” that has been spreading throughout multiple kingdoms and having very negative effects. The spice seems to originate from a place called the Gray Kingdom, a location which lies at the center of breaking Bao’s curse.

The setting is historical Vietnam with a touch of magic. The visuals of this world are simple to grasp yet often beautifully described. The magical energy that permeates this land is tangible and the side characters have some worthwhile development and relationships, with bits of back story. That aspect could have been broader, but it’s not bad for the page count.

Plot-wise, there was one event toward the end that I felt could have been situated differently for greater emotional impact. A small change would have injected a revelatory element of surprise for which this perhaps too even-keel novel would have benefitted from. (I will probably detail this in my Goodreads review, with the appropriate spoiler tags.)

There is a noticeable absence of any controversial or particularly grim elements. In addition to the YA demographic, middle grade readers branching into YA might be one possible audience. But the main characters are on the older side of teenaged and behave in ways that are gracefully smart and reasonable. I think a lot of adults would find something to like here as well. Tracing back to the fairytale comparison, there is a potential wide reach and appeal for this title.

Overall Rating – 8.5/10

Why You Should Try It – Graceful characterization. Feels like a light and airy fairytale, but reverses stereotypes in a neat way. Well-paced and short (under 300 pages) with what I think would be wide appeal to middle grade, YA, and adult readers. The romance is interesting. The setting is a unique and well-realized, a fantasy-infused historical Vietnam. Lovely writing style. I’m definitely eager to try more books by this author that pertain to this universe.

Why You Might Not Like It – The short length keeps many facets brief and fast-moving in a way I sense could make it less memorable over time. Moments that could have been more harrowing or surprising are missed in favor of keeping to a consistently light and positive tone. I found some of the assorted kingdom world-building chatter tedious and side characters too numerous for the page count, though perhaps other books in this universe may aid in fleshing them out properly.

Song of the Crimson Flower (Amazon Link)


Thanks so much for reading this review! Are you interested in reading Song of the Crimson Flower? Have you read any of Julie C. Dao’s other books? All of your comments/thoughts are very welcome. ~ Kitty

Book Review : Escaping Exodus

Escaping Exodus (Amazon Link)

Author : Nicky Drayden
Published By : HarperCollins, Harper Voyager
Year Published : October 15, 2019
Genre / Tags : Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Space Opera, Experimental, Light Romance, Speculative Fiction, also in my opinion- New Adult
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 336 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Escaping Exodus is a story of a young woman named Seske Kaleigh, heir to the command of a biological, city-size starship carved up from the insides of a spacefaring beast. Her clan has just now culled their latest ship and the workers are busy stripping down the bonework for building materials, rerouting the circulatory system for mass transit, and preparing the cavernous creature for the onslaught of the general populous still in stasis. It’s all a part of the cycle her clan had instituted centuries ago—excavate the new beast, expand into its barely-living carcass, extinguish its resources over the course of a decade, then escape in a highly coordinated exodus back into stasis until they cull the next beast from the diminishing herd.

And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.

Note : Many thanks to Netgalley, HarperCollins Publishers, and Harper Voyager for providing me an e-ARC of this title for review.

Review

This book is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but I’ll mention first and foremost that it gets a 5/5 on Goodreads from me, issues and all, because the characterization and storyline had me consistently riveted. Finished the whole second half within a sitting. Even when imagery got murky, very out there, and almost beyond comprehension- I was always invested in the characters and happenings of this weird world. There is enthusiastic creativity in the telling of it, and astonishing development given the modest 300-some page count.

One disclosure first, and something that may inform my thoughts on certain aspects- I haven’t read much science fiction. Liked much of what I’ve tried, but am still muchly a stranger to those shores. This is a sort of science fiction/speculative fiction/fantasy hybrid with a thrust toward experimental world building rather than space exploration.

First, the writing style. First impression was positive. The narrative is told from two points of view with the main characters just entering adulthood. Though I’ve never seen it shelved as New Adult, I think this title could easily be ushered into that category due to the age of the main characters. This book is filled with terms unique to its world, presented on nearly every page. The writing feels thick due to this attention to detail and demands the reader to learn through context and process sometimes murky and otherworldly imagery. I finished this title in six hours but it felt longer and like it would consume more energy than a more rhythmical and flowy read would. Not a bad writing style by any means, but I could see it being too dense for some. What I do like is how eventful the pages are, to an almost chaotic degree late in the book where the author has so many ideas and pulls them off at a faster pace. The first half of this book is noticeably more orderly than the second half.

Not related to the technical good and bad but I feel it’s important to mention sooner rather than later- this is a weird read. Almost challengingly so, with some gross passages and nearly inexplicable customs. This title takes place far, far in the future- where humanity and ways of life have evolved to an otherworldly degree. Cultural customs, food, ways of showing affection, pets, all sorts of nitty-gritty things are different in this world. Even simple travel involves characters navigating the flesh of a giant space creature. However, I loved how the things I didn’t like juxtaposed with what worked for a fascinating effect, encouraging one to empathize more with the world. An example of this, there is a space monster baby that probes one of the main character’s facial orifices as a way of bonding. I was pretty grossed out by the related descriptions but said baby is also an innocent creature whose life is being threatened. It still reaches out the heroine, perhaps not understanding that her species has been hurting it. I grew to feel for the strange little guy and wanted the main characters to successfully protect it.

About the relationships in this book. There is some romance. Not central to the story, but it’s there. Some enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, friends-to-enemies, starcrossed, basically all the stuff I happen to like was somehow included and a huge surprise to find. The otherworldly quality remains though and makes things like the intimacy between the characters come off in a very odd manner. But somehow I was really out here shipping one of the main characters (Seske) with everybody. Seske falls for two characters (a man and woman) who are treated with shockingly equal care and chemistry. Theirs isn’t a love triangle because the culture of the world here normalizes a sort of bi polyamory. I’ve actually rarely-to-never seen this done in any form of media, adding even more to this title’s uniqueness.

