Akata Warrior (Akata Witch, #2) by Nnedi Okorafor

Book Review of Akata Warrior by The Inky Saga

I did not set myself the most ambitious reading goals this year, and it has been a struggle to just read one book per month. However, I was really happy to get to read Akata Warrior, the sequel to Akata Witch, which I read and adored last year. The magical adventures of Sunny and her coven are so much fun and full of heart.

I also love the African representation in the book. These books comment on identity in Nigeria, which is as varied as complex as it is in America. I think is so important that children read a book set in different countries, especially countries that we don’t often see portrayed for a young adult audience. Africa is such a huge continent and in many places, it is surprisingly not that different from certain parts of the United States.

In this post I will talk about the plot and potential spoilers from this sequel. Like with my last review of a sequel, I’m not sure how many people will read this post. So I’m just going to assume it will be people who have already read it and want to talk about it! If you’ve not read Akata Witch, I highly recommend it. You can check out the review I wrote last year.

SEE: AKATA WITCH BY NNEDI OKORAFOR

 • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor 

Released: October 16, 2018 by Speak
Pages: Paperback, 512 pages
Theme(s): Identity, inner strength, power of knowledge, friendship, balance
Genre(s): YA / Fantasy / African-American Fiction
Age Group: 10+
Goodreads | Amazon*

*Affiliate link disclaimer

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysterious town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Akata Warrior picks up some time after Sunny and her oha coven have defeated Black Hat and are well into studying independently with guidance from their individual mentors. The book actually started with a really great recap in the form of a letter from the snarky Obi Library Collective of Leopard Knocks’ Department of Responsibility! I had been worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the story, but I ended up recalling most of the first book. I was actually only fuzzy on the ending, probably because I was so unsatisfied by the plot’s main conflict.

In this book Sunny is being haunted by the evil spirit Ekwenzu who wants to bring on the destruction of the natural world. She manages to separate Sunny from her spirit face Azue, which to everyone’s surprise does not kill her. Instead Sunny is forced to navigate the magical world without her spirit guide and find inner strength and confidence in herself.

In this second book, we see Sunny grow closer to her brothers. Each sibling is so different, they all have live such different lives despite all having lived under the same roof. It’s really nice to see them start to opening up and trusting each other with their vulnerabilities and trouble they get into. It is through her brothers that we see a real-life problem plaguing Nigerian higher education: confraternities.

I had never heard of this problem and was glad that Okorafor included this little side plot that was so relevant to the story because of the leopard world’s value of education and the story’s Nigerian setting. It is horrifying to see how people are press-ganged into these secret societies full of corruption that ultimately seem to have nothing to do with the honest pursuit of knowledge.

One more minor thing that I found highly unsettling was the development of a relationship between Sunny’s friend Chichi and her older brother Chuckwu. It’s super creepy to think of a 18-year-old guy who is obsessed with body building off at college being attracted to a literally underdeveloped child! Chichi is supposed to be this tiny little girl. The first book makes it seem like Chichi is older than she looks, but I don’t think that makes it okay!

I think drama of a love triangle was the main the point of throwing Chuckwu into Chichi and Sasha’s relationship. Maybe it can be chalked up to cultural differences, but I do feel it was highly inappropriate even if their relationship was more innocent.

Aside from the horrors of reality, this book was a lot of fun! My favorite parts of these books is always following Sunny as she discovers more about the leopard world and all of what’s possible. The flying wood cutter, Grashcoatah, was a particular delight. He was like a playful Loki in giant grasscutter disguise!

Like the first book, I feel the second suffers from a similar weakness in the plot. I was really in shock again about how many things happened that Sunny did not see fit to explain to the Leopard adults, particularly her mentor Sugar Cream! In the Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events books, the children are always trying to tell adults first and it’s only when they realize they are not being taken seriously do they realize they must act on their own. I’m not sure why it doesn’t even occur to Sunny and her friends to confide in more older people with more experience!

I also really didn’t like how disconnected the climax felt from the rest of the book. I actually did like the slow unraveling of the discovery that the house Sunny had been learning about in her grandmother’s letter was Ekwenzu’s home in the spirit land, but it was not a very smooth transition from the mystery the coven was chasing by visiting the mythical city of Osisi. To be honest, though, maybe I’m just used to stories where the protagonists know what they need to do. Sunny and the gang are plagued by problems not at all personal to them but derived from ancestral conflict.

If I had to rate this book by stars, I’d give it a 4 stars. It’s a very fun read and does what a great fantasy book should: ignite our imagination but also reflect problems we face in the real world. My biggest critique is just the same as it was for the first book; a lacking plot. Ultimately, however, that is easy to overlook since the rest of the book is so fun and I truly care about the characters.

If you read this post in its entirety, let me know if you’re read these books yet! I’m truly curious, as I never used to review sequels in the past. I didn’t see a point. If the first book grabs you, you’re going to want to read the sequel naturally. But I guess people can be curious about where the story goes without wanting to sit through a story and characters they feel so-so about. I, for one, am extremely interested in continuing to follow Sunny’s story and see where this series goes!

Thank you for reading!
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The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2) by Maureen Johnson

Easily my most anticipated book of January, hell, of 2019 as a whole, was The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson, the sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2018, Truly Devious. In case you weren’t around way back then, here’s a link to the review I wrote of the book that started this fantastic series. It’s one of my favorite reviews I’ve ever written on the blog for a book I still consider highly underrated.

Stevie is such an amazing female character for young girls to be able to see in YA literature. I love that she is filled with such purpose and passion for something so unique and practical. I also think it’s great to see someone who has to deal with anxiety and parents with such different fundamental values. It’s so timely.

Before I go into detail, I just want to say I loved The Vanishing Stair as much as I did the first book! It sufficiently answered just enough questions about the mystery to keep me satisfied and still managed to end in a way that left me aching for the third installment to come out already!

