August 2017 Wrap Up

I started off strong in August; I read three books in two weeks. Then, somehow, in the middle of the month, I hit a snag in the road. I suddenly became overwhelmed with all the books I had on my TBR at home. So, I decided to take a break to check out books from my local library, which I had not visited in months. That helped me so much.

Reading-wise, I think August was OK. I read six books, so that is something. And, overall, I enjoyed what I read, even though some of these were pretty low on the rating scale.

 

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

3.75 stars

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I have a whole spoiler-free review of The Serpent King up on my blog. The book is set in the Bible Belt of Tennessee, where Dill Early, the quiet son of a disgraced Pentecostal minister, and his best friends Lydia and Travis are approaching their senior year of high school.

I enjoyed The Serpent King very much. The writing was beautiful and I found the realistic approach to the Bible Belt to be refreshing—the South has a tendency to be overly idealized in the media. The characters had good development. However, the plot did not really start to get interesting until the end of the middle section and I strongly disliked Lydia. She annoyed me for the majority of the book. She is primarily the reason I did not give The Serpent King a full four stars. I go into full detail in my review.  https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/review-of-the-serpent-king-by-jeff-zentner-spoiler-free/

 

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

4 stars

The Angel’s Game is the companion novel to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is set approximately thirty years before the events of the previous book and follows David Martin, a struggling young novelist living in a dilapidated mansion in Barcelona in the 1920s and 30s. When a mysterious publisher offers him the deal of a lifetime, David uncovers a shocking history behind his home, as well as his benefactor, that sends his entire life into a tailspin.

The first half of The Angel’s Game was great. I flew through it. Then, towards the middle half, I started feeling confused. I was not quite sure what was happening or where the mystery was heading. I almost gave up on it, but I pushed through. I still came out confused. Then again, I wonder if that was intentional, given what we learn about David in The Angel’s Game, as well as later in The Prisoner of Heaven.

 

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

4.75 stars

The Prisoner of Heaven is a direct sequel to The Shadow of the Wind, as it features the same characters from that novel and takes place a year or two after. The book is shorter than its predecessors, but it successfully interconnects the two. While I did not love The Prisoner of Heaven the way I did The Shadow of the Wind, I mainly enjoyed it because the whole novel focused on the backstory on a character I love. Fermin Romano de Torres could give Rhysand from the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy by Sarah J. Maas a run for his money with all that sass he has.

 carloszafon

 

The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano (library book)

2 stars

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The Suffering Tree is one of the books I found at the library. The cover drew my eye on the shelves. Unfortunately, the insides were not as intricate as the outside. The story was flat and the big reveal made no sense. The characters were likable but one-dimensional. There was an element of self-harm and how it was portrayed in this novel I had a big problem with. However, the book was very readable. If you want to know more, go read my review. https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/review-of-the-suffering-tree-by-elle-cosimano-spoiler-free/

 

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (library book)

5 stars

cityofsaintsandthieves

City of Saints and Thieves is the book that took me by surprise this month. I knew I would like it, only I was not expecting to love it as much as I did. The book is 401 pages long and I flew through it in two days. The plot was fast-paced and action-packed. Tina is a badass protagonist Aelin from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas would tap her hat to. Most importantly, it realistically and accurately described life as a refugee from Congo and what is happening to innocent civilians, particularly women, there among the political unrest. If you want to know all my thoughts, go check out my review. https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/review-of-city-of-saints-and-thieves-by-natalie-c-anderson-spoiler-free/

 

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor (library book)

3 stars

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I found Definitions of Indefinable Things through an emmmabooks video during the summer. It’s about Reggie, a girl struggling with depression, who meets Snake, a boy her age also suffering from depression and expecting a baby with one of Reggie’s classmates. At first, Snake, who has a tattoo on his neck and an ego too big for his head, annoys her but he soon proves himself to be irritatingly charming. But with her own emotional problems and past tragedies haunting her, Reggie wonders if she is brave enough to let Snake in.

