Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!
This week’s TTT topic is a Freebie so I decided to revisit a topic I did not too long ago where I shared recent reads I didn’t plan to review on the blog. I’m still trying to read more of the older books from my own shelves and I like being able to share a few quick thoughts about each of those reads without writing a full-fledged review. This time around I’m also including my thoughts on three brand-new releases that are actually out in the world as of today, The Nature of Witches, Dead Dead Girls, and Our Woman in Moscow. I ended up with way too many June 1 ARCs and just didn’t have enough time to review them all. You’ll notice I had more to say about these three than about the older books.
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10 More Books I’ve Read Recently But Haven’t Reviewed on the Blog
1. THE NATURE OF WITCHES by Rachel Griffin (4 STARS)
I’m always up for a good witchy read and this one was fantastic. I loved the unique magical system that basically had witches maintaining the climate as they draw their power directly from the sun, with it being strongest during the season of their birth. They’re struggling to keep up with the changes to the climate brought about by humans, however, which has caused the atmosphere to become increasingly erratic. Clara is their own hope of stabilizing the atmosphere, as she is the rarest of all witches, an Everwitch who draws her magic from the sun and from every season of the year. I thought the author did a brilliant job of creating such a unique magical system and tying it to something like climate change, which is so relevant and something we can all relate to. As fascinating as all of the magic and all of the action-packed scenes surrounding the witches and their attempts to stop climate change, what really captivated me about this story was Clara’s personal journey. As the only living Everwitch, she is completely alone. People try to help her master her magic, but no one fully understands how it works and how to harness it to its fullest potential. When we first meet Clara, she hates her magic and refuses to use it at all because it killed her parents and her best friend because she couldn’t control it. My heart broke for Clara and I longed for her to realize it wasn’t her fault so that she would stop closing herself off from others who love and care about her. The Nature of Witches is at times heartbreaking and terrifying, but yet also hopeful as Clara slowly comes to embrace her magic and how life changing it can be. If you’re in the mood for a beautifully written standalone fantasy about the unlikely combination of witches and climate change, The Nature of Witches is a must-read for you. (4 STARS)
2. DEAD DEAD GIRLS by Nekesa Afia (4 STARS)
There’s so much I want to say about this book but since it’s a mystery, I feel like I should say as little as possible for fear of spoilers. I was honestly expecting more of a cozy mystery with that cover but this is a much darker and more intense story than a cozy, with young Black girls being brutally murdered in Harlem in 1926. The protagonist, Louise Lloyd, also a young Black woman, unintentionally finds herself on the case after punching a white police officer in the face. Something about Louise intrigues the officer and he makes a deal with her: if she can help him interview folks in Harlem who may have information about these murders, he won’t charge her with assault. Louise reluctantly agrees and thus begins her unofficial career as an amateur detective. I don’t want to give away anything about the murder investigation, so I’ll just say that I loved Louise. She’s smart, sassy, and tenacious, and really does have a knack for detective work and for getting people to talk to her. I also loved how the author perfectly brings 1920’s New York City to life, both the good and the bad. She really captures both the beautiful and creative spirit of the Harlem Renaissance as well as the ugliness of the racism that still pervades society. I’m excited that this is going to be a series and look forward to seeing Louise tackle even more mysteries.
3. OUR WOMAN IN MOSCOW by Beatriz Williams (3.5 STARS)
This book actually releases today and I have mixed feelings about it. I was intrigued by the subject matter, particularly since it’s set during the Cold War and based on an actual Russian spy ring that was in England. I was also intrigued by the way the story was presented from the perspectives of twin sisters, one of whom, Iris, is married to a spy and has defected with him to Moscow, while the other twin, Ruth, has decided she needs to rescue her sister from Moscow and bring her home. There is also a unique third perspective, which is that of a female KGB officer. The story unfolds in a multi-time line that shows how Iris met her spy husband and the troubled trajectory of their relationship, which alternates with chapters that show Ruth’s journey, with particular focus on how she comes to be involved in a mission to extract Iris and her family from Russia. I was fascinated by the actual history presented in this book and I loved the twists and turns and constant sense of danger lurking around every corner because of the KGB, but at the same time, since I was so unfamiliar with the real life spy ring the story is based on, I just felt like I wanted more history and less focus on the personal and romantic relationships of the characters, etc.
