December 2018 Wrap Up

How is 2018 over?

Every year around this time, I see people talking about how such-and-such year was the “best year” or the “worst year” for them. I personally don’t agree with those statements—unless every day of your life for a year was total crap, then I am deeply sorry.

The beginning of 2018 was hard. I lost my mom and my grandmother within three weeks of each other. Grief is something I have been living with, will probably continue to live with, for a while longer. I had the scare of my life when my dad got into a car accident in October (he’s fine, thank God). But I also got my acceptance letter to graduate school in January and had a successful first semester. No year will ever be perfect, but no year could be terrible, either.

On a happier note, I had a good reading month in December, a nice way to wrap up my 2018 reading year. In the past, I got hit with a huge reading slump in December. That wasn’t the case this year. I read a total of five books, which were:

 

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

4 stars

thehouseofhades

It took me almost two months to read The House of Hades—not because I hated it, but because of graduate school. And the emotional turmoil I was in for most of it.

I won’t get into too much because of spoilers, but if you have not read the Heroes of Olympus series, I’m sure you can guess where the seven chosen demigods have ended up. While I enjoyed the character development, as well as several of the relationships presented in this installment, and the moments that pulled on my heartstrings (I seriously love Bob), The House of Hades was not my favorite in the series. Some scenes took too long to resolve, some problems seemed to be unnecessary to have, and there were too many POVs yet there were characters I thought didn’t get enough page time. I plan to wrap up reading this series by reading The Blood of Olympus during my winter break from school.

 

Sold by Patricia McCormick (library book)

5 stars

soldlibrarybook

An older title on this list, Sold is set in Nepal and follows thirteen-year-old Lakshmi, who narrates the story in verse. While life is hard and her stepfather is not the most responsible individual, Lakshmi finds happiness in the simple pleasures of life. Then, a monsoon destroys her family’s crops. Her stepfather informs her she will go work as a maid in the city to support the family. Though sad to leave her home, Lakshmi is more than happy to help. Only it is too late when she realizes she’s been sold into prostitution.

In her author’s note, Patricia McCormick explained she took inspiration from stories of many girls, like Lakshmi, who were sold into prostitution either intentionally or unintentionally by their parents. Besides the disgusting treatment she receives at the hands of the men she is forced to serve, Lakshmi is also abused by the brothel madam, who cheats her and the other girls out of their earnings. Aside from Lakshmi, you get the stories of the other prostitutes and the children growing up in the brothel. Even in those dark moments, there is happiness for Lakshmi and that really got to me.

 

Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu (library book)

2 stars

girlsonthelinelibrarybook

After reading Sold, I was looking for another short, intense book I could fly through. Girls on the Line is set in modern-day China (2009), told through the eyes of two seventeen-year-old orphans, Luli and Yun. After turning of age, Luli leaves the orphanage she has lived in since she was eight and joins Yun at a factory. While shy Luli is trying to get her footing in the real world, Yun is thriving on the independence and head over heels with her boyfriend Yong, ignoring the rumors about him being a “bride trafficker.” Then, she gets unexpectedly pregnant and fired in the same day. And, several days later, goes missing.

Girls on the Line covers the laws in China surrounding the country’s One Child policy and its mistreatment of women, as well as discussions around bride trafficking, in which men pay for young women to be kidnapped and brought to them, and child trafficking. The book focuses heavily on female friendship and covers the different issues young women, specifically young Chinese women, face in the modern day. However, the story was terribly slow, despite being roughly 250 pages. I was really bored the entire time I was reading Girls on the Line.

 

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (library book)

4 stars

skywardlibrarybook

My first Brandon Sanderson book and I am glad to say I enjoyed it. He is an author I have been interested in picking up for years, but he has so many books I never know where to start. Skyward caught my interest after Booksplosion announced it as their December read.

Set on a planet where the supposed last of humankind is defended by pilots, Skyward follows Spensa, a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in the shadow of her father, who was labeled a coward and killed after fleeing a battle. She is determined to get into flight school and fulfill her dream of becoming a pilot. Despite other people’s efforts to break her will, Spensa refuses to back down. Then, she makes a shocking discovery in a cavern that changes everything.

Skyward was fast-paced and fun. Spensa was a bold, brash, and interesting heroine. I actually did not like her at first. She is flawed but she grows throughout the novel. There are side characters I also enjoyed that I hope we will know more of in future books. My main complaint about the book was how long it was; it could have shaved a few hundred pages and done fine, I think.

 

Part of Your World by Liz Braswell (library book)

2 stars

partofyourworldlibrarybook

I honestly don’t have much to say regarding Part of Your World. The latest installment in the Twisted Tales, a reimagining of Disney movies in book form. While I enjoyed As Old as Time, the Beauty and the Beast retelling I read earlier this year, I was not blown away by it. Sadly, I was even more disappointed by Part of Your World.

            The plot takes place five years after the events of the original film, only Ariel did not defeat Ursula and King Triton was killed. She returned to Atlantica as its voiceless queen and Ursula, disguised as Princess Vanessa, marries Prince Eric and rules his kingdom. When she receives word her father could still be alive, Ariel returns to the human world, where she is reunited with the prince she thought she would never see again.

Part of Your World was just boring with overly flowery writing. The characters were flatter than the original Disney creations. The motivations didn’t make any sense. It was honestly a struggle to get through.

 

Happy New Year everybody! Looking forward to 2019!

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The Book Addiction Tag

Why is it called “book addiction?” What is the difference between that and being a reader?

