September Wrap-Up, Non-SciFi

Hi, book friends! Hello!

Here we are, the 3rd day of October and I realize, I haven’t yet posted my full September Wrap-Up. As some of you may know, September was my 2nd month of my ‘themed-reading project’. For last month, the theme was SciFi. I completed a total of 7 books for that project, although the goal was 10…

In spite of this fact, I still consider it a win. To find out why, read the full blog post below:

Themed Reading: SciFi Wrap-Up

In addition to these 7 SciFi books, I also completed 8 other books, so a total of 15 books completed for the month!

The non-SciFi books I completed last month, in completion order are as follows:

  1. Daughter of the Siren Queen (Daughter of the Pirate King #2) by Tricia Levenseller – YA Fantasy, 3.5-stars. I listened to this audiobook on my annual Labor Day Weekend road trip.
  2. The Dark Half (reread) by Stephen King – Adult Paranormal Horror, 5-stars. This was my second time reading this glorious, underrated King story. Literally some of the best body horror ever penned can be found in this book.
  3. The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett – YA Historical Fiction with Paranormal Mystery elements, 5-stars. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Simon Pulse, so a big thank you to them. This was super entertaining for me and incorporated the lore of Vlad the Impaler. 
  4. The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox – Adult Historical Fiction, 4-stars, with a beautifully gothic atmosphere. I was so blessed to receive an ARC of this book from the publisher, Graydon House, so a huge thank you to them. This was so appreciated as it was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I absolutely adored Fox’s 2018 debut, The Witch of Willow Hall. This did not disappoint!
  5. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson – YA Contemporary with a Paranormal kick. I picked this delightfully witchy romp up to participate in the Dragons & Tea Book Club September readalong. I am so happy that I did. This was exactly what I needed at the time, 5-stars.
  6. The First Mistake by Sandie Jones – Adult Domestic Drama, 4-stars. I read this book in under 24-hours. It was very compelling. Thank you to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with an ARC copy. As always, it is so appreciated!
  7. The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2) by J.C. Cervantes – Middle Grade Mythology / Retelling, 4-stars. This too was one of my most anticipated books of the year. Another release from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, a part of Disney Book Group. I have been so blessed by this imprint over the years, receiving every one of their books early for review. I adore this imprint and completely stand behind their mission, which if you don’t know, is to provide a platform for voices from cultures around the world to tell their stories, that most likely wouldn’t be heard otherwise. All of the books are Middle Grade providing a resource for young readers to either see themselves in a book or learn about another culture through a book. Yes and yes!!!
  8. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – I am not sure if this is YA or Adult, I am going to go with Adult Historical Fiction with a dash of Portal Fantasy. I am not going to go to far into my thoughts on this book. I didn’t enjoy it. Gave it 2-stars. It was a struggle.

So that is it! All of the non-SciFi books that I was able to complete in September. As far as my normal, monthly TBR challenges that I set for myself, I completed 3 out of the 4. I completed read a new release from 2018 (Undead Girl Gang), read a new release from the current month (The Widow of Pale Harbor), and read a sequel (Daughter of the Siren Queen). Yes, I did read some other books that would fit these challenges but I always just count the one that completes the challenge first.

How did your September reading go? Did you complete everything you wanted? Did you find a new favorite, or worse, a least favorite? I want to know! Leave a comment below or contact me through any of my social media links.

Until we meet again, Cheers & Happy Reading!

Review: The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

The Best LiesThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two girls adrift in the world find each other and develop one of the most disturbingly codependent relationships I have ever read.

This hard-hitting YA Contemporary follows Remy and Elise as they explore the bounds of friendship and cross them in the worst possible ways.

They seek comfort and safety in one another, calling themselves tragic heroines, because they don’t feel there is anyone else in their lives they can count out.

Both struggle with intense emotional issues due to unstable, and at times, dangerous, home lives. Both feel unwanted and under-valued but in each other, find a sense of belonging and love they were lacking.

Unfortunately for them, and everyone around them, in particular Remy’s new boyfriend, Jack, the truth of their attachment is much more twisted than it would initially seem.

