#ReReadIt 2017 Reading Challenge – My TBR

Wishing all of my followers a Happy New Year!  May 2017 be all that you want it to be!

I’m finishing out 2016 by signing up for one more challenge for the upcoming year.  Ashley @ Inside My Minds created the #ReReadIt Challenge and the goal is to re-read one book a month throughout 2017.  The primary requirement is that the books have to be at least 120 pages in length. Today is the last day to sign up for this challenge as it starts tomorrow.  I chose this challenge because I’m horrible about going back and re-reading books no matter how much I love them.  I’m hoping this challenge will push me to be better about re-reading. I’ve also chosen a few titles that I want to share with my son, so I’m hoping that will be extra motivation for me to successfully complete the challenge.

 

Below are my chosen titles for the #ReReadIt Challenge:

January – Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

February – The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

March – Matilda by Roald Dahl

April – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

May – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

June – 1984 by George Orwell

July – A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

August – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

September – The Color Purple by Alice Walker

October – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

November – Watership Down by Richard Adams

December – The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

 

Best of luck to all who are participating in the challenge!

Beat the Backlist 2017 Reading Challenge: My TBR

 

The Beat the Backlist Challenge is hosted by Austine at NovelKnight.com and its focus is to encourage readers to finally get through some titles that have been on your TBR for a while, or even those that have gotten pushed aside for new releases.  The primary guideline for the challenge is that the books you choose must have been published prior to 2017.  Also, this challenge  runs from January 1st to December 31st, 2017 so you have a whole year to work on that TBR.  Post updates throughout the year with #beatthebacklist.

This will be the first challenge I’ve participated in since I joined the blogging community so I’m pretty excited about it.  My TBR is also out of control so I think this challenge is perfect for me.  I’m forever shoving aside books I still really want to read in favor of newer releases.  It’s time to take control of my TBR!

Below is my tentative (and possibly overly ambitious) list of books that I want to get off my backlist this year. May the force be with me!

  1.  A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
  2. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  3. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  5. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  6. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  9. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  11. A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
  12. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  13. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  14. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  15. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
  16. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  17. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  18. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
  19. When We Collided by Emery Lord
  20. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
  21. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng 
  22. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  23. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  24. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
  25. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

 

 

I also signed up for the optional Hogwarts House mini challenge because it sounded like fun.  The house I chose to represent is Gryffindor.  Thanks so much to Austine for hosting such a great challenge and good luck to everyone who is participating!

Book Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Book Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin SummerillEver the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1) by Erin Summerill
four-stars
Series: Clash of Kingdoms #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on December 27th 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 400
Source: the Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:   Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

 

My Thoughts:

What a fun read this was! Erin Summerill’s Ever the Hunted is one of those books that has something for everyone.  There’s fantasy and magic, there’s political intrigue and a King who is acting as though he’s gone mad, there’s adventure and danger, and yes, there’s even a bit of romance thrown in there as well. I don’t want to give away too many plot details but let me just say that you should only read Ever the Hunted when you don’t have any pressing real-life responsibilities to attend to – I made the mistake of starting it while getting ready for Christmas. I got so thoroughly sucked into Britta’s story that I ended up way behind in my Christmas preparations.  Cookies almost didn’t get baked, gifts were bought last minute, and I was down to the wire with getting all of my decorations up. Very stressful.  That said, it was totally worth it. Ever the Hunted is just that good!

Highlights for me:

The World Building and the System of Magic:   Summerill has set her novel in the kingdoms of Malam and Shaerdan.  These neighboring kingdoms are on the brink of war with each other, so tensions are running high all around when the novel begins.  Summerill does a wonderful job of conveying that sense of tension every step of the way. You can just feel that war is about to break out at any moment.  At the center of all that tension is magic.  The kingdom of Shaerdan embraces magic and has among its citizens women who are called Channelers.  Channelers possess magical powers that enable them to manipulate certain elements in nature – water, for example.  While Shaerdan and its citizens accept this magic and the belief that Channelers use their gifts for good, the kingdom of Malam and its people, on the other hand, scorn and shun Channeler magic as well as those who practice it.