I was looking forward to reading Definitions of Indefinable Things. It did not disappoint too much, but it was not as mind-blowing as I originally thought it might. Reggie is what made me give the book 3 stars instead of a 2.5 stars. She was sarcastic and did not take anyone’s crap. I also liked Carla, Snake’s pregnant ex-girlfriend, who did not fit any stereotype her role entailed. While I personally do not have depression, I have people in my life that do, and I have seen what it can do, so I thought the portrayal to be realistic.

However, it was Snake that kind of killed my enjoyment of this book, in some regards. While I appreciate him for taking responsibility of Carla and the baby, that was the only thing I liked about him. Personally, arrogance turns me off and, if I was in Reggie’s position, I would have kneed him in the balls for some of the things he did, or for coming on too strong. Snake was not a terrible person; I just found him annoying. He is the reason why I did not enjoy Definitions of Indefinable Things as much as I wanted to.

 

What was your favorite book you read in August?

Review of City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (Spoiler Free)

City of Saints and Thieves is a young adult novel set in Kenya, where Tina, a Congo refugee, lives on the streets as a thief with a notorious gang after her mother is brutally murdered in the home of her wealthy employee. Believing the man to be guilty, when Tina finally gets her chance to take revenge five years after her mother’s death, she jumps at the chance. But when she is caught in the act, a chain of events occur that reveal secrets about Tina and her mother’s past—and why they really left the Congo.

I knew I would like this book. Only I never expected to love this book.

City of Saints and Thieves is 401 pages long and I flew through it in two days. The writing was very good. Though the author is not a person of color nor a refugee, her experience working in Kenya provided a realistic description of what life is really like for not only refugees, but with the country’s inhabitants as a whole. Her writing made me feel like I was actually in Kenya with Tina. Plus, the story was fast-paced, with the action starting right from the beginning and kept at a steady rhythm until the end.

While the author says the events in this story are fictional, the plot is based in real fact. These things did happen in the Congo. Many women in the Congo shared the experiences of Tina’s mother during the political unrest and innocent civilians, especially women, paid for it. Those events come to play as Tina searches for her mother’s killer. But they are not the kind of elements typically present in a young adult novel. City of Saints and Thieves is the kind of book I would recommend kids read in school. So they fully understand what is happening in the outside world.

Tina is the kind of badass protagonist that I think would earn the respect of Aelin from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. She’s smart and quick on her feet. She survives by her wits. She’s a strong fighter, physically and mentally. But she is flawed, which makes me appreciate her even more. Tina grows as the story progresses, becoming a better person than where she started out.

I liked the side characters in this book as well. Boyboy is a great friend to Tina. He provides a solid foundation for her when she thinks she can’t trust anyone. Michael, the son of the man she believes killed her mother and her childhood friend, makes her challenge what she knows and the tension between them is electric. But romance does not have any place in the story. Very refreshing.

I could find little flaw in this book. Overall, I give City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson 5 stars. If you have heard of it and are interested in reading it, I highly recommend it!

On a Book Buying Ban

Last week, I was hired to work a project in an HR department at a college. The pay is OK and the hours are the same as I worked at my previous job, but suddenly my financial situation has drastically changed. Instead of train tickets I only have to buy every two weeks or so, I have to pay $75 for a packet of ten bus tickets and $21 for a subway pass. Not to mention, this project is going to last only two weeks. After that, who knows?

But even if I score another job or the library I previously worked at hires me for another project, my financial situation, as well as the current state of my TBR pile, has caught my full attention.

While saving money is important, the main reason I decided to put myself on a book-buying ban is because my TBR pile has become too overwhelming. I bought 28 books in July and then another 6 in August. I thought I could knock off a chunk of those books in August. Then, this job came along and I didn’t think I would get it.

Like before, work was cutting into my reading time. All my books at home were suddenly not getting the attention they deserved. Worse still, I felt the bouts of a reading slump coming on.

I’ve done book-buying bans before. Sometimes, they worked. Other times, not so much.

The last book-buying ban I was on, it was after I graduated college and I was looking for a job. The main pro that came out of it, aside from saving money, is that I utilized my local library for the first time in years. That first day, I walked out of there with a new library card and four books. In the few months after that I was jobless or working retail less than 20 hours a week, I went a little crazy checking out books from the library, especially since mine has an interlibrary loan program. But it was fine because I was using the resources provided by a worthwhile institution.

