September Wrap-Up!

September’s over? Wow…I’m exhausted…

In My Life

This month, school got real. And I got real tired. Nothing really happened to me besides the fact that everything is settling into the scholastic rhythm.

I had my first Speech and Debate competition of the year last weekend, and it was crazy. My sister and I ended up in the top 16 of our event, a great way to start off the year.

On This Blog

I had eighteen posts this month! I did drop to only two posts one week, breaking my streak of having at least three per week from summer, but I forgive myself (school and all that).

I took part in three Top Ten Tuesdays:

  1. TT Characters I Didn’t Click With
  2. TT Series I Haven’t Finished Yet
  3. TT Books on my Fall TBR

I also did the Most Likely To Book Tag (which was so much fun, even if I got some crazy combinations) and committed myself to Fall Bookish Bingo, being hosted by Pretty Deadly Reviews.

My original blog meme, Weekend Words, is off to a great start. I haven’t missed a week yet (*high fives self*) and I’ve discovered that taking a few minutes to reflect on each week and choose an inspirational quote or two is a great way to end the week. WW #2, 3, 4 and 5 can be seen by clicking on each number.

In Reading and Reviewing

I read five and a half books this month: I reread the Shadow Falls series by CC Hunter and then started the ARC, Illuminae. Illuminae is AMAZING and it is crushing my soul and I can’t believe I’m only halfway through and how will it break my heart next?!?! Seriously, you know when you’re reading a book and you can just tell that it is going to be one of those books that you shove into people’s hands even if they haven’t asked for it? Yeah, that’s this book. (And the graphic design is incredible, too!)

As always (it seems), I reviewed the books that I read the month before, not the books that I actually read this month. I think the Shadow Falls series is going to get a collective review, mainly because I read them very quickly and the breaks between books kind of blurred together…whoops.

  1. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (4/5 stars)
  2. The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich (a whole lot of conflicted emotions)
  3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (3/5 stars)
  4. Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (5/5 stars!)
  5. Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson (4/5 stars)

In school, we finished The Scarlet Letter, which was interesting but which I expected to have a much more climactic ending, and started A Streetcar Named Desire. ASND is AMAZING; we are halfway through and it seems like every scene we read leaves me more shocked, creeped out, and thrilled than I was before. I cannot wait to see where the plot ends up.

In Writing

September was a double-edged sword for me, writing-wise. On the bright side, I finally started posting writing (and about writing) here.

  1. Short Story: Sticking it to the Man
  2. Poetry: Never a Fair Fight
  3. SDJ #4: Writing at Night, When the Juices Flow

On the less-bright side, I only added 2612 words to my WIP in the entire month. I only worked on my WIP one day. Needless to say, I’m feeling a bit ashamed of myself, and I’m hoping that next month goes better.


How was your September? To those students out there–are you starting to feel the exhaustion set in (hopefully not, but let’s be real)? What are you plans for October, bookish, writing, or otherwise?

 

Book Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

This book gave me the creeps, but in a good way. While I enjoyed the story, it never really felt like a fairy tale retelling.

4/5 stars

cover strands of bronze and gold

Goodreads Description

The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.

My Review

I guess I should start by saying that I didn’t know what the Bluebeard fairy tale was going in to this book, and I’m still not really sure what it is. Though there are lots hair-raising moments, this book comes off as sinister historical fiction rather than a fairy tale retelling. If you are looking for a book that has clear paranormal or fantasy elements, this isn’t it, but the story it tells is definitely worth reading anyway.

Sophia was a likable protagonist. In the beginning, I kind of thought she was going to be annoying, but she wasn’t. She is young without being stupid. She’s strong and curious, aware of the larger picture and willing to put her own comfort aside to protect others. I respected and felt for her.

The setting–a Southern plantation with a Gothic abbey transplanted onto the grounds–was everything this book needed it to be. Nickerson’s imagery was incredible–I vividly understood the abbey’s dark interior, the gorgeous sprawling grounds, and the luxuries Sophia was surrounded by. Taking place on a plantation, the issue of slavery obviously came up, adding to the plot without feeling shoehorned in. Sophia’s character was deeply influenced by the treatment of the slaves on the grounds, one of the first things that helped her mature out of the flighty girl she was in the beginning of the story and into the strong and selfless girl who stood on the last pages.

The main plot of the book deals with Sophia’s relationship with her mysterious godfather Bernard de Cressac. He starts out as a loving and generous father figure and slowly evolves into a love interest, finally being revealed as an abusive and temperamental figure. From the first pages, it was clear that there was something off about de Cressac’s intentions toward Sophia, but I was transfixed by the subtle way his true personality was revealed. It was honestly creepy, giving the story a Gothic horror vibe and making it impossible to put down.

Sophia’s relationship with de Cressac provided an emotional window into dealing with abusive households. Trapped by her family’s financial issues, Sophia had to remain in de Cressac’s home, even as it became increasingly clear that he was a monster. I was genuinely terrified for Sophia, but she handled herself well, showing incredible bravery and selflessness.

The romance (not involving de Cressac, thank God) was simple but sweet. I liked the love interest enough, and I appreciated the conflicts that kept the two apart. There was nothing amazingly original about the romance’s arc, but it added a dose of positivity that the plot needed.

Though it lacked clear fantasy elements, I enjoyed this story. Fans of hair-raising historical fiction should definitely read this book, as well as people who appreciate strong female characters and vivid settings.

Weekend Words #5

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

artificial intelligence

“The Alexander’s artificial intelligence isn’t capable of lying. Sure, it can think for itself, but no neurogrammer is stupid enough to make a computer capable of conceptualizing deceit. These things are so smart now; the ability to spin bullshit is all that separates us from them.” — Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Illuminae (The Illuminae Files _01)

HOW CREEPY IS THAT QUOTE?!

Wow I didn’t know that this book would be this dark and creepy and aaahhhhh. Seriously, this book is incredible.

(Illuminae publishes October 20)

2. A Quote that Inspired or Influenced Me This Week

feel like quitting
click for image credit

“When you feel like quitting, remember why I started.”

This quote has always inspired me, but it was prevalent on my mind this week. I have my first Speech and Debate competition this weekend (that’s where I am right now!), and it’s a ton of stress and excitement. I know that I love it, but sometimes the exhaustion makes me want to quit…

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

Being sick sucks, but it ends up happening to me basically once a semester. Schools don’t want sick people to come to school–it’s my biggest pet peeve–but at the same time, most teachers have strict absent policies that make missing more than a few days of school hurt your grade. Since I was almost sick this week, and my sister actually was, this ridiculous paradox has been on my mind.


I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

Fall Bookish Bingo!

Hey guys! I came across Bookish Bingo on Skylee’s blog, The Night Girl (you should check out her blog–she’s great!) and thought it would be a fun thing to try. It is hosted by Bekka at Pretty Deadly Reviews and will go on for the months of September, October, and November (I’m a bit late posting this…I know). Seriously, look at this gorgeous card she created!

book bingo fall

I’ve already accomplished a few of these by rereading the Shadow Falls series. If you have any recommendations based on this lists (especially for the “harder”) categories, let me know and I’ll check them out!

Book Review