arc august 2018


Since starting my book blog I've noticed my reading habits have shifted strongly in favor of advance reading copies, or ARCs, instead of backlist books. While it's always exciting and a privilege to read books before their release date, it can sometimes put a time crunch on my reading habits! ARCs are promotional copies meant to generate buzz around an upcoming release and I always feel I should do my best to read and review any advance copies I receive in time for its publication.

This conflicts with my tendency to request oodles of ARCs all coming out around the same time—oops. That's why ARC August, hosted by Read, Sleep, Repeat, is the perfect monthly challenge for me!

book review: sanctuary by caryn lix


Sanctuary by Caryn Lix
Simon Pulse, 480 pp.
Published July 24, 2018



DISCLAIMER: I received a free physical ARC of this title from the publisher for review consideration. This did not inform or influence my opinion in any way.

Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.

As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company—and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.

But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners.

At first, she’s confident her commanding officer—who also happens to be her mother—will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.

As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive—all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.

bookshelves tour: part 2


About a month ago I moved a third bookshelf into my room. With glass doors on the top shelves and cabinets at the bottom, I could finally move some of my collectible titles into safer storage and reorganize my other two shelves! It took a little time to decide exactly how I wanted things to look and, finally, I decided on function over form. (How can you bear to break up a series just to make a rainbow?? HOW?!?)

While they may not go in Roy G. Biv order there is still an abundance of pretty books to see! Size constraints mean that some shelves are still mismatched from where I'd truly like them to be; on the bright side, however, books are no longer stacked on my floor—or on top of one another in the shelves, either!

Over the course of the summer I'm going to do little tours of each of my three bookcases. This week you'll get to see the classics and adult fiction that I most enjoy, including fantasy, science fiction, and mystery novels!

book review: fawkes by nadine brandes


Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Thomas Nelson, 448 pp.
Published July 10, 2018



DISCLAIMER: I received a free physical ARC of this title from the publisher for review consideration. This did not inform or influence my opinion in any way.

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

sunday post #27


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer. It's a chance to recap posts from the past week and tease upcoming content, as well as share new books, reading challenge progress, and anything else you've come across in the last seven days.

Thanks to everyone who voted in my jury duty book poll! Thankfully, I was never assigned to a courtroom, which meant that I got to wait in the large holding room for a few hours before being dismissed in time for lunch. While I got a lot of reading done, I also wound up sitting next to a teacher from my old high school—small world! We caught up on who was still teaching there and who had moved on to other schools, plus a little bit of gossip I wouldn't have gotten to hear as a student.

I caught up on recent movie releases, too, and finally saw Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Y'all, it was awful. Everyone made such dumb decisions and it was all for pretty much nothing by the end. Taylor Sheridan is such a talented screenwriter that I was surprised he delivered such a huge miss. Hopefully it's just a blip on the radar and not a sign of things to come!

tagged: mid-year book freak out


Last week I made an enormous post with all of my reviews for the first half of the year (and if you haven't scrolled through it yet, you should!). While it was a nice sum-up, I didn't offer much in the way of comparison or reflection, which is why I'm so happy Sim @ Flipping Thru the Pages tagged me in the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag! It may be a little bit past the halfway point, but don't worry: I'm only including books I've read through the end of June!

book review: sea witch by sarah henning


Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
Katherine Tegen Books, 368 pp.
Published July 31, 2018



DISCLAIMER: I received a free physical ARC of this title from the publisher for review consideration. This did not inform or influence my opinion in any way.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

The rise of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic villainess is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, betrayal, and a girl pushed beyond her limits—to become a monster.

down the tbr hole #22


As my Goodreads to-read shelf creeps closer to 500 books, I've been eyeing it with a growing feeling of apprehension. It would take forever to get through so many...and that's not counting all of the new books I hear about along the way. Thankfully I discovered Lost In A Story's series (by way of Boston Book Reader) at the beginning of the year and it sounds like a great way to trim down my TBR.

The guidelines, per Lost In A Story, are simple:
  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order on ascending date added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
I'll be going through 10 books every week, meaning it should take me almost the whole year to reach the end! If you'd like to do this yourself, be sure to visit Lost In A Story's original post and let her (and me!) know you'll be joining in the fun.

book review: the cruel prince


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 370 pp.
Published January 2, 2018



Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

sunday post #26


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer. It's a chance to recap posts from the past week and tease upcoming content, as well as share new books, reading challenge progress, and anything else you've come across in the last seven days.