One thing I have learned about myself is that I like the idea of getting new books. By going to the library, I trick my brain that I got new books and the urge to buy more is sated for the time being. That is my way of surviving book-buying bans, as well as reading slumps, which I’m kind of feeling right now being overwhelmed by so many unread books on my shelves.

If you are in a book-buying ban, I highly recommend that you use your local library. If there is a book you think you absolutely must have this second, get it from your library. That way, you can read it right away rather than risk it sitting on your shelves for months, you won’t be spending money, and you will be supporting an important public resource. Also, if it turns out you don’t like the book, you will be returning it anyway, so no harm done.

I don’t need to go into the cons, do I? What is worse than not being able to buy the books you want, when you want them?

 

Do you put yourself on book-buying bans? How do you deal with them?

 

August 2017 Book Haul

I know: you would think, after all the books I bought in July, I would have cooled it. I had planned to, because there wouldn’t be any books I wanted until September when Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas and Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco came out. Plus, I was in between jobs. I should not have spent money.

But then I was having a really bad day. I went to Target with my brother to get my mind off things….

Well, you can guess what happened next.

 

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

mycousinrachel

I had seen the advertisements for the movie starring Sam Claflin, but had no idea it was based off a book written by the same author who wrote Rebecca. I remember when I saw the trailer, the movie screamed incest to me, so I had no interest. Then, when I found the book of My Cousin Rachel in Target, I read the synopsis and changed my mind.

My Cousin Rachel follows Philip Ashley, a wealthy Englishman, who takes in his cousin’s widow. As he falls under this beautiful woman’s spell, he begins to suspect if Rachel murdered his cousin or she is really a victim of men’s schemes. But he will have to find that out before it’s too late.

 

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

saintanything

I have read only one Sarah Dessen book and that was Keeping the Moon in high school. I can’t remember if I liked it or not, just that I got it out of my school’s library. For a long time, I was not really into lighthearted contemporary books, so she was not on my radar. Then, as my reading tastes changed, I started to look into her books again. Saint Anything was the one I was most interested in reading.

The story follows Sydney, whose older brother is in prison after a fatal hit-and-run accident. While her parents are more focused on the alleged golden boy, she is left to her own devices. This leads her to a local pizza restaurant run by a loving but slightly chaotic family that welcomes her with open arms. As her friendship with the twins Layla and Max blossoms, Sydney decides it is time to focus on what is most important: herself.

 

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

loveandgelato

I have seen Love and Gelato almost everywhere on BookTube since it released last year and people seem to like it. The story centers on Lina, who travels to Tuscany to meet her estranged father at her mother’s dying wish. At first reluctant, she discovers her mother’s journal that leads her on a road trip of self-discovery throughout the enchanting city.

The cover is cute and the plot sounds like something I could enjoy. Plus, I’ve never been to Tuscany.

 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

biglittlelies

I had seen Liane Moriarty’s books floating around, but the covers somehow came off as Lifetime movie material. Then, I saw Heather from the YouTube channel Bookables and Katie from Chapterstackss rave about Big Little Lies. It follows three women whose children are in the same elite kindergarden school, and a tragedy that happens, binding the women together. Big Little Lies did well as an HBO miniseries adaption, so I figured it was worth a shot.

 

Lucky in Love by Kasie West

luckyinlove

Kasie West is as fluffy of a contemporary young adult author as you can get, but I really enjoyed P.S. I Like You, the first book I ever read by her. Lucky in Love is her most recent release. Levelheaded Maddie wins the lottery and her life is turned upside down, first for the better, then for the worst. She doesn’t know whom she can trust, except for her cute coworker Seth, who has no idea she won a million dollars and Maddie wants to keep it that way. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate the adorableness of this cover?

 

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

girlinpieces

While I have read books with characters that self-harm, it has not been the main focus of the story. Girl in Pieces is about Charlotte, who deals with her overwhelming grief by cutting and her journey of getting back to herself. That is all I need to know about this book, and all I really want to know. I want to go into Girl in Pieces with an open mind.

 

Most of these books were impulse buys and there were other books in Target that I wanted, but I settled on these six. I will let you know if I regret any of them or not when I actually read them.