When I first saw this tag on My World of Books, the title struck me as something to do with book buying. Yet, the questions pertain most to reading. I call myself a “book addict” in the sense I buy too many books at once or I check more from the library than I can read. My dad is not a reader, but he likes the look of filled bookshelves in a room. Does that count?

Let’s see how much of a “book addict” I am.

 

What is the longest amount of time you can comfortably go without picking up a book?

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Roughly a week, if I have a lot going on. Such as, during the semester, I could only read in the mornings on the weekend. If I was awake enough, I would spend the hour and a half bus ride to work doing school reading. On the days I worked, I would get out at 2:15, then sit in the library until 6pm doing homework. By the time I got home, I was too zonked to do much of anything but eat dinner and watch YouTube. I wanted to read, only I didn’t have the energy for it.

 

How many books do you carry on your person (or kindle) at any time?

I can fit no more than one non-school book in my backpack. And, in general outings like shopping, I don’t bring a book with me.

 

Do you keep every book you buy/receive or are you happy to pass them on to make space for more?

mostexcitedreads

Every few years, I make an effort to unhaul books to make room for new ones. Sometimes, I’m actually relieved to get rid of some, especially if I really did not like them. I will also occasionally donate books I bought if I never read them and lost interest. I have given away books I received, since my parents mostly bought books for me until I had my own income. There are books on my shelves that I didn’t love, but a close friend gave them to me or someone signed it, so I am more likely to keep them or at least donate them at a later time.

 

How long would you spend a standard visit in a bookstore?

At the most, maybe a half hour…or until I have so many books in my arms I can’t carry anymore.

 

How much time per day do you actually spend reading?

On a good one, I can read maybe three to five hours, if I manage to work it in around my schoolwork or if I am behind on blogs. On a very good day, maybe six to eight hours of reading, if I have nothing else to prioritize over it and no other plans.

 

Where does the task “picking up a book” appear on your daily to do list?

Reading is not actively on my daily to do lists. It is my reward to completing all my responsibilities for the day. Or my distraction, depending on how much I want to avoid said responsibilities.

 

How many books do you reckon you own in total (including e-books)?

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I do not own any e-books, even though I probably should for the sake of space. Not that I would ever admit that to my dad. In terms of physical books, I own approximately somewhere between 590-600 books (and counting).

 

Approximately how often do you bring up books in conversation?

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At school, conversations about books come up in my classes at least once. We talk about books we’ve read or the ones we recommend or what we want to read. That’s a given—library school is Bookworm Central. Outside of school, not much bookish conversation happens. At work, sometimes I’ll talk about books with my co-workers. My dad is not a big reader and neither is my brother, though he’s slowly getting back into it. Occasionally, my friends will ask for book recommendations. That’s about it.

 

What’s the biggest book (page count) you have finished reading?

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The biggest book I’ve read—this year, at least—was in fact a reread of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Examples of other big books I have read are City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

 

Is there a book you had to get your hands on against all odds (i.e. searching bookshops, online digging, etc.)?

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith and A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir were two books I had to get as soon as I could. The latter I bought off of Amazon as a pre-order, but the former I got from my favorite indie bookstore.

 

A book you struggled to finish but refused to DNF?

mansfieldpark718

That would be Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Not because I disliked it. I was enjoying myself while reading it, with all the 19th teen soap opera like drama going on. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of the semester. Reading a classic novel was probably not the best idea at the time.

 

What are 3 of your main book goals for 2019?

  1. “Unofficially” read 30 books
  2. Prioritize and marathon series
  3. Unhaul books

 

Have you ever had the privilege of converting someone into a reader (maybe via inspiration or incessant nagging)?

read beauty and the beast GIF

I have recommended books to my friends that they read and enjoyed. I’ve had people tell me on Instagram that they got good recommendations from my feed. At my library job in undergrad, I wrote book reviews on fiction novels in the collection that people later checked out. But, to my knowledge, I have not turned anyone into a reader.

 

Describe what books mean to you in five words.

jon stewart book GIF

  1. Escape

  2. Tranquility

  3. Joy

  4. Comfort

  5. Imagination

I tag:

Shanah

Crystal

Grey

Sophie

Taylor

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

 

 

Black Friday 2018 Book Haul

What does one do on Thanksgiving, after two helpings at dinner, two glasses of blush wine, a slice of pecan pie, and a bowl of vanilla ice cream? Go onto Barnes and Noble’s website and indulge more in the Black Friday sale.

I purposely waited until Black Friday to buy these nine books I had been itching to get my hands on. And, of course, I regret nothing.

On Black Friday, I bought:

 

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

kingdomofash

No way was I buying this behemoth of a book at store price. Kingdom of Ash is the final novel in the Throne of Glass series. At this moment in time, I have not read Tower of Dawn, although I think it might be better that way. I have a habit of putting so much space between Sarah J. Maas books that I forget some of the details that happened in the previous installments, especially when there is so much going on.

 

And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Rovina Cai

andtheoceanwasoursky

I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness a few years ago and enjoyed it. Though I haven’t gotten around to his other books yet, And The Ocean Was Our Sky, his latest release, is one that attracted me the most. It is a reimagining of Moby Dick told through the eyes of the whales as they hunt humans. I’ve skimmed through it since it came in the mail and the artwork is stunning.

 

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

theladysguidetopetticoatsandpiracy

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is the companion novel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which I have not yet read. It follows the younger sister of the main character in the first book, Felicity, who is an allegedly asexual aspiring doctor in the 18th century travelling to Germany to become an apprentice to a physician. She receives money from a mysterious benefactor for the journey and in return Felicity allows the woman to join her disguised as a maid. But soon she learns that the motives of her benefactor are not as benevolent as they appeared.