Winding back a bit to characterization and the points-of-view, Seske and Adala are the young heroines of this tale and raised in a matriarchal society. I really enjoyed how different these characters are from one another, harmonizing to provide a fuller view of the world.

Seske is of noble lineage and her chapters deal with revealing the workings of their hierarchial society. She is quite privileged, but also expected to shoulder the great responsibility of directing their world in more harrowing times and perhaps breaking away from tradition. She’s also a flawed character who makes some poor decisions. Adala is a girl of a lower caste and class, considered by many to be amidst the disposable. Through her we grow to understand how the people of the world are suffering and their need for change.

Adala’s chapters are more action and adventure-oriented. Adala and Seske are the main couple of the book and their relationship has major ups and downs due to their differences. I liked both of them. The dual narration encourages an understanding for both sides, even when they can’t fully understand each other.

Overall Rating – 8.5/10

Why You Should Try It – Bizarre but creative and inventive world-building. Vivid characterization and motivations. Fantastical imagery and space opera drama. The romance is of a surprising variety. Impressively full-scale storyline befitting a 600-page novel, accomplished within the tighter framework of 330 pages. Daringly experimental and unlike any title I’ve read before.

Why You Might Not Like It – Some imagery is a challenge to come to grips with or even mind-boggling and/or gross in nature. While I liked the brisker pace of later chapters, the frenzy can come off as messy. Seske, one of the main characters, makes some poor decisions that can annoy.

Escaping Exodus (Amazon Link)


This book has one of the prettiest covers I’ve encountered this year. Was a little worried it might be too out of my usual comfort zone.. so pleasantly surprised to find it engaging and worthwhile. I usually give only books ranking as 9 or 10 a 5/5 on Goodreads but decided to round this one up since for me anyway, that extra matter of the book’s wild creativity makes it special. I hope people who are looking for something experimental and ambitious will give it a try.

Thanks so much for reading this review of Escaping Exodus! Are you interested in it, or have already read it? Do you have any speculative fiction recommendations? Always appreciate your comments and likes. ~ Kitty

1 Hour Of Reading #Kindle Unlimited Books / Tried 5 #Books / Which Is The Best? #001

Time for a new series! I hope it’s helpful/useful for people looking through the giant Kindle store for books to read. Even for people who don’t have a Kindle Unlimited membership but enjoy eBooks, some of these titles are often heavily discounted on Amazon on a regular basis so they may be TBR hopefuls and woth following. Some also have paperback options.

For those unaware of Kindle Unlimited, it’s a digital reading subscription service where you can pick from over 1 million titles- books, audiobooks, and magazines. You can check out up to ten at a time and can re-check out books whenever you wish. New users can get a free 30-day trial and the typical cost is $9.99 per month. They do have a deal where returning customers can pay $29.99 for 3 months which is a pretty splendid deal. I tried it out for three months and reading the books on my phone, iPad, and Kindle harmoniously was pretty great. It’s a nice service if you find several books of interest on there.
Disclosure : This post contains affiliate links, I’d get a small commission if you purchase the associated books/services using them.


Here are the basic steps I’ll be taking in this series…

1.) Pick 5 random Kindle Unlimited books.
2.) Set a timer on my phone to go off in ten minutes.
3.) Read the book uninterrupted. Stop when the timer goes off.
4.) Write my thoughts.
5.) Repeat until all 5 are sampled.
6.) Pick a favorite of the batch.


1.) The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King ($4.99 / Free on KU.)
Genre : YA Fantasy
Standout Quote : “I would rather stay in Samiya and serve the Gods than leave and serve a man.”

Wow, this book is well-written so far. Takes place in a fantasy world wherein the main character, Kalinda, is part of a sisterhood of what seem to be battle maidens. Her best friend is a girl named Jaya and the descriptions of their friendship seem sweet. Kalinda worries that she or one of her companions is going to be chosen to marry a stranger and leave the sisterhood. The world building is nice, I usually don’t like using the word exotic but the atmosphere seems colorfully exotic and I’m curious to continue. This is the first in a four book series.

Verdict : Interested. (3/5)


2.) Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan ($5.99)
Genre : Historical Fiction / Based On A True Story

Standout Quote : “So we will be bombed?” “I pray it does not happen,” Cardinal Schuster said, “but a prudent man will always prepare for the worst. Good-bye, and may your faith in God keep you safe in the days ahead, Pino.”

This title has the distinction of a whopping 26,000+ reviews on Amazon. A movie adaptation starring Tom Holland is in development. This book starts with a lengthy preface by the author, exploring his motivations for telling this story. He met and bonded with it’s main character, Pino. This book is the result of much research and Pino’s accounts of what had happened to him during World War 2 in Italy. The story starts when he is just 17 years old, in Italy. This is one of the books that most caught my attention in getting Kindle Unlimited in the first place and the writing style is very approachable, will eventually return to this one.

Verdict – Very Interested, but need to be in a historical fiction mood. (3.5/5)


3.) Full Tilt by Emma Scott ($3.99)
Genre : Romance, Contemporary

Standout Quote : “God, I hated this. The pathetic tone of my voice. The bragging of the band’s accomplishments, begging my mother to feel happy for our success when I hardly felt a thing myself, except the need to be loved. It was a hunger that was never sated.”

Even though I consider myself a fan of romance, the same-y sounding scenarios get tiring after a while. Bad boy corrupts good girl. They live happily ever after once they work out his alpha hijinks. I’d heard some things about Full Tilt before that gave me serious pause, as in full-of-intrigue pause. First of all, the heroine Kacey is a homeless grunge metal guitarist and a “bad girl” so-to-speak and the love interest is… a good, wholesome guy? And he’s very ill and possibly dying, which may violate the HEA (happily ever after) clause that seems to be an enforced rule in romance. I love seeing conventions bucked in romance, so I’ve got to read it. The writing style grabs me so far, very excited.

