The Bookish Libra’s Top 10 Favorite Books of 2017

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017, which gives us all a chance to share the reads that really blew us away this year.

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Overall I’ve had a fantastic reading year so it was hard to pick just ten favorites.  Here are ten books that really resonated with me, books that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in the weeks and months since I read them.

 

TOP 10 FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2017

 

1. THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

Read my review…

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2. A CONJURING OF LIGHT by V.E. Schwab

Read my review…

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3.  THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

Read my review…

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4. THE RULES OF MAGIC by Alice Hoffman

Read my review…

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5. DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone

Read my review…

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6. STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Read my review…

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7. THE ALICE NETWORK by Kate Quinn

Read my review…

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8. STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor

Read my review…

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9. MR. DICKENS AND HIS CAROL by Samantha Silva

Read my review…

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10. WHAT HAPPENED by Hillary Rodham Clinton

(Find out what it’s about…)

Hillary’s book was the only one of my favorite reads that I didn’t review on my blog.  As most of my blog readers know, I’m a huge Hillary fan so I knew any review I wrote would be very biased. I’ll just say that as a Hillary fan, this book was everything I needed it to be.

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Question:  What were some of your favorite 2017 reads?  Did any of my favorites make your list?

Weekly Recap #30: Week of 12/3 – 12/9

 

It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

I still can’t get over how quickly the holidays are approaching.  I’m running out of time to do all of the holiday preparations I still need to do and have a feeling that holiday cards might be the thing that I just cross off my list and skip this year.  I love sending and receiving cards, but it seems like it just gets more and more expensive to do it and that I receive fewer and fewer cards from my friends and family each year as others have opted to do more of an online newsletter to sum up their year.  I feel like the cards are just a dying tradition.  Or maybe I’m just trying to justify in my own mind not sending them.

I’m heading out today to see a musical with my mom and sister, so I’m looking forward to that.  We’re going to see The Sound of Music as part of the Broadway in Richmond series.  Every year 4 or 5 Broadway shows come to our capital city so it’s a great way to see some shows without the expense of going all the way to NYC.  My mom got me this ticket as a birthday gift back in October and I had actually forgotten all about it until she called me yesterday to finalize our plans.  Oops!

We’re also doing a big holiday event at my office this week that I am completely unprepared for.  An ambitious party planner has us doing a holiday cookie exchange, an ugly sweater contest, and a White Elephant Christmas all at the same time on the same day.  Sometime between now and Tuesday I have to bake 4 dozen cookies, find an ugly sweater, and come up with a gift for the White Elephant party.  Needless to say, I probably won’t be reading or blogging much in the next couple of days.  After that though, I plan to have my nose buried in a book for the rest of the week!

Anyway, I think that’s it for me.   Have a great week, everyone!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

   

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

  
     

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

    
   

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

 

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover on Your Holiday Shopping List

Created at canva.com

So you’ve got a book lover on your holiday shopping list and have no idea what to get them?  First of all, let me just say that we book lovers are actually pretty easy to shop for, well, unless you’re trying to actually buy us books, that is.  Since we buy so many books ourselves and, at least in my case, are way too impatient to wait for someone else to buy them for me, it can be challenging to find me a book that I don’t already own and haven’t already read.  So, yeah, unless your book lover has given you a wish list of books, you might not want to go the actual book route.

Never fear though because there are literally endless other fantastic bookish-themed gift ideas out there for you to choose from that are sure to please even the pickiest book lovers.  I’ve rounded up a few items that I know I wouldn’t mind receiving as gifts this year.  (And a little hint for you shoppers out there –  Society6.com and etsy.com are gold mines for book-themed gifts, so even if you don’t like my suggested gift items, be sure to check them out!)

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Gift Ideas for the Book Lover on Your Holiday Shopping List

 

1. JEWELRY

There are endless options out there when it comes to jewelry for book lovers. Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and even keychains make great gifts.

 

Sold on etsy.com. Click to purchase.

