Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Cozy Fall Reads

What classifies as “cozy?”

Surprisingly, I had some trouble narrowing down books for this week’s topic. Are we talking about the cute and fluffy kind of cozy, with the leaves changing colors and Halloween on the horizon? Or is it more of a rainy day cozy, when it’s cold, dreary, and a little depressing?

I went both ways with this one.

 

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser

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The Book Jumper is an under-hyped young adult fantasy novel. It follows Amy Lennox, who leaves Germany with her mother to their family’s estate in Scotland. She meets her grandmother, who insists she read, though not in the usual way. Amy comes from a long line of book jumpers, those that can travel inside books and whose life mission is to protect the world inside. While her newfound gift is every book lover’s dream, it also comes with an unexpected complication: someone is stealing from books and kidnapping characters. Teaming up with her new friend Will, another book jumper, Amy sets out to get to the bottom of the mystery, even if her life is in danger.

The Book Jumper is set on this stormy little isle outside of the Scottish mainland. While they are isolated for most of the book, the atmosphere was a character itself. Plus, the family mansion was old and slightly falling apart. There was an element of tension as Amy’s family had to share the space with Will’s family, a rival clan of book jumpers. It was like a modern-day fairy tale, mixing beauty with a little bit of darkness towards the end.

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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If I had to pick one book to be called “cozy,” it would have to be The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I hardly ever talk about it on my blog, but I did like it when I read it. A.J. Fikry is a grumpy widower and bookstore owner who has one of his most prized possessions stolen: a rare collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories. Just when he thinks it couldn’t get any worse, his life is turned upside down when he discovers a surprising delivery in his bookstore in the form of a two-year-old girl named Maya. To everyone’s surprise, A.J. adopts Maya, changing his life for the better.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry gave me all the warm fuzzy feelings, at least when I first started reading it. It is another novel set on an island isolated from the mainland and everyone is in each other’s business. Underneath the cozy feeling of A.J. and Maya’s storyline, as they grow together as a family, we are also dealing with other people’s more serious issues, like A.J.’s former sister-in-law, who has an uncaring philandering husband and struggles to have a baby.

 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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I would apply the word cozy to the cover of Lilac Girls a little more than the inside contents. It is a World War II story following three women: Caroline, an American woman that works at the French consulate in New York City; Kasia, a Polish teenager who is shipped to the infamous Ravensbruck, a women’s concentration camp, and is the victim of horrendous experiments; and Herta, a doctor at Ravensbruck who comes into a moral crisis as she is trapped amongst the male-dominated Nazis. Lilac Girls is a big book, but it’s the kind you want to snuggle up with because, once you pick it up, chances are you will have a hard time putting it down.

 

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

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If there is any book on this list that is ideal for the autumn/Halloween season, it is The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale. It is set in a Puritan type world where ordinary people live in fear of magic, specifically two sisters called the soul eaters and their master, The Beast.

When the main character, Alys, was seven years old, she encountered the soul eaters while wondering around one night, but they spare her and the other children in the village. With all the adults dead, they are sent to a neighboring village that despises magic to a point where they will target anyone who appears different. Years later, the secret Alys has kept is coming back to haunt her as The Beast and the soul eaters threaten those she cares for.

The Beast is an Animal has delicious writing and the world is dark but atmospheric. The mythology behind it is just plain creepy. If you are looking for a Halloween read, I recommend this one.

 

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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I was introduced to The Little Prince in college, when I was a teaching assistant. The professor I worked with, The Little Prince was one of her favorites and she frequently used it for her classes. On the surface, it is downright cute, but it is also philosophical. A pilot crash lands in the desert and meets a mysterious child he calls The Little Prince. The boy challenges him to think creatively and see imagination in a world that typically squashes anything not deemed “practical” or “realistic.” I’m totally butchering the synopsis. The Little Prince is much more layered, but you could read it in a day, it’s so short. And you won’t want to put it down, anyway.