Britta Flannery:  Britta is, by far, the highlight of Ever the Hunted for me. Britta is the protagonist and right from the start, Summerill creates in her a character that readers will immediately connect with. When we meet Britta, she is mourning her father, a respected Malam bounty hunter, who has been murdered.  As if that wasn’t tragic enough, Britta is also basically homeless due to circumstances beyond her control.  Britta’s mother, who is also deceased, was a Shaerden citizen who was also believed to be a Channeler.  Because the magic passes from mother to daughter, Britta is ostracized by the people of Malam because she could possibly be a Channeler, and she is prohibited by Malam law from inheriting her father’s land as well. Britta is therefore completely alone and desperately seeking both shelter and food when we first meet her.

While I felt that immediate sense of empathy for Britta because she’s in such a vulnerable state, what really attracted me to her was her resourcefulness, her intelligence, and her sense of independence.  It’s very clear that her father has taught her well in the time they had together, probably anticipating that there would come a time when Britta would need to fend for herself.  She therefore doesn’t just roll over and accept her situation as a death sentence. No, she grabs her dagger and her bow and sets out to track and secure food not only for herself, but also that she can trade in town for a place to stay.  And she does this knowing all the while that the penalty for poaching is death. I loved that she was willing to take such risks and make the hard choices. She’s the ultimate survivor.

I have to admit that I admired Britta’s resourcefulness so much that I was actually a bit excited when she got caught poaching because I wanted to see how she was going to get herself out of such a predicament. My excitement did wane a bit once her way out was revealed:  Britta could have her freedom and her father’s land if, using her tracking skills, she helped to track down his killer.  Sounds like a fair deal, right? Well, there’s a bit of a catch.  The suspected killer is a young man by the name of Cohen McKay, who was Britta’s only friend in the world as well as her father’s apprentice.  Britta doesn’t believe for an instant that Cohen is guilty, but has no choice but to go along with this deal if she wants to live.

When she tracks Cohen and they escape together, they quickly realize that the only way they’re really going to ever be free is to find the real murderer.  This is where the real action of the story actually begins as they embark on a dangerous quest across these two warring kingdoms following clues and searching for the killer. It is also while on this quest that Britta learns that, like her mother, she too possesses a kind of magic and must learn how to understand and control her power.

Fabulous Secondary Characters:

Enat:  Enat is a Channeler who helps Britta to better understand who she really is.  After Britta, Enat is definitely my next favorite character. She’s this feisty old lady who is truly a force to be reckoned with.  Enat, like Britta, knows how to wield a bow and arrow and isn’t afraid to use it, whether it’s to hunt or to fire warning shots at people she thinks are creeping around too close to her home.  She’s just a real character in every since of the word.

Leif:  Leif was a surprise favorite character for me.  He’s actually one of the prison guards who attends to Britta when she is captured for poaching and who is assigned to escort her on her mission to track her father’s killer.  While the other guards are just rude and nasty, Leif shows Britta a lot of kindness at every opportunity and tries to help her whenever he can.  The friendship that grows between them is just really sweet.

Subtle Handling of the Romance:  Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of romance, especially love at first sight or when the characters are so obsessed with each other that they lose sight of what they’re supposed to be focused on.  (Mare from The Red Queen comes to mind.)  Therefore I was a little apprehensive when I started to sense some attraction between Britta and Cohen.  Summerill thankfully, however, does a very nice job of keeping the romantic element subtle, and most importantly, believable.   As I’ve already mentioned, Cohen and Britta grew up together, becoming the best of friends while Cohen apprenticed for Britta’s father.  They clearly have history together and now that they’re both grown, their friendship is becoming something more.  It’s a natural progression for their relationship and it doesn’t overshadow the action/adventure/danger element of the story.

The Unexpected Twist at the End! I can’t really say anything at all about it without giving too much away, but as soon as I read the last few pages, I immediately wanted to get my hands on the next book in the series.

Anything I Didn’t Care For:

I would have liked a little more insight into the Channeler magic, especially Britta’s specific kind of magic since it apparently is quite rare even among Channelers.  I guess since she was just learning about it herself, it’s to be expected that we would just get the basics, but I definitely hope that the second book will more fully explore it as Britta hones her skills because what she is able to do is really quite fascinating!

Who Would I Recommend Ever the Hunted to?

 As I said, this book has something for everyone so I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend it to.  If you like resourceful heroines and plenty of action and adventure, I think you’d like this one. I also think this is one of those YA books that would appeal to a wide range of ages, from teens on up through adults.  It’s just a wildly entertaining read!

 

Rating:   4 Stars!