 

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2. MUGS

Mugs are one of my favorite bookish gifts to receive and I can never have too many of them either, especially since I’m nearly always drinking a hot beverage when I’m reading.

 

Sold at malaprops.com. Click to purchase.

 

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3. TOTE BAGS

Who wouldn’t love a super cute tote bag to haul around all their books?

 

Sold on etsy.com. Click to purchase.

 

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4. T SHIRTS

Help the book lover in your life make a fashion statement with a cute bookish-themed t shirt.

 

Sold on etsy.com. Click to purchase.

 

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5. BOOKMARKS

Not only do I use numerous bookmarks as placeholders in my books, but there are so many cute ones out there that I’ve found myself just collecting them as keepsakes too.  These John Green bookmarks caught my eye while I was browsing for gift ideas this week.

 

Sold on etsy.com. Click to purchase.

 

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6. MINI BOOK LIGHT

I actually have one of these and I love it.  It has saved many arguments between my husband and me when he wants to go to sleep and I want to stay up late reading.  It’s lightweight, will clip right on to your book, and gives off the perfect amount of light for reading so you can read until your heart’s content without disturbing anyone else.

 

Sold on amazon. Click to purchase.

 

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7. CANDLES

Wonderful smelling candles inspired by our favorite books and characters?  Yes, please!  There are lots of them available on etsy.com.  If you’re lucky, you might even find one inspired by your book lover’s favorite book.

 

Sold on etsy.com Click to purchase.

 

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8. PILLOWS

It’s pretty much a guarantee that your book lover enjoys curling up with a good book and reading for hours, so anything that enhances their comfort so that they can read longer is always a winner.  You can find pillows and even blankets that are book-themed.  I loved the simplicity of this one.

 

Sold on amazon. Click to purchase.

 

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9. BOOK-THEMED COVERS FOR PHONES & E-READERS

As a book lover, I like to proudly display my love of books in pretty much any way I can, and yes, that can include placing book-themed covers on all of my electronics.  I saw this cute one while browsing on etsy and almost bought it for myself.

Sold on etsy.com. Click to purchase.

 

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10.  BOOKENDS

Most book lovers can always use more bookends to help organize and display their ever-growing piles of books.  There are plenty of fun and decorative ones to choose from.

 

Sold on etsy.com. Click to purchase.

 

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11. GIFT CARDS TO BOOKSTORES

Okay, so maybe it’s not as creative as some of the other gift ideas on my list, but seriously, you cannot go wrong with a gift card to a bookstore.  Why?  Because it’s a reason for a book lover to visit the bookstore!  Not that we need another reason, but hell, we’ll take it!  Amazon is great since you can get more bang for your buck there when it comes to books, but a lot of us love to support our Indie Bookstores too so keep those in mind as well.

Click to see Amazon Gift Card Options.

Click to see Amazon Gift Card Options.

 

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Question:  Do any of my gift ideas for book lovers appeal to you?  What would you add to my list?  I know my list is filled with items that women would probably enjoy more than men, so do you have any more “manly” suggestions?

Book Review: Depth of Lies by E.C. Diskin

Book Review:  Depth of Lies by E.C. DiskinDepth of Lies by E.C. Diskin
four-stars
Published by Thomas & Mercer on September 26th 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 288
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.

MY REVIEW:

E.C. Diskin’s Depth of Lies is a gripping, fast-paced thriller that will not only keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time you’re reading, but it will also make you question how much you really know about the people that you consider yourself closest to.

The story opens with a mysterious death.  Shea Walker, a happy, easy going mom, who is beloved by all around her, is found dead in a bathtub at a B&B.  An empty pill bottle is found in her room so everyone believes that she has unexpectedly ended her own life.  All of Shea’s friends are of course distraught because they have lost their friend and because they simply cannot fathom how Shea could have possibly killed herself without any of them realizing she was at such a low point in her life.