 

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

whatifitsus

Ben is on his way to the post office to send back his ex-boyfriend’s things when he bumps into Arthur, a theater nerd interning at his mom’s New York law firm. From there, the boys have a series of several failed first dates that lead them to wonder if they are meant to be. Though I haven’t heard the best things, I still hope the insides of What If It’s Us is as cute as the outside.

 

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

girlsofpaperandfire

Likely one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, Girls of Paper and Fire is set in a world where the cruel emperor chooses eight girls every year to serve in his harem as concubines. This year, a ninth girl has been chosen and she has every intention of taking the patriarchy down from within. And, in the process, has the forbidden romance you least expect. I want to read Girls of Paper and Fire immediately in 2019…along with many, many other books.

 

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

empressofallseasons

Mari has spent her whole life training to compete to be the next empress. The competition should be simple enough: conquer the palace’s seasonal rooms—Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall—and then marry the prince. All girls can compete, except for the yokai, supernatural beings the current emperor is bent on enslaving and destroying. And Mari is one of the yokai. Struggling to keep her true identity secret, she meets Taro, a prince with no interest in ruling, and Akira, a half-yokai outcast. Together, these three will determine a fate of a kingdom where not everything is what it seems.

 

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker

anassassinsguidetoloveandtreason

Another of my anticipated releases, An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason is set in Elizabethan England. After Lady Katherine’s father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers he was part of a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. To get revenge, she joins a theater troupe performing William Shakespeare’s newest play in front of the queen. Only what she doesn’t know is that it is all a ruse planned by the queen’s spy Toby Ellis. He and Katherine are cast as the lead roles, but as they grow closer, the situation becomes much more complicated.

 

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

the71 2deathsofevelynhardcastle

Every night, Evelyn Hardcastle is killed at a gala party hosted by her parents. Every night, Aiden Bishop fails to save her. He is given seven days to catch Evelyn’s killer by living the same day over and over, in another guest’s body each time, until he solves the mystery. But it seems everyone at the party has a reason to hurt Evelyn.

 

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

thesistersofthewinterwood

Jewish sisters Liba and Laya live sheltered lives in the woods. When their parents leave to visit their dying grandfather, the girls witness their mother turn into a swan and their father into a bear. This leads them to wonder if the old fairy tales are true. Then, despite their mother’s warnings, one of the sisters falls for a stranger when a group of mysterious men pass through town. But there are far more dangerous things lurking in the woods.

 

Did you buy any books on Black Friday?

Reflecting on My 2018 Reading Resolutions

I have seen this floating around recently, people reflecting on their reading goals for 2018 to see if they completed them. I had no idea how well, or bad, I did in completing these resolutions, but I am itching to take advantage of the winter break by writing as much as I can.

Which of my reading resolutions for 2018 was most successful?

 

Yes or no: set a Goodreads goal of 100 books.

Answer: NO

In the summer of this year, I realized that my reading habits changed as I got more in the throes of adulting. When 2018 began, I had more free time. I wasn’t working; therefore I had more time devoted to reading. I honestly thought I could make it into 100. Then, February happened….

Books helped me get through that hard time in my life. But after fifteen weeks of being stuck at home, I was eager to get back into the work force. Once I did get a job, I had to get up super early in the morning that by the time I got home at night, I was normally too tired to read.

In the spring, I found myself seven books behind on the reading challenge. I realized there was no way I was going to reach 100 books. Reluctantly, I lowered my goal to 50. In September, I beat it, right before I started school, which definitely stole away any energy I had for reading. Now I’m at 54 books read this year. Still, I can’t deny it would have been nice to reach 100.

 

Yes or no: Practice borrowing before buying.

Answer: Yes

I think I did a pretty good job sticking to this rule. What helped was getting my acceptance letter to library school in January. If I want to be a librarian, I should practice what I preach. The majority of the books I read this year in fact were ones I checked out of the library. Some of them I later bought my own copy of or I intend to the next time I can.

When it comes to selecting which books I check out and which ones I buy, it depends on a combination of my intuition about the book and my financial situation. With books such as The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton or Everless by Sara Holland, I was interested enough in the stories I wanted to read them, but not enough to buy them. Others, such as The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass, I was apprehensive about because of a previous experience with the author, so there was virtually no chance of me spending money on the book. Often times, I check out books from the library only to buy them later because I didn’t read them in time before returning them. While one could argue that is technically “borrowing before buying,” that didn’t mean I read the books like I was supposed to.

 

Yes or no: finish rereading the Harry Potter series

Answer: No

This was a goal I was die hard to finish back in January. I honestly enjoyed rereading the Harry Potter books when I first started near the end of 2017. Unfortunately, by the time I got to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, my nostalgia had evaporated.

I started to see the Harry Potter world through the eyes of an adult. Thus, I noticed more problems than I ever intended to.

You barely punish inexperienced children for taking on a troll on their own, yet they get detention in the Forbidden Forest and fifty points taken from their House because they snuck out of bed in the middle of the night? Dumbledore didn’t do anything when fourteen-year-old Harry’s name was put in the Goblet of Fire. The majority, if not all, of the characters are white and straight. I could go on.

I read the first fifty or so pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix before I put it down. Then, I attempted again and only made it through the first chapter. I gave up on my Harry Potter reread for newer books I want to read more. Maybe someday I will try again, though.

 

Yes or no: reread the Women of the Otherworld series

Answer: No

This was the goal that was lowest on the scale of priorities. I actually forgot I made it until now. Since there are thirteen books in the series, this is something I think I would be better off making a full one to two month commitment if I am serious about finishing the Women of the Otherworld. We will see about that.