 

Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and of course to Erin Summerill for allowing me to preview this wonderful book!


four-stars

About Erin Summerill

Erin Summerill was born in England. After spending years bouncing between Air Force bases in Hawaii, England, and California, her family settled in Utah, where Erin graduated with a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University. She had aspirations to write the next great American novel, but writing proved tougher than she first thought. So she grabbed a Nikon and became a professional photographer while crafting manuscript after manuscript. The scenic detour of shooting weddings across the United States, as well as internationally, provided world-building inspiration. It gave her the vision to draft her debut YA fantasy, EVER THE HUNTED. Now when she isn’t writing, or shooting a wedding, she’s chasing her four kids, two dogs, one cat, and five chickens. This could be why she downs massive amounts of Coke Zero and Hot tamales.

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on Empress of a Thousand Skies

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza.  I’m excited for this book but it just sounds like it’s going to be such a wild ride.  I was also drawn to it because some of the advance reviews say that it’s perfect for fans of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.  I’m reading those now and just love them so definitely want to give Empress of a Thousand Skies a chance if it’s anything like The Lunar Chronicles.

Empress of a Thousand Skies 

by Rhoda Belleza

Publication Date:  February 7, 2017

From Amazon:

For fans of Pierce Brown and Firefly comes an epic sci-fi fantasy that Kiersten White, author of And I Darken, calls “dazzling–an adventure as sweeping in scope as the galaxies it spans!”

Empress:  Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive:  Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman:  With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

Rhoda Belleza crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy in this exhilarating debut, perfect for readers of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman’s Illuminae Files.

Check out this Advance Praise for Empress of a Thousand Skies!

“This is a multiplanet, multiculture, multitech world and a timely tale. An exceptionally satisfying series opener.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Fans of calculating political maneuvering and expansive, interplanetary plots will find much to enjoy in Belleza’s Firefly-esque debut.” —Publishers Weekly

“Belleza’s debut is dazzling–an adventure as sweeping in scope as the galaxies it spans!”  —Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken

“An epic space opera with all the elements of an addictive read–danger, deception, unlikely allies, and the fate of worlds hanging in the balance. A stunning debut.” —Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Beautiful Creatures & author of The Lovely Reckless

“This book glitters like stars. With a heart-pounding plot, twisty secrets, and characters you can’t help but root for, Empress of a Thousand Skies had me turning pages well into the night!”  —Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10 Reads of 2016

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Best Books Of 2016 (you choose — best books overall of what you read regardless of pub date, of a particular genre, 2016 debuts, 2016 releases, etc).

I had a great year reading-wise in 2016 and found it very hard to choose just ten favorites.  Most of these are 2016 releases, but I did sneak one 2015 and one 2017 release onto the list just because I loved them so much.  These are basically the 10 reads that moved me the most in 2016.  Some made me laugh, while others made me cry.  The common denominator between them all – they were all so beautifully written.  Here’s hoping that 2017 is an equally great year for reading!

My Top 10 Reads of 2016

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1. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

  Read My Review…

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2. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

behold dreamers

 Read My Review…

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3. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

Read My Review…

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4. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

girl in pieces

 Read My Review…

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5. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

 Read My Review…

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6. The Girls by Emma Cline

 Read My Review…

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7. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

 Read My Review…

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8. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

 Read My Review…

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9. The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

Read My Review…

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10. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

 Read My Review…

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Question:  What were your favorite reads of 2016?  Did any of these titles make your list?

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine ArdenThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
four-half-stars
Published by Del Rey on January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:  A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My Review:

The Bear and the Nightingale is, by far, one of my favorite reads of 2016.  I had high expectations for as soon as I read the synopsis comparing it to Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus, which is one of my all-time favorite reads, and I’m thrilled to say that The Bear and the Nightingale far exceeded my expectations.  A tale steeped in Russian folklore, mythology, and fairy tales, it’s pure magic in every sense of the word!

I personally think the story is best appreciated going in with as few spoilers as possibly so I’m not going to expand too much beyond what is already in the synopsis, but I do want to hit some high points of what made the book so special for me.

What I Loved:

The Setting and Atmosphere:  Not since visiting Narnia when I read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe have I felt so immersed in another place and time as when I began reading The Bear and the Nightingale.  With her rich and vivid descriptions, Arden transports her readers to Medieval Russia. The atmosphere feels so authentic that the snow, the bitter cold, the wilderness, and the dangerous mountainous terrain are almost palpable as we follow Vasilisa and her family through the story.