One of Shea’s oldest and closest friends, Kat Burrows, takes it a step further.  She absolutely refuses to believe that Shea killed herself and suspects foul play.  She decides to do a little amateur sleuthing on her own, along with their mutual friend Tori.  Kat is also wracked with guilt because on the night she died, Shea had tried to call Kat but Kat chose not to answer the phone.

Once Kat starts digging, she begins to uncover lie after lie, and seemingly endless secrets and betrayals.  More and more details emerge that make Kat realize she didn’t know Shea nearly as well as she thought she did.  Nor did she really know anyone in their circle of friends, for that matter.  What she finds not only makes her question the truth about what happened to Shea that night, but it also makes her take a hard look at everyone around her.

The aptly named Depth of Lies explores the questions of not only what really happened to Shea Walker but also the thought provoking question of ‘Do we ever really know everything about anyone?’

 

I thought the author very effectively used the structure of the novel to unravel the mystery of what happened to Shea.  The story is presented to the reader in alternating chapters from the point of view of both Shea and Kat.  We get to follow the last few months of Shea’s life and see what is really going on with her, while at the same time, we follow Kat as she is investigating Shea’s death.  The two storylines parallel each other until they ultimately merge into one as both Kat and the reader learn the truth about Shea’s death.

I also thought the pacing was fantastic.  I got hooked immediately and with each clue Kat and her friend uncovered, the suspense just kept building and building.  I also liked the added tension of having Kat’s spouse as well as all of her friends start to get agitated because she keeps asking so many questions and won’t let anything go.  Wanting to know if any of them were hiding anything made the story that much more compelling for me and I devoured the novel in less than two days because I just had to know the truth.

Not only is Depth of Lies a well-crafted mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat, but it also does a wonderfully realistic job of portraying the different relationships between the characters.  We get to see all of the lingering guilt between the friends because they feel like they weren’t there for Shea, but then on top of it, the more the friends talk after her death, the more we start to see little bits of resentment and anger toward Shea come to the surface.  They might be mourning her loss, but a few of them clearly have emotional baggage when it comes to the impact Shea had on their lives.

I also found the relationships realistic in terms of the novel’s central question of how well we really know someone.  I found this idea especially believable and relatable.  Don’t we all tend to keep certain things to ourselves?  I know as much as I love my friends and family, I still don’t tell them everything.  I think it’s normal to keep secrets, especially if those secrets are things that could be really embarrassing if they were to become known.  This aspect of the novel left me with a lot to think about in terms of my own little secrets and in terms of what my friends and loved ones might be keeping from me.

 

The only real issue I had with Depth of Lies was that I would have liked to have felt more connected to the main characters.  I was glued to the book to find out the truth about Shea and whether or not Kat would alienate her entire friend group because she just wouldn’t let it go, but otherwise, I didn’t really feel all that attached to any of the characters.  I usually like to feel some kind of connection to at least one character but instead I just felt like an outsider observing the lives of these women and their spouses.  It definitely didn’t impede my enjoyment of the story, which I thought was fantastic, but I think that’s what makes it a 4 star instead of a 5 star read for me.

 

If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller that will keep you guessing until the end, I’d definitely recommend Depth of Lies.  I enjoyed it so much that I can’t wait to read more from E.C. Diskin.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

When Shea Walker, a sunny, easygoing mom, is found dead in a bathtub with a stomach full of booze and pills, the shocking discovery shatters the complacency of her comfortable suburban community.

Kat Burrows, Shea’s longtime friend and former neighbor, is hit hardest. How could a woman she thought she knew so well come to such a sordid end? What could lead happy, well-adjusted, responsible Shea to accidentally overdose on alcohol and narcotics? Or, worse, drive her to suicide?