 

Yes or no: Read 10 classics

Answer: Almost yes

I thought I completely failed this one. Turns out, I read six classics in 2018, one of them being a reread. Actually, I’m going to make it seven since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire counts as a modern classic….

I am making a valiant effort to ignore the nasty little voice taunting me “you could have read more.” I learned after taking two months to read a Rick Riordan book that no way would that have happened while in graduate school. I am not reading classics to declare myself a “worthy” reader or to become more cultured. I’m reading classic novels because I enjoy the experience.

 

Yes or no: Read/finish 10 series

Answer: Epic fail

I read first books in series or books part of a series, but I came nowhere near reading or finishing ten series. The only series I finished was Daughter of the Pirate King duology by Tricia Levenseller when I picked up the final novel, Daughter of the Siren Queen, this summer. I could finish the Heroes of Olympus series, since now I only have The Blood of Olympus left. But there are library books I want to read and return before the year is over. Struggles.

 

Yes or no: Read at least 5 new releases

Answer: Success!

I read FOURTEEN books that had a release date in 2018! Admittedly, vanity drove me to it: I wanted to participate in the voting of the Goodreads Best Book of the Year Awards. I know it’s dumb; there were still books on the list of nominees I had not heard of. At least now they are not backlogged on my TBR or library reading lists like so many other books.

 

Yes or no: write at least 3 book reviews and at least 1 book recommendations post a month.

Answer: 50% completed

Prior to starting graduate school, I was publishing three book reviews a month. While I worked a nine to five job during the week in a city approximately an hour and a half from where I live, the majority of my blogging was done on the weekends. Once school started, homework and projects had taken over my life.

As for the book recommendations post, I had so many ideas. I wanted to do “if you like this, you might like this.” I wanted to do another “hidden gems” recommendations. I think some Top 5 Tuesday memes this year covered similar topics, like “books I loved that others didn’t.” Those might count, but I know there was so much more I could have done and wanted to do.

 

Yes or no: participate in all Top 5 Tuesday posts

Answer: Mostly

The main reason I wanted to participate in every single Top 5 Tuesday was to challenge my writing skills and keep consistent content on my blog. Then, as Shanah posted each month’s topics, writing certain ones I hit a brain block. So, I did the ones I could, then left out the ones I didn’t.

 

Yes or no: read between 5-9 books a month

Answer: Completed (before graduate school)

Another goal I forgot I set. I went back and checked out all my monthly wrap-ups before the beginning of the semester. I managed to read six or seven books a month, with some months reading five, and once or twice reaching eight. I never made it to nine books read.

In June, September, and October, I managed to read only two or three books. In September and October, it was because of school. As for June, I’m not sure what happened there. I think I was in a slump at the time. I don’t think I finished a single book in November; that was the time I had four projects going on at once with the end of the semester on the horizon. Overall, I am pleased with how much I read.

 

Did you complete any of your reading resolutions for 2018? Did you have any of the same ones I did?

 

 

Autumn 2018 Book Haul Part 2

Feels like it’s been ages since I posted Part 1. But now that I have more free time than I know what to do with, I can get back to shaming myself for buying so many books.

While some of these books I’ve had my eye on for a while, the majority of them were more or less impulse buys. By that, I mean they were not on the original list of books I wanted to buy in 2018 (long story) but ones I had heard about through social media that caught my attention or I randomly found while browsing the indie bookstore near my work.

Even worse, most of these books I bought in the same trip to the store; I had a rough time towards the middle of the semester. Buying books made me feel better, despite what my wallet says.

I am excited to read all these books and they do look nice on what limited shelf space I have left. J

In Part 2 of my 2018 autumn book haul, I bought:

 

Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

sagavol9

Saga, Vol. 9 is the latest installment in one of my favorite series, as well as my current favorite graphic novels. The synopsis for each new volume in this series is always vague, but Vol. 9 is supposed to be the most shocking one yet about fake news and real terror. But I already know I will at least give it 4 stars. None have disappointed me yet.

 

Sex Criminals, Vol. 2-5 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

sexcriminalsvol2-5

Sex Criminals is another graphic novel series I have wanted to finish for a while. I read the first volume two years ago and distinctly remember liking it, though not loving it. Still, I want to continue with the series mainly for the entertainment value as well as wanting to read more sex positive literature. The sixth and final volume of Sex Criminals will come out in summer of 2019, so I plan to be all caught up by then.

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily A. Danforth

themiseducationofcameronpost

The Miseducation of Cameron Post was one of those books I saved years ago on Goodreads, but always forgot about, even after learning they were making a movie. What got me thinking about it again was during a mock reference interview for one of my classes. My partner wanted articles on conversion therapy. If you are unaware, The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows title character, Cameron Post, who is sent by her religious aunt to a conversion camp to be “fixed” after getting caught kissing a girl. As strange as it is, those have always been a topic of fascination for me.

 

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

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Teodora “Teo” DiSangro is the daughter of a mafia don and she can turn people into music boxes or mirrors. Her family keeps her abilities secret as they take out enemies to the family. Then, the Capo, the new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families. With four and her father fighting for his life, Teo transforms herself into a boy to travel to the capital to seek revenge. Along the way, she meets another gender-fluid shape shifter named Cielo; together, they uncover sinister secrets that could doom their world if they don’t do something about it.