I'm happy to report that the bunny's birthday (aka, the Fourth of July) went splendidly! He got to nosh on some homemade strawberry cupcakes and dig through a big bag of presents filled with tissue paper to rip and tear. At the end of the week my mom and I went to see Incredibles 2. I'm sorry to say it, but I was a little underwhelmed? The scene with Jack Jack and a raccoon was pure gold though.

This coming week will have a little hiccup in my usual routine thanks to jury duty on Tuesday. Yay—not! I plan to put up a little poll on my Twitter (@darkmaterialss) tonight or tomorrow to help me decide which books I should take with me to stave off the soul-crushing boredom. Please stop by and vote!

book review: the essex serpent


The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Serpent's Tail, 416 pp.
Published May 27, 2016



Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890's, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners' agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, this novel is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different guises it can take.

2018 mid-year review


Happy Fourth of July to my fellow American readers...and happy Wednesday to those of you overseas! (You're more than halfway through the week—yay!) For this mid-week holiday I thought something fluffy and filled with pretty book covers would be a welcome treat, so I'm looking back over all of the books I've read and reviewed so far this year. The first half of 2018 has seen some amazing new and new-to-me books. While there are some duds sprinkled throughout the months, it's been such fun discovering new favorites to add to my shelves and discuss with friends!

For some additional context, these are my basic reading stats so far this year:

Goodreads Challenge: 64 out of 50 books completed
Total pages read: 24,183 pp.
Pages per day: 134 pp.
Average rating: 3.52 (out of 5)

For every title that has a review posted I've included a link, excerpt, and the star rating. For those that haven't been published (or written...) yet, I've copied my preliminary Goodreads blurb instead. I've also noted my 5-star reviews with a little star beside each title if you're most interested in the greatest hits! Please feel free to explore, discover, and enjoy ♥♥

book review: spinning silver


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 448 pp.
Published July 10, 2018



DISCLAIMER: I received a free finished copy of this book from Del Rey for review purposes.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

sunday post #25


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer. It's a chance to recap posts from the past week and tease upcoming content, as well as share new books, reading challenge progress, and anything else you've come across in the last seven days.

The days continue to be long and hot, with very little to report. It's hard to get motivating into leaving the house and running around when the temperatures are sweltering. I did remember to pick up a couple of new citronella candles when I ran errands this week, though, which should make evening reading sessions in the backyard possible, nay—pleasant! In addition to my usual book review schedule I screened a couple of upcoming movies as well, including the excellent Leave No Trace. The Fourth of July holiday has me extra wary of movie theaters, but I also really want to see Incredibles 2 and Sicardio: Day of the Soldado, so it looks like I'll be leaving the cool, dark shelter of my room for the cool, dark shelter of a cinema soon!

state of the arc #6


State of the ARC is a monthly meme hosted by Avalinah's Books. It's a way to track your reading progress and see how fellow book bloggers are doing as well.

The rules for State of the ARC are quite simple; I couldn't put them any better than Evelina already has:
  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!

book review: acceptance


Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 341 pp.
Published September 2, 2014



It is winter in Area X, the mysterious wilderness that has defied explanation for thirty years, rebuffing expedition after expedition, refusing to reveal its secrets. As Area X expands, the agency tasked with investigating and overseeing it--the Southern Reach--has collapsed on itself in confusion. Now one last, desperate team crosses the border, determined to reach a remote island that may hold the answers they've been seeking. If they fail, the outer world is in peril.

Meanwhile, Acceptance tunnels ever deeper into the circumstances surrounding the creation of Area X--what initiated this unnatural upheaval? Among the many who have tried, who has gotten close to understanding Area X--and who may have been corrupted by it?

In this last installment of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may be solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound--or terrifying.

down the tbr hole #21


As my Goodreads to-read shelf creeps closer to 500 books, I've been eyeing it with a growing feeling of apprehension. It would take forever to get through so many...and that's not counting all of the new books I hear about along the way. Thankfully I discovered Lost In A Story's series (by way of Boston Book Reader) at the beginning of the year and it sounds like a great way to trim down my TBR.

The guidelines, per Lost In A Story, are simple:
  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order on ascending date added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
I'll be going through 10 books every week, meaning it should take me almost the whole year to reach the end! If you'd like to do this yourself, be sure to visit Lost In A Story's original post and let her (and me!) know you'll be joining in the fun.

book review: sunburn


Sunburn by Laura Lippman
William Morrow, 290 pp.
Published February 20, 2018



One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.

Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

sunday post #24


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer. It's a chance to recap posts from the past week and tease upcoming content, as well as share new books, reading challenge progress, and anything else you've come across in the last seven days.