Verdict : TBR’d (5/5)


4.) Labyrinth Angel ($8.99)
Genre : Romance, Novella, Light Novel (Basically Japanese novella w/some tiny number of anime illustrations here and there.)

Standout Quote : Satsuki trusted him wholeheartedly, which earned him the respect of the wind and trees. That was how he was able to feel their “emotions” despite not possessing powers of his own.

The descriptions bring to mind a shoujo manga (aka girls-oriented comic) whirling with some flowery descriptions of, well, flowers. The main character Satsuki seems strong-willed and vibrant so far and has telekinetic powers. Her love interest- Shindo- is also her guardian/bodyguard. There does seem to be an age gap between them and he has been trained since boyhood to protect her at all costs. He seems to utterly worship the heroine and literally bows down to her. I’ve got to say, after reading The Hating Game and other various romances with petulant love interests, I’m kind of experiencing whiplash right now with this guy, lol. I like the writing style, it’s loose and easy, if not particularly sophisticated. Seems like a nice guilty pleasure.

Update : This title seems to have been removed from free reading on Kindle Unlimited. 😦 It is still available for purchase however so I am including it in this batch nonetheless. I highly recommend reading what you can on KU when you have a membership as books are removed from the service once in a while, kind of like how shows on Netflix/Hulu work.

Verdict – TBR, planning to read and review. (4/5)


These Unnatural Men by E.J. Babb
Genre : General Fiction, Sci fi, Speculative Fiction

Standout Quote : “We have an essential role in society but the public still views us with the same superstitious fear as they do a morgue or a graveyard.”

There seem to be some issues with punctuation but this has book has one of the more sophisticated writing styles of any in this list. There is palpable intensity. The main character, Nieve, is a specialist that performs euthanasia on patients in a distant future. The story starts where a grieving husband brings his wife in for the procedure. She is experiencing the final stages of dementia. Curious about where the characterization will go and the aims of the story as a social commentary.

Verdict – Interested (3.5/5)


What a nice and varied reading session this was! Now to pick my favorite of the batch…

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french toast dessert GIF

Full Tilt stands out the most to me, could be that I’m just in that type of reading mood. Always nice to see books that seem very different from the conventions of their genres and I’m always extra curious about those outliers.

Which of these five have you read or would you want to read? Always loving to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading this feature and thanks as always for your comments and likes, they are much appreciated! ~ Kitty

Book Review : Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Published By : Flatiron Books
Year/Date Published : October 8, 2019
Genre / Tags : Dark Fiction, Low Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Mystery, Contemporary, Horror, Action
Mood : Vibrant yet mysterious
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 458 pages (Hardcover)

Summary

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Content Warnings – Horror imagery (ghosts, mainly) violence, murder, coercion, sexual assault, flashback to assault of a child. A bit about that last one- if you wish to skip that scene here are some directions based on the hardcover 2019 US edition I have on hand : Page 121, stop reading at the beginning of the final paragraph that starts with “But Alex had to go. She chose the cleanest metal stall,” and start reading again at the beginning of page 124. Or you could just skip pages 121-124 altogether.

Review

I’m still in a foggy state of disarray at finally having and reading Ninth House. This book is good and well worth the while but also not quite measuring to my dreamlike, sky-high expectations. To be fair, no book should be subjected to such. I’ve found that most of my all-time faves have been utter surprises and the ones I wait feverishly for aren’t quite as sensational. Ninth House wasn’t a let down and there is much to enjoy within its pages, but this also wasn’t quite the bookish euphoria I was expecting. It’s a very far cry from Six of Crows in every conceivable way, to the point where I’d venture to imagine some people who hated Bardugo’s prior work might love Ninth House and vice versa. The commonalities between the two titles is Bardugo’s enduring knack for creative and fresh fantasy imagery (in Ninth House’s case, supernatural modern fantasy/mystery/horror) and solid characterization for the main characters.

First I’ll start with the main character, Alex. Her situation is best described as being similar to that kid from The Sixth Sense.

bruce willis i see dead people GIF

But instead of a little boy, imagine a little girl who grows up with not a single support or guiding force when dealing with this unfortunate gift. Only when she enters college, Yale to be exact, does she find people who can relate to her. By the way, if you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense I highly recommend dropping everything and watching it. Such a great movie.

Aside from seeing ghosts, Alex can interact with them. Over the course of Ninth House’s 450 pages, we see her grow and get a better handle on her powers and even learn how to use them for good and do some sleuthing. There is a bit of a chosen one trope feel but it’s a chosen-one-done-right. Alex doesn’t get special treatment for her gifts, of anything they’ve been a curse and the figures that recognize her abilities are not always trustworthy. The narrative jumps back and forth between present and recent past. In the recent past she’s given a mentor of sorts in a major character, Daniel Arlington or “Darlington”. He comes off as a bit pretentious and info-dumpy at first, but I ended up liking the guy a lot. He has an engaging rapport with Alex and there is what seems to be the vague beginnings of a relationship between the two. I’ve loved Bardugo’s approach to character relationships in previous books- in short, she tends to make them complicated, replete with conversation, and any tender development is hard-earned. Low-key shipping this couple.

Getting into a major criticism though, I didn’t find most of the characters outside of Darlington and Alex to be quite as conversationally interesting. The Bridegroom is a memorable exception, but he is one ghost among hundreds of ghosts that Alex could interact with. More enthralling and interactive ghosts, please.

Dawes is likable as an ally supporting Alex but we learn little else about them. Mercy has a minimal role outside of her sub-plot. I saw a particular missed opportunity in Hellie, a character who is central to Alex’s dark past. I think some of the world building should have been restrained in favor of memorable character development, which Leigh Bardugo has a history of doing skillfully.

I recall Six of Crows having various snippets of punchy, quotable dialogue. There are some great moments like that in Ninth House but they are often localized within Alex’s thoughts and interior development. She spends many later parts of the book being (mostly) on her own, unraveling the tangled web of disturbing secrets and a century of murders having to do with Yale’s secret societies.