 

Uncharted by Erin Cashman

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Uncharted is one of the books in this haul I stumbled upon at the bookstore and the synopsis caught my attention. To cope with the guilt she feels about her role in her mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Annabeth turns to books and painting. She accompanies her father to the funeral of family friends and meets the couple’s son, Griffin, who is changed by his own grief. A few nights later, Annabeth’s father goes missing in the woods. Suspecting Griffin knows more than he’s saying, particularly regarding the seven months his parents went missing in Ireland, Annabeth fears her father isn’t dead but in fact the victim of something worse. Fantasy and reality dangerously blur as she searches for answers, leading to a secret that some would kill to protect.

 

The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles

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An adult historical fiction novel, The Air You Breathe follows two young women from very different classes that forge a strong friendship that spans decades. One is the spoiled daughter of a sugar baron and the other is an orphan working in the kitchen. As children, they bond over their shared love of mischief. As they grow older, they bond over a love of music. With one the singer and the other the composer, they embark on a musical career that tests their friendship. But through it all is the fear that neither girl can survive without the other.

 

Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan

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When eccentric novelist Robert Eady vanishes, he leaves behind his wife Leah, their two daughters, plane tickets to Paris, and a half-finished manuscript Leah had no idea he was writing. It leads her and her daughters to Paris, where they hope to find Robert. Instead, they find an English-language bookshop with an owner eager to sell. Leah impulsively buys the store, if only to have a reason to stay in Paris. But as the family settles into the Parisian lifestyle and fall in love with beloved French classics, Leah makes some startling discoveries that lead her to question if she knew Paris, or even her own husband, as well as she thought she did.

 

The Witch Elm by Tana French

thewitchelm

Tana French is an author I’ve wanted to get into for a few years now. She writes an adult mystery series called the Dublin Murder Squad, which follows a group of detectives in the UK. However, I have mixed feelings towards books like that now, though I was obsessed with them in the later years of high school/early years of college.

The Witch Elm is a stand-alone novel with a plot that is right up my alley. It follows Toby, a once carefree charmer with everything going for him until he walks in on a burglary and is beaten within an inch of his life. To recover from the trauma, he returns to his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle. But when a skull is found inside the trunk of an elm tree on the property and an investigation gets close to home, Toby must face the possibility his life was not what he thought it was.

 

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird

daughterofadaughterofaqueen

Cathy Williams was born into slavery, but her mother never let her think herself a slave. Her chance of escaping bondage comes in the form of wayward Union soldier Philip Sheridan who takes her into service. At the end of the war, unwilling to give up the taste of freedom she earned, Cathy disguises herself as a man and joins the Buffalo Soldiers. Inside the ultimate man’s world, she refuses to give up until she finds her family and the only man worthy enough to have won her heart.

 

The Darkling Bride by Laura Anderson

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Another book that caught my eye at the indie bookstore, The Darkling Bride is set in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, inside the Deeprath Castle. The Gallagher family has called the castle home for seven hundred years, but the estate is now slated to fall into public trust. Scholar Carragh Ryan is hired to take inventory of the library, but when she meets Aidan, the current Viscount Gallagher, she realizes her assignment might be more challenging than she thought. Only as she uncovers the castle’s history of unexplained, violent deaths and the legends of the Darkling Bride, a dangerous woman whose wrath allegedly haunts Deeprath Castle, Carragh will get more than she ever bargained for.

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing is a book I had my eye on since I first heard about it. Once I saw the hardcover for sale at the bookstore, I knew there was no chance of turning it down again. It follows three hundred years of one family, starting with two half sisters named Effia and Esi, born into two different villages in Ghana with no idea the other exists. Effia is married off to a wealthy Englishman and her descendants will face generations of warfare in Ghana and clash with British colonization. As for Esi, she is sold into slavery and lives on a plantation in the American South, where her descendants will face the Civil War leading up into the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth century Harlem.

 

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

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Like in previous years, I have not read the majority of the books nominated for the 2018 Goodreads Best Books of the Year awards. While flipping through the nominees, the cover of Dracul caught my eye and I read the synopsis. The next time I was at the bookstore, I bought it.

Written by Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew, Dracul explains the origin story of the infamous novel Dracula. It begins with Bram Stoker as a child, sickly and bedridden, being cared for by a woman named Ellen Crone. When a series of strange murders occur in a neighboring town, Bram and his sister Matilda notice a bizarre, frightening behavior change in Ellen until she suddenly disappears from their lives. Years later, as young adults, Matilda comes home from studying in Paris to tell Bram she saw Ellen, leading the Stokers to realize the nightmare from their childhood was only the beginning.

 

Mark of the Beast by Adolphus A. Anekue

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The one book in this haul I did not buy, it was an early Christmas present from one of my best friends. And she knows me well. Mark of the Beast follows Dr. Regina Dickerson, a Catholic physician in San Diego, who discovered violent criminals carry a certain genetic disposition in their blood. With her theory constantly proven valid by several experiments, the media coverage installs a fear in the public of witch hunts and forcible genetic testing. Then, after declaring a connection between genetic coding and the mark of the devil, Dr. Dickerson has to find her own answers in lieu of many people wanting her dead.

 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Books on My Christmas Wish List

This is supposed to be a Top 5 Tuesday post, but….

When it comes to books, to quote my dad, I am “gluttonous.” While I did manage to think of a few non-book items to ask for, I still generated a wish list of books that I wanted for Christmas. And there are way more than five.

I could easily find out how many Dad bought for me. Only I made that mistake last year (totally by accident, of course) and I spoiled the surprise for myself. This year, I’m trying not to do that.