 

What is your favorite cozy fall read?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Young Adult Fantasy Novels I Have Read (so far) in 2018

There were so many ways I wanted to go about this week’s topic. I wanted to do fantasy novels on my TBR or my favorites I’ve ever read. But both of those lists were just too long. I would write the list, and then want to add more later. So, like with my LGBTQ list last month, I picked five of my favorite fantasy novels I’ve read this year.

Those books are:

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

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A lot of people were disappointed by Flame in the Mist and I can understand why. It was pitched as a Mulan retelling by the publisher. While the novel does have similar themes—the heroine, Mariko, disguises herself as a boy to infiltrate the Black Clan, a notorious group of bandits, to find out who wanted her dead after her entourage is attacked—but that is where the similarities end. That’s not Renee’s fault; it was marketing. While I found the book slow in the beginning, it still had Renee’s beautiful writing style. I liked Mariko, who was a warrior that used her brain instead of a sword, which I personally prefer.

 

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

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This book sat unread on my shelves for almost two years and I don’t know why. I enjoyed My Lady Jane more than I thought I would. It gives Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days before she was unjustly beheaded, a happier ending she deserved. The authors turned likely one of the darkest times in England’s history on its head, giving it a fantastical comedic spin. Plus, I loved every single character in My Lady Jane. I kind of wish we were getting a little more of them, but I do appreciate the novel being a stand-alone.

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Heartless is another book on my TBR that I picked up and put down without reading it over the last two years. When I read it this spring, I was swept into a magical Wonderland that I adored. I absolutely loved Cath as well as felt for her. Marissa Meyer’s writing style is delicious, making me very hopeful about her Lunar Chronicles series.

While I’ve heard mixed reviews about Heartless since I read it, I personally enjoyed the author’s take on how the Queen of Hearts came to be. She was a sweet girl that had her dreams stolen from her by those she trusted. If that doesn’t make someone go bad, what will?

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Likely one of the most polarizing books to be published in 2018, people either love or hate The Hazel Wood. I originally checked it out of my local library. I was interested in the synopsis—a teenaged girl searches for her mother in a nightmarish fairy tale land created by her grandmother—but the negative reviews were overwhelming. Then, I read The Hazel Wood, devouring the frightening fairy tale world-building, the whimsical writing, and Alice, the complex main character you love to hate but you root for her anyway. I bought my own copy, where I display it facing front on my bookshelves because I love the cover, as well as the insides, so much.

 

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

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As far as I am concerned, the Daughter of the Pirate King duology is severely underrated. The most recent read on this list, Daughter of the Siren Queen is the second and final novel in the duology. The heroine, Alosa, grows into her abilities as a siren and leads her predominantly female pirate crew on an expedition to find treasure in a race against her brutal father.

If you love morally gray characters, particularly morally gray females, check out the Daughter of the Pirate King duology. Alosa is the definition of moral grayness—she does some questionable things throughout the novel, but she’s loyal to those she cares for and protects everyone worthy of her trust. Plus, Daughter of the Siren Queen was downright fun. And steamy. And bloody. And fast-paced. And exciting. More people need to read this duology. So go do it if you haven’t already!

 

What is your favorite fantasy read of 2018 so far?

Anonymous Bookaholics Tag

Hi all!

My life has been busy these past few weeks. I work 9am to 2:15pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then, I do homework until as late as 6pm until I have to catch the bus home. On Thursdays, I have two classes that are roughly two hours long each back to back, with three hours of free time to do homework in the school library in the morning. I do homework on the bus, too, the days I don’t have class, though it’s a little tricky. Unfortunately, that means I haven’t done much reading outside of what I have to get done for school.

I could tell my brain was in desperate need of a break when I tried to do an assignment due next week for my online class. Being it was Friday and the library I work in closes early, I figured I take advantage of it and go for a walk. It helped a lot, but I think blogging would too.

I saw Kristin Kraves Books do this Anonymous Bookaholics Tag on her blog earlier this week. As my dad pointed out the other day, I’m “gluttonous” for books, so this seemed like a fitting distraction to my schoolwork for a bit.