I also loved that the whole story had this oddly cozy yet often creepy vibe to it – I felt like I was actually taking shelter from the cold in front of the fire with Vasilisa and her siblings and listening to nurse Dunya tell the old Russian fairytales of Frost the blue eyed demon.  It made it especially creepy when the story takes a very Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming!” turn that makes it feel like Dunya’s chilling tales are coming to life right before the characters’ (and our) eyes.

Vasilisa (or Vasya as she is more affectionately known):  I fell in love with Vasya right away. Vasya is an utterly charming free spirit.  She has no interest whatsoever in conforming to anyone else’s preconceived notions of how women should behave. Vasya much prefers to spend her days frolicking outside in the woods and, much to the dismay of her parents, often disappears for hours at a time to go off adventuring.  Vasya is obviously headstrong and a bit defiant, but she’s also smart, brave, and when it comes down to it, would sacrifice anything to protect her family.  Everyone around her has suspected since she was a small child that there was something different about her, and it soon becomes clear that she has a gift and a connection to the spirit world that few others do. In harnessing that gift, she clearly demonstrates later in the novel that she is a force to be reckoned with.  When it becomes clear that extreme danger is closing in on her village and that she is the only one who can stop it, Vasya displays incredible inner strength that men twice her age and size probably couldn’t muster in her situation.

Christianity vs. Tradition/Ritual:  While this story is perfectly entertaining as a magical fairytale retelling, I loved the extra layer of depth that was provided by this religious conflict.  For generations Vasya and her fellow villagers have relied on their traditions of honoring the spirits of house, yard, and forest to keep them from harm.  They consider it to be a symbiotic relationship where they take care of the spirits with offerings of food to keep up their strength and the spirits reciprocate by protecting the villagers from harm.  Then suddenly Vasya’s new stepmother, who may or may not be mentally unstable, comes into the picture, bringing with her Christianity and a priest, suddenly the villagers’ old ways come under attack. The offerings to the spirits are deemed foolish and the priest tells the villagers they must abandon their old ways and turn to God for protection instead.  I found it especially interesting that the least likable characters in the novel are those who profess to be the most Christian.  The priest, in particular, is portrayed as quite arrogant and as having questionable, even egotistical motives, for trying to “enlighten” these villagers.  He doesn’t consider for a moment the possibility that there might really be protective spirits out there or that the danger closing in on the community could be beyond the realm of his wildest imagination.  When he convinces the villagers to abandon the spirits and the spirits abandon them in turn, it becomes clear that perhaps he and Christianity are not the answer.

Any Complaints?

About the only complaint I had was early on I thought the pacing was a little slow at times, mainly the part where Vasya’s father travels to Moscow in search of a new wife.  Once he brings his new wife home, however, the action picks up immediately as the wife is the catalyst for much of the rest of the story’s dramatic events.  If you find it a little slow like I did, stick with it. I promise you won’t regret it!

Who Would I Recommend The Bear and the Nightingale to? 

I’d definitely highly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale to anyone who loves fantasy, historical fiction, and folklore, but honestly, because the story is so wonderful, I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone.  In fact, I wish this book was already out because I can think of at least half a dozen people who I’ve love to give it to for Christmas. Put The Bear and the Nightingale on your must-read list for 2017. It’s truly a magical read!

Thanks so much to Netgalley, Katherine Arden, and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine/Del Rey for the opportunity to preview this beautiful book!

Rating:  4.5 stars!

four-half-stars

About Katherine Arden

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on Daughter of the Pirate King

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller.  I had never heard of this book prior to receiving an advert from Netgalley last week. As soon as I read the review below from Anna Banks, which describes the heroine Alosa as a lady Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, I ran to request an ARC. That just sounds way too good to pass up.  Sadly, I didn’t get approved for the ARC, but thankfully only have to wait until February to get my hands on this book.

Daughter of the Pirate King

by Tricia Levenseller

 

From Amazon:

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map―the key to a legendary treasure trove―seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

Check out this Advance Praise for Daughter of the Pirate King:

“Readers should rejoice, because we now have a lady Jack Sparrow on our hands!” — Anna Banks, author of the New York Times Bestseller Of Triton.

