2016 Wrap Up

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Well… I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in 2016.

I set myself a goal of 60 books to read this year. I ended up with… 33.

Ouch.

I’m staring at my list, thinking to myself, “That’s it? That’s all I read? That’s not much…” At least compared to previous years.

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So where did I go so horribly wrong with my reading? Well, I definitely struggled with the beginning and the end of the year. It took me until March to read ONE book, and I haven’t finished a book since October. (Although I’ve been making a lot of progress with my current read these last couple days! You know.. The one I’ve been reading since November..) The holidays seem to be kicking my ass the past few years, making it impossible to have time to read, and then it takes me forever to recover. I’m going to try a LOT harder next year. No more ZERO book months!

As I scroll down the list, I realize there are a lot of mediocre books on it. There are plenty of stories that were good, but not great, but there are some that I don’t even remember what they’re about anymore. And some I plain wish I could forget.

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Hotel Ruby

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From Goodreads: Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

After Audrey’s mother dies suddenly, her family life spirals out of control. While she’s acting out, her father is closing himself off. After a wild party where Audrey loses control, her father decides to send her and her older brother Daniel to live with her grandmother. But first they stop at Hotel Ruby for the night. The hotel may be out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s far from boring. A one night stay turns into days as Audrey and her family get caught up in the hotel life and all it has to offer, including love. Maybe staying at Hotel Ruby wouldn’t be such a bad thing. After all, the motto there is Stay tonight. Stay Forever.  Continue reading

30 Second Reviews

I mentioned earlier that there were quite a few books that I read that I never wrote a review on. (Nearly a dozen…) They just sat there, mocking me, begging me to share my thoughts. And then I just gave up completely, and let them go. But some of those books were good. Some of them I want to at least acknowledge and give a nod to like a good blogger and reviewer. So here it goes. My very concise, condensed version of a book review– or as I may begin to call them, 30 second reviews.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild RobotFrom Goodreads: When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.

This is a middle grade novel from one of my favorite children’s illustrators, Peter Brown. I was stoked when I saw that he had a novel coming out, because his picture books are some of my favorites to read during storytime at work. This one didn’t disappoint. It’s an adorable, heartfelt story about what it means to be a friend, a community, and a family. There’s action and adventure, with humor and heartbreak thrown in to round it out. With Brown’s illustrations scattered throughout, I was hooked. I loved following Roz through her journey, navigating her new home, making new friends, and finding out what it means to love.

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

23203106From Goodreads: Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

This was one that sat for so long, I kind of forgot what happened. I was drawn in by the cover (how gorgeous is it??) and by others who raved about it and its plot twist. I’m a sucker for a good plot twist, so I picked it up. I remember reading it. I remember being drawn into the world and the characters. I remember thinking, “this is insane” at some parts. And then I remember not being completely blown over by the twist. It was twisty, definitely, and I didn’t see it coming, but I wrote in the notes on my phone “more of a whimper than a bang.” Still a good story though. A very quick read that I’m glad I read. Just not one of my absolute all-time favorites.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

25639296From Goodreads: There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

This is another one that I read, then promptly forgot. Much like Wink Poppy Midnight, it was dark and twisty and you spent most of the time trying to figure out what was happening and who did what. But also like Wink Poppy Midnight, the twist came and I just didn’t care that much.

Burning by Danielle Rollins

BurningFrom Goodreads: After three years in juvie, Angela Davis is just a few months shy of release, and she’ll finally be free from the hole that is Brunesfield Correctional Facility. Then Jessica arrives. Only ten years old and under the highest security possible, this girl has to be dangerous, even if no one knows what she did to land in juvie. As strange things begin happening to Angela and her friends that can only be traced to the new girl’s arrival, it becomes clear that Brunesfield is no longer safe. They must find a way to get out, but how can they save themselves when the world has forgotten them?

This seemed like it had such potential to be a creepy psychological thriller– my FAVORITE. There were scenes that had so much creep-factor that I thought, “Wow! This is amazing!” And then it got weird. And not in a way I really enjoyed. The side characters were incredibly stereotypical–think every bad movie or show you’ve seen about prison–and the plot went in a direction that left me completely disconnected from the story. I wanted to like it from the synopsis, but… Meh.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)From Goodreads: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

This might turn into a bit more than a 30-second review because I can’t believe I let this book sit on my desk for as long as I did without writing about it. I LOVED this book. It’s an Ocean’s 11-style heist story set in a bit of a fantasy Russia backdrop. I was hesitant to pick it up at first because it revisits the world Bardugo created in her Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising), which I haven’t read. I wasn’t sure if I would understand and be able to keep up in a world that I knew nothing about, but I shouldn’t have worried. It may have been helpful to read the trilogy beforehand to understand the Grisha, who they were, and the prejudice that others have against them, but it wasn’t necessary. Six of Crows stands well on its own.

When the world is threatened with destruction by what amounts to magical biological warfare, Kaz and his crew of misfits and thieves are offered a very handsome reward to essentially save the world. But in order to do that, they have to break into the most heavily guarded vault in the center of a military training facility in the most protected court in the world. And get out alive.