Compelled to uncover the truth of Shea’s final months, Kat delves beneath the orderly surface of her familiar world to discover a web of thwarted desire, shameful secrets, and shocking betrayal that suggests a scarier explanation for what happened to Shea. As her carefully constructed reality begins to crumble, Kat must question every reassuring assumption her life is built upon to solve the mystery…and summon the courage and resourcefulness to survive it.

four-stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS

 

“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.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in for over a year now, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll just be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

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My selection for this week is THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS by Ashley Woodfolk.  I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a book that takes me on an emotional roller coaster ride, and based on all of the advance praise for this novel, I think that’s exactly what it’s going to do.

 

THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS by Ashley Woodfolk

Publication Date:   March 6, 2018

 

From Goodreads:

Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Each of them wonders: How different would my life be if this hadn’t happened? And now that it has . . . what’s next?

 

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS

 

“The Beauty that Remains is a stunning, heart-wrenching look at grief that will stay with you long after you put it down. Be prepared to be broken, be prepared to feel whole again.” —Angie Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give

“This books hurts so good. With three distinct narrators and lyrical prose, Ashley Woodfolk stakes her claim as a fresh new voice to follow in the world of young adult literature.” —Julie Murphy, author of Ramona Blue and Dumplin’

“Woodfolk’s debut cuts deeply, and then wipes your tears away. Wrenching, heartfelt, and vividly human.” —Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

The Beauty That Remains is haunting, heart-wrenching, and powerful. A tale of grief that grapples with what’s next after you lose a loved one, this book will remind you to hold fast to those you love, share your heart while you have time, and find the music that makes this wild ride of life better. A tearjerker must-read for teens!” —Dhonielle Clayton, author of the Belles series and coauthor of the Tiny Pretty Things series

The Beauty That Remains burns warm and bright with the fires of loss, love, and longing, and hums with poetry and song. This is the sort of book that pieces a broken heart back together, stronger than before. —Jeff Zentner, Morris Award-winning author of The Serpent King

“The Beauty That Remains is an emotional, must-read story of the way music connects us, the way tragedy threatens to break us apart, and the way life can change, for better or worse, in an instant.” —Bustle.com

“Woodfolk has done an exemplary job of character creating and building. Her three co-protagonists are fully realized, empathetic individuals for whom readers will care. They grow and change believably as they begin to find ways to deal with their grief, and the resolutions of their emotional crises are lucid and deeply satisfying, as, ultimately, is this fine first novel.” —Booklist

“An ambitious debut from a writer to watch.”—Kirkus

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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 CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top 10 Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit

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 Books On My Winter TBR List, which gives us all a chance to share what we’re planning to read for the next few months.   

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This week’s topic really gave me a major case of nostalgia because as soon as I started thinking about bookish settings I’d love to visit, mainly what came to mind were settings from my favorite childhood books.  There are a few more recent favorites on my list, but by and large, my inner child won out.

I’d love to visit and take classes at Hogwarts, and I’d love to walk through a wardrobe and find myself in the magical snowy world of Narnia.  Or maybe spend a day in the Hundred Acre Woods playing Pooh Sticks with Winnie the Pooh, flying around with Peter Pan in Neverland, or visiting Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and sampling some of his delectable chocolaty treats?

And while I can’t say I’d ever want to live in Middle Earth, Red London, Themyscira, or the Courts of Prythian, how wonderful would it be to just visit them and see them up close and personal?

Finally, I’d love to visit one of those magical traveling carnivals like the ones featured in Caraval and The Night Circus.  I selected the one from The Night Circus because I loved that it was set in Victorian London, but either would be truly magical.

 

TOP 10 BOOKISH SETTINGS I’D LOVE TO VISIT

 

1. HOGWARTS from the Harry Potter Series

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2. NARNIA from The Chronicles of Narnia

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3.  WILLY WONKA’S CHOCOLATE FACTORY from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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4. THE HUNDRED ACRE WOODS from Winnie the Pooh

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5. NEVERLAND from Peter Pan

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6. RED LONDON from A Darker Shade of Magic

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7. MIDDLE EARTH from the Lord of the Rings series

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8. THEMYSCIRA (Paradise Island) from Wonder Woman: Warbringer

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9. THE WANDERING MAGICAL CIRCUS from The Night Circus

Wallpaper created by thedreamerbelow from deviantart.com

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10. PRYTHIAN (ALL OF THE COURTS) from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series


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Question:  What bookish settings would you like to visit?  Would any of mine make your list?