 

What do you like about buying new books?

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Trick question: what’s not to like? Despite the slightly disorganized state of my bookshelves, I love adding new books to my personal library, either read or unread. The way everything is arranged in my room, sometimes I feel like I’m in a mini fort of books. I love it. New books tend to feel nice in my hands, too. Also, since becoming a book blogger, I found that I like taking pictures of new books I buy. They’re just so pretty.

 

How often do you buy new books?

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Depends on my financial situation and/or my self-control. There have been times where I literally could not buy books because I needed money to pay for bus fare and lunch or I was unemployed. There were also months where I could have afforded to buy books, but there were ones at home I wanted to read that had been waiting on my shelves for longer than they should have.

 

Bookstore or online book shopping: which do you prefer?

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Honestly…I like both. I sometimes buy books off of Amazon for the cheaper prices and the convenience. If there is a sale on their websites, I will buy books online from Barnes and Noble or Books a Million. If I can make it to the physical bookstore, I will buy books there if possible. I like browsing, whether I buy something or not. When I do buy books from the bookstore, it is an immediate feeling of satisfaction, when buying online means waiting a few days.

The way I see it, the end result is the same: new books.

 

Do you have a favorite bookshop?

At the moment, it is the Trident Booksellers and Café in Boston. I also really like Brookline Booksmith, only I’ve been there once so far, as well as Barnes and Noble. I like Books a Million, but unfortunately I can only buy from them online because there aren’t any in my state. And the book section at Target isn’t so bad.

So…I guess most bookstores are my favorite.

 

Do you pre-order books?

Occasionally, I will pre-order books, if it is one I really, really want and I can’t make it to a store.

 

Do you have a monthly buying limit?

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Again, depends on my money situation. Sometimes, I do set a limit, usually between six to ten books. Other months I just go crazy even when I probably shouldn’t.

 

How big is your wish list?

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Too long. In fact, I currently have six on Amazon: the main wish list, books I might buy in October, Black Friday, Christmas ideas, birthday books in January, and a list of other books I think I want to take a chance on to buy.

Please tell me I’m not the only person that does this….

 

Which three books from your wish list do you wish to own right now?

Pride by Ibi Zoboi, a reimagining of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Brooklyn, New York.

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco, the third book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, a young adult fantasy about a girl who becomes a concubine to a king and has a forbidden romance, but not the one you’d expect. This book is getting so much praise. And it isn’t out until November.

 

This was fun! To keep it going, I tag:

Shanah

Grey

Crystal

 

What is the last book you bought?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Characters I Want as a Best Friend

This one was kind of hard for me. There are a lot of characters I have read over the years that I would love to have as a best friend or who I think might be a good influence on me in some ways or that their personalities might match well with mine. It took some narrowing down, but I got it now.

Top five characters I want as a best friend are:

 

Leo Valdez from The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

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Leo is too funny, but he can be serious when he needs to be. He doubts himself a lot, which I can relate to, only I think we could build each other up. Sometimes, I go back and forth on whether I want him as a best friend or a book boyfriend. That’s how much I like Leo.

 

Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

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No brainer! I love Luna. Not only would I love to be her best friend, I want to be her, more than I ever wanted to be Hermione Granger. She is unapologetically quirky and unbelievably sweet. I could go to her for virtually anything and she would help me, no questions asked.

 

Percy Jackson from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

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With Percy, the situation is the same as with Leo. I love his sense of humor and his loyalty. He’s a natural leader and he keeps everyone together. He’s both a good friend and a good boyfriend. Percy Jackson does not make it easy to choose. At all.

 

Cristina Rosales from Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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I completely forgot about Cristina until I was coming up with people for this list. She was one of my favorite characters in Lady Midnight. Sometimes, I liked her a little more than Emma. Cristina was levelheaded and she was a good listener. I think she is someone I could go to if I needed either a pep talk or a reality check.

