Review of To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (Spoiler-Free)

I had to sit on this review for a few days to figure out how I really feel about the book…let’s see if I got my point across.

            To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo is a darker retelling of The Little Mermaid with sirens. Lira is a siren and the daughter of the Sea Queen. Elain is a prince, pirate, and siren killer. Their paths cross when, as punishment for killing one of her own, Lira is turned into a human by her vicious mother. After that, she’s given until the solstice to collect a lost artifact, the same one Elain is also searching for.

            To Kill a Kingdom is a novel I’ve wanted to read since it came out in 2018 and kept putting off for various reasons. It is one of the many novels I wanted to make a priority in 2021. Plus, it is a Little Mermaid retelling, my favorite fairy tale after Beauty and the Beast. Mermaids and sirens are some of my favorite mythological creatures. As such, I went into this book with slightly high expectations.

            That being said, I was not entirely disappointed by To Kill a Kingdom. But it didn’t completely hit the mark, either.

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            I would describe the story as plot-driven. Things happened and the characters reacted to them. Sometimes, the characters made decisions that led to certain incidents. Only, often times, the problems the characters encountered resolved too quickly or too easily. There was no real sense of urgency in any of the disasters. Nor did it feel like the decisions they made had no real consequences. The single action that seemed to provide any was Lira accidentally killing a mermaid and being turned into a human.

            While the author did not shy away from the gruesomeness of siren society, all the characters and their relationships felt two-dimensional. Lira and Elian had entertaining banter. Both were misfits in their respective kingdoms, thus they had a certain outlook on their respective societies. This made them slightly more interesting as protagonists. Except they, their romance, and all their other positive relationships did not feel as fleshed-out as they could have been.  

There was a lot more telling than showing in To Kill a Kingdom. The writing made me feel like I was expected to believe such things without having any real evidence to show for it. This mainly applies to Elian’s relationship with his friends and his crew on the ship. As for Lira’s toxic relationship with her mother, that was more complex than any of the healthier relationships in the book. It is also Lira where her relationships, positive and negative, helped her question what she’s always believed in a new perspective.

            As for the romance between Lira and Elian, I’m not sure if I can get behind it. They saw a lot of themselves in each other, which helped bring them find common ground. But given how fiery they were as individuals, I expected a little more spark in their relationship. I was even more baffled by the fact Elain didn’t figure out Lira was a siren; it seemed so obvious to me. Elian and Lira seemed to be better apart than together, which is disappointing for a retelling of The Little Mermaid.

            The writing of To Kill a Kingdom was good, but it is definitely a debut novel. The author sometimes uses overly flowery language when simpler descriptions would suffice. Because of this combined with the longer descriptions, I felt more taken out of the story than I was brought in. Surprisingly, the beginning was fast-paced and entertaining. Then, it proceeded to drag for the rest of the novel as the author started in on the info-dumping.

On the flip side to that, the siren/mermaid mythology blended both traditional elements well with the author’s own idea of sirens. The world-building was darkly atmospheric, yet frequently info-dumpy. The author provided more information than was needed in the writing. This did not allow the reader to come to their own conclusions or use their imagination.

Overall, I give To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo 3.25 stars. Despite the overly long  descriptions, info-dumping, and slightly weak romance, I did enjoy the storytelling, the world-building, and the author’s take on sirens. While it felt like a debut, but the writing was promising enough that I still want to read Alexandra Christo’s other books. Lastly, I would still recommend it, specifically to people that like mermaids and/or are new to fantasy. A reader new to fantasy might appreciate the longer descriptions more comfortable in the genre.    

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Books of 2020

Never did I think I would have only five favorite books in a year….

            In the past, I had a difficult time narrowing down my favorite books of the year. 2020 was the opposite—I felt like I couldn’t come up with one. Worse still, I read 106 books. Around 85% of those books were picture books. They will be getting their own favorites post.  