I’ve decided not will not spoil the end of the book, but I will detail the questions I still have regarding the ending. So if you are halfway interested in checking out this series, go away now! I’ve warned you!

• The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson  

The Vanishing Stair picks up maybe a month after where the first book left off the morning after Stevie’s housemate Ellie escaped Ellingham Academy and Stevie learned David is the son of the infamous politician Edward King her parents idolize. As it turned out, Germaine Batt’s report about how Stevie discovered the link between Ellie and Hayes Major’s death became a hit online. After Stevie’s parents read it, they quickly whisked her away from dreamy boarding school and plopped her back into public school.

Honestly, I could empathize with her sadness and frustration. I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle this distress as gracefully as I assume she did. But to her dubious fortune, Stevie is able to return to the academy after Senator King shows up at her parents house and convinces them to allow her to return to school. She discovers that David has been going off the rails since she left and his father has decided Stevie can fix him.

Although she is unhappy with how she was able to return to Ellingham, she is not able to resist the opportunity to return to the scenes of the crime that drew her to the school in the first place.

Much more of the past is quickly revealed in The Vanishing Stair through flashbacks involving the two new characters introduced at the end of Truly Devious. For much of the book I wondered when and if Stevie would become privy to the information we as readers are granted ahead of time! Before Stevie, we are able to find out more about Albert Ellingham’s life and the long-forgotten secret passageways that allowed the founder to keep his secrets. But our girl Stevie eventually pieces together the mystery herself in a scene where I imagined her standing like Sherlock below.

sherlock

In this novel, Stevie is introduced to Fenton, a historian on the crime who needs a research assistant. This older woman is an authority on the case who intends to solve the mystery of Alice’s whereabout in order to win a monetary reward set by Ellingham before he died. Her presence in the book adds new stakes and competition for Stevie as she discovers she’s in a race against the clock to solve the mystery.

There are light moments between Stevie and the gang as they celebrate Halloween. There’s some steamy moments as Stevie and David reconnect. Of course their relationship is complicated by Stevie’s secret deal with his father, which feels rote and thrown in just because our lovebirds can’t have too much fun. There are also some absolutely devastating moments akin which for me harkened to the sadness of that scene in season one of Stranger Things where they think they’ve found Will’s body to the cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”.

By the end of this book, we discover the true culprit behind the crimes at Ellingham Academy and why it was so hard to identify them! Honestly, the truth blew me away. I feel like I might’ve been able to guess them if it had not been for all the smoke and mirrors, which is why this YA mystery is so fantastic! It’s such a smart series on par with the Six of Crows duology, which is a YA (or perhaps New Adult) masterpiece.

I decided to rate this book 4.5 stars. It’s beautifully crafted and paced, and my main complaint right now is how frustrating David has been for no apparent reason at all! I hope that he is able to redeem himself by the end of the next book or I want a storyline where Stevie learns to avoid broken, troubled boys like him. I’m so over love interests with self-destructive tendencies.

END OF THE BOOK QUESTIONS

  1. Was Ellie working with someone?
  2. What the heck is David doing?
  3. Who at the academy doesn’t want the mystery solved?
  4. What happened to Alice?

I hope you liked this review! I’m really not sure who is going to click on the review for a sequel of a highly underrated book, so if you read all the way through you’re something special in my eyes! <3 ^_^

This is probably my last blog post before the weekend. I’ve been planning blog content for the days I’ll be out of town (Saturday–Tuesday) finally visiting my poor grandma who had a stroke in January. I’ll try to be active on WordPress as much as possible, responding to comments and blog hopping whenever I can. You can also always get in touch on Twitter if you’d like. :)

Thank you for reading!
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The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List | Top Ten Tuesday

Welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday (TTT)! It’s a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish but now run by the terrific Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week Jana provides the bookish theme and book bloggers share their top ten picks.

This week’s theme is Favorite Couples in Books, but I’m really bummed that I never posted my entry in The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List from a couple of weeks ago! I figured there is no reason I shouldn’t share it, even if it’s on the wrong week. But first, a little context.

I’m not really keeping up to date with new releases or highly promoted books in the YA blogosphere at the moment. Neither am I using Goodreads anymore, so a really cool post to find a few weeks ago was 20(ish) Books For Readers Who are 20(ish) // A List of NA Books Written in the YA Style by Kat @ Novels and Waffles.

I’m definitely well within the New Adult genre demographic and would like to read more about protagonists closer to my age engaging in plots that closer mirror the coming-of-age issues that 20-somethings face. I recognized a good few of the books on the list and have even read a couple (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, Fangirl)!

So from Kat’s list comes my own, a list whittled down from hers to encapsulate the latest books on my TBR. Some of them are not too new to my TBR, but considering that I don’t regularly add books to my TBR anymore, they still work!

  1. Smothered by Autumn Chiklis | Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she’s ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots?
  2. Bucket List to Love by C.P. Santi | Aya Contreras is thrilled to be studying in the land of sakura and sushi. Tokyo is a fascinating city to live in—vending machines, cosplayers, karaoke boxes, and bright, colorful conbinis on every corner. And the architectural design program she’s in is everything she dreamed it to be. The only problem? Her tutor doesn’t seem to like her. Well, she doesn’t like him very much either. Sure, Ryohei Mori is talented, and there’s no denying he’s hot. But he’s also a surly, bossy know-it-all who eats too many cookies. Another annoying thing about him is he’s nosy. And when he stumbles upon the crazy bucket list Aya’s sisters forced on her, he teases her mercilessly about it. But when their professor pairs them up for a design competition, things get . . . interesting. Fueled by beer and a whole lot of cookies, can Aya and Ryo cross out some items on her bucket list without killing each other? Or will they realize there’s much more to each other than they’d originally thought?
  3. We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen |Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard. Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it.
  4. Again, But Better by Christina Riccio | Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal — but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change — there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic – the possibilities are endless.
  5. Three Mages and A Margarita by Annette Marie | Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig. It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right? I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they… offered me the job? It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here. So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.