This book is nothing like I expected it to be. The subject matter is heavy, dark and way more mature than I was expecting. The psychological consequences of both these girls upbringings are absolutely devastating. I think it will take me a while to get over this. I felt bad for them in such a visceral way as I know this type of circumstance happens all the time.

The timeline was well done, although there is a lot of back-and-forth, so if that is not your jam, maybe steer clear. The writing was also fairly engaging and I felt drawn into Remy and Elise’s story. I definitely understand where the Thelma & Louise comparison comes from.

If you are looking for a dark YA Contemporary to pick up this Fall season, I would definitely recommend giving this one a try. There are a lot of good topics here worthy of examination. I will definitely continue to read from this author.

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Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

((awkward silence due to unpopular opinion))

((sound of crickets))

I’m sorry, everyone. I just did not enjoy this book. I really wanted to, I was so hyped for it, then I saw all the reviews coming in and they were fantastic! I couldn’t wait to get into it.

Then I started reading. The writing was a little quirky at first but my interest was still high. Then it just seemed to not be going anywhere. I wasn’t feel anything. I didn’t like anything about it. The writing was flowery and beautiful but I felt like the plot got lost in all of that. I dreaded picking it back up and really struggled almost the entire way through.

There was a sweet spot for me that really picked up between 50% and 80% but that’s just not enough. If you read through the reviews, I am clearly in the minority opinion. I have read the reviews. I know.

When I first finished, I contemplated giving this a 2.5-star and rounding up to 3, but then I slept on it and came to the conclusion that I would just be doing that to appease people. I genuinely did not enjoy this book.

I can understand why so many people have loved this and I am happy that they found something in here that resonated with them, that’s just not me.

I love portal fantasy; The Dark Tower or Wayward Children series are great examples but this fell so flat for me. The characters seemed one dimensional and I had zero connection to any of them. I don’t need to like characters but I do need to actually care about what happens to them.

The only character I cared about was the dog, Bad. I was so worried about that dog, and traumatized by things that happened to him, that I was never able to relax into the story. That is 100% a personal preference and it has spoiled books for me in the past — see my review for The Deep by Nick Cutter — but yeah, there’s not much here to save this story from that pitfall.

With all of this being said, I would never want a personal review from myself to keep people from picking up a book that really interests them. If you think this sounds intriguing, please pick it up and try it for yourself. There is a book for every reader and a reader for every book. Sadly, this just wasn’t my cuppa tea.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Redhook Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and know that many, many readers are going to absolutely adore January’s story.

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Themed Reading: SciFi September

Hey bookworms! As today is the final day of September, I thought I would update you all on how I did with my SciFi September-themed reading.

As some of you may recall from prior posts, I have decided to try ‘themed’ reading months for a year. The goal is to complete 10 books that fall within the given theme for that month. The first month that I tried this was August, where I focused on reading ARCs and blew away my goal by completing 14 books within that theme.

This month? Not so much.

I actually completed only 7 science fiction books this month. However, steering away focusing on the number, I did get a lot of TBR veterans (books that have been on my ‘to be read’ list for a long time) off of my list, and really, that was kind of the whole point behind themed months.

So, in a way, I have still won.

Without further ado, let’s go through, really quickly, the scifi books that I did complete this month:

  • The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney is an Adult Techno-Thriller that released in August of 2019. I actually received this book as an ARC from Ballantine Books, so a hearty thank you to them for sending it to me. I really enjoyed this one, only slightly let down by the ending and gave it a 3.5-star rating, rounded up to 4-stars for GoodReads.
  • Red Rising (Red Rising Saga #1) by Pierce Brown is an Adult Dystopian set in space. This book was published in 2014 and I listened to the audiobook. I have had this on my TBR for a long time as many, many people adore this series. While it started out really slow, it built up and actually contained some of my very favorite tropes. I ended up giving it a 4.5-star raging, rounded up to 5-stars for GoodReads.
  • Flawed (Flawed #1) by Cecelia Ahern is a YA Dystopian about a society that values Perfection above all other attributes. Anyone not adhering to strict societal standards is deemed Flawed and branded as such, assigning them to second class citizenry. This story follows a Perfect girl, who through committing a crime of empathy, finds herself being branded as Flawed and seeing her entire world change. This book was published in 2017 and has been on my TBR for that long. I really enjoyed this and gave it 4-stars.
  • Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer is a YA SciFi retelling of Cinderella. I found this wildly creative and loved our cyborg main character, Cinder. This book released in 2012 and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to pick it up. Happy to know I do not need to unhaul the rest of the series. I flew through this book and can’t wait to continue on in the Lunar Chronicle world. I gave this a full 5-stars!
  • Contagion by Erin Bowman is a YA SciFi Horror following a rescue mission to a distant planet and, spoiler, it involves zombies. I had so much fun reading this. It was superbly fast-paced and the horror was legit. This is a 2018 release and I have actually owned a copy of it since it was released. The sequel was released earlier this year, and I of course, have already purchased it. I ended up giving this a 4.5-star rating.
  • Alien: Echo by Mira Grant is a YA SciFi Horror set in the world of the Alien movie franchise. I listened to the audiobook for this and while I did enjoy it, I didn’t find it particularly ground-breaking or memorable. The monsters were well done, to be sure, but overall, it was a little underwhelming. This is a new 2019 release but I have been anticipating it since late-2018.  I ended up giving it a 3.5-star rating.
  • Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel is an Adult SciFiction book written in mixed media format following the discovery of a possibly alien giant robot. It was so intriguing full of politics, science and mystery. I absolutely adored it from start to finish and definitely plan to continue on in the series. This released in 2016 and I have had it on my radar for quite a while. So happy to have finally gotten to this as I now consider it a favorite! I gave this, no surprise, a full 5-star rating!

That’s it, folks! All I was able to get to for my SciFi September. I did DNF two books this month. Well, let’s say, reshelved, as I do plan to pick them up again eventually.

The first was Book 2 of the Red Rising Saga, Golden Son. I started listening to the audiobook but due to life circumstances being particularly busy and stressful in September, I found I wasn’t retaining as much of it as I wanted.

The second was Hyperion by Dan Simmons which I picked up to participate in a readalong on Bookstagram called #pilgramagetohyperion. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t that into it and it was super complex. I got to about the 40% point before I turned in the towel on it this morning. Now I am focused on Spooktober. Perhaps I will pick it back up in November.

So, that’s it from me for now. How did your September reading go? Did you get as much completed as you wanted to? What was your favorite book of the month? I want to know! Leave a comment below or contact me through any of my social media links.

Cheers & Happy Reading!

 

Review: Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A truly delightful reading experience. All the SCIFI stars!

When Rose Franklin is 11-years old, she falls into a hole while out riding her new bike. When she is found and rescued, it is discovered that she is laying atop a giant metal hand. Less than 8-hours later, the U.S. Military takes over the scene.

Years later, when Rose is working for the University of Chicago, the opportunity presents itself for her to study that very same hand, along with 4-enormous panels with writing from an unknown language on them. Could the writing perhaps solve the mystery of where the hand came from? Of what it truly is?

Armed with a large grant from the NSA, Rose sets to work. Soon there is a world-wide search for the missing pieces of this ginormous robot.

With action, mystery, political intrigue and entertaining science, this heart-pounding novel kept me glued to the pages from beginning to end, and oh, what an end it was!!! I am so happy that my Sci-Fi September lead me to some new favorites, this one definitely being up there.

I cannot wait to move on with the Themis Files and highly recommend this series to any science fiction fan, particularly those who enjoy a mixed media format!

Bottom line:

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Review: The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2) by J.C. Cervantes

The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2)The Fire Keeper by J.C. Cervantes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Prophecy of Fire was only the beginning.

After the tumultuous events of the first book, The Storm Runner, our young protagonist, Zane Obispo, is living a fairly cushy life on a private island with his closest companions. All should be good from here on out but unfortunately, as life often goes, it’s not.