The strongest aspect of this novel is how it takes down-to-earth locales and infuses a dark and mysterious underbelly of limitless supernatural magic, lurking just beneath the surface. I had quite a time getting a handle on how to even envision some of the dimension-bending abilities that are at work here. The descriptions are lush for low fantasy. A lot of thought and minute details went into the construction of an imposing network of magic-users and their experiments. It ends up coming off like a rabbit hole with a lot of room to grow in the sequels. I’m overwhelmed by how fantastical this novel is, even though it’s easily filed as dark fiction/low fantasy.

Also surprised at how effective (and perhaps understated) this book is as a horror novel. There are some very creepy moments where Alex describes what she has gone through with these ghosts or continues to go through. It’s imperative that she doesn’t make eye contact with them, or they might try to interact with and float closer. A few of them act in ways that are unpredictable. There are times she gets accosted in unexpected locations.

In closing, this book has pretty much everything I love. Supernatural elements, dark pasts, hidden secrets to unravel (or not unravel, I’m still full of confusion about many things) a writing style that almost approaches gothic prettiness at points, and complicated relationships.

My main issue is that things can get too info-dumpy (especially early on) and Alex’s obsession with a particular murder mystery can become an overwrought plot point in what is such a broadly intriguing world.

Also of note, though this is just a personal tidbit, I was expecting to be so sucked into this one and reading it in a spellbound trance from beginning to end. While this was the case for perhaps the first half, I was picking it up and putting it down without issue during the last half. So I would say it is lacking a certain extra oomph or utter spellbinding quality despite having, in theory, every possible personally appealing trait.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Why You Should Try It – An inspired and dark blend of low fantasy, mystery, horror, and action. The main character is gritty yet nuanced and I’d describe her as a chosen one trope done right. The lore and writing style is almost exhaustively impressive with a lot of personality and detail. Creative imagery.

Why You Might Not Like It – At times too detailed, or distracted by what should seem to be tangential asides. The side characters were definitely lacking in revealing details or impactful conversation. Alex’s standoffishness could be contributing to this.


Additional notes

About the disturbing content and how deep/dark it goes, I can definitely see how this can be too much for a teen/YA audience but relative to other dark adult-aimed books in general fiction/horror/thriller/suspense genres, I didn’t find this to be exceptionally gratuitous. The one scene that I can see being a point of trouble for people is one in which (spoilers, but I feel it’s important to know this context if we’re bringing it up at all) the heroine remembers being raped as a child. The moment and its after effects are referenced for some pages. I do urge anyone thinking of reading this book but worrying about that content to only approach with caution. If you would like to completely skip that scene I don’t think it would take away any important info from the plot. As stated in the content warning above, it takes place during/is mentioned at length on pages 121-124 in the hardcover edition.

(Spoiler-Free) About the ending- very satisfied with it, but in a way that makes me eager for the sequel. This has been the case for every book by this author, even the one I didn’t like (Siege and Storm, second volume of the Grisha Trilogy) she is quite good at handling endings. Building momentum and wrapping up the stuff we wanted to know about all while keeping the door wide open for more. Definitely reading the sequel.

I’ve heard that a TV adaptation is in the works.. and that’s actually pretty exciting to hear about. The low fantasy setting should be simple enough to adapt and seeing the menagerie of ghosts in the flesh is going to be pretty intense. There is a plot point of the characters using spoken word poetry to keep the dead at bay though that will be, uh, challenging to adapt without some unintentional hilarity though. But overall, I’m imagining/hoping for some chaotically entertaining cross between Supernatural, The Sixth Sense, The Eye, and Jessica Jones. That last one only because Alex reminds me of a younger version of Jessica.

jessica jones smirk GIF

Thanks for reading this review of Ninth House! Am actually shocked that I managed to write it. Upon finishing the book I was full of so many feelings and thinking (how?? How will this all somehow get organized enough to become a cohesive review?) but somehow I typed up this blob that is hopefully functionally coherent and helpful. :’D Have you read Ninth House or is it on your TBR? Always loving to read your thoughts, and thanks again for checking out this review. ~ Kitty

Blog Tour : The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – Review + Moodboard – @PenguinTeen

The Fountains of Silence (Penguin Link)
by Ruta Sepetys

BOOK DESCRIPTION

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray comes a gripping, extraordinary portrait of love, silence, and secrets under a Spanish dictatorship.

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true postwar struggles of Spain.

Includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more.


Release Date : October 1st, 2019, Available Now

Official Site / Ruta Sepetys Official Site

Amazon / B&N / Audible / Book Depository


Author Bio

Ruta Sepetys (www.rutasepetys.com) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist, as her books are read by both teens and adults worldwide. Her novels Between Shades of GrayOut of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea have won or been shortlisted for more than forty book prizes, and are included on more than sixty state award lists. Between Shades of Gray was adapted into the film Ashes in the Snow, and her other novels are currently in development for TV and film. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is passionate about the power of history and literature to foster global awareness and connectivity. She has presented to NATO, to the European Parliament, in the United States Capitol, and at embassies worldwide. Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and now lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys and Instagram @RutaSepetysAuthor.


Moodboard


Review

The Fountains of Silence is a lengthy work of historical fiction. While categorized as YA, I found the writing style to be elegant enough that adults might very well enjoy this novel more than the YA demographic. The story lingers on insightful yet subtle details, unfolding a series of sub-plots from the perspectives of multiple characters. These 500+ pages are split into 149 chapters. Each chapter being a couple of pages long lends a freshness to the proceedings. The quick shifts between different viewpoints and situations imparts small but worthwhile tidbits of information.

Interspersed among these chapters are a number of small article clippings and quotations from real publications- they serve to explain background details and inspiration for this novel. I really liked these inclusions and feel they serve a helpful role in adding needed information about the time period and political climate of Franco’s dictatorship.