Review of The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano (Spoiler Free)

I found The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano when browsing my local library recently. The cover is what drew me in: an intricate design of a tree with a house, boats, and a man hidden among the roots against a dark aquamarine backdrop. That and, of course, the synopsis is what made me want to pick up a book I had heard nothing about.

The Suffering Tree follows Tori, whose family moves from Washington, D.C. to small-town Chaptico, Maryland to claim an unexpected inheritance. Adjusting to their new life was hard enough with Tori trying to hide her self-harm from her new friends and dealing with the whispers of the townsfolk, particularly the Slaughters, the family that believes Tori’s new house rightfully belongs to them. It gets way more complicated for Tori when Nathanial Bishop rises from his grave under the tree in her backyard, bringing a lot of centuries-old secrets up with him.

If I had bought this book instead of checking it out of the library, I think I would have been disappointed I spent money on it. The reviews on Goodreads are OK, but I had a few problems with this book.

My biggest issue with this book is the portrayal of self-harm and its connection to the fantasy element in this story. I did not like how the cutting was part of the main plot rather than a subplot. Forewarning going into this book: there are several scenes where Tori cuts herself when she is upset, whether it be with razors, nails, or tree branches. How Nathaniel comes out of the tree is Tori deliberately cutting herself on the branch of the tree he was under. And I’m not calling that a spoiler because it happens in the first chapter. Plus, I want people to know that going into this book, if they struggle with self-harm.

To me, there are plenty of other ways the author could have come up with for Tori to summon Nathaniel accidentally. I personally can’t speak for the representation of self-harm in this book, but that bothered me.

The synopsis of The Suffering Tree promises a romance between Tori and Nathaniel. However, in reading their interactions, the romantic relationship felt forced to me. In my opinion, these two could have become friends and the story would have worked out just as well.

Speaking of characters, the ones in The Suffering Tree were flat with little to almost no development. As protagonists, though, I did like Tori and Nathaniel at times. While I do appreciate the strong family presence and understand how Tori’s cutting is connected to grief, her problem was not fully dealt with.

Which leads me into the plot twist. When the real killer was revealed, it made no sense to me. I had seen no evidence throughout the book how this character could have been involved. Worse still, the ending was rushed and almost too convenient, leaving me even more confused.

The book was readable and the chapters short, which I like. However, there was an inconsistency within the style. Nathaniel’s POV is told in first-person, while Tori’s goes back and forth between first and third person. Though I did like Nathaniel’s voice, I think The Suffering Tree would have done better is Tori’s POV was in first-person and Nathaniel’s in third-person. It might have made the writing feel less choppy. But that is only my opinion.

Overall, I give The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano 2 stars. I did not love this book, although I did not completely hate it, either. It had its qualities, but there were some issues I felt that needed to be dealt with more.

Mystery Novels on My TBR Pile

After fantasy, mystery is my favorite genre. Two of my favorite novels of last year were mystery. I tend to go through my mystery novels faster than fantasy, contemporary, or historical fiction because those are ones that save me from reading slumps. Mystery novels, both adult and young adult, are fun and exciting and sometimes terrifying. But even with the amount I read, I still have quite a few on my TBR.

Here are my favorite mystery novels currently on my to be read pile:

 

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

andwhenshewasgood

A friend of mine gave me this book for my birthday two years ago. The story follows Heloise Lewis who, by day, is a young widow with a son and a good-hearted lobbyist. By night, she’s a high-price call girl. After ten years, the brilliant facade she has created for herself is falling apart with the alleged suicide of a madam and her violent ex’s release from prison. But can she really start all over again with a new identity?

 

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

everyfifteenminutes

Every Fifteen Minutes is one of those impulse buys from Target. Eric, a caring psychiatrist and single dad, becomes the prey of a sociopathic patient. When he makes a professional decision, his life is suddenly on the line. The plot sounds a lot like a Lifetime movie, one of my guilty pleasures.