He discovers that the book he recently wrote, detailing his time with the Mayan Gods, has endangered other Godborns. They are being kidnapped at an alarming rate and being spirited away to the Gods don’t even know where!

Making matters worse, his own father, Hurakan, the Mayan God of wind, storm and fire, is set to be executed for reasons I won’t go into here.

Zane sets out to save them all. A quest is no fun alone however, so he brings along his hellhound, Rosie, a new friend, fellow Godborn, Ren, and an old enemy. As to be expected severe hijinks ensue.

As with the first book, The Fire Keeper keeps up the action-packed adventure we have come to expect from Zane and the crew. I love this group. They are caring, loyal, funny and fearless.

Zane’s Uncle Hondo is one of my favorite characters. I just find his energy so charming but Zane himself is the true hero. He is just the sweetest boy and I am enjoying watching him grow. He has been put through so much but always faces what is in front of him with optimism and spunk!

This is a really great Middle Grade series. I am going to be impatiently waiting for the third book to release in the Fall of 2020. It sounds like we are going to have some sort of training for the Godborns, which y’all know, is one of my all time favorite tropes.

Bring it on!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. As always, I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to more from J.C. Cervantes!

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Review: Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a SecretTwo Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

QUESTION:

Did I just read this book in June?

ANSWER:

Yes.

QUESTION:

Am I heavily considering reading this again in October?

ANSWER:

Yes.

**4.5-stars**

O.M.G.

I don’t think I have ever been that chilled by a final line.
Well played, McManus.

I seriously don’t even feel like I can review this.

Just know, she good and she has hella Autumnal vibes. A great one to pick up this September/October!

Get it on your Spooktober list, y’all.

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Review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, this book is basically my life now.
Scolding myself for waiting so darn long to pick it up!

This was also my first Marissa Meyer book and I was completely impressed with her fantastic storytelling. The cyberpunk feel of this was exactly what I needed to fully immerse myself in the world.

*Caution: Mild spoilers ahead.

Cinder is a mechanic in the city of New Beijing. She’s also a cyborg, a fact she hides from the whole world, minus her family. Her adoptive family.

She doesn’t recall any of her life prior to the operation that resulted in her cyborg status but has never questioned it too much. What is the point of trying to remember?

When a plague sweeps down on her city, her beloved stepsister Peony becomes infected. She was visiting a market with Cinder at the time the plague broke and Cinder’s wicked Stepmother blames her.

In the most heinous of acts, she donates Cinder to be used for scientific research finding a cure for the disease. Apparently, cyborgs are nothing but property. Add in the fact that no one seems to survive the research process, it is clear her Stepmother never wants to see her again.

Cinder feels alone and betrayed but in a way, she too blames herself for Peony’s illness. Once experimentation begins however, it is revealed that Cinder is immune. Something in her body’s chemistry destroys the plague immediately. How could that be?

Prince Kai shows interest in Cinder from the time he drops his android off at her shop to be repaired. He asks her to the ball but of course she cannot accept. The cutest crush ever ensues and once the Prince’s father, the Emperor, dies, another victim of the plague, they are pushed even further together.

Our villain descends from the moon, the ‘planet’ Luna. She is an extraordinary enemy with a ton of power and equal amounts of ambition. She discovers something about Cinder before Cinder even knows herself and will stop at nothing to take her down.

I adored this. I loved all the delicious scifi elements that paid perfect homage to the original tale. You could definitely tell that this was the story of Cinderella, just bumped far into the future.

I thought the pace was great, I enjoyed Cinder as a character and also loved her relationship with Dr. Erland and Peony. Oh, and of course, her android, who was hilariously sweet. I cannot wait to continue on with this series. Scarlet is calling to me!

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Review: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Undead Girl GangUndead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the small town of Cross Creek suffers the loss of three of its local girls, apparently to suicide, things begin to get strange.

Mila Flores, a student at Fairmont Academy, was best friends with one of the girls, Riley, and she knows there is no way Riley would have ever been part of a suicide pact.