  1. The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton | The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight “original” settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns’ supernatural powers. That’s perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she’ll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her.
  2. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi | Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much. Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.
  3. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo | Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her? Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, ranging from Jodie Foster to George W. Bush. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more supernatural than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
  4. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan | A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.
  5. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak | The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

I don’t know when I’ll next have any money for a book buying spree, but I do hope to find some of these or request them at my local library soon. I would like to make it my mission to seek out and promote more books that fall under the New Adult label. I’m a bit fatigued with the current slate of YA fantasy, so I’m much more interested in contemporaries and mysteries as a whole right now.

Are any of these books are your TBR?

Thank you for reading!
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Books I Meant to Read in 2018 but Didn’t Get To | Top Ten Tuesday

TTTpages

In case you haven’t noticed, this blog has been in a bit of a transitional phase lately. In an effort to show some more love to the books, I decided it was high time I participated in Top Ten Tuesday (TTT) again! It’s a weekly meme that was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish but now is run by the terrific Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week Jana provides the bookish theme and book bloggers share their top ten picks.

This week’s theme is Books I Meant to Read in 2018 but Didn’t Get To, which feels like a personal attack. There were a lot of books I hoped to read, last fall specifically, that I didn’t have time to get to. I have a love-hate relationship with TBRs, in that I love them but sometimes hate feeling like I need to follow them to a T. Let’s be real, life can throw curve balls at any moment.

I think this will probably be one of the weirdest collection of books you read today, if you are a frequent reader of these TTT posts!

  1. Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor | I bought the sequel to Akata Witch on impulse last year, perfectly aware that if I just waited I could have the matching paperback in a matter of months. For this fact alone, I’m annoyed I’ve still not read this book!
  2. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas | I started this book in December and just didn’t manage to finish it before the new year. I probably should’ve abandoned this series after Tower of Dawn, but I was so close to the end and wanted to see how this series of epic proportions wrapped up. Hopefully I will finish it by March.
  3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor | This book was the subject of some major hype last year as it’s sequel’s publication date approached. As result, I became really nervous it wouldn’t live up to expectations. Also, the book is huge, so I was intimidated. It’s still high on my TBR for 2019, so hopefully I will read it sooner rather than later.
  4. The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid | This was one of those odd ball purchases that I don’t know what to do with. I’m in the mood for science fiction every now and then, so I don’t mind saving it for one of those reading moods to come along. I hoped it would come last year, but I’m cool if it doesn’t come until next fall.
  5. It by Stephen King | I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I saw the most recent theatrical adaptation. It feels like it needs to be a book for the fall, but it’s set in the summer (I think) so maybe it’ll call to me around May. I just want to read it before the next movie comes out!
  6. Disrupt You! by Jay Samit | This is the other book I started but did not finish in December. It wasn’t turning out the way I hoped it would, but I’m still hopefully it will have something in it that makes reading it worth the time and money spent on it.
  7. The Promise by Chaim Potok | I think this book is the sequel to The Chosen, one of my favorite reads last year. I had hoped I might read it last fall, but I don’t feel much urgency to read it immediately. It’s one that I think will mean more to me if I read it at the right time, so I don’t want to rush it. To be honest, I’m also a little worried it may not live up to The Chosen… I’m trying to manage my expectations!
  8. The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle | Last summer I embarked on a quest to reread some of my favorite childhood books centered around Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin family. I decided to wait until fall to read this particular book, but it didn’t end up a priority when fall came around.
  9. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | I can’t believe I almost forgot this one! Wow. There was a time when this was one of my most anticipated releases. I think the reason I forgot about it is because I did want to read at least Gemina before jumping into the final book in this YA sci-fi trilogy.
  10. [Textbooks] | I hoped to read a few of my old textbooks from grad school last year and never quite got around to it. I made it a goal for 2019 to read one non-fiction book each year, so hopefully I’ll at least read the ones I find most relevant to life and my future work.

I hope to get to all of these books by the end of the year, but you never know. I’m sure I’ll get to most of them. I’ve done a really good job of cutting down on the number of books I buy, so I do a better job of prioritizing books that have been on my TBR for a long time. Of course, the only two books I entered 2019 anticipating come out this month! So I’ll probably read those two (The Vanishing Stair and King of Scars) before anything else, but those won’t take me all year. I hope. *gulp*

Are any of these books are your TBR?

Thank you for reading!
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Books on My Fall TBR | Top Ten Tuesday

Books on My Fall TBR

Welcome back to Betwined Reads! In an effort to become a little active in the bookish community, I decided to participate in the occasional Top Ten Tuesday. It’s a weekly meme that was created by The Broke and the Bookish but now is run by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week book bloggers share their top ten picks that relate to the theme for the week.

This week’s theme is Books on My Fall TBR. I was initially on the fence about participating this week, just because I’ve stopped making my monthly TBRs. I stopped not because I don’t like TBRs but because I just realized I wasn’t really following through with them anymore. Also, I’ve not been super goal-oriented when it comes to reading lately.

However, I realized there are a lot of books I am actually pretty sure I’ll be reading this fall, some of them upcoming releases! So here is my last big TBR for a while (probably until winter). I feel like it’s a safe list, as it also includes some rereads. ^_^

As usual book covers are linked to the corresponding Goodreads page for each book.

 An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

 An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
 New Adult / Contemporary/ Mystery

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

I’ve been watching the vlogbrothers since 2012 (oh my gosh, it’s hard to believe that’s 6 years ago now!). Their channel is actually how I became aware of John Green, the YA author now so well known. While I don’t really love John’s books (although, Turtles All the Way Down sounds much more up my alley), I was really intrigued by the premise of Hank’s debut novel.

I’ve been following his process of writing and journey to publication on his channel, so I’m just so excited to show him support and get my hands on what sounds like a really great book!