4. THE UNEXPECTED EVERYTHING by Morgan Matson (4 STARS)
Lots of things to like in this delightful book. My favorites: the focus on friendships and how they evolve over time, the father-daughter relationship, the cute home-schooled boy who is now a famous fantasy author, and of course all of the dogs. 🙂
5. THE UNRAVELING OF CASSIDY HOLMES by Elissa R. Sloan (3.5 STARS)
An interesting look at the inner workings of an all-girl pop band. The story explores the relationships between the members of the band, encounters with stalkers, how the rise to the top can impact people. Some band members are also dealing with personal issues (racism, abuse, sexual assault, etc.) and the book explores how that darkness impacts them, in particular Cassidy Holmes who we learn has committed suicide when the novel opens. It is somewhat similar to Daisy Jones & the Six but I don’t know that the comparison has done this book any favors as Daisy Jones & the Six is in a league of its own.
6. DARKDAWN by Jay Kristoff (4 STARS)
One of my goals this year has been to finish up series that have been lingering on my TBR for years so I’m happy to say that I finally finished the last book in The Nevernight Chronicle. I was sad to say goodbye to Mia Corvere, Mr. Kindly and the rest of these unforgettable characters, but I thought it was a very satisfying series finale, an action-packed emotional roller coaster.
7. A SONG BELOW WATER by Bethany C. Morrow (3.5 STARS)
Even though this one has been sitting on my shelf for a year, I probably still read it sooner than I otherwise would have because I accidentally requested the second book in the series, not realizing it wasn’t a standalone book. I was fascinated by the idea of sirens, gorgons and other characters from Greek Mythology hiding in plain sight in the human world and I thought the story took a very powerful and emotional turn when a siren murder, along with a popular celebrity revealing herself to be a siren and decides to lend her voice to a protest that is very reminiscent of a Black Lives Matter protest. I also loved the sisterly bond between main characters Tavia, who is a teen siren in hiding and her best friend, Effie. I did, however, find the story somewhat confusing and hard to follow at times. I was listening to the audio version and there was so little distinction between Effie and Tavia that it was hard to tell who was who sometimes.
8. A REAPER AT THE GATES by Sabaa Tahir (4 STARS)
This is another series that I’m looking to wrap up this year and chose not to write a review since it’s just hard to review the third book in a series. Since this came out in 2018, I’m so late to the party that I probably wouldn’t spoil anything for anyone. At the same time, however, I don’t think I have anything new to add to the discussion. It’s a fantastic series with incredible worldbuilding, fascinating characters, and heart-stopping action and betrayals. I love reading about Laia, Elias, and Helene the Blood Shrike and look forward to seeing how Sabaa Tahir brings their journeys to a conclusion in the final book.
9. READY PLAYER TWO by Ernest Cline (3 STARS)
After loving both the Ready Player One book and film, this was easily my most anticipated read of 2020 and good grief, what a letdown it ended up being. I actually almost DNF’ed it because the beginning was just so ugh in every way. It’s basically a long, drawn out info dump about everything Wade and the gang have been doing since we last saw them before it finally moves into a new mystery regarding the Oasis. Once I finally got to the mystery, I was more invested and interested in seeing how things played out and that’s the part of the story that gets my 3 stars. The first part of the book was easily a 1 or 2 star read for me, even with Wil Wheaton narrating.
10. CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS by Cassandra Clare (4 STARS)
I’m so weird when it comes to The Mortal Instruments series. I’ve been slowly working my way through it for a couple of years now and although I devour a book once I start it, once I finish, I don’t feel a compelling urge to dive right into the next book even though I know I have at least two or three more books to go. No clue why since I adore Clary, Jace, Simon, Isabelle and all of the other characters and I love the worldbuilding. I especially enjoyed this book because there’s a lot more character development than in the first three books in the series. I really enjoyed getting to see more of Simon’s world as a vampire . Plus, there’s lot of drama, which always makes for a fun read.
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