 

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

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Little Monsters is the most recent purchase on this list and one I am really, really excited for. Unfortunately, I have a long list of books I want to read before 2017 is over, so this one will have to wait for now. Anyway, this book follows Kacey, a new girl in a small town, who finds herself the center of unwanted attention after one of her new friends goes missing following a party. As she looks for answers, she realizes she can’t trust anyone in her new home.

 

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

suicidenotesfrombeautifulgirls

Another young adult thriller, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls follows June, the only person in town who does not believe her best friend Delia committed suicide. Remembering an incident that happened a year ago that got out of hand, June suspects this has something to do with Delia’s death. But there is more to the truth than she ever anticipated.

 

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

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The Magician’s Lie is a historical fiction mystery about an illusionist called Amazing Arden who, after a performance goes horribly wrong, is arrested. The book takes place over the course of one night as Arden is interrogated by a young officer determined to make her reveal her secrets. When I first discovered The Magician’s Lie on Goodreads, I was so intrigued by it I almost bought the ridiculously beautiful but expensive hardcover right there. Then, Target came to my rescue with the cheaper, albeit not as pretty, paperback. I’ve owned this book for two years, and I still have not read it. Shocking.

 

The Diviners by Libba Bray

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The Diviners is another historical fiction mystery, this one with a more paranormal twist. Set in 1926 New York City, Evie lives with her eccentric uncle Will, who runs an occult museum, and hides her own supernatural ability. But when a girl is murdered in a ritualistic way, she uses her power to catch a killer. The only reason I can think of that I have not read The Diviners yet is because the size intimidates me. Otherwise, I should have devoured it by now.

 

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

themadmansdaughter

The Madman’s Daughter is supposed to be a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, I think, which is a story I have not read. It follows Juliet Moreau, the daughter of the mad scientist, who journeys with two companions to the island he is hiding to find out if the rumors about her father are true. Once she arrives, though, Juliet discovers she has inherited her father’s strange fascination with science, as well as possibly his madness. I can’t remember how long exactly I have owned The Madman’s Daughter, just that I still want to read it and it is about time I do.

 

Do you have a favorite mystery novel?

Top 10 Popular Book Series I Have Not Read Yet (But Really Want To)

When it comes to popular books, more often than not, I’m late to join the bandwagon. Primarily because there are so many books I want to read that it is hard to prioritize them all. Also, adulting problems 101, choosing which books I want to spend money on and hope they don’t make me feel like I wasted a paycheck. Thankfully, there is my well-stocked and well-connected local library!

The majority of the series on this list are old and I don’t already own the first book in the series. Most likely, I will be checking most of these out of the library within the next year, due to the fact that I am not as hard-core into reading them as I was when I was first introduced to BookTube a few years ago, but I still want to read them nonetheless. Just not enough to spend money on them.

 

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Likely one of the most beloved series on this list, The Raven Cycle is the one I am most looking forward to reading. The books always got so much hype when they came out. I think the reason why I didn’t pick them up right away was because the premise didn’t appeal to me at the time the first book, The Raven Boys, came out: a girl from a family of psychics but lacking psychic powers herself teams up with a group of mysterious boys to find a missing Welsh king.

Now, I’m more open to the concept and I’ve heard the books get better as the story goes on. Plus, I think the hardcovers of The Raven Cycle, particularly Blue Lily, Lily Blue, are quite beautiful.

 

Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi

One of the staples in dystopian young adult literature, Shatter Me has been described as a guilty pleasure read for some. The plot is not that great, but the romance is steamy and the writing is beautiful. I think after I read The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy, I had had my full of dystopian literature, which is probably why it has taken me so long to finally want to read the Shatter Me trilogy.

 

Anna and the French Kiss trilogy by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After are probably three of the most well-known titles in the young adult contemporary genre. I know why it has taken me so long to read these. When they were first published, I read strictly fantasy or mystery novels, hardly any contemporary. If I did happen to read contemporary, it involved nothing fluffy or cute. But my reading tastes have changed since then.

 

The Selection series by Kiera Cass

Another young adult dystopian, this one involving princesses vying for the throne and the prince’s heart in a competition reminiscent of The Bachelor. Similar to the situation regarding Shatter Me, The Selection received mixed reviews with the publication of each book, particularly surrounding the dislike of the main character. Also, I had lost interest in dystopians for a while once I discovered high fantasy. Yet, despite it all, I’m still interested in the plot itself as well as reading about the famous Prince Maxon.