⟡ Kingdom of Ash

⟡ Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
 New Adult / Fantasy 

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

I first read Throne of Glass in 2015 and I’m so ready to see how Sarah J. Maas wraps up this series this October! The series has gone through so many ups and downs. I feel like the first book, while comical in its attempt at brevity, ended on a really strong note and each subsequent book (excluding Tower of Dawn) has been better than the last. So I’m optimistic for this book!

 It 

⟡ It by Stephen King
⟡ Classic / Horror

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

I bought this book last year after seeing the movie. I was intrigued to find the 2017 movie was just the first part of a planned series. I’m in awe of the cast they’ve assembled to play the kids’ grown up counterparts, so I really would like to go into the next movie knowing what to expect!

I tried starting this book last year, but I found it really slow. Sometimes I’m in the mood for slow, but I wasn’t then. I want to keep this book at easy access this fall, but I think there’s no better time to read some horror than leading up to Halloween!

⟡ The Young Unicorns – Reread!

⟡ The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle
YA / Contemporary (70/80s)

The Austins are trying to settle into their new life in New York City, but their once close-knit family is pulling away from each other. Their father spends long hours alone in his study working on the research project that brought the family to the city. John is away at college. Rob is making friends with people in the neighborhood: newspaper vendors, dog walkers, even the local rabbi. Suzy is blossoming into a vivacious young woman. And Vicky has become closer to Emily Gregory, a blind and brilliant young musician, than to her sister Suzy.
With the Austins going in different directions, they don’t notice that something sinister is going on in their neighborhood—and it’s centered around them. A mysterious genie appears before Rob and Emily. A stranger approaches Vicky in the park and calls her by name. Members of a local gang are following their father. The entire Austin family is in danger. If they don’t start telling each other what’s going on, someone just might get killed.

I tried reading this book earlier this year, but from the first page knew I’d rather save it for fall. So I’m excited to reread it finally and see how it holds up. I’ve only read it as an adult, so I don’t see my thoughts changing very much. But I feel like I may be able to glean something new from this book from a writer’s perspective.

 Breakfast at Tiffany’s

⟡ Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
 Literary Fiction / Classic

It’s New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany’s. And nice girls don’t, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly ‘top banana in the shock department’, and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

This edition also contains three stories: ‘House of Flowers’, ‘A Diamond Guitar’ and ‘A Christmas Memory’.

I forget which month I initially share this book on my TBR, but I know I’d like to read it by the end of the this year! I’ve owned it for a few years now and it’s just one I feel I’m so ready for. I’m a proper adult, I’d like to see how the story compares to the movie I watched in high school. I’m also interested in the short story structure.

6  The Democratic Surround

 The Democratic Surround by Fred Turner
 Non-fiction / Academic

We commonly think of the psychedelic sixties as an explosion of creative energy and freedom that arose in direct revolt against the social restraint and authoritarian hierarchy of the early Cold War years. Yet, as Fred Turner reveals in The Democratic Surround, the decades that brought us the Korean War and communist witch hunts also witnessed an extraordinary turn toward explicitly democratic, open, and inclusive ideas of communication and with them new, flexible models of social order. Surprisingly, he shows that it was this turn that brought us the revolutionary multimedia and wild-eyed individualism of the 1960s counterculture.

In this prequel to his celebrated book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Turner rewrites the history of postwar America, showing how in the 1940s and ’50s American liberalism offered a far more radical social vision than we now remember. Turner tracks the influential mid-century entwining of Bauhaus aesthetics with American social science and psychology. From the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the New Bauhaus in Chicago and Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Turner shows how some of the most well-known artists and intellectuals of the forties developed new models of media, new theories of interpersonal and international collaboration, and new visions of an open, tolerant, and democratic self in direct contrast to the repression and conformity associated with the fascist and communist movements. He then shows how their work shaped some of the most significant media events of the Cold War, including Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition, the multimedia performances of John Cage, and, ultimately, the psychedelic Be-Ins of the sixties. Turner demonstrates that by the end of the 1950s this vision of the democratic self and the media built to promote it would actually become part of the mainstream, even shaping American propaganda efforts in Europe.

Overturning common misconceptions of these transformational years, The Democratic Surround shows just how much the artistic and social radicalism of the sixties owed to the liberal ideals of Cold War America, a democratic vision that still underlies our hopes for digital media today.

This one is a bit ambitious! I have a lot of books I bought for grad school that I still think would be terrific reads. I’m interested in this one right now because I’m really interested in art’s role in culture. Art is becoming a theme in my WIP and I want to see if this book informs anything in the story or maybe even in my own life as a creator.

 Akata Warrior

 Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
YA / Fantasy / Contemporary / Nigerian

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound.

This one has also been on one of my most recent TBRs! I read the first book earlier this year and adored it. I bought the sequel one day on a whim, even knowing the book covers would not match. I’m very eager to continue this story. It’s very much going be a pleasure to read once I finally decide to prioritize it!

 The Promise

 The Promise by Chaim Potok
 Literary Fiction

Young Reuven Malter is unsure of himself and his place in life. An unconventional scholar, he struggles for recognition from his teachers. With his old friend Danny Saunders—who himself had abandoned the legacy as the chosen heir to his father’s rabbinical dynasty for the uncertain life of a healer—Reuvan battles to save a sensitive boy imprisoned by his genius and rage. Painfully, triumphantly, Reuven’s understanding of himself, though the boy change, as he starts to approach the peace he has long sought…

The Promise might have been on my last TBR…Don’t check me on that! It’s the follow up to The Chosen, a book I love so very much. I’m not sure what to expect from a grown up Danny and Rueven, but I feel like it will be a worth-while read. Maybe something that gives me a different perspective on life. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been saving this one for a special occasion, maybe a time of despair. I feel like I’m due a depressive streak, so I may ending up picking this one up pretty soon ^_^

 Six of Crows (Duology) – Rereads!

 Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
 YA / Fantasy

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

So I know Six of Crows in infinitely rereadable. But the thing is, I’ve only read the second book in the duology, Crooked Kingdom, once, and that was when it first came out. So I’m ready to revisit this world and series to tide myself over until the release of King of Scars next year! I may also need to pick up the Grisha trilogy by the end of the year . . .

10  The Curse Workers (Trilogy) – Rereads!

 White Cat, Red Glove, & Black Heart by Holly Black
⟡ YA / Contemporary / Urban Fantasy

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers: people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, so he’s an outsider; the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail – he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.

I marathoned this series last October or November; I forget. But I never talked about them much on the blog, so they’ve been on my mind all year as books I’d like to reread and talk about now that my blog has been revitalized. I think these books are under-rated and I’d love to have fun following Cassel navigate his life and love in a criminal family.

☙ ❧ END NOTE ❧ ☙

So this is the list of books I plan to read this fall! I’m really excited in particular about An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and Kingdom of Ash, as I’ve been waiting for them to come out for what feels like a very long time. I’m also really excited to get to a few of my other picks that you might’ve seen on some of my past TBRs this year.

When I don’t complete a TBR, it’s not usually because I’ve lost interest in those books. It’s just that other books become more urgent reads in the moment, ya know?

What are some of your most anticipated fall reads?

Thank you for reading!
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Blogoween (Level 1) Announcement!

A week ago while blog hopping, I came across an announcement for  Blogoween , a fun new month-long book blogger event that will take place over the month of October co-hosted by Clo Book Dragons and Sam @ Fictionally Sam along with some of their friends. There will be multiple hosts and prompts for each day of October that will guide you on your creation of Halloween– and autumnthemed blog content for your blog!

SEE: Blogoween: Content, Hosts & Prompts & BLOGOWEEN 2018 [Announcement, Hosts + Prompts]

There are three levels of participation. You just need to pick one:

⟡ Level 1: Post any 13 days during October

⟡ Level 2: Post consecutively from October 24–31st

 Level 3: Post every single day in October (!)

I personally decided to pick Level 1, just so that I had more freedom with what prompts I’d like to do and also so that I would have time to write and produce anything else to supplement my posts (e.g. graphics). Also, from a cursory look at the prompts, I wasn’t sure I would be able to come up with something good for each day.

If you are uncertain which level would be best for you, I suggest brushing up on the rules and prompts. Once you’ve decided the level at which you would like to participate, you just need to do two things before October.

  1. Publish your blog post announcement of your plans, &
  2. Sign up on the hosts’ >Google sign up form< (which will ask for your level selection and the URL link of your announcement post)

My Prompt Selection + Schedule

I decided to list the  Blogoween  prompts I intend to use this month for my own records and also so you all will know you can expect in October! For the full list of prompts, see Clo’s post (linked above) and visit the blogs of each day’s specific host if you have any questions about the prompts.

I personally may interpret these prompts liberally where necessary suit the kind of posts I feel like writing! ^_^

Monday 1st  ← My own idea!
Prompt Title: My October Routine
Explanation: Things I like to do in October + plans for enjoying the season

Thursday 4th
Prompt Title: Top 5 Books about Witches
Explanation: List your Top 5 favorite books about witches

Saturday 6th
Prompt Title: An Evening of Mystery & Murder
Explanation: You are hosting a Halloween-themed dinner party and seven of your favourite morally gray fictional characters and/or villains have accepted your invitation. Sometime during the party there is a murder, and there are only seven suspects – you and your guests. Who did you invite, who was murdered, what was the murder weapon, and where in the house did it occur?

Monday 8th
Prompt Title: Gory Magical Sweet
Explanation: Create one or more snacks (sweet or savory) and a drink (if you want), all must be Halloween-themed. Should be created with a mix of common food elements and parts of our beloved mythical and magical creatures. Just to be clear: things like rainbow unicorn sparkles aren’t gory. Get morbid.

Tuesday 9th
Prompt Title: Bookish Monster Bender
Explanation: You’re transported in various book but a bad surprise awaits you. Everything is horror and death, because a monster version has taken over the story.

Wednesday 10th
Prompt Title: Local Supernaturals Who Demand A Book
Explanation: Share your local stories of ghosts, supernaturals and what happens round your area. Either where you live, or nearby; can also share your own personal scary experience. These are the stories which you think, deserve their own novel – could add a blurb to the story. Can share as many stories as you wish as long they’re: horror/supernatural/scary/ghostly/etc.

Friday 12th
Prompt Title: Loving the Monsters Always Ends Badly for the Human
Explanation: Exploring and recommending my favorite creatures – vampires!

Tuesday 16th (TTT Replacement)
Prompt Title: Love Spells
Explanation: Favorite ships at least one must be a supernatural creature

Tuesday 23rd ➝ Thursday 25th, so I can do regularly scheduled TTT
Prompt Title: Bonded, Bewitched, Drowned
Explanation: Halloween version of Kiss Marry Kill with your favorite characters

Saturday 27th
Prompt Title: Toil and Trouble
Explanation: Villain Halloween Theme – would you want a villain as a roommate, a villain as a companion in a haunted house, etc.

Monday 29th
Prompt Title: Halloween In A Fictional World
Explanation: Pick any fictional world that you’d love to experience Halloween in

Tuesday 30th
Prompt Title: Trapped With You
Explanation: Characters I’d want with me if I were trapped in a haunted house

Wednesday 31st
Prompt Title: The Veil Is Thin
Explanation: The 31st Oct is supposed to be a day when the veil between our world and the otherworld, is at its thinnest. As such, it was originally a day to ward of evil spirits; what spirits are you hoping to ward off? (e.g. paranormal characters, evil characters, writer’s block, procrastination, etc.)