In the meantime, here are my top five favorite books of 2020:

To Drink Coffee with a Ghost by Amanda Lovelace

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To Drink Coffee with a Ghost was the second book I read in 2020. Besides that, it was one of the few books that I not only read in a single sitting but also succeeded in making me ugly cry. It is my favorite Amanda Lovelace poetry collection to date. It is the collection that resonated with me the most, as her writing hit close to home. Unless Shine Your Icy Crown can somehow blow it out of the water, To Drink Coffee with a Ghost will be both my favorite Lovelace poetry collection as well as my all-time favorite poetry collection overall.

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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If I had to pick one favorite book of 2020, it would be Aurora Burning. I found next to no fault with this sequel. I loved the writing and story development and world-building. I absolutely adored the character arcs. I’m deeply attached to the misfits of Squad 312. I think about them on an almost daily basis. I’m waiting on pins and needles for the final novel. Why no one SJM-level obsessed with these books is beyond me.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

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I have no idea what I was expecting when I picked up Dear Martin this summer. I wanted to read books by Black authors and show my support for the BLM protests. I got more than what I bargained for. Dear Martin is another book I found no fault in. All the characters felt like real people. I also very much appreciated how fair Nic Stone was, but she didn’t shy away from the realness of the issues covered.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

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Of all the books on this list, I expected 5 stars from Home Before Dark. The early reviews were extremely positive. As you can see, it delivered. The mystery kept me on my toes. The plot went in directions I never expected. The author did a good job making everyone look guilty. Smart and levelheaded thinker Maggie is my favorite Riley Sager protagonist so far. No matter how creepy, I read Home Before Dark in a day, refusing to sleep until I finished it. Nightmares be damned.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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Though I gave The Fountains of Silence 4.75 stars where I gave the rest of the books on this list 5, I put it on my top-five favorites of 2020 for a few different reasons. The main one being I’m still thinking about it months later. Daniel is perfect. Ana reminds me of myself in so many ways. The writing, as always, was flawless and it was more of a character study than the author’s other books I’ve read. In hindsight, I wanted to give The Fountains of Silence 5 stars—probably should have—but the dragging ending got on my nerves. Regardless, I would definitely reread The Fountains of Silence in the future, for the characters alone.

What were your five favorite books of 2020?

My *Almost* Favorite Books of 2020

Hailey in Bookland recently did this for Bookmas. I never considered books that were almost my favorite before. The ones that I went into with certain expectations that were not quite fulfilled, but they didn’t completely miss the mark either.

            I still call these books favorites, only not enough to call my favorites of 2020. Those books are:

The Winter King by C.L. Wilson

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If I had to pick the most surprising book of 2020, it would be The Winter King. I went into this novel with very low expectations. In the end, I gave it 3.75 stars for the steamy, slow-burn romance and surprisingly action-packed plot. The only reason I didn’t give it a higher rating was because it was longer than I thought it needed to be. Ten-page sex scenes were fine, but there were others that could have been cut down.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

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I went into Echo North as excited as I am when I go into any Beauty and the Beast retelling. While I rated it around 3 stars, I expected to give it a higher rating. For the first half of the book, it seemed like it might be. Then, I reached a point where I was reading to see if it would get better. Despite the setting being atmospheric and the twist on Beauty and the Beast was interesting, everything else was two-dimensional at best. That being said, I still do recommend Echo North to people who enjoy Beauty and the Beast retellings.

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

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Before the Ever After is an example of me being picky. I read it in under 24 hours. I liked the writing style and how it was written in verse. I loved the solid family unit and the realistic portrayal of a child witnessing his family go through trauma. I gave Before the Ever After 4.75 stars because certain parts dragged too long and the unexpected time jumps were jarring.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Mexican Gothic is a book where I think it was me, not it. I liked the writing style, the characters, and the spooky setting. For a horror novel, the twist was out there. If done well, I usually like those. Yet, I struggled to read even a few pages. By the summer, reading in 2020 became more of a chore, no matter how much I might have enjoyed the book. If I ever reread Mexican Gothic or pick up anything else by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, maybe I will know for sure.    