 

Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes

A series on this list I am seriously considering biting the bullet and buying, Falling Kingdoms is a multiple-perspective high fantasy young adult series that is classified as Games of Thrones for teens. After reading Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series and Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, I love the high fantasy genre. From what I’ve heard about Falling Kingdoms, it sounds like a lot of action-packed fun.

 

Legend trilogy by Marie Lu

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, there are a lot of old-time dystopians on this list. Legend is one of the ones I have wanted to read for years and I haven’t heard anything about it since the publication of its last book, Champion. This one also sounds like it was a real dystopian with a corrupted government and social system like The Hunger Games had. Although, when I will get around to reading the Legend trilogy, I’m not sure.

 

The Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu

After Falling Kingdoms, The Young Elites is another young adult series I think I might buy. It is a historical fiction high fantasy novel set in an alternative medieval period featuring an anti-heroine main character. The story has been marketed as a villain’s origin story. I really hope it does not disappoint once I read it.

 

Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver

When Delirium first came out, I remember the premise intrigued me: a dystopian society where love is viewed as a disease and, at the age of 16, everyone gets a surgery to make them not feel love. Now, I find it a little silly. And yet, it is on this list because it is another staple in young adult dystopian literature, as well as the fact that I am still curious about how Lauren Oliver made that kind of story work for three books.

 

The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

I know very little about the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and I want to keep it that way. When the books were first published, they weren’t talked about a lot, at least not with the YouTubers I watched at the time, which is probably why I had such a lack of interest. But thanks to the Six of Crows duology, people are picking up the Grisha trilogy and I am seeing more reviews on it that make me want to try the series out for myself.

 

Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows is likely one of the most beloved and popular series on this entire list—if not the most beloved and popular. I’ve seen the covers in stores; they are gorgeous and I want to buy them. But I have not picked up this duology for two reasons. First, sometimes hyped books and characters fall flat for me, so I hesitate. Second, I like to do things in chronological order, so I plan on reading the Grisha trilogy before reading Six of Crows. And who knows when that will be?

 

What popular book series have you not read yet? Which one of these should I read first?

Review of The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (Spoiler Free)

The Serpent King follows Dill Early, the son of a disgraced preacher who dealt with snakes, and his two best friends, Lydia and Travis, as they enter their senior year of high school. While Lydia is counting the days until graduation and Travis is caught up in the world of the fantasy novels he enjoys, Dill believes he is trapped in their dead-end town in the Bible Belt of Tennessee. But then tragedy strikes and he must take a whole new look at his life.

The writing of this book was beautiful. Jeff Zentner has the potential of getting better with the more books he publishes. Having grown up in the blue state of Massachusetts in a family that only acknowledges we are Catholic at funerals or weddings, the discussions about religion as well as the picture of rural Tennessee were fascinating to me. The author showed the ignorance of the town and how certain people took their unjustified anger out on those who didn’t deserve it. Going to church and living simply is the ideal of these people, but only because they are afraid of anything unfamiliar.

In terms of plot, virtually nothing happened until the beginning of the third act. The Serpent King is a strictly character-driven story, which I suppose works for the content, but know that going into this book if that is something you don’t enjoy. As for the characters themselves, Lydia annoyed me, I felt sympathy for Dill, and Travis is my little fanboy cinnamon roll. Of the three, though, I think Lydia had the better character development.

When the book starts off, Lydia is sassy, confident, and ambitious, but she’s haughty and self-absorbed. She writes a successful fashion blog, but acts as though she does not have any friends in her town, despite being so close to Dill and Travis. She has two loving parents and a good home life, unlike the boys, and does not seem to fully grasp how privileged she is until it is too late. For the first half of the book, Lydia thinks she knows what is best for Dill, ignoring his protests that he has responsibilities to take care of his disabled mother now that his father is in prison. By the end of the book, though, she has matured a lot in that respect.