☙ ❧ END NOTE ❧ ☙

I’m really excited about this event and hope you are too! Just in case anyone is wondering, I will be keeping up with my own personal blog schedule. There’s just an additional 13 posts related to  Blogoween  that you can now also expect. ^_^

Be sure to check out Clo’s blog posts (linked at the beginning of the post) for more information, as I only attempted to condense what I thought was the most important information in this post. Let me know in the comments below if you plan on participating or if there are any other October blogging festivities I should know about!

Thank you for reading!
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How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation | Anthology Review

A few years ago, one of the first major YouTube scandals occurred that affected me as a regular watcher of YouTubers from many different circles. A precursor to the #MeToo movement, several young fans came forward online with their stories of abuse and manipulation at the hands of many OG YouTube creators of 2014.

It turns out that many of these big name YouTubers, including one of my favorites at the time Alex Day, were exposed for using their power as influencers and fame to manipulate and coerce their young fans and female friends into things they were uncomfortable doing. Around this time, I remembered coming across this beautiful Tumblr post written by Maureen Johnson reflecting “ABOUT THE RECENT EVENTS CONCERNING YOUTUBE.”

While I had been casually aware of her from her appearances in vlogbrothers videos and even remembered her name from years ago when I read 13 Little Blue Envelopes, this post gave me an entirely new impression of and respect for this author. She completely opened by eyes to the broader issue of harassment women have been forced to tolerate for simply going out and trying to live their lives.

This past all came back to my mind when I discovered this book and saw Johnson’s name attached to this anthology. It is the reason I decided to purchase this book even though I recognized so few of the contributors. I figured it would be a valuable, eye-opening read. And that it was.

I definitely feel like it provides a great array of views and perspectives on a variety of issues that are related to resistance. The very word resistance is redefined throughout the book as we learn about how such a diverse collection of people individually view their work, art, and mere lives as acts of resistance.

• • • How I Resist • • •

Released: March 1, 2018
Pages: 224 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Activism, forms of resistance, fighting oppression, raising awareness, making art
Genre(s): Young Adult / Activist Essays
Age Group: 10+

★★★★½

An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they’re bound to inherit. They’re ready to stand up and be heard – but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change they wish to see in the world, in their news, and for their future.

*  ⁎   My Thoughts   ⁎ * 

This anthology includes 29 pieces written by a range of people from celebrities to authors to people lauded for their activism. I was originally trying to review each piece, but I quickly realized how long this review would turn and I didn’t think anyone would actually go through my thoughts on each piece.

I also found it was hard to objectively review each piece. I found some pieces really aggravating and narrow-minded in their quest to awaken new activists. I found some pieces really brilliant in exemplifying how diverse this country really is, illustrating the struggles of people who don’t fit traditional gender roles and the variety of ways in which people can be oppressed.

I found this anthology truly fascinating given its target audience of young adults and how odd it was that it had taken this long to write a book that I assumed would speak so well to today’s youth of passion and activism. When I was in high school, Tumblr was still relatively a new thing. It’s a platform I’ve long credited with my generation’s interest in social justice.

I’ve been surprised over the years to see slacktivism turn into true activism, especially after Stoneman Douglas High School shooting earlier this year. It’s been truly inspiring to see how many of the victims have decided to prioritize their activism just as they are entering adulthood.

I would say this book is a great entry-level text into activism for young people today. There are some pieces I hated and think unfair, but I think that their presence in the book is justified if only for inspiring healthy debate. However, Johnson doesn’t provide any commentary of her own on individual pieces. So I think if this book was to be taught in school, the teacher would need do their own homework and provide context that will help frame how the students read each piece.

 ❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I’m sorry this review has taken me over a month to share! It was hard figuring out exactly how I wanted to format this review and what I felt I most wanted to say. This is a really important book, and I just wanted to do it justice. I haven’t seen it talked about by any of the people I follow on BookTube or in the book blogging community. So if I was going to be the first to introduce this book to people, I wanted to get it right. Basically, I psyched myself out!

Have you read How I Resist? If so, what’d you think?!

Do you consider yourself an activist?

Thank you for reading!
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Hidden Gems | Top Ten Tuesday

Books on My Fall TBR

Welcome back to Betwined Reads! In an effort to become a little active in the community, I decided to participate in the occasional Top Ten Tuesday. It’s a weekly meme that was created by The Broke and the Bookish but now is run by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week participants share their top ten picks that relate to the set theme.

This week’s theme is Hidden Gems. In other words, books that you think deserve more recognition. One of my favorite things to do on this blog is share books I think deserve more recognition, so some of you may recognize some of the books I share today. But I’ve also tried to select range of books I think are slightly underrated!

Book covers are linked to the corresponding Goodreads page for each book.

 Vassa in the Night

 Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter 
YA / Horror / Fairytale Retelling 
 If you are in the mood to read a book that is odd and at times seemingly absurd
 If you like fantasy stories in urban settings

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

⟡ The Westing Game

⟡ The Westing Game by Ellen Ruskin
Middle Grade / Mystery / Classic
 If you want a quick read
⟡ If you like Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger – and a possible murderer – to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead… but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

 The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

⟡ The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
⟡ YA / Magical Realism / Contemporary
⟡ 
If you like family dramas that span generations
⟡ If you want to laugh and cry

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

⟡ Howl’s Moving Castle 

⟡ Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Middle Grade / Fantasy / Classic
⟡ 
If you like to escape to vivid magical worlds
⟡ 
If you like mistaken identities and romance

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

 The Winner’s Curse

⟡ The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
 YA / Romance / AU
 If you like enemies-lovers romance tropes
⟡ 
If you want a well-crafted romance without magic

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love…

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

6  Speak

 Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
 YA / Contemporary
 If you liked 13 Reasons Why
⟡ 
If you want to read from the POV protagonist who is struggling to express herself

“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

 Truly, Devious

 Truly Devious by Morgan Rhodes
YA / Contemporary / Mystery
⟡ 
If you like strong female protagonists
⟡ 
If you like slowly unraveling mysteries

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

⟡ The LAnguage of Thorns

 The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
 YA / Fantasy / Anthology
⟡ 
If you a fan of the Grishaverse and dark fairytales
⟡ 
If you want a anthology of short stories gloriously illustrated

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

 Go Set a Watchman

 Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
 Literary / Historical Fiction
⟡ 
If you loved To Kill a Mockingbird and want to see Scout all grown up
⟡ 
If you are willing to see beloved classic characters become exposed as flawed human beings
⟡ 
If you don’t mind typos

Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

10  At the Water’s Edge 

 At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
⟡ Literary / Historical Fiction
 If you liked Water for Elephants
⟡ 
If you like female-led domestic dramas

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind.