I want to see this as a movie, because it would be amazing. It’s gritty and dark and filled with action. At one point, I wrote in my notes, in all caps, “HOLY SHIT HE JUST _______________” I won’t spoil what happened. But it was gruesome. And it kind of sealed the deal on my love for this book. I can’t WAIT to pick up Crooked Kingdom to find out how it all ends.

Alright. That’s about half of the books that I haven’t reviewed yet.. So stay tuned for another installment of 30-second reviews!

Photo Credits: All cover photos are from Goodreads.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – SPOILER FREE!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

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It’s always been difficult being Harry Potter, and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

— From the book jacket of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Normally, this is where I would give another brief synopsis of the plot before going into what I thought of the book. But I’m not. The book has only been out for 2 days, and there are a lot who still haven’t read it. So in order to #keepthesecrets, I’m not going to recap.

Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do a review for this one, especially one so soon after the book’s release. I didn’t want to give anything away within my review. But I feel like I should. I devoured this book within a day. (Even though it’s a hefty hardcover, it’s pretty easy to do. There’s not a lot on each page.) This is a book we’ve all waited for, and what kind of blogger and Harry Potter fan would I be to not share my thoughts on it. So I’ll just do a very brief, no spoilers, reaction post for now and possibly revisit the idea of a full review later. Continue reading

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As Feyre dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility to a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin– and his world– forever.

— From the book jacket of A Court of Thorns and Roses

In the harsh winter, it’s up to Feyre to provide for her family. When she comes across a deer in the woods, she realizes she’s not the only hunter looking for a kill. A wolf stands across from her, leaving her with 2 choices– allow the wolf to take her only food source and let her family go hungry, or kill the beast as well. With one shot, her fate is sealed. The wolf she has killed is no wolf at all–he’s a faery– and Feyre has broken a centuries old peace treaty between the human and faerie realms. A treaty that calls for a human life in exchange for the faery life she has taken. Feyre has to choose between being killed or taken captive by the beast that breaks down her door. To save her family she chooses captivity in the magical realm she thought was just a myth.

Upon arriving at the Spring Court, Feyre learns that there are more frightening things within the faery world than the beast named Tamlin. Terrifying creatures stalk the forest surrounding the estate, and a magical disease has stricken the faery realm, draining its magic and threatening to spill over into the mortal world. As Tamlin and his court fight against the rising threats, he also begins to get closer to Feyre. As open hostility between the two turns to romance, they realize there is much more to fight for. When the source of the magical disease is revealed, it seems that only Feyre can save Tamlin and the entire faery realm.

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Truthwitch

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble– as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her– but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast to one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safiya’s hot-headed impulsiveness.

Safiya and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

— From the book jacket of Truthwitch

Safiya can tell deep within her bones whether someone is being truthful. Iseult can see the threads of everyone’s lives– their emotions, their bonds, the strings that tie their lives together. They make a pretty good team. At least one that’s good at stealing, fighting, and gambling. When the wrong carriage falls into the trap they’ve laid for a heist, they’re on the run from a host of guards, including one terrifying man with a rare witchery straight from the Void– a Bloodwitch who can track by the scent of blood.

To make matters worse, Safi’s uncle, a man of Cartorran nobility, has been summoned to Veñaza City for a Truce Summit by the emperor to discuss the end of the Twenty Year Truce and the Great War. Unbeknownst to Safi, her uncle has been putting a plan in place for years to bring about the end of the Truce– a plan that puts Safi directly at its center, forcing her to flee the city she’s called home and a life she doesn’t want.

While Safi is attending the Summit with her uncle, Iseult returns to her Nomatsi tribe north of the city. She quickly realizes that her tribe is now led by a priest who has little tolerance for those influenced by the outside world. As both girls are forced to escape the danger that chases them, they are taken aboard a Nubrevnan naval ship by the admiral, Prince Merik, who has a contract with Safi’s uncle to bring Safi safely to Nubrevna in exchange for desperately needed trade to feed his starving, war ravaged country.

Pursued by the emperor, the Bloodwitch, and Merik’s own sister who advocates piracy instead of diplomacy, Safi’s life is in danger, as well as Merik’s trade agreement, and the stability of an entire world on the brink of war. They will stop at nothing to get their hands on the only Truthwitch they’ve known in a century. But as powerful as a single Truthwitch can be, Safi and Iseult together as a team may be even more than what they appear to be.

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The Shadow Queen

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

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Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common–magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic–and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

— From the book jacket of The Shadow Queen

Snow White with a dash of Robin Hood, a heavy dose of magic, and dragons thrown in for good measure. What more could you want from a book?

Lorelai and her brother Leo have been on the run for nine years following the death of their father, the king of Ravenspire, at the hands of their evil stepmother, Irina. As a powerful sorceress, or mardushka, hell-bent on retaining the immense power she feels she deserves, Irina has siphoned nearly all of the energy from the heart of the land, leaving it barren and her people starving. Lorelai and Leo, along with their guardian, Gabril, have one goal– build up Lorelai’s magic and steadily work their way toward the capital city in order to kill the Queen and save their rightful kingdom. Along the way, to gain favor of the people of Ravenspire, they’ve been robbing supply wagons to give food to the surrounding villages in desperate need of nourishment. It is in one of these villages that they save a man named Kol as he is being attacked and chased by starving villagers.

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