Dill is a good kid. He does want to escape the town and the prejudice he faces there thanks to his father. He also wants to do the right thing by his mother and help pay off their debts, even though she treats him so poorly. Dill makes the best of his situation and chooses to live simply. As Lydia’s father tells her, that is not a bad way to live. I don’t think so either.

While Dill has good character development overall, my main issue with his storyline is the idealization of college from Lydia. Yes, college graduates do make more money in the long run, but as a Magna Cum Laude graduate with two national honor societies under my belt, I can tell you that does not happen right away. Since I graduated in 2016, I have had to work retail and temporary jobs. And this is not solely related to my BA in English, either. Lots of my friends who had degrees that were supposed to promise jobs after graduation were in the same boat.

The arguments Dill used with Lydia about not going to college were, in my opinion, logical. Another thing that was not introduced was the possibility of Dill waiting a year or two before going to school. That’s something else I know people to have done. I’m rambling, but I did not like the implication of this book that you must go to college to be happy or, if you wanted to go to college, you had to do it right after finishing high school.

As for Travis, he was the exception. Of the three main characters, he was the most well-rounded, despite his awful home life. I think a lot of people can relate to his love of a fandom. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be him.

Overall, I gave The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner 3.75 stars. If you like young adult contemporary novels with a bit of an edge to them or one with interesting discussions about religion, I highly recommend this one.

August 2017 TBR

It’s been a hot minute since I did a monthly TBR. I posted one for the first time this year in May. Some of these books were actually on that particular TBR. The pressure to read was on and I had just started a new job that wore me out mentally.

I set a goal of eight books to read in August, books I know I want to read. A little ambitious, considering the last few months I did not read more than six. But since the job I had was temporary, I have more time on my hands until the next opportunity comes along.

In August, I hope to read:

 

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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At the time I am writing this, I am on page 92 of The Serpent King and liking it so far. It is a young adult contemporary novel set in the Bible Belt of Tennessee. Dill, the son of a disgraced preacher whose religion is based on handling snakes, and his two best friends, Lydia and Travis, are entering their senior year of high school. While Lydia is dreaming about the possibilities presented to her from her successful fashion blog, and Travis is lost in his fantasy world of the books he loves, Dill fears graduation and what it means for his future, particularly his feelings for Lydia.

Where I am in The Serpent King, I can say for certain I don’t like Lydia. While I admire her confidence, sass, and ambition, she is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or some variation of one. She thinks she knows what is best for Dill and that she knows what he really wants. Dill is a good kid; just trying to find his way after everything his dad put him through. Travis is a good kid, too, and I think most people can identify with his love for a fandom.

These are only my preliminary thoughts on The Serpent King. They could change by the end of the book.

 

The Angel’s Game & The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven are the companion and sequel novels, respectively, to The Shadow of the Wind, my all-time favorite book of 2016. They are historical mystery novels set in Barcelona, Spain and centered around a mysterious bookstore called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

The Angel’s Game takes place about twenty years prior to the events of The Shadow of the Wind. David Martin is a struggling pulp fiction author living in an old mansion in Barcelona when a publisher offers him the book deal of a lifetime. But as he unravels the mystery behind his home and its connection to his book, he finds himself inside his own story.

The Prisoner of Heaven is a direct sequel to The Shadow of the Wind, and features the same main characters from the novel. A stranger visits Daniel Sempere’s family’s bookshop and threatens to reveal a terrible secret if Daniel and his best friend Fermin do not do as he asks.

The Shadow of the Wind was a beautiful novel. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a celebrated storyteller, so I already have high expectations before reading these novels.

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

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Set in feudal Japan, Flame in the Mist follows Mariko, the cunning daughter of a respected samurai, who is betrothed to the son of the emperor’s favorite consort. On the way to her wedding, the Black Clan, who have been hired to assassinate Mariko, attacks her convoy. She survives, disguises herself as a boy, and infiltrates the ranks of the Black Clan to find out who wants her dead. But in doing so, Mariko learns the truth behind everything she’s ever been taught and begins to question her role in what is happening.

Two things that let me know I will love this book. 1) I enjoy Renee Ahdieh’s writing and I loved her The Wrath & the Dawn duology. 2) The story of Flame in the Mist screams Mulan. That is all I need.