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top 10 Books I’d Love Santa to Leave Under My Tree

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree (or non-book bookworm items).  Yay for an easy topic this week!  The hardest part for me was only picking 10 books since I currently have so many on my To-Be-Read list that I haven’t purchased yet. Are any of these titles on your Christmas wishlist?

Top Ten Books I’d Love Santa to Leave Under My Tree

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1. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick 

scrappy little nobody

  (Read more…)

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2. Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

 (Read more…)

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3. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

 

(Read more…)

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4. The Mothers by Brit Bennett

 (Read more…)

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5. The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

 

 (Read more…)

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6. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

bright edge eowyn ivey

 (Read more…)

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7. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

 (Read more…)

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8. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

 (Read more…)

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9. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

(Read more…)

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10. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

 (Read more…)

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Question:  What books are you hoping Santa brings you this year?

Review: The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

Review:  The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie FlaggThe Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg
four-stars
Published by Random House on November 29th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Humor
Pages: 402
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:  From the beloved author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe comes another unforgettable, laugh-out-loud, and moving novel about what it means to be truly alive.

Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening out at the cemetery. “Still Meadows,” as it’s called, is anything but still. Funny and profound, this novel in the tradition of Flagg’s Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town deals with universal themes of heaven and earth and everything in between, as Flagg tells a surprising story of life, afterlife, and the mysterious goings-on of ordinary people.

 

My Review:

What a wonderful read this was! I’ve read so many books with dark and dystopian themes this year that it feels good to close out the year with such a lighthearted and humorous look at life, death, and everything in between.  In a way that only she can, the legendary Fannie Flagg takes us on a historical journey that chronicles the birth and evolution of the small town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri.

It’s hard to discuss the plot without giving too much away so I’ll be brief, but the primary storyline follows Elmwood Springs and its residents over the course of approximately 100 years.  The story begins in the late 1880s as we watch Swedish immigrant Lordor Nordstrom build the little town from the ground up with the help of his fellow immigrants.  Because they understand that they’re all in this together, these founders work together and lovingly cultivate their town into a thriving and wonderful community.  Once the founders’ initial work is done, we then follow the town and its residents for decades and see important historic and political events, technological discoveries, and much, much more through their eyes.  Some highlights include the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the flight of the first airplane, the Great Depression, World War II, the first landing on the moon, and of course, all of the TV and pop culture icons from each decade.

I also won’t get into the strange happenings out at the Still Meadows cemetery mentioned in the book’s blurb aside from to say that Fannie Flagg will definitely give you food for thought about what happens when you die.  While what goes on at the cemetery may pay homage to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, it’s definitely got that charmingly quirky twist that only Fannie Flagg can give it.

What I Loved about The Whole Town’s Talking

The Characters:  Fannie Flagg is a master when it comes to creating realistic and endearing characters and she does just that in The Whole Town’s Talking.  Aside from the founders, it’s actually hard to really state who the main characters are, but they’re all just such an endearing group of folks.  Since everyone I know has been binge watching the Gilmore Girls reunion, think of the residents of Stars Hollow and that’s the kind of wonderful assortment of well-rounded characters you’re dealing with in Elmwood Springs.

Some, like Elner, the crazy cat-loving lady who has a chance encounter with the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, are just oozing with personality and will keep you laughing out loud, while others like the hardworking Lordor Nordstrom will just grab your heart and won’t let go.  I fell hard for Lordor in those early pages as he first meets Katrina, the woman he falls in love with.  He’s so charmingly awkward that all of the women townsfolk come to his aid to help him woo Katrina.  It’s just so sweet, but yet not too sweet, because I found myself chuckling at all of their antics throughout those early days.

The Book’s Tone:  I know I keep referring to it as light, sweet, charming, heartwarming, which it totally is, but what I also liked about it was that it wasn’t so saccharine as to be off-putting.  There was such an infusion of classic Fannie Flagg humor that I constantly found myself chuckling a bit, even at what could be considered the sweetest moments of the story.  In that sense, it’s quite well balanced.

The Suspense:  Yes, even in a novel that I’m describing as lighthearted and humorous, there’s a bit of suspense built into the story.  Now I’m not talking suspense in the sense of a thriller. If you’re looking for that kind of suspense, you’ll definitely want to look elsewhere.  No, what I’m talking about are the highs and the lows and the curveballs that life throws at all at the residents of Elmwood Springs.  It’s that kind of realistic suspense we can all relate to because we all experience the same types of highs and lows – it’s just part of being alive.