 

Sophie Collins from The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare

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Another character I almost forgot about until I made this list! I really liked Sophie. She was quiet but strong. She was compassionate but knew when to put her foot down and stand up for herself. She treated everyone with respect, even people who might not have deserved it. I think Sophie’s and my personalities would mesh well.

 

What character would you want as your best friend?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Books That Made Me Laugh

Shanah: thank you for such an easy topic! In fact, thank you for all the topics this month.

Today’s Top 5 Tuesday are the top five books that made me laugh. This was not a hard one at all. It doesn’t take much to make me laugh, either.

The top five books that made me laugh are:

 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

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A surprising one, for sure. But the thing about The Poppy War is that, midst all the violence going on, the comedic timing was on-point. Some of the characters had witty one-liners, and others were just downright crazy most of the time, like Master Jiang. If I appreciated anything about The Poppy War, it was R.F. Kuang’s ability to find humor in any situation.

 

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

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To put it simply, it is all Percy Jackson and his sense of humor. Do I really need to explain why this series made me laugh so much? For those of you that require an explanation, Percy has a sharp wit. Rick Riordan has the ability to somehow expertly weave in humor even in the most serious situations, whether it comes from Percy or one of the other characters. The novel that especially made me laugh was The Sea of Monsters, when Grover pretended to be a bride, as that Cyclops held him captive.

 

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

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I like Jason Grace and Piper McLean but Leo Valdez is what made The Lost Hero for me. He made me laugh a lot in The Mark of Athena, too, when there was humor to be had.

 

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

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Again, it’s all Percy Jackson. I freaking love him and I feel like such a cougar when I think about him or Leo…. But it is impossible not to love his sense of humor or just him overall. I’m not quite ready to talk about the ending of The Mark of Athena, even though I kind of saw it coming.

 

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

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My Lady Jane takes likely one of the most serious, bloodiest times in English history—the nine-day reign of Lady Jane Grey leading to the eventual rise of Queen Bloody Mary—and turns it all completely upside down in the funniest way possible. I had so much fun reading this book. The writing was hilarious and so were the characters. The authors did such a good job; I want to read My Plain Jane immediately. But, alas, there are other books I need to check off my TBR first.

 

What books made you laugh?

August 2018 Wrap Up

August was the month I had planned to read all the library books as I prepare for the next chapter of my life as a library science student. It started out that way. Problem is, I checked out more books than I could read (as usual). I lost interest in a lot of them, too. It wasn’t too bad, though. I can always check them out from the library later or even buy them if I am so inclined, now that I have a job. The library I worked in last year hired me back for a part-time position the same length as my first semester and they were totally fine with working around my school schedule. Isn’t that awesome?

This month’s reading started out well enough. Then, there was a period of a few weeks where books were really letting me down. I felt a reading slump coming on until I returned the library books and did what I really wanted to do: focus my attention on my TBR books at home. Overall, I read a total of seven books in August and I am very happy with that.

In August, I read:

 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (library book)

4.5 stars

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I picked up The Poppy War from the library after seeing it praised almost everywhere. It is a Chinese alternative history fantasy novel. It follows Rin Fang, a war orphan from the poorest province in the kingdom who escapes her drug-dealing foster parents and an arranged marriage by enrolling into Sinegard Academy, an elite military school so few are allowed in. Only life at school is harder than she anticipated, as her wealthy classmates are not too pleased to have a dark-skinned peasant girl among their ranks. Rin later discovers she is a shaman and has the power to protect the kingdom from a Third Poppy War. But can she protect her people, and herself, from a vengeful god?

The Poppy War is graphic; every trigger warning you can think of—violence, rape, and drug abuse, to name a few—can be applied to this book. I enjoyed the writing style and the characters, including Rin, were unlikeable but realistic, something I appreciated more than I thought I would. The magic system and history woven throughout the novel were fascinating. However, I found it to be slow at times, which caused me to dock points off my star rating. For my full thoughts on The Poppy War, go check out my review.