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

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I liked the concept of The Night Diary: a historical middle grade novel during the 1947 partition of India told through a twelve-year-old’s letters to her deceased mother. I liked the writing and the main character reminded me of myself at that age. Again, I don’t know if it was the book or me. It took longer for me to read The Night Diary than it should have. Apparently, I have a pet peeve about books taking too long to get to the point. The Night Diary was one of them.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

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I loved Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel, The Poet X, so much so I went into With the Fire on High with high expectations. I was mildly disappointed it wasn’t written in verse, but the writing was still beautiful. The chapters were short, making it easy to fly through. The protagonist, Emoni, was a spitfire I adored. I related to her loyalty to her family, wanting to put them first while pursue her own dreams at the same time. Yet another situation where I’m sure it was 2020 and not the book. I also made the mistake of reading With the Fire on High while reading other books, which probably made it worse. 4 stars isn’t a bad rating, but given it is Elizabeth Acevedo, I had to wonder.

Bloodlines books 1-3 by Richelle Mead

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The first three books of the Bloodlines series—Bloodlines, The Golden Lily, and The Indigo Spell—are what helped me get through the first months of quarantine. I went into the spin-off series to Vampire Academy with low expectations. I liked Sydney Sage and I related to her. The plots were entertaining and fast-paced. Then, I struggled to get through the first 50 pages of The Fiery Heart.

After reading The Indigo Spell and being slightly underwhelmed, I realized that Bloodlines will likely follow the same pattern as Vampire Academy: strong beginning, then a slow middle before a possibly lackluster ending. I also realized I’m not even remotely anAdrian Ivashkov fangirl. Just reading the first chapter of The Fiery Heart (which is in Adrian’s POV) made me not like the book. Thus, being inside Adrian’s head for the next three books were not going to be fun for me. Which is why I think if the books had continued to be told through only Sydney’s perspective, I might have finished the Bloodlines series by now. Maybe next year I will get back to reading the next three books in the Bloodlines series.

Although, to be perfectly honest, it’s not a priority at the moment.

What book(s) missed the mark for you in 2020?

My Favorite Picture Books I Read in 2020

2020 was the year of the picture book.

            Before this year, I never gave much thought to reading picture books for fun. I believed I wouldn’t get any enjoyment out of them because I’m “too old.” My children’s literature class changed that. Months later, at the announcement of the Goodreads Choice Awards, I chose several of the picture book nominees to read in November.

            Since I read so many this year, I decided to make a post on my seven favorite picture books of 2020. Those picture books are:

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

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Julian is a Mermaid is about a little boy that sees mermaids on the subway with his abuela and wants to be one. The best part, his grandmother is totally cool with it. The story is so sweet, teaching unconditional love with subtle LGBTQ+ themes. The artwork is soft and beautiful. I had to stop myself from buying a copy, for a lot of these for that matter.

Electric Ben by Robert Byrd

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Electric Ben is a nonfiction picture book about the life of Benjamin Franklin. This book confirmed I like fellow reader Ben Franklin. It portrayed this Founding Father in a generally positive light, but also showed he was a flawed person. I appreciated that so much. 

Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

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The girl power of Just Like Me is top-notch. When I was coming of age, there was so much girl-on-girl hate, inside and outside of books. Reading this picture book makes me feel hopeful about the next generation of girls building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

This Book is Gray by Lindsay Ward

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This Book is Gray discusses how what might be perceived as bad might not necessarily be as such under different circumstances. Using colors makes it accessible for children to understand, but if you’re an adult you get it. I can’t fully articulate how much I loved This Book is Gray; just know I want everyone to read it.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

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As a librarian and a reader, The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read resonated with me on so many levels. The message “you’re never too old to learn” came across perfectly. Former slave Mary Walker was over 100 years old when she finally learned to read after a lifetime of working hard to support herself and her family. Her story is a reminder that it is a privilege to learn to read and it’s never too late to improve yourself.