Will I find all twelve of these books under the tree? We shall see what is in those two big boxes my dad has already wrapped and put under the tree with my name on them. Until then, the books on my Christmas 2018 wish list are:

 

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

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The Masterpiece is a dual time period novel following two women connected to the Grand Central Station in New York City. The first perspective follows twenty-five-year-old Clara Darden, an art teacher trying to make a name for herself in 1928. While she juggles the affections of two men and works toward becoming an illustrator for Vogue, the Great Depression destroys the entire art scene. But the worst tragedy of Clara’s life comes after that.

The other perspective is in 1974. Recently divorced single mom Virginia Clay gets a job at the ticket booth in Grand Central Station. The once beautiful train station is full of grime and drug dealers. With talk lingering of knocking the building down, Virginia finds the remains of the art school Clara taught at under the rubble of the terminal, along with a beautiful watercolor painting. Her search for the artist leads her right into the heart of the movement to save Grand Central Station as well as the mystery of Clara’s disappearance in 1931.

 

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

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Fiona Davis’s debut novel, The Dollhouse, is another novel set in two time periods. In 1952, Darby McLaughlin is a secretarial student living at the Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York City trying to find her way to success. She befriends a maid named Esme, who introduces her to the underground world of jazz, where the air with thick with smoke, drugs, and romance. The other timeline is fifty years later, following journalist Rose Lewin, who is currently living at the newly renovated Barbizon Hotel. She becomes fascinated with her neighbor Darby’s mysterious past and the rumors tied to her fight with a maid that ended very badly. But when Rose gets closer to Darby, she uncovers shocking secrets that will change both of them.

 

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

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The Lost Queen follows a long-forgotten sixth century Scottish queen, Languoreth, who was the twin sister of the man that inspired the legend of Merlin. She ruled during a time of chaos and bloodshed, where Christianity threatened to wipe out all evidence of pagan beliefs from medieval Scotland. With her twin brother Lailoken by her side, Languoreth is catapulted into a world filled with violence and danger. War brings not only hero Emrys Pendragon to their door, but also handsome warrior Maelgwn, who steals the queen’s heart. Unfortunately, Languoreth is promised to Rhydderch, the High King who is sympathetic to Christians. Once married to the king, she will assume her role as a protector of the Old Ways, Scotland, and all she loves.

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah about two years ago. I really liked it, but I was not head over heels like everyone else. But I liked her storytelling enough that I wanted to check out The Great Alone. This one follows Leni Albright, a thirteen-year-old girl in 1974 who is the daughter of a Vietnam POW. Ernt Albright came home from the war a changed man and frequently takes his anger out on his wife, Leni’s mother Cora. After getting fired from another job, Ernt decides to relocate the family to Alaska. Leni hopes this will be a fresh start for her family. But while their neighbors are kind and provide resources, once winter comes and the cabin is covered under eighteen hours of darkness, Leni and Cora will learn just how alone they really are.

 

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

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In the summer of 1862, Edward Radcliffe leads a group of aspiring artists to a summer retreat at Birchwood Manor. By the end of their stay, an heirloom has been stolen, a woman is shot dead, another has gone missing, and Edward Radcliffe’s life is over. 150 years later, London archivist Elodie Winslow finds a leather satchel containing a photograph of a beautiful woman in Victorian clothing and an artist’s sketchbook of a house on a river. This leads her to Birchwood Manor to uncover the secrets of what really happened that fateful summer.

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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In 1969, the four Gold siblings sneak out of the house one night to get their fortunes told by a travelling psychic that can tell you the day you will die. The story then covers the next fifty years of the Gold siblings’ lives and how they choose to live them upon learning their respective fates. Simon Gold will leave New York for the West Coast to find love in 1980s San Francisco. Klara Gold will become a magician in Las Vegas, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy. Daniel Gold seeks security as an army doctor post-September 11th. Lastly, Varya Gold throws herself into longevity research as she tests the boundaries between science and immortality.

 

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

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In the summer of 1951, eighteen-year-old Miranda Schuyler is still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War when she joins her mother and new stepfather, Hugh Fisher, on the secretive Winthrop Island. Despite having graduated from an elite private school, Miranda has grown up on the edges of high society until her new stepsister, Isobel, takes her under wing. But the person Miranda grows closest to is Joseph Vargas, a Brown University student that spends his summers working his father’s fishing boat. That all changes when Joseph murders Miranda’s stepfather. And when Miranda returns to Winthrop Island in 1969 and Joseph escapes from prison, she will be forced to confront the secrets of what really happened in 1951.

 

The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jeffries

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In 1935 Ceylon, Louisa Reeves, the daughter of a successful British gem trader, marries Elliot, a charming, thrill-seeking businessman. On the surface, the couple appears to have everything they want. Except, of course, the one thing they really want: a baby. Louisa suffers miscarriage after miscarriage, but her husband continues to pull away, spending more time at a neighboring cinnamon plantation. After Elliot suddenly dies, Louisa visits the plantation hoping to find answers. There, she meets Leo, the plantation’s handsome owner with a mysterious past, and is charmed by the beauty of the plantation. But when a secret about her husband is revealed, her whole world is turned upside down.

 

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyersen

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Miranda Brooks grew up in her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the scavenger hunts he created just for her entertainment. Then, when she is twelve, Billy has a falling out with Miranda’s mother and disappears from their lives. Sixteen years later, Billy is dead and has left his bookstore to Miranda, along with one final scavenger hunt. She finds the clues to his scavenger hunt hidden everywhere in the bookstore, leading her to people from Billy’s past, as well as a terrible secret Miranda’s mother has hidden from her for years.