The setting is Madrid, Spain in 1957. The most well-formed of the characters is Daniel, a fledgling photographer traveling with his parents to a Hilton hotel in Spain. Daniel himself was born and raised in America and is part-Spanish on his mother’s side. Eager to explore Spain for the first time, he makes friends quickly but there is an atmosphere of subtle danger to his exploration. There is a sense of deeply rooted, multi-generational suffering that Daniel (and perhaps, the reader) has minimal knowledge of. He, along with the reader, gradually learns more through the friendships forged and his interest in photography. Some of the situations he stumbles upon and artistic, incisive snapshots he takes hint toward terrible happenings behind the scenes.

Aside from Daniel, we learn about Ana, a maid at the hotel Daniel is staying at. Her family was victim to Franco’s regime. She and her family members have tried hard to stay under the radar, all while continuing to face injustice. Then there is Puri, a young nun whose curiosity leads to some troubling discoveries central to the main plot. We also get to know Ana’s brother, Rafa who has a close friend in Fuga, a talented and driven matador-in-training. They’ve cultivated an endearing friendship.

I would also like to note that while horrific events are referenced, they are not detailed in any gory or gratuitous manner. The writing, by and large, is graceful and delicately handled.

To sum up what I liked about this book- the prose is solid and consistent, with a clean polish and simple flow despite the clearly large amount of research that went into this title. The end pages contain a bibliography detailing how many sources were utilized in the writing of this novel. The pictures and glossary for Spanish phrases is also helpful. I do wish there was a detailed character guide though. The cast is large and it can be easy to forget some side characters if you take a long break between reading sessions.

The climax and later chapters do well in wrapping up what happens to the characters years later. I was fairly satisfied with the ending, which is so important after a 500+ page investment.

Now for what I didn’t like so much, or what I can sense may be roadblocks to enjoyment for other people. Note the title, The Fountains of Silence. The main characters move about their lives slowly, in fear of their government and any sort of action that might put a target on their back. They rarely speak frankly to each other.

The secrecy, the wan niceness of the characters, the lack of options or plans beyond being obedient or coming off as such- these aspects serve to make the story move in a manner that can easily come off as too slow and lacking eventfulness.

Some of the most interesting tidbits develop gradually, with the protagonists seeming very passive all throughout. When it comes to Ana for example, I had very little to think or say about her character for a large portion of this book. I eventually warmed up to her character though. Ultimately, it’s easy to understand and feel compassion for the characters given the multiple generations of oppression. Nonetheless, this reading experience might call for a higher-than-average level of patience and an appreciation for often mild, subtle snapshots into the everyday lives of these characters.

Why You Should Try It – The short chapters and multiple perspectives increase the readability. The well-chosen, frequent and historic tidbits add further understanding. What would otherwise be a heavy and dense subject matter is quite comprehensive. There is a quiet dignity to this narrative, and it educates the reader of an important and underreported time in recent history.

Why You Might Not Like It – The very things that make the writing so elegant and careful can make the unfolding of events and characterization come off as slow-moving and lacking intensity.


Tour Schedule

Week One

September 30 – The Paige Turner – Creative Instagram Picture

October 1 – Fangirl Fury – Review

October 2 – Tome and Textiles – Wardrobe Wednesday with Cover Recreation

October 3 – The Lovely Books – Moodboard

October 4 – The Lovely Loveday – Review

Week Two

October 7 – ReadsRandiRead – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

October 8 – Confessions of a Book Addict – Listicle: 10 Reasons To Read Fountains of Silence

October 9 – As The Book Ends – Playlist

October 10 – Lollipopsandlyrics – Creative Instagram Picture

October 11 – Metal Phantasm Reads – Review + Playlist  

Week Three

October 14 – Sunshine and Mountains – Listicle: “Movies to watch if you loved Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys”.

October 15 – Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner – Moodboard + Review

October 16 – Cracking the Cover – Review

October 17 – Jessabella Reads – Review

October 18 – The Baroness of Books – Moodboard + Review  


Disclosure : I received an ARC (uncorrected proof) of The Fountains of Silence from @PenguinTeen as part of this blog tour.


Goodreads Monday : 11/11/19

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme that was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners. The meme is pretty easy to follow, to participate simply choose a random book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it!


After randomizing via Goodreads (going to my to-read shelf, scrolling down and putting sort order by random) the following book tumbled first from that crowded shelf-

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Summary from Goodreads

My disease is as rare as it is famous. It’s a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, but basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in fifteen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives. New next door neighbors. I look out the window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black t-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. I want to learn everything about him, and I do. I learn that he is funny and fierce. I learn that his eyes are Atlantic Ocean-blue and that his vice is stealing silverware. I learn that when I talk to him, my whole world opens up, and I feel myself starting to change—starting to want things. To want out of my bubble. To want everything, everything the world has to offer.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


I’ve been meaning all year to read one of Nicola Yoon’s books, her other book called The Sun Is Also A Star interests me more, but Everything Everything sounds highly unique. I’ve read/watched some reviews about it in the past and opinions seem highly mixed. If you’ve read Everything Everything, what did you think of it? I’m pretty interested in the movie too. I find it fun to read a book and then watch the movie and see how it interprets the characters and locales versus my mind’s eye.

Anywho, thanks so much for checking out this week’s Goodreads Monday! And thanks as always for your likes/comments. ~ Kitty

Reading Wrap-Up (11/3/19 – 11/9/19)

Posts This Week

GOODREADS MONDAY : 11/4/19

BOOK REVIEW : THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE BY HARUKI MURAKAMI

WWW WEDNESDAY (11/6/19)

BOOK REVIEW : BAD THINGS (TRISTAN & DANIKA BOOK 1) BY R.K. LILLEY

FIRST LINE FRIDAYS (11/8/19)

BOOK REVIEW : UNNATURAL MAGIC BY C.M. WAGGONER

1 post per day this week, my bookblogging semi-break is over now and I’m looking forward to being more active again. Doing a lot of reading again and am pretty much back in the swing of things! Hope everyone has been having a good weekend and upcoming week. ~ Kitty

Book Review : Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner

Unnatural Magic (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Author : C.M. Waggoner
Published By : Ace
Year Published : November 5, 2019
Genre / Tags : Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, Romance
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 400 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. Undaunted, she sails to the bustling city-state of Hexos, hoping to find a place at a university where they don’t think there’s anything untoward about providing a woman with a magical education. But as soon as Onna arrives, she’s drawn into the mysterious murder of four trolls.

Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them, one that is tested when an unknown mage makes an attempt on Tsira’s life. Soon, unbeknownst to each other, Onna and Tsira both begin devoting their considerable talents to finding out who is targeting trolls, before their homeland is torn apart…

Note : Thank you Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing an ARC of this title for the purpose of review.

Review

Unnatural Magic is a unique and mature fantasy debut with two distinct viewpoints occuring in different regions. The setting and atmosphere bring to mind a sort of victorian era, but imbued with magic.

This is the first time I’ve read a fantasy novel that was quite fixated on trolls living amongst and communicating with humans more or less harmoniously. The trolls in Unnatural Magic are broader and stronger, cultivating a matriarchal culture that contrasts interestingly with the the patriarchal one of humans.

The first viewpoint is Onna’s, she is a young human woman- a studious pupil of magic who wishes to attend an elite magic academy. She’s rejected entry, mainly due to a preference for wizards over witches that prevails in her culture. Undeterred, she travels far and is finally recognized- becoming the protege of a gifted magician with a mysterious past. Together, they are looking for a murderer who has been targeting trolls and threatening the relative peace the two races have been starting to attain.

I almost DNF’d this book early on after reading a few of Onna’s chapters. The writing during her sections aims for a sort of elegance that came off as too decorated, and full of technical world building info dumps that I found barely digestible. The plot during Onna’s sections can be summed up quickly, and I found myself barely able to stand the world of humans in this book. Their conversations, their stuffy culture, even Onna is sadly bland more often than not in the way she carries herself and her thought processes.

However, there is a whole other perspective- that of a troll named Tsira and a human soldier Jeckran. On the cusp of DNF’ing, I encountered these chapters and was immersed. The writing style during these sections is more free-flowing (if often crude) and by far more eventful. Tsira is likable and fascinating. The way she and Jeckran interact is startlingly unique, as they come from very different walks of life yet grow close after traveling together on what starts off as a thrillingly dangerous journey. Tsira is a powerful warrior and future leader, Jeckran is a sort of damsel-in-distress who is eventually able to hold his own and is enamored by Tsira’s strength.

Their relationship is a real inversion of traditional roles, bringing something very unconventional that I’ve never seen focused so closely upon in fantasy. Once their adventure was fully underway, even Onna’s chapters became easier to read as I tried to focus on the many creative tidbits that merge to create a full picture of this world.

This is a case where the amount of effort that went into this book is so noticeable and admirable, but certain larger plot elements that should have been fascinating and garner much interest (the murder mystery that plays a role from beginning to end, unmasking the culprit) just left me cold and not that interested. The ending is also weirdly abrupt. Overall, a mixed bag.

Overall Rating – 6/10

Why You Should Try It – Highly detailed and unusual world, trolls and humans being the main focus. The cultural norms developed here are well developed and contrast in an interesting way. I liked Tsira and Jeckran. The highly differing styles of the viewpoints show great versatility.

Why You Might Not Like It – I didn’t care for Onna and her companions and the style of her chapters was consistently unappealing. The climax called for more excitement.

Unnatural Magic (Amazon Affiliate Link)


Thanks for reading my review of Unnatural Magic! Have you read it or have it on your TBR? It’s worth mentioning that if you read the first few chapters and are immediately fine with the style, you’ll likely feel differently toward this book. I knew very early on that some things weren’t working for me, but decided to stick with it after being enchanted by the uniqueness of Tsira and Jeckran. Thanks as always in advance for your likes and comments, hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. ~ Kitty

First Line Fridays (11/8/19)

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page. Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first

Finally… reveal the book!

Without further ado, here is the first line-

Imagine you’re a bird. You can be any kind of bird, but those of you who’ve chosen ostrich or chicken are going to struggle to keep up. Now, imagine you’re coasting through the skies above Los Angeles, coughing occasionally in the smog.

This one sat in my local library’s queue since release and my turn to read it has finally come around! So this will be one of my November reads. Have read many glowing reviews, it sounds like a fun read. Here is the summary from Goodreads-

Summary

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


Have you read The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill or are interested in reading it? Thanks for checking out this week’s First Line Fridays! Hope everyone has a wonderful incoming weekend. ~ Kitty

Book Review : Bad Things (Tristan & Danika Book 1) by R.K. Lilley

Bad Things (volume 1 of the Tristan & Danika series) (Amazon Link)

Author : R.K. Lilley
Series : Tristan & Danika (volume 1 of 3)
Year Published : June 11th, 2013
Genre / Tags : Romance, Contemporary, Longer-Than-Average, Slow Burn
Formats : eBook, Paperback
# of Pages : 366 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Danika hasn’t had an easy life. Being insanely attracted to bad boys has never helped make it easier.

One look at Tristan, and every brain cell she possessed went up in smoke. This man was trouble with a capital T. It was a given.
She knew better. Bad boys were bad. Especially for her. Considering her history, it was crazy to think otherwise. So why did crazy have to feel so damn fine?

For as long as she could remember, Danika had been focused on the future with single-minded purpose. Tristan came along and taught her everything there was to know about letting go, and living in the present. She fell, hard and deep. Of course, that only made her impact with the ground that much more devastating.

Bad Things is about Tristan and Danika, and their train wreck of a love story. This series can be read as a standalone, or with the Up in the Air series.

Bad Things is a full length novel, at roughly 105,000 words.
This book is intended for ages 18 and up.