Dewdrop by Katie O’Neil

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The picture book I voted for in the Goodreads Choice Awards, Dewdrop is happiness in hardcover form. It’s about building up each other’s strengths while embracing your own. This is another picture book I can’t fully articulate my love for. I just adore this wholesome work of art.  

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

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Library Lion is one I discovered in a bookstore while I was still working and read it from the library in November. The artwork was fun like an old-time comic. I loved how the library was part of the story. I even enjoyed the traditional librarian stereotypes. Library Lion is another picture book I can’t quite pinpoint why I love it, despite the obvious reasons of a lion living inside of a library.

Do you have a favorite picture book?

Least Favorite Books of 2020

For all the complaining I have done about 2020, I read only five 2-star reads and a single 1-star. Compared to other years, that is impressive.  

            I call these books my “least favorite” because they are ones I had genuine negative feelings towards. Any that I read this year I thought disappointed me I’m unsure about. There were a few books that disappointed me this year, but the state of my mental health has me wondering if it was me or the book. If I ever reread them, I will know for sure.

            Until then, here are my least favorite books of 2020.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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God almighty…this book was boring. The writing was awful. The characters were flat. The plot made no sense. The romance was one of the cringiest I’ve read. In all fairness, I went into Shiver with low expectations. I just didn’t expect to give it 1 star. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I will not be continuing with this trilogy.

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

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Because I read this book before lockdowns were even a thought, I know I was for sure disappointed by Sabrina. The characters had no depth or motivation or any real qualities. I’m not entirely sure what the author was trying to say or how this graphic novel won awards. The plot, if you could call it that, offered nothing. If you want to know the full depth of my disappointment in Sabrina, know that I will be unhauling it the moment I am able to.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

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I read The Painted Girls right as the new semester began, so it’s another book I know for sure I did not like. I borrowed it from the library and it took me around two weeks to read it even before school started. The Painted Girls was just boring. The plot took forever to get to the point. Two-dimensional characters, at best, with motivations that made no sense. Honestly, I barely remember anything positive about it.

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Colleen Doran

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The concept for Snow, Glass, Apples was so cool. It is a retelling of Snow White with the title character as the villain and the stepmother as the heroine. The graphic novel’s artwork was stunning. But the characters had no depth to speak of and the only thing I can distinctly recall from it is necrophilia….

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

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The Slave Dancer is a book I randomly picked up from the library in honor of Banned Books Week. The aspect I remember most about it is there was more telling than showing. Given the book’s subject matter—a white boy abducted from New Orleans to play the flute on a slave ship—that’s not great. I wanted to care about the characters, but the way the author wrote them made me not.

What was your least favorite book of 2020?  

Matching Books to My Favorite Christmas Songs

I adore Christmas music. I start listening in October. I even listen to it random times during the year when I’m in a bad mood. That’s why it was so hard to keep this list to a minimum. As you will see shortly, I have a lot of favorite Christmas songs.

            Let me know how spot on (or not) I am if any of these songs are also your favorite!

“All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey

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Also known as my favorite Christmas song ever. The relationship between Ana and Daniel in The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys reminds me of this song. The romance between Kham and Wynter in The Winter King by C.L. Wilson is also a good contender.

“Santa Tell Me” sung by Ariana Grande or Pentatonix

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I was obsessed with Ariana’s version last year and this year I’ve been playing Pentatonix version on repeat. The lyrics of this song remind me of the relationship between Simon and Blue in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Prior to learning Blue’s identity, as they send flirty emails back and forth, Simon can’t help but wonder if Blue is the real deal.

“Christmas Without You” by Ava Max

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 “Christmas Without You” is a new favorite that dropped this year. Despite it being a more romantic song, the first book I thought of was The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. While the main character is dealing with the grief and confusion following her mother’s suicide, she’s also struggling with her developing feelings for her best friend, a boy she kissed the same day she found her mother’s body. She misses both of them for different reasons as well as feels guilty about certain actions she made towards them.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” by Pentatonix

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The intensity of this song reminds me of The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang. Whenever I hear this song, my heart races, just like it did when I read these books.