 

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

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As Bright as Heaven was one of those library books that was always checked out and had the really long hold list. From what I’ve seen of the ratings, I can guess why. The story is set in Philadelphia circa 1918. Pauline Bright and her husband move to the city with their three daughters in hopes of a better life. Unfortunately, months later the Spanish Flu makes its way to the States. As the disease claims twelve thousand victims, the Bright family will face tragedies, challenges, and discover what they are willing to give up or fight for.

 

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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In 1986, Eddie and his friends are young boys looking for ways to entertain themselves in their small English village. They invent a code of little chalk men, created in a way only they can understand. Then, a mysterious chalk figure leads them to a dead body in the woods. Years later, in 2016, Eddie is an adult who has put the incident behind him. Then, he receives a letter in the mail with a chalk stick figure inside. He thinks it’s a prank, until he finds out all of his friends got them too and one of them is now dead.

 

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

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Amar, the youngest child in an Indian-American Muslim family, returns to his California hometown for his big sister Hadia’s wedding after three years estranged from the family. On top of their eldest daughter marrying for love instead of tradition, the parents, Rafiq and Layla, must face the consequences of the lies and betrayal that drove their son away in the first place. Spanning over decades, the novel follows the parents, who strove to pass on their culture to their children in a land not familiar to them, and the three children that struggled to remain true to themselves while still being loyal to the home they grew up in. But even the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

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In an alternate 1967, four female scientists invent a time machine. Before they can reveal their creation to the world, one of the women suffers a breakdown and is pushed out of the group, erasing her contributions from history. Fifty years later, time travel is a big business and Ruby Rebello knows her grandmother, Bee, was one of the original scientists, but no one will give her the full story. Then, Bee receives a literal message from the future in the form of a newspaper clipping reporting the murder of an unidentified woman. Fearing this could possibly be her grandmother, Ruby takes it upon herself to find answers before her beloved Bee can be harmed.

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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In 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is ripped away from his home, along with many, many others, and sent to Auschwitz. When his captors realize he speaks several languages, Lale is given the responsibility as the camp’s tattooist, marking his fellow prisoners with the infamous camp ID numbers. Imprisoned for two and a half years, he witnesses every horrific act imaginable as well as incredible acts of bravery and compassion. He also uses his position to trade possessions of murdered Jews to get food for the other inmates. Lale also meets Gita, a young woman he vows to make his wife should they both survive captivity.

I’m already feeling all the feels for The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

 

Another Woman’s Husband by Gill Paul

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Another Woman’s Husband follows two parallel time lines, each connecting to that fateful car accident that robbed Prince William and Prince Harry of their mother, Princess Diana. The first is set in 1911, following best friends Wallis and Mary, who meet at summer camp when they are fifteen. Their friendship survives years of heartbreak and the demands of the Crown until a devastating betrayal ruined everything. The other, set in 1997, follows Rachel, a witness to Princess Diana’s accident in Paris. Still haunted by what she saw, Rachel goes home to England and finds out that, hours before she died, Diana had visited Wallis. Curious, she digs deeper into the mystery, uncovering a scandal that will shake the world to its core.

 

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

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When Grandmere Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, the magic that has been passed down through the family for centuries appears to die with her. Then, her granddaughter steps into the circle and magic is reborn. The novel then covers five generations of the family; from 19th century Brittany to London during World War II, as each witch encounters dangers of all kinds and make the ultimate decisions on how far they are willing to go to protect what they love as well as the future of humanity.

 

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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On the outside, fifteen-year-old Kambili and her brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Nigeria. While their father is a respected member of the community, at home he is fanatically religious and tyrannical. Formerly shielded from the violence and political unrest of the outside world, after a military coup, the siblings are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city. There, they are introduced to a new way of life and thinking. But when they are finally sent back home, tensions rise and Kambili must keep her family from falling apart as the country they once knew does.

 

What books are you hoping to get for Christmas?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Books I Didn’t Get to in 2018

Sadly, there are more than five books I can put on this list….

In the beginning of 2018, I was doing good, reading books off the top ten I had prioritized for the year. Then, life happened.

21 of the 52 books I read so far this year were library books. And likely you will see more in my final reading wrap up of the year. In theory, that’s a good thing. I love the library (obviously). After I got my acceptance letter, I made more of a point to check out books whenever I could. On the other end of that, my books at home were often ignored.

Some of these, I have a reason for why I kept putting them off. The rest, not really.

The five books I did not get to in 2018 are:

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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When I first got into Sarah J. Maas’s books, I was obsessed. I loved the first three books in the Throne of Glass series and I adored A Court of Thorns and Roses. Then, somewhere between Queen of Shadows and A Court of Mist and Fury, my passion for these two series just…dissipated.

I blame the fandom on this one. I acknowledge that Sarah’s books are not perfect. There are not enough diversity among the characters in terms of sexuality or ethnicity, as well as some problematic themes in the romantic relationships. But the people who are die-hard for anything Sarah J. Maas were really starting to get on my nerves. While any distaste readers feel towards characters such as Chaol Westfall or Tamlin are justified, that does not give them the right to verbally attack those who still love and support these characters.

I will still read A Court of Wings and Ruin because, despite everything, there are still characters in this series I like. Though I was spoiled for something MAJOR involving everyone’s favorite High Lord of the Night Court, it doesn’t bother me because I’m just in it for the smut. And if I do want to read A Court of Frost and Starlight, I’ll get it from the library.

 

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

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I read Lady Midnight in 2017 and it was one of my favorite books of the year. Shortly after I initially read it, I bought Lord of Shadows intending to read it after a short break, and then…it didn’t happen. By the time I realized I had not picked up Lord of Shadows yet, it was getting too close to the first day of school and, with only a few months before Queen of Air and Darkness came out, I figured I would be better off waiting. That way, I can marathon the remaining books in the trilogy. And, hopefully, not completely die inside.