And then, of course, there are the mysterious happenings down at the cemetery…

Anything I didn’t care for?

The only complaint I really had with the novel was that I would have liked a more in depth look at some of the characters and their lives.  The characters, for the most part, are just so lovable and quirky, that I couldn’t help but want to know a little more about them.  That’s just personal preference with me though because I always want to know as much as possible about characters that I love to further my connection to them.  I don’t think that lack of depth in any way detracts from the overall quality of the storytelling though since its focus is the whole town rather than just a few select characters anyway.

Who Would I Recommend The Whole Town’s Talking to?

I would definitely recommend The Whole Town’s Talking to anyone who already loves Fannie Flagg’s novels.  If you loved Welcome to the World, Baby Girl or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, then Fannie’s latest work will be right up your alley.

I would also recommend it to anyone else who likes a light-hearted and humorous read that also makes you think about your life and all of the people in it.

 

Rating:  A strong 4 stars

Question:  Have you ever read any of Fannie Flagg’s novels?

 

four-stars

About Fannie Flagg

Fannie Flagg’s career started in the fifth grade when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play entitled The Whoopee Girls, and she has not stopped since. At age nineteen she began writing and producing television specials, and later wrote and appeared on Candid Camera. She then went on to distinguish herself as an actress and a writer in television, films, and the theater. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man; Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!; Standing in the Rainbow; A Redbird Christmas; and Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. Flagg’s script for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated for an Academy Award, and the Writers Guild of America Award and won the highly regarded Scripter Award for best screenplay of the year. Flagg lives happily in California and Alabama.

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord.  The stunning cover is what first caught my eye, but once I read the synopsis and all of the advance reviews, I knew this book just had to go on my wish list. It sounds like it’s going to be a beautiful and moving read.

The Names They Gave Us

by Emery Lord

Publication Date:  May 16, 2017

From Amazon:

From the acclaimed author of When We Collided comes a vibrant, compelling story of love, loss, faith, and friendship.

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters-in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp-one for troubled kids-Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Emotionally-charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord’s storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life’s biggest challenges.

Check out this Advance Praise for The Names They Gave Us!

“A vividly drawn novel of how we believe, how it changes, and how it changes us. In Lucy Hansson, Emery Lord gives us a narrator so vibrantly real that by the last chapter she felt like a friend I’d grown up with. Lucy’s journey is as unforgettable as her voice.” – Anna-Marie McLemore, author of Morris Award Finalist THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS and National Book Award longlisted WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS

“This is more than a love story. When We Collided carefully yet effortlessly puts mental illness in conversation with the beauty and struggle of adolescence. It is a book I wish could have written, but am so much better for having read.” ―Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of DUMPLIN’ and SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY on WHEN WE COLLIDED

“Searingly honest, gut-wrenchingly authentic, and deeply romantic, When We Collided is a gift of a novel. It tackles tough topics with nuance, and will make readers both laugh and cry, sometimes within the span of a page.” ―Jasmine Warga, author of MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES on WHEN WE COLLIDED

“A five-star must-read romance for older teens (and up) that will challenge readers toward a better understanding of a too-often marginalized and stigmatized segment of the population, When We Collided is an important book not only for this generation of teens, but those who’ve come before . . . and those who will come after.” ―USA Today on WHEN WE COLLIDED

An absolute tearjerker romance with a powerful message about weightier topics of grief and mental illness.” ―starred review, School Library Journal on WHEN WE COLLIDED

“In sharp contrast to darker, more issue-driven YA books, this title keeps truer to the problems that most teens face. The protagonist’s upbeat attitude will inspire readers to persevere even during the low points in life.” ―starred review, School Library Journal on THE START OF ME AND YOU

“This is the teen world as it should be, full of good times and good friends to temper life’s inevitable sorrows, big and small. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti will want to add Emery Lord to their summer reading list.” ―BCCB on THE START OF ME AND YOU

“Lord offers a sweet story of love and loss. . . . The author is gentle with Paige as she struggles to redefine herself both in school and at home, as well as figure out who understands her best as she stumbles toward new romance.” ―Publishers Weekly on THE START OF ME AND YOU

“Reads like an ode to unconditional love that will keep readers firmly believing in believing.” ―Booklist on OPEN ROAD SUMMER

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