2018 BEAT THE BACKLIST GOALS & 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 2018.  Also, this challenge  runs from January 1st to December 31st, 2018 so you have a whole year to work on that TBR.  Post updates throughout the year with #beatthebacklist.  The complete details about the 2018 Beat the Backlist Challenge can be found HERE.

I was able to knock 24 titles off my backlist through this challenge last year, so I’m excited to see if I can beat that number in 2018. My TBR is of course still out of control so I’m going to up my goal to 30 backlist books this year and see how that shakes out.  I’m going for a mix of Kindle reads and physical books in hopes of making a dent in both areas.  I’ve made a tentative Backlist TBR list below but I’m a terrible mood reader so this list is subject to change as my moods dictate.

 

  1. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  2. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  3. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
  4. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  6. Timekeeper by Tara Sim
  7. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
  8. Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
  9. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
  10. Winter by Marissa Meyer
  11. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  12. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  13. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  14. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  15. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
  16. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
  17. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  18. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  19. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
  20. Nemesis by Anna Banks
  21. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  22. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
  23. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello
  24. Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys
  25. Hunted by Meagan Spooner
  26. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  27. How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
  28. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  29. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  30. The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

I’ll also be participating as a member of the Dewey Dragons BTB Team.  Let me know if you’re a fellow Dragon!

Are you planning to join the Beat the Backlist challenge in 2018?

Weekly Recap #29: Week of 11/26 – 12/2

 

It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

I’m slowly but surely getting back on track with my reading and blogging after having been away.  I’m still a couple of days behind on my comments and blog hopping, but I’m hoping to be all caught up by this evening.  Next time I travel, I think I might just not schedule any posts and start fresh once I return home.  Live and learn, lol.  But anyway, if I haven’t stopped by your blog in a while, I hope to remedy that today.

This week I’m all about decking the halls for the holidays.  We started decorating yesterday but ended up going out shopping for new decorations instead because when we opened up our storage boxes, several of our older decorations had decided to just fall apart.  At first I was shocked, but then I had to remind myself that they’re probably at least 15-20 years old and some even older than that because they were donated to us by our families when we were first starting out.  So now that we’re restocked on decorations, we’re putting everything including the tree up today.  I’ve got my holiday tunes loaded on my phone so I’m ready to roll and fully immerse myself in the Christmas spirit.

I’ve also got holiday shopping on the brain since everyone keeps asking me what I want for Christmas.  In brainstorming a wish list for myself, I’ve come up with a post on gift ideas for bookworms and will be posting that this week, along with my usual slate of posts.

I started reading Renegades by Marissa Meyer this weekend and am enjoying it so far.  I also noticed when I went to log it on my Goodreads account that it is the 100th book I’ve read this year.  I’ve never read that many books in one year before, so that was pretty exciting to see!

 

Anyway, I think that’s it for me.   Have a great week, everyone!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

  

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

 
     
 

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

    

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

Review: THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

Review:  THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine ArdenThe Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
Also by this author: The Bear and the Nightingale
five-stars
Series: The Winternight Trilogy #2
Published by Del Rey on December 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Also in this series: The Bear and the Nightingale
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.

MY REVIEW:

Katherine Arden’s The Winternight Trilogy is one of the most captivating series I’ve ever read.  I fell in love with the series last winter when I read the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale.  Filled with lush worldbuilding, a feisty heroine, fascinating Russian folklore, and a touch of the supernatural, The Bear and the Nightingale entranced me from the first pages and I just fell in love with everything about the story.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the second book, The Girl in the Tower, and was thrilled to be approved for an advanced copy to review on my blog.