The movies at the film festival last weekend may have been a little disappointing, but I made up for it this week with an early screening of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom! I absolutely loved this sequel, much more than the first in the "rebooted" Jurassic Park series. Granted, I don't go to these types of movies expecting grand, dramatic Oscar material; it did deliver on the blockbuster attitude and plethora of dinosaurs, though, so I'm already looking forward to catching another screening in a few weeks when the crowds have thinned.

On a related note, I was totally a "dinosaur kid" growing up, but best I can remember I loved all the different dinosaurs equally. Did y'all have a favorite dinosaur when you were younger?

book review: sky in the deep


Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Wednesday Books, 352 pp.
Published April 24, 2018



DISCLAIMER: I received a free digital ARC of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for reviewing purposes. This did not inform or influence my opinion in any way.

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

my favorite bookish b*tches


The word bitch often gets deployed against any woman, fictional or not, with more personality than a 1940's animated Disney princess. It seems as though the list of acceptable qualities in a woman that make her "likable" keeps getting shorter, while the ways in which she can offend grow ever more numerous. Sometimes there's a clear double standard at play: the level of selfishness, ambition, or independence that's acceptable in a man is a mark against his female counterparts. But sometimes, a female character really is bitchy—and that's okay!

To me, whether she's good or bad, a bitch is always interesting. Maybe she's the villain, or hasn't made up her mind if she wants to be one yet. Maybe she's just gotten tired of everyone else's nonsense. Or maybe she's a fundamentally good person forced into making unthinkable choices, ones that she could never win. Regardless of their personal narrative, I think it's time we celebrate the bookish bitches we love—or love to hate. Each of them is complex, challenging, and make a story more compelling because of their presence in it.

book review: the queen's rising


The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross
HarperTeen, 464 pp.
Published February 6, 2018



When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

sunday post #23


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer. It's a chance to recap posts from the past week and tease upcoming content, as well as share new books, reading challenge progress, and anything else you've come across in the last seven days.

Happy Father's Day to those who are celebrating it—and a happy Sunday to everyone else! My family takes a relaxed approach to holidays, so most of our festivities today center around my cooking some of dad's favorite foods. It's a nice cap to a weekend highlighted by the film festival that I covered Friday and Saturday. Despite only going to a couple of movies, the commute to the theater and finding parking once you're there is a bit of a hassle; not having to deal with herds of inattentive drivers is nice!

I also went and saw Hereditary on my own this week. Have any of you seen it, or plan on seeing it? There were a couple on-the-nose moments but overall I think Ari Aster crafted a superb movie! He genuinely shocked me more than once—a hard task with this cynical horror fan—and Toni Collette deserves to be included in awards chatter at the end of the year. To top it all off I have a lovely little book haul down below, making up for the last few weeks of few to no new books coming in!

book review: lies you never told me


Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson
Razorbill, 336 pp.
Published May 29, 2018



DISCLAIMER: I received a free physical ARC of this book from the publisher via BookishFirst for review purposes. This in no way informed or influenced my opinion

Gabe and Elyse have never met. But they both have something to hide.

Quiet, shy Elyse can't believe it when she's cast as the lead in her Portland high school's production of Romeo and Juliet. Her best friend, Brynn, is usually the star, and Elyse isn't sure she's up to the task. But when someone at rehearsals starts to catch her eye--someone she knows she absolutely shouldn't be with--she can't help but be pulled into the spotlight.

Austin native Gabe is contemplating the unthinkable--breaking up with Sasha, his headstrong, popular girlfriend. She's not going to let him slip through her fingers, though, and when rumors start to circulate around school, he knows she has the power to change his life forever.

Gabe and Elyse both make the mistake of falling for the wrong person, and falling hard. Told in parallel narratives, this twisty, shocking story shows how one bad choice can lead to a spiral of unforeseen consequences that not everyone will survive.

down the tbr hole #20


As my Goodreads to-read shelf creeps closer to 500 books, I've been eyeing it with a growing feeling of apprehension. It would take forever to get through so many...and that's not counting all of the new books I hear about along the way. Thankfully I discovered Lost In A Story's series (by way of Boston Book Reader) at the beginning of the year and it sounds like a great way to trim down my TBR.

The guidelines, per Lost In A Story, are simple:
  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order on ascending date added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
I'll be going through 10 books every week, meaning it should take me almost the whole year to reach the end! If you'd like to do this yourself, be sure to visit Lost In A Story's original post and let her (and me!) know you'll be joining in the fun.

book review: my plain jane


My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
HarperTeen, 464 pp.
Published June 26, 2018



DISCLAIMER: I received a free physical ARC of this title from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way informed or influenced my opinion.
You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.
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