Review

I really wanted to love this one. This book seems made for me. There is a slow burn romance here where the characters get to know each other in the first half. Things aren’t rushed and feelings between the characters develop naturally. Biracial Asian MC is some frankly unusual rep in romance that I’d like to see more of. The love interest’s name is Tristan and I have some unique affinity for that name too. Everything came together for what would seem like subjective appeal.

First, the writing style. It is noticeably well-polished. I remember being impressed given that the book was free at the time on Amazon and I think it’s still frequently discounted or free. However, the core storyline was boring and uneventful for the most part. And honestly, that is a dealbreaker for me. If I had to choose between two major drawbacks, I would easily take a poorly written trainwreck with an interesting storyline and compelling characters over something technically competent but bland.

There’s nothing extremely wrong with the lead characters- but there’s also limited flavor to their characterization and banter. Their story is pretty unremarkable- except for the last couple of chapters.

In those last few, the leads abruptly become high strung and angsty. Tristan spends at least 70% of the book being an even-tempered and kind of bland guy and the last 30% going on a punching frenzy at every guy who looks at Danika wrong. It was a startling shift. They both react in kind of extreme ways to their relationship moving from friends to lovers, and more conflict ensues. At the end of it all, there was a preview for the next book that hinted at some unappealing future events. Honestly, had I not read that preview, I might have been more interested in maybe checking out the sequel. Sometimes I wonder if previews help or hurt a book. I usually skip them.

This title has quite a high average rating (4.3) and tons of ratings (almost 30k) on Goodreads. It’s worth noting that a lot of people seem to love it so I’m probably in the minority with my opinions. This couple’s slow burn romance is carefully handled enough to be realistic. But the boiling point seemed to slow to reach. Also suspect that the page count vs events of note might have been an obstacle for enjoyment, as the events in this book seem like they could have been accomplished in half the pages.

However, a major upside, the characters aren’t very problematic. In a sea of new adult titles that seem prone toward out-doing each other in shock value, something less feather-ruffling can actually be a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, in the arena of fiction, I’m a person who lives for drama.

Overall Rating – 6/10

Why You Should Try It – If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, slow burn, lengthy narrative, and more realistic approaches to character development- this might strike the right chord. A lot of people seem to feel a strong chemistry between the pairing here.

Why You Might Not Like It – I was often bored with the averageness of every happening and found the characters and atmosphere unremarkable. Very forgettable sub-plots.

Bad Things (volume 1 of the Tristan & Danika series) (Amazon Link)


Thanks for checking out this review! Have you read this book or is it on your TBR? Read anything else by R.K. Lilley? Even though I felt lukewarm toward this book, I think romantic contemporaries in general might be a bit less appealing for me compared to fantasy settings. I have liked several, but they tend to need punchier or really funny banter or a remarkable and/or distinctive underlying plot to be engaging. Love to hear your thoughts as always and thanks again. ~ Kitty

WWW Wednesday (11/6/19)

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words! All you have to do is answers the following three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

I am 70% through Unnatural Magic, a new release historic fantasy that has a sort of victorian feel and centers trolls as a primary race among humans. Interesting read, but I have mixed feelings overall. Hoping the last 30% will be engaging, usually books reach their more interesting/thrilling heights at that point.

I am 50% through The Unhoneymooners is a cute enemies-to-lovers romance, similar to The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I’d definitely rank The Hating Game higher on some scale of romantic contemporaries. However, if you’ve already read and are looking for something similar to THG, The Unhoneymooners is a good choice.

What did you recently finish reading?

I finished Song of the Crimson Flower and posted a review of it here. This book was released on November 5th. It’s a nicely brisk and short read, a great choice for end-of-year reading challenge goals.

Also finished Petshop of Horrors volumes 6-10. One of my all-time favorite series, and was a perfect choice around Halloween. Review planned, it will likely be very pic-heavy since this series is just visually awesome.

What do you think you’ll read next?

This is basically #NetgalleyNovember for me, catching up on November/December releases I was accepted to review. These three should be quick reads, each one is a YA fantasy in the 300-page range. Love how they happen to color match.

Pretty active week! I haven’t done WWW Wednesday in a couple of weeks, took a break toward the end of October. Now I’m back to reading and bookblogging more enthusiastically. What are you reading right now or planning to read soon? Thanks for checking this post out. ~ Kitty

Book Review : The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Author : Haruki Murakami
Published By : Knopf, Vintage International
Year Published : 1994
Genre / Tags : Japanese Literature, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism, Adult Fiction
Mood : Everything
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 607 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Japan’s most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.

Three books in one volume: The Thieving Magpie, Bird as Prophet, The Birdcatcher. This translation by Jay Rubin is in collaboration with the author

Tw : Violence during WW2, quite gruesome in description.

Preface

“Read something by Haruki Murakami” has been a reading-related bucket list entry of mine for years. I’d heard that this is his best work. Also have been interested in magical realism so this was an obvious must-read. Also an easy recommend to people who are fine with quirky, flawed characters and storyline(s) that are open to interpretation and not persistently explained. If you’re into that sort of thing, those are some of this book’s best qualities.

But some important things to get out of the way first-

1. He doesn’t really seem to have a “best” work, there are multiple books of his that are equally well received and they vary greatly.

2. From what I’ve heard since reading, this book is probably NOT a good entry point to his works. It’s slow and meandering and some parts are awkward or puzzling, which is usually not an ideal situation when reading a translated work.

Especially when the two languages being translated are as different to each other as Japanese and English are. This translation is a valiant effort but it still has that “this is translated and I might be missing something” feeling that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and might be easier to swallow in a different novel. For people who’ve never read a Japanese book, it’s probably better to choose something shorter, simpler, more direct. For everyone else and for people who’ve read Murakami before, this is a must-read. (I’ll likely update this review sometime this year or next to offer more helpful information about where to start.)