I didn’t think it was possible to top the gorgeous storytelling in the first book, but Arden proved me wrong.  As much as I adored The Bear and the Nightingale, I thought The Girl in the Tower was even more amazing!  It has all of the same wonderful elements as the first book – the magic, the Russian folklore, beloved characters like Vasya, her horse Solovey, and the Frost Demon.  But then, there’s just also so much more to love.

In The Girl in the Tower, Vasya has really come into her own in terms of character growth.  She is still a free spirit who refuses to bow down and do what society expects young women to do, but now she is also more mature and a bit wiser because of what she went through in the first book.

The Girl in the Tower picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale left off. Because of what happened to Vasya in the first book, there are rumors swirling around her village that she is a witch.  Faced with the choices before her – either marrying someone she doesn’t love or being sent to live in a convent —  Vasya decides to create her own destiny and runs away from home.  When the story opens, we meet Vasya traveling, disguised as a boy, with only her horse, Solovey, by her side.

The roads she travels on are rugged and unsafe, but Vasya’s journey ultimately takes her to Moscow where she is reunited with her monk brother, Sasha; her sister, Olga, who is now a princess; and her cousin Dmitrii, who is the Crown Prince of Moscow.  Desperately trying to conceal her true identity, Vasya gets caught up in a web of deception, lies, and political unrest and finds herself faced with extremely dangerous choices everywhere she turns.

How will she get out of her predicament and what will happen to her if her true identity is revealed?

As with the first book, the atmospheric quality of The Girl in the Tower was one of my favorite parts of the novel.  As soon as I began reading, I felt as though I had been transported to Vasya’s world.  Arden masterfully paints a medieval Russian landscape and skillfully dots this landscape with a fascinating mix of supernatural elements and Russian folklore.  Her descriptions are so vivid that I could practically hear the snow crunching under Solovey’s hooves as he and Vasya traversed the snowy landscape, just as I could easily envision the tiny magical spirit guardians hidden in each building Vasya entered.

Vasya is of course still a major favorite of mine.  I admire her bravery and her feistiness and the fact that she doesn’t want to be forced into marriage or into a convent.  She has no interest in society’s expectations for women and, instead, wants to be an adventurer and travel the world.  Vasya has a spirit that cannot be tamed, and I couldn’t help but cheer her on, even though I know it’s likely to be dangerous for her.

In addition to Vasya, another favorite character of mine is her stallion, Solovey.  Solovey and Vasya can communicate with each other, and some of their exchanges are truly hilarious.  I love Solovey for his loyalty, his sassiness, and for his fierceness.  You’ll want a Solovey of your very own after reading this story.  He’s the perfect companion for Vasya.

And, of course, I can’t leave out an unexpected favorite character, Morozko, the Frost Demon.  Arden adds layers and layers of complexity to Morozko in this second book and I just fell in love with him even more than I did in the first book.   The details of his history, along with his connection to Vasya, are what truly take this story to the next level, and even though I probably shouldn’t ship Vasya and Morozko, I totally do.  I just can’t get enough of the two of them together!

I also loved that this story seemed a little darker and a little more grounded in reality than the first story because of the focus on political unrest in Moscow. It added a layer of danger and intrigue that really made for an exciting and fast-paced read.

The only issue I had while reading this book was that it started out a little slow for me.  It may have been because it took a few pages to actually get to Vasya’s story, but I’m actually going to chalk it up as a personal issue because I was trying to start the book while riding on a train and was constantly distracted.  Once I got home and continued reading where there were less distractions, I devoured the rest of the book in less than 24 hours.

The Girl in the Tower is a tale that is beautiful yet dark, enchanting yet also horrifying. With its gorgeous prose, memorable characters, and intricate storytelling, it has also secured itself a spot on my Top Reads of 2017 list.  Katherine Arden has truly captivated me with this series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final installment.  I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves a strong, feisty, independent heroine and good solid storytelling, as well as to anyone who is interested in Russian folklore.  You won’t be disappointed!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

five-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.