“My Only Wish” by Meghan Trainor and/or Britney Spears

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I actually prefer Meghan Trainor’s version of this song, but Britney Spears is the one I grew up with. Wishing for love at Christmas is usually the subject of most holiday songs. “My Only Wish” is the most iconic of them all. That’s why it reminds me of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison. The protagonist, Don Tillman, is a quirky professor looking for love and he makes one hapless mistake after the other.

“Where Are You Christmas?” sung by Pentatonix

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I liked Faith Hill’s original version, except I love the Pentatonix version ten times more. Sad and beautiful, I paired this song with What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper. This book is the definition of melancholy, set in the months following the liberation of concentration camps at the end of World War II and people trying to find their way again after so much tragedy.

“Little Drummer Boy” by Josh Groban

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Josh Groban’s voice is more than beautiful, it’s glorious. His is my absolute favorite of “Little Drummer Boy.” The books I came up with that even comes close to matching his voice in beauty inside and out is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesley Walton, A List of Cages by Robin Roe, and All We Have Left by Wendy Mills. The fact that I came up with three books is amazing, since I think Josh Groban’s singing voice is in a class all its own.

“Oh Santa!” by Mariah Carey

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“Oh Santa!” is all about trying to get back a former lover or make someone fall in love with you for Christmas. In The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, romantic poet Daniel is determined to prove to a cynical scientist named Natasha they can fall in love within 24 hours. Of all the songs and books on this list, “Oh Santa!” and The Sun is Also a Star seem to match perfectly together to me.

What Christmas song reminds you of a book or vice versa?

Matching Books to My Favorite Christmas Movies

Not since working in the women’s shoe department at Macy’s in 2016 have I felt so un-Christmassy….

            It’s why I’m making a point to write more Christmas-themed posts this year. My hope of finding a job in library science is holding strong. I managed to save enough where I can buy a decent amount of gifts for my family. But, as always, money is lurking at the back of my head. It’s one of the reasons I’m having such a hard time concentrating these days.

            This is where Blogmas comes in. I’m attempting to post as much as I can during December. You all will be seeing a lot more content from me over the next few weeks.

            Today, I’m recommending books based on my favorite Christmas movies. If any of these are also your favorites, let me know how spot on, or not, I am.

“Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town”

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“Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town” is classic I grew up with. The book I paired with this movie is The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser. Both have an imaginative and whimsical element. They also feel like their own fairy tales, one having a more bittersweet ending than the other.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

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Because it’s adorable and heartwarming with talking animals like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the book I thought of was The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. The sequel/companion novel, The One and Only Bob, is also a good match. The strong theme of friendship between misfits is prevalent as well, especially when they band together to help each other when they are in trouble.

Jim Carrey’s version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

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Compared to the two movies previously mentioned, I was not a big fan of Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Jim Carrey was an actor I never took seriously, until I watched his adaption of A Christmas Carol. It’s what made me give How the Grinch Stole Christmas a chance last year. Needless to say, I’m glad I did. The movie was surprisingly comedic and thoughtful simultaneously.

            To match this movie in lightheartedness and insight, I recommend This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter. It’s a contemporary magical realism about a girl starting to have visions about her donor’s death after a heart transplant. While this book is a cute romance with a mystery on the side, the main focus is the protagonist learning to live again after being dealt a death sentence.

“The Muppet Christmas Carol”

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To my father’s horror, “The Muppet Christmas Carol” is all-time favorite Christmas movie. The holidays are about joy and cheer, and that is this movie in a nutshell. The book that filled me with the most joy was Dewdrop by Katie O’Neill, an adorable, wholesome children’s picture book.