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (library book)

5 stars

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When I read The Last Time I Lied, my expectations were low. I was disappointed by Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls. I enjoyed his writing style, but the plot of that novel ultimately fell flat for me. Still, I was intrigued by the synopsis of The Last Time I Lied. It follows Emma, an artist haunted by the disappearance of three of her friends, Vivian, Natalie, and Allison from Camp Nightingale fifteen years ago. When the camp’s founder asks her to come back to the reopening of Camp Nightingale as a counselor, she jumps at the chance to investigate the disappearance of her friends and finally get some answers. But when she gets there, Emma discovers the only security camera in the entire camp is in front of her cabin and finds clues left behind by Vivian that could lead to the truth to what happened to the missing girls. And, in Emma’s mind, no one is above suspicion.

The Last Time I Lied blew me out of the water. I liked Emma as a protagonist and I enjoyed all the other characters as well, especially Vivian and Theo, the son of Camp Nightingale’s founder. I finished the book in two days; once I started reading, I could not stop. It was fast-paced and kept me guessing the whole way through. The twist at the end was a little out there, yet I was not put off by it like I was by the twist in Final Girls. The twist in The Last Time I Lied started to make sense, once I put the pieces together. I think I liked it more than a lot of other people seemed to.

 

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell (library book)

1.5 stars

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A Simple Favor is what got me on the slump train. It is a chick-lit mystery about two moms, Emily and Stephanie, who are supposedly best friends until Emily goes missing and leaves behind a baffling mystery for Stephanie to unravel. I picked this up mainly because of the movie with Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively coming out in September. Sadly, I was disappointed by the book’s mediocre writing, a cheesy plot, and flat characters. It made me really nervous about the movie. For my full spoiler-free thoughts on A Simple Favor, go check out my review.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (library book)

2 stars

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A Simple Favor got me on the reading slump train, but Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe kept me on it. I was terribly sad I didn’t like this book. It’s probably one of the most beloved works of fiction to be published in the last ten years. If I’m being honest, what really got to me was the cringey, repetitive writing style that had more telling than showing. I liked Aristotle’s sarcasm and I could relate to some of his teenaged angst. As for Dante, I’m not so sure about him. All I know is, to me, Dante and Aristotle’s relationship felt forced. If you want to know all my feelings towards Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, check out my rant.

 

Stuart Little by E.B. White

3 stars

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

3 stars

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A few weeks ago, when we were going through my mom’s things, on her bookshelf I found this collection of stories by E.B. White, something she probably bought when I was little. I’ve wanted to read Charlotte’s Web for years, yet I only ever thought about it whenever I happened upon it in Target’s book section. And I had no idea Stuart Little was a book before it was a movie, written by the same author.

            I don’t know if it was because of the reading slump or what, but both Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web were “meh” to me. They were quick reads individually, with not too much depth to them, which is the kind of book you need during a slump. Between the two of them, Charlotte’s Web had more of a plot, with the spider Charlotte trying to save the life of her friend Wilbur the pig. In my mind, neither book was particularly memorable, sadly.

 

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

4.25 stars

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Daughter of the Siren Queen is the sequel to Daughter of the Pirate King, one of my favorite books of last year and it was better than its predecessor. It follows the protagonist Alosa as she comes into her siren abilities while leading her predominantly female pirate crew on an epic treasure hunt with her distractingly handsome captive Riden in tow.

This novel was as bloody and emotional as it was fast-paced and fun. Alosa is now one of my all-time favorite heroines. And, if you love angsty romance, Alosa and Riden are for you; they are proud people with daddy issues that hate being vulnerable to anyone. It brought on so many feelings watching them barter back and forth, with all that sexual tension simmering underneath. And the crew on this ship is definitely one I would want to be a part of, were I a pirate.

 

To let you all know: I don’t know how active I’m going to be in September on my blog. I’m not making a TBR post for the month because I don’t know how much work I’ll have and, really, I need to focus on school these next few weeks. All I know is I will be doing this month’s Top 5 Tuesday. I’m writing and scheduling those posts throughout this Labor Day weekend. Besides that, I can’t promise a lot. And I want to thank you all for how nice you’ve been to me lately. You’re awesome!