For one thing, Riley wasn’t even really friends with the other girls, June and Dayton, resident ‘It’ girls. Sure, June dated Riley’s brother for a while but that certainly didn’t make them close enough to develop death day promises.

Mila suspects foul play but no one is listening to her. Feeling abandoned, misunderstood and unheard, she decides to take matters into her own hands to find our who murdered Riley.

Finding a spell in an ancient grimoire that states it will bring the dead back to walk the earth for 7-days, Mila thinks she knows how to get the answers she seeks. She will simply conjure Riley back and ask her what happened to her.

Unfortunately, the spell brings back not just Riley but June and Dayton as well. Now Mila is tied to a trio of snarky teenage zombies with only a week to figure out what happened to them.

Meanwhile, in her regular life, outside of zombie babysitting, Mila is starting to get closer to Riley’s older brother, Xander. Sure, most of their relationship is based on their mutual grief but she’s still not mad about it. She’s had a crush on him forever and it just seems right.

Even though this is a wild story with super humorous and engaging writing, there is also a lot of really good stuff in here with regards to friendship, loss, grief, body positivity, making yourself heard and finding strength within your self.

I am a firm believer in the concept of how powerful it can be to read the right book at the right time and for me, that was the case here. I am going through a lot of stress in my work life currently, so when picking this up, I was just looking for something engaging enough that it would get me out of my head for a while. If it made me laugh or think about deeper topics, even better. This book provided all of those things for me.

It was Heathers, Mean Girls and The Craft all mushed together into a hilarious little ball and I absolutely needed that. This was actually my first Lily Anderson book, although I own two others by her, and I really meshed well with her writing style. Definitely more excited to pick up those other two books now: The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You and Not Now, Not Ever.

Finally, a big thank you to the Dragons & Tea Book Club for FINALLY providing the impetus I needed to pick this one up! This was our September 2019 book and I loved it so much. Keeping this one on my shelves and could definitely picture myself revisiting this story next October. Really fun stuff!

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Review: Flawed (Flawed #1) by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed (Flawed, #1)Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #3 for my Sci-Fi September!!!!

 

Celestine North is a high school girl living a Perfect life with her Perfect family.

In a society that values Perfection in mind, body and spirit, this is of the utmost importance. Because of this, maintaining Perfection is a primary focus of the citizens living within this dystopian society.

Collectively they punish those who they deem as lacking. Such individuals are branded as Flawed and never treated the same within society again, virtually designating them as the lowliest individuals that Perfects are afraid to even associate with.

When Celestine’s neighbor and piano teacher, a woman she feels she knows well, is punished as being Flawed, she is shocked, never having experienced a Flawed person so close to home.

She is also shocked to see the lack of empathy on the faces of her other neighbors as the Flawed woman is forcibly dragged from her home, away from the embraces of her crying children.

This incident causes Celestine to begin questioning everything. With new doubts in her mind, she tries to get back to life as usual but it very difficult. One day on a bus, she commits an act that ultimately gets her branded as Flawed. Her crime, compassion.

She is imprisoned, literally branded on her body and made to wear and arm patch with a big capital F on it, so all of society will know of her disgrace. Think futuristic The Scarlet Letter.

Her rights are stripped and life as she knows it, is over. Her long-time boyfriend, Art Crevan, whose father is the Judge that sentenced her, has disappeared. She is secluded and alone. Even her little brother is afraid of her.

In the midst of her situation, she hears rumblings of a possible underground movement out to overthrow the ruling party. They are pushing for a more equal society, ridding it of the old Perfect or Flawed mentality. The rebels have grabbed onto Celestine’s story and are using her as a sort of figurehead for their movement.

This was truly a delightful surprise. I really enjoyed this! It was like a CW show, and I mean that in the best way, easy and addicting. The pace was fast and information revealed to you just when you needed it to be. I could have used a teeny bit more of world-building but I am hoping more will be revealed in the next book.

I think if you are looking for a futuristic YA Dystopian that is quick and well written, you should definitely check this one out. Good solid drama, intriguing premise and it leaves off in a great spot for the continuation of the story. I definitely plan to pick up the sequel soon!

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