Disney’s adaption of “A Christmas Carol”

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Of all the movie adaptions of A Christmas Carol I’ve seen, the Disney film is the one that maintains the message of the source material but with more warmth instead of the Victorian grittiness. The book that reminds me of this film the most—as well as also being a retelling of the same novel—is The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. Like the Disney adaption of A Christmas Carol, The Afterlife of Holly Chase takes inspiration from the original work while adding its own spin. It makes the book feel like its own story instead of a copy and paste retelling.  

“The Nightmare Before Christmas”

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Is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Depends on who you ask. To me, it’s both. It has a spookily whimsy feel to it that perfectly matches Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. While the stories’ content might not qualify as “whimsical” to some, the artwork definitely does. Both “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and Through the Woods sucked me right in with the darkly fantastical atmosphere and highly entertaining content.

Are any of these your favorite Christmas movies? What books remind you for Christmas movies or vice versa? 

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Books with Disability Rep

I’m pleased to say I had more than five titles for this list. Books I’ve already read or that are on my TBR pile, where physical and/or mental disabilities are represented. Though I can only speak on one of these books in terms of accuracy of said respective representation, I personally found the ones I read of this list informative and I’m looking forward to reading the two I have not.

            The top five books with disability representation, on and off my to be read pile, are:

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

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Valencia, one of the narrators in Hello, Universe, is deaf and has a hearing aid. Throughout the book, there are several scenarios where she has to advocate for herself. One such example is telling people to look directly at her when they address her. There are also the other smaller annoyances of having a hearing aid, like trying to hear someone over a hum. Valencia provided insight to the daily struggles of living with a hearing aid. 

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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Will Porter was born blind and has accepted it, until he gets a chance to participate in an experimental surgery where he could gain his sight. His mom initially goes over his head to make him get the surgery and his dad is overprotective. On top of that, there are the other typical bumps that come along with being blind. Such examples are people being overly helpful and occasionally taking advantage of his blindness. But Will is levelheaded and has a good sense of humor when dealing with all of it.

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

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Having a family member on the autism spectrum, I can personally attest to the representation in Things I Should Have Known. There are certain situations the characters get into that I know happen in real life. While I found the overall book somewhat dry, the main character’s sister’s behavior was true to life. Such as becoming overwhelmed quickly when things go off schedule and being unable to understand social cues. Plus, there is a reason it is called the autism spectrum, because it varies so much across the scale and the book shows that, too.

You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

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One of the books I haven’t read yet, You’re Welcome, Universe follows Julia, a deaf girl forced to transfer to a mainstream high school after being expelled from her school for the deaf. Throughout the book, she uses her talent for graffiti art to cope with the situation and gets into a rivalry with another graffiti artist. I picked You’re Welcome, Universe up a few times since the summer, looking to read more diverse young adult contemporary novels. Only I kept putting it back on my shelves, intending to read later.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

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I found The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by chance at Barnes and Noble. A boy with Asperger’s syndrome and a girl with ADHD who meet in detention and bond over their love of an obscure medieval text. It’s one of those books I ask myself why I have not read it yet. And I have not heard anyone else talk about it, either.

What’s a book you think has the best disability representation?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Recommendations from the Bookish Side of the Internet

Unlike several unfortunate others I know, I do have a few reader friends in real life. Although, admittedly, I think I’m the ones I usually recommend they’ve already read….

            Even before the quarantine, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. Specifically, the bookish side of the Internet. As both a reader and a librarian, they are useful for different reasons. Fortunately, I lucked out on several occasions; I’ve found many of my all-time favorite books through BookTube.

            Five of my favorite recommendations from BookTube and the rest of the bookish Internet are:

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

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Prior to reading The Poppy War and its sequel, The Dragon Republic, I rarely read, if any, grimdark or military fantasy novels. Then, I saw it raved aboutin several different BookTube videos. I enjoyed The Poppy War and I liked its sequel, The Dragon Republic, even more. The characters are flawed and complex. The world building was gritty and realistic. And the tie-ins to Chinese mythology and history were the best. I’m glad I finally read the series, as it put grimdark and military fantasies on my radar. 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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When An Ember in the Ashes was first published, for reasons that escape me, I thought I would not like it. I originally read it from the library, just to see what the hype was all about. Obviously, I loved it and I loved the second novel, A Torch Against the Night. The constant action and the complex characters a reader could root for made the books easy to fly through. An Ember in the Ashes, along with the next book mentioned, is what solidified the reliability of BookTube for me.