To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war.

Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.

The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.

☙ ❧ END NOTE ❧ ☙

I hope you liked this post! I tried to pick a variety of different kinds of books that I’ve loved reading in the past that many people may not remember or have given a chance. I don’t think I’ll be doing TTT each week, as I don’t find many of the upcoming themes very enticing. But there will likely be at least one per month! I had a bit too much fun making holiday-themed versions of the featured image . . .

Thank you for reading!
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Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene | ★★★½

I picked up a copy of Summer of My German Soldier earlier this year, after browsing my local 2nd and Charles store for books I might get in exchange for the store credit I accrued by un-hauling a number of old books I saw no purpose in keeping. They had a bunch of nice copies of this book; I assume because it’s been an elementary or middle school class reading. Since I’ve been on a bit of a German kick all year, I decided to purchase one.

I do not recall ever reading this book when I was young, but I figured it’d be a nice, light read that fits well with the other stuff I’ve been reading this year. And after reading Ceremony (which I reviewed last week), I knew I wanted to read something light.

Today review is pretty short. I didn’t see fit to include a Craft section, because there wasn’t much I found note-worthy about prose. Most of the time, I felt like the book omitted or lacked in details I would’ve found helpful to the book’s flow. I enjoyed this book, though, and I’m glad I read it so soon after buying it! Usually, I keep new purchases on the shelves far longer than I originally intend to when I buy them (*cough cough* Obsidio).

• • • Summer of My German Soldier • • •

Released: 1973
Pages: 230 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Love, domestic abuse, validation, inner strength, choosing your family, race, pride, war, loyalty
Genre(s): Young Adult / Historical / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★★½

It was a summer of love. A summer of hate. A summer that would last a lifetime.

The summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi — but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own, who understands and appreciates her in a way her parents never will. And Patty is willing to risk losing family, friends — even her freedom — for what has quickly become the most important part of her life.

*  ⁎   My Thoughts   ⁎ * 

While it did not blow me away, I found Summer of My German Soldier a quick and satisfying read. I was expecting this book to be a somewhat light, pleasant romance between people from two completely different worlds. Instead, I found the book much less about the actual relationship Patty develops with the soldier and more about how he came into her life at time that she really needs it. It’s actually kind of dark.

It would be overly reductive to criticize this book by today’s standards for its large age gap between the girl (a child of 12) and the soldier (a 22-year-old man) or for a message that may seem to imply at surface level that a girl needs a boy to come into her life and save her. I will admit, I found these things irksome while I read it last week, I’m certain that my 12-year-old self would probably have found this book super thrilling for those exact reasons.

What surprised me most about this book is the horrible home life that could be interpreted as to partially to blame for Patty’s treason in the book. It’s really heart-breaking. Her parents are not just neglectful but openly cruel to this poor little girl who keeps trying to win their love and admiration. Her father doesn’t even try to hide that he beats her, later in the book we discover town’s sheriff knows, and it’s a sad reminder of a time in history when the law did not interfere to protect children from abusive households.

Despite her horrible parents, Patty is a bright girl with a open heart. She’s not hardened to the world or people in general, despite the cruelty she has endured, which makes her all the more sympathetic. While I found it hard to connect with Patty on a super personal-level (she has a tendency to lie in order to get attention), I found a lot to admire in the girl and inspiration in her strength of patience and optimism.

I haven’t read much YA where the protagonists are the victims of parental abuse, and I end this review wondering how many girls throughout the decades have found hope or strength in Patty’s story in a time when it seemed like there was no one they could turn to for help. While I don’t think this book is especially insightful about WWII or American Jews (honestly it’s horrible in that regard), I can see it being of some value to young readers who feel under-appreciated by their family.

CompleMentary Books 

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood To Kill a Mockingbird The Book Thief
Also features young southern girls with dysfunctional families in the early 20th century. Also features a girl in the American south learning about social prejudice. Also features a young girl who hides a person her country considers “the enemy.”

 ❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has read Summer of My German Soldier, especially if it was in school, and what your biggest takeaways from the book were. I don’t know if I think it would still be a good book to teach nowadays. I also wonder about real-life German POWs who were sent to the U.S. during the war and how they were treated / how they found life in the states.

With this book, I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 30 books! I set only 30 at the beginning of the year as my goal, because I wasn’t sure how this year would shape up.

I won’t set a new goal, but I imagine that my reading will continue at a pace of at least one book per week. I still would like to read some more of the books I’ve had on my TBR for a long-time and re-read some more of my favorites that I’ve not yet reviewed on this blog.

Have you read Summer of My German Soldier? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko | ★★★★

In Spring 2014, I took English 346: American Indian Literature at Iowa State University to satisfy my English B.A. degree’s U.S. Diversity requirement. My other options were women’s literature, U.S. Latino/a literature, African American literature, and more broad survey of ALLLLL the multicultural literature. I chose American Indian literature because I wanted to take something in which I had the least background knowledge.

Unfortunately for me now (but fortunately for me then), the class was almost entirely a lecture-class with a super chill professor who did not care if we had our computers out. So I was almost always working on homework for other classes. He didn’t even test us to make sure we were reading. All we had to do was show up. He was completely comfortable talking the whole time. I feel like the professor laid out the class’s major themes in the first week of class and there wasn’t much I actually missed, beyond the class discussion on the books . . .