 

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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When I was in junior high, I was obsessed with the Tudor dynasty in England. Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the Nine Day Queen, is related to the Tudors: her grandmother, Princess Mary, was King Henry VIII’s younger sister. At sixteen, she was an unwitting political pawn by her father and others who sought control over the throne after the death of King Henry’s only son, Edward, and made queen. Her reign was exactly nine days and she was later convicted of high treason by Queen Mary I, and then beheaded.

My Lady Jane is a retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s story, but with a more comedic fantasy twist and the authors promised a happier ending. Sickly Edward arranges for his favorite cousin, Jane, to marry a strange boy named Gifford (“G”), who turns into a horse during the day, to secure the line of succession. But the three of them are soon drawn into a conspiracy to steal Edward’s throne and send all of them to the executioner’s block.

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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I received this beautiful limited-edition exclusive cover of Heartless in my November 2016 Owlcrate box and I have been dying to read it. Not just because the book is stunning, but also because it is a retelling of the origin story of The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Catherine is a duchess in Wonderland that has caught the eye of the King of Hearts. Instead of wanting to be queen, though, she wants to focus on baking and open a bakery with her best friend. On the night the king is expected to propose to her, she meets the mysterious Jest, and begins a secret courtship. But how does such a nice girl become the Queen of Hearts? I’m going to find out.

 

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

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Denna is a princess with the gift of fire betrothed to the prince of a kingdom where magic is banned. Hiding her magic will be hard enough, yet things get a little more complicated when she falls for her future husband’s sister. I have picked this book up a few times since May with every intention of reading it. The book has gotten good reviews and I want to read more books with LGBTQ main characters. The fact that it is set in a fantasy setting makes it even more exciting to read.

 

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

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The Valiant is based on an untold story within Ancient Roman history: female gladiators. Fallon is a Celtic princess who witnesses her sister murdered and her kingdom taken over by the Romans. She is then sold to a school training female gladiators, suddenly finding herself at the mercy of Julius Caesar, the man she vowed to destroy. Like I said with virtually every book, I’m excited to read The Valiant. I think this will be a great book to end the summer with.

 

What is everyone else reading in August?

Top 5 Tuesday: Book Worlds I Want to Live In

Unfortunately, I missed the last two weeks of Top 5 Tuesday. But now is the time to catch up on blog posts. This week’s subject is a great topic to start with: book worlds I want to live in.

This list was a little easier than I thought. I prefer the urban fantasy worlds to the high fantasy. I did not mention Hogwarts on this list, because that one is a given. Who does not want to go to Hogwarts?

In no particular order, here are the top five book worlds I want to live in:

 

The Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare

The magic system within the Shadowhunter Chronicles—The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, and The Dark Artifices—is not complicated and can be built upon no matter how many books Cassandra Clare writes. The Shadowhunters are cool and badass fighting demons. Although, I admit, I would much rather be a warlock like Tess Gray dating a Nephiliam.

 

House of Night by PC Cast

Though I have not finished the House of Night series nor have any intention of doing so, I did enjoy the world the author created when I read the books. It combined Wiccan magic with vampires, in a school for vampires to learn more magic and receive cool marks from a Goddess of Night.

 

Unearthly trilogy by Cynthia Hand

I want to be an angel-blood like Clara, Christian, and Angela in the Unearthly trilogy. They can fly and have a variety of different abilities, such as telepathy, depending on if they are a White Wing or a Black Wing. They can live for 120 years. And still have all the modern technology I’m used to.

 

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

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Much like the House of Night books, Vampire Academy is where vampires learn magic. I would want to be a Moroi and practice magic, particularly fire magic like Christian Ozera, or spirit magic like Lissa Dragomir. St. Vladimir’s sounds like it might be a cool school to go to.

 

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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The only high fantasy world on this list, I love the magic system Susan Dennard created in the Truthwitch books. Witches have magic based in elements, with more than one variation, like an Airwitch being a subdivision of a Windwitch. I also love the ideas behind Truthwitches and Threadwitches, Heart-Threads and Thread-families, how everyone has found families as well as biological families. Of all the worlds I mentioned on this list, the world of Truthwitch is one I would live in if I had a chance.