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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Like the aforementioned An Ember in the Ashes, I first read The Wrath & the Dawn from the library and I had never read anything like it before. I was sucked in by the delicious writing and steamy romance. As soon as I could, I bought The Wrath & the Dawn along with a few other books, including its sequel The Rose & the Dagger. I read it almost immediately after purchase.  

Saga graphic novels by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

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I was not a reader of graphic novels, for reasons of “I prefer words.” (Completely disregarding the fact early human civilizations told stories through pictures.) When the first volumes of Saga came out, so many BookTubers I watched sang their praises. I can’t remember what drew me to finally read Volume 1, but I got sucked in. I became attached to the main characters. The entire universe the authors created was fascinating. And the dialogue was just on point. After that, as soon as I got my next paycheck, I bought the other volumes that were out at that time and read them back to back.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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BookTube is in love with anything Brandon Sanderson. Most of his high fantasy novels are over 1,000 pages long. That’s not exactly something I want to tackle when starting a new author. Besides, I wanted to read more science fiction and, frankly, the books Brandon Sanderson has written under that umbrella were more appealing. Skyward, which involves pilots defending their dystopian world from aliens, was the one I settled on. Admittedly, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, with its thrilling action scenes in flight, snarky main character, and on-point humor.

Do you watch BookTube and who is/what are your favorite videos to watch?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Books I’m Glad I Read

I had to think about books for this week’s list. For the most part, I’m confident in choosing what I like to read. Overall, I enjoy the act of reading, even if I did not love a particular book. Knowing I have another work to recommend is always helpful as a librarian. However, there have been books I read at the right time and ones that introduced me to new genres.

            Those five books are:

The Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

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To be more specific, I’m glad I read the Bloodlines series in 2020. I had this series saved on Goodreads for as long as I’ve had the account. When I went into lockdown in March, it seemed like a good idea to go to the library and stock up on fluffy books to read. Richelle Mead is the queen of fluffy young adult fantasy, so reading the Bloodlines series this year has been a welcome distraction.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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I read the very popular Illuminae by these authorsand did not love it as much as everyone else did. When Aurora Rising was announced, I paid little to no attention, until I finally gave in to the hype. In the end, Aurora Rising was one of my favorite books of 2019. I loved all the characters. I liked the world-building and the science didn’t go right over my head. And the humor was on point.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

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I read The Princess Saves Herself in This One after my mom died. The first month and a half, while coming to terms with my grief, I was struggling with other familial problems. I wanted to help my family, but I also knew doing that could hold me back from accomplishing what I want in life. The Princess Saves Herself in This One inspired me to learn when to put my foot down, to know when to put my needs first, and find my own happy ending.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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Prior to 2015 or 2016, the contemporary novels I occasionally picked up were on the darker side. Rarely did I pick up anything remotely light and fluffy. With all the hype surrounding The Upside of Unrequited, I read it within a few months of impulsively purchasing it. Though it was fluffy, it was also diverse and sex-positive. The main character, Molly, was one of the few plus-size protagonists I had read at that time, with issues I related to. It was validating to finally see my personal problems represented in a book. The Upside of Unrequited just filled me with so much happiness. 

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

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I remember seeing The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things when it first came out in the early 2000s. At the time, I was put off by the title. Then, a couple of years ago, Booksplosion read it and, learning about the fat rep, I checked the book out from the library. In The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, I found a protagonist I deeply identified with and the issues discussed really hit home. I need my own copy of this book, as well as the sequel.

What book came into your life at the right time?