Anyway, I always told myself I would read these books one day. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth dedicating a lot of time to writing this review, especially considering how unpopular book reviews are anyway. But I loved reading and thinking about this book and my good pal Ely said she wanted to see a full-length review, so even if she’s the only person who reads this, it’ll be worth it. I’m sure I’ll enjoy looking back on it too.

• • • Ceremony • • •

Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 9.43.30 AMReleased: 1977
Pages: 262 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Alienation, colonialism, healing power of stories, guilt, witchcraft, post-WWII trauma, alcoholism, dealing with grief
Genre(s): New Adult / Native American / Literary Fiction
Age Group: 16+

★★★★

Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution. Tayo’s quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people. The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremony that defeats the most virulent of afflictions—despair.

*  ⁎   My Thoughts   ⁎ * 

I really liked this book and how beautifully it fits within the western literature and U.S. history with which I’m already familiar while also providing a view into the Native American experience of life post-WWII in the 1950s. Tayo is a super empathetic young protagonist who returns from Japan after WWII traumatized by having lost his two most beloved people in his life, his cousin Rocky and uncle Josiah.

Tayo is facing alienation and dealing with a grief that no one seems capable of understanding or soothing. Part of the reason he is so helpless is that he was an outsider in his community even before the war. Tayo’s mere existence as a “half-breed” has been a stain on his family name since he was a child, something his aunt never let him forget. Being an outsider, he felt a unique grief not just of being other but from also seeming to be the only person see how deeply his people are hurting.

This book effectively captures the complexity and nuance of Native American guilt, shame, and misplaced blame for their misfortune. Their shame in having not been strong or smart enough their keep land, having the spoils of their land continually flaunted in front of them, and from wanting and being denied friendship with white people. (Honestly, it’s heart-breaking.)

Ultimately Tayo finds someone who understands his pain and is able to situate his struggle amongst a larger story in which Tayo is a crucial part. Betonie, a medicine man also of mixed heritage, has a more forgiving perspective of white people and sees beyond to common source behind the larger societal problems of both white and Indian people.

He tells Tayo how he can make things right by recovering his uncle’s missing stolen cattle. But his bigger mission is to complete the story (the ceremony) to combat the witchery Betonie claims is responsible for both his people’s plight and white people who have the power to destroy the world.

At one time, the ceremonies as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then. But after the white people came, elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create new ceremonies. I have made changes in the rituals. The people mistrust this greatly, but only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong . . . things which don’t shift and grow are dead things.❞

Ceremony is an ode to the power of storytelling and the need to adapt. Regardless of your culture, I think most people (especially us book bloggers) can appreciate the power of stories, how they seem to hold a certain kind of magic. Storytelling brings characters and worlds to life. It can keep people alive, as Tayo learns, even in memory. There are important lessons in this book from which I think anyone, regardless of culture or heritage, could benefit.

This feeling was their life, vitality locked deep in blood memory, and the people were strong, and the fifth world endured, and nothing was ever lost as long as the love remained.❞ (220)

 —✃ Craft  ✃—

Prose • The book is written in the third-person past-tense and primarily follows Tayo, but jumps in time through narration and dialogue. In addition to the main story of Tayo readjusting to his life back home amongst the Laguna Pueblo Indians after fighting in Japan in WWII, the novel’s story is enhanced by poems that relate old stories that explain Tayo’s world-view how to interpret his current struggles.

Not much attention is spared for clarity in terms of time or who is referenced with pronouns like he/she. The ambiguity helps keep the story dream-like, but also generalizable to others who may find themselves forced to follow in Tayo’s footsteps to heal.

It seems like I already heard these stories before . . . only thing is, the names sound different.❞

Digression: My professor used the terms “circular and accretive” to describe the way much Native American literature is written, which is derived from the oral tradition in which there is a lot of repetition in the spiraling narrative. Each time the narrative loops around, more meaning is built upon the story in the mind of the listener/reader. He talked about how this mimics how children can learn, by listening to stories over and over and one day the story may click in a certain way at the right time.

Structure • Chapters are not numbered but somewhat distinguished from mid-chapter breaks by extreme indentation. Throughout the book we also get short stories formed like poems interspersed with the main prose that represent ceremonial stories presumedly passed down to explain problems like drought and colonization.

Some of these poems are complete in themselves, like the explanation for how white people were created by witchery to destroy the world. (Honestly, the story behind the existence of white people is one of the main reasons worth reading this book. It’s obviously just a myth, but there’s something underlying the quirky horror story, yes, that’s worth considering there.)

CompleMentary Books 

The Things They Carried The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Slaughterhouse-Five
If you want to read about the American soldier’s experience in a rainy jungle climate (Vietnam) and post-war readjustment. If you want to learn more about Native Americans in a contemporary YA novel featuring a young boy torn between two worlds.  If you want to read a classic work of fiction that depicts the surreal effects of WWII on an individual’s psyche.

Amongst the books I recommend above, I’d also like to make note of the others I was asked to buy for my Native American literature survey (which I haven’t yet read but plan to do so in the near future):

 ❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

Funny side note for anyone who actually reads my blog post end notes, I remembered that I had to do a presentation on one of the books I was supposed to have read for this American Indian literature class. I vaguely remembered making a Prezi for it and was able to access my old account there associated with my school email. And guess what! I did what was probably about a five-minute presentation on Ceremony (without having read it)!

I was cringing so hard as I looked through it! But somehow I was not off at all. It’s probably because the professor LITERALLY told us everything he wanted us to know from the book and I took notes in preparation for that presentation! Anyway, here’s a link to the Prezi. It’s nothing extraordinary and obviously doesn’t include my any of my discussion or transitions between ideas so it may not mean anything to you.

Have you read Ceremony? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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