 

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

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I honestly have no explanation for this one. I don’t know why I didn’t pick up Our Dark Duet. It’s not that I didn’t like This Savage Song or I was so upset about it being a duology. I still remember the key points that happened in the first book, so I’m not in too much trouble yet. Still, I ask myself “why?” all the time.

 

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

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I am not emotionally, physically, or mentally prepared to read A Reaper at the Gates. I’m just not. Worse still, once I pick it up, all other responsibilities will cease to exist. Not exactly the wisest decision for a graduate student.

 

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

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As is the case with Lord of Shadows, I enjoyed the first book of this series, Truthwitch, and I picked up its sequel, Windwitch, almost right after reading it in 2017. I had every intention to read it as soon as possible. Then, of course, stuff happened, as it does. Not only that, I found out there was to be a big gap between Windwitch and the third book in the series, Bloodwitch, so I wasn’t very happy about that. Only now there is the prequel novella Sightwitch. My plan, also as with the last two books in The Dark Artifices trilogy, is to marathon the next three books in the Witchlands series after Bloodwitch comes out in February. Then, have a massive book hangover of the ages.

 

What books did you hope to get to in 2018 but didn’t?

 

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Book Titles

Guys, it’s the last week of classes. I survived my first semester of graduate school!

True, the last bit has been stressful, but I knew that going into it. Best part, I did well in all my classes, though I felt like I was struggling in two of them. Almost over now, though. Next semester, I’m really excited about the classes I’m taking: a course in archives (where they actually get us an internship so we can practice), one on intellectual freedom, and the last one on library services to underrepresented populations. With any luck, my advisor will also get the green light to have the reader’s advisory course this summer, too.

Now that school is pretty much done, I can spend the next month and a half (I go back to school January 22nd!) getting back into reading and blogging. Starting with this week’s Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Book Titles.

 

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

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Isn’t that such a cool title? RoseBlood is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera set at a boarding school in Paris. The main character, Rune, has a beautiful singing voice, but whenever she sings, it drains her life force. Her mother sends her to RoseBlood, a music conservatory in Paris, hoping it will help. There, Rune meets the handsome, elusive Thorn, who turns out to be the ward of the original Phantom. The Phantom has dangerous plans for Rune and uses Thorn to lure her in. But as Rune and Thorn fall in love, he will have to decide if he is brave enough to defy the only father he’s ever known.

As the title suggests, RoseBlood is creepy and gothic. I enjoyed the atmosphere of this novel very much and A.G. Howard’s descriptive writing style. Sadly, however, the plot fell a little flat. But I think I just wasn’t in the right mindset for it. I hope to give RoseBlood a second chance someday.

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

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When I first heard this title, I thought it was the dumbest ever. Then, fifteen-year-old me got a great surprise when I finished this book in two days and loved it.

I know there were some rather unsavory revelations about Sherman Alexie made public within the last year, but The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian holds a special place in my heart. It was the book I used my first year as a teaching assistant in college. Then, my second year as a TA, the professor I worked with loved it so much she recommended it to the committee that chose the first-year students’ summer common read, they loved it too, and it was chosen. Even better, the students themselves loved the book. So, for that, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a separate entity with no ties to its creator whatsoever.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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I can’t recall the last time, if ever, that I mentioned Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I read it and the sequel, Hollow City, a few years ago now. I own the final book in the original trilogy, Library of Souls, yet I haven’t gotten around to it. Recently, I was wondering why I kept putting off finishing this series, especially once Map of Days came out in October. It wasn’t because I didn’t want the series to end (not that I have to worry about that anymore) but because I actually didn’t enjoy the books as much as I thought I did.

When I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children back in 2012 or 2013, I was not a critical reader. I either loved a book or I hated it, with very little in between. I was also hardcore into anything spooky. Although, this trilogy is probably tame compared to others. I think, if I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children now, I might give it a three-star rating instead of a five. I’ll find out eventually.

 

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

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As the title suggests, As the Trees Crept In is creepy. Two sisters flee an abusive home life to their aunt’s manor in the countryside. Their aunt is very good to them and, for a while, the girls are happy. Then, strange things start happening in the woods surrounding the property, like the trees moving on their own, seeming like they are getting closer to the house. The girls’ aunt starts acting bizarre and the younger sister claims she has a shadowy imaginary friend that lives in the basement. And when a mysterious boy shows up, it only gets weirder.

Dawn Kurtagich is a completely underrated author, in my opinion. Her books are the good kind of young adult horror that have solid plot and character development. Plus, her writing is creepy and unsettling without trying too hard. Between the two books she has out in the States, And the Trees Crept In is currently my favorite title of hers. Likely, that will change when her next book, Teeth in the Mist, comes out in 2019.

 

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

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The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is the only title on this list I have read but not finished. Set in 1751, it follows Tristan Hart, a promising young medical student with psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies, i.e. he has the desire to heal others’ pain as well as a strong desire to inflict physical harm. As his urges grow stronger, he dives into the new studies of the age—the developments in science and the birth of psychology—to understand why he is what he is before it ruins his life.

I genuinely enjoyed the 100 or so pages I read of The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones. Unfortunately, I didn’t time it right. Aside from being over 500 pages, Jack Wolf wrote the novel (originally published in 2013) like how actual authors in 1751 wrote their books. While I fully appreciated it, it did not change the fact that it made the book even more dense than it already was.

 

What are some of the most memorable titles on your bookshelves?