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is technically three books merged in one. Some small and early portions of book 2 and 3 might feel almost like a re-treading, but that would be expected from reading a book and its two sequels back-to-back. Sequels usually contain some form of a refresher in regards to the previous books after all.

It took about 15 hours across the span of 2-3 weeks for me to finish this one even though I’d been on a reading frenzy at the time and briskly reading other titles. There are 39 chapters and a few of them put me off from immediately continuing and I would be left wondering “Will I get through this??”

So why the perfect rating?

Review

There were moments where this book slowed too much for my liking but other moments when it was a hectic page turner. When the ending arrived I felt a keen sense of loss. Just spent almost a month with these characters, and would never hear from them again. In that moment, the positive feelings crushed whatever negative ones that lingered. If I was in the business of highlighting interesting passages this book would be FULL of highlights despite the sluggish moments. The characters are well-realized, enough to create such a different mood depending on who is centered in a chapter. May and Lieutenant Mamiya, for example, might as well be from different books for how distinct they are from each other.

The descriptions of World War 2 (which are approximately 8-9 out of the 39 chapters if I remember correctly) are expressed from different angles that add poignancy. The details are gut-wrenching but alive with vivid detail of shared suffering, and connected in a moving way that I continue to ponder.

I continue to think about this little chapter with Lt. Mamiya in the well waiting for sunlight, weeks after reading about it. The passages in that section continue to be some of the best writing I’ve ever encountered. They accomplish more than could be capably describe here. Mild Spoilers // There is a latter point where Lt. Mamiya is imprisoned and determined to kill a man who he believes will be the cause of endless harm, Boris. He is unable to do so. These scenes are dreamily open to interpretation. I interpreted these sequences and earlier sequences (the horrendous massacre of a zoo) as a sort of allegory for the senseless destruction that was carried out during WW2, with Boris being a figurehead representing the machinations of the war and who benefits from and propagates it. I imagine Lt. Mamiya as representing a pawn of sorts. His inability to destroy Boris is very much like his inability to go back in time and undo his involvement in the war, the patterns that naturally lead to it, his life’s trajectory being in service to his government, and the many soldiers who eventually realized many things but can do nothing but live long and remember, and regret. // End Mild Spoilers.

But these portions of the story probably would not be as effective in isolation. They become special moments when interspersed between the larger chapters detailing the main character’s more quiet life, and became perhaps more precious due to my elongated reading style for this book.

The final sections take place in another world. A magical one that is almost scary in its unpredictability. When thinking back to those moments, they’re like a movie- vividly realized and clear. I could feel my heart pumping with fear for the protagonist. Given the no-holds-barred nature of earlier sections, I really could not guess what extremes might occur.

So about the main character, Toru Okada. He is conveyed as normal and plain to an exaggerated point, as if masking that he is anything but. I connected to him after a while, as would be hoped for over such a long journey.

About the magical realism- After reading for a while, the normal parts and magical parts blend into a strange and effective surrealness. Every moment is questionable and yet logical explanations became irrelevant and unnecessary. Magical Realism is definitely going to be a genre of interest in the future.

Overall Rating – 10/10

Why You Should Try It – This is one of those books that has so many nooks and crannies, you could go search for discussions about it on Google and be swept into a rabbit hole of theories and thoughts and interpretations of this or that. The story, while not super hard to understand, is a puzzle with a lot hiding beneath the surface. The characters are delightfully odd, if you can stomach the extent of their pointed oddness. Many parts profoundly moved me and I was sad to see it all end.

Why You Might Not Like It / Content Warnings – Actively avoid if you’re not one for magical realism and not one for odd, unconventional, straight up weird characterization. There are some heavily detailed scenes of violence of many types in this novel, not senseless in nature, but gruesome for sure. There are pauses in action and dips in pacing that can be monotonous to read.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Are you interested in reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or have you read it before? Have you read anything else by Haruki Murakami or other Japanese literature? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts at any time. Thanks for reading! ~ Kitty

Goodreads Monday : 11/4/19

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme that was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners. The meme is pretty easy to follow, to participate simply choose a random book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it!


After randomizing via Goodreads (going to my to-read shelf, scrolling down and putting sort order by random) the following book tumbled first from that crowded shelf-

Anna Dressed In Blood (#1 of 2 of the Anna Series) by Kendare Blake

Summary

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.


This looks like it would have been a fun Halloween/October pick! Love the cover. Has anyone read this book or others by Kendare Blake? She also authored the Three Dark Crowns series. Even though Halloween is over, I’m still very open to horror/thrillers and have a few on the TBR for November. Hope everyone is having a great start of the week and thanks for checking out this week’s GR Monday. ~ Kitty

Reading Wrap-Up (10/27/19 – 11/2/19)

Posts This Week

Goodreads Monday : 10/28/19

Top 10 Tuesday – 10 Horror, Thriller, Or Mystery Novels I Want To Read Next October

Can’t Wait Wednesday – (Manga) Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda

Manga Review – Orange by Ichigo Takano (Complete Collection 1 – Volume 1-3)

Book Review – The Shining by Stephen King

Book Review – Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

October Reading Wrap-Up + Reading Challenge Results.


I’m still on a semi-break, semi as in fewer posts than usual. The start of a new month really feels like a fresh new reading start, I’m in the middle of two right now. Reviews coming out hopefully this week or whenever else I’ve finished them. :’D

  • Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner, a fantasy release coming out November 5. This is the first time I’ve ever read a book that is almost 90% about trolls. I am trying not to picture troll dolls, lol. Google image search results show a wide gamut of what people consider trolls to be so I’m pretty much envisioning elves but way bulkier.
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, romance. The waiting list for this one on my library’s overdrive was long, still can’t believe it was finally my turn lol. I liked The Hating Game by Sally Thorne more, but it’s worth mentioning that the two books are thematically similar and could be bookish sisters.

Thanks so much for your likes and comments! Still checking out everyone’s blogs, at a slower rate than usual but still here. 😀 Hope you’ve had a great week! ~ Kitty

book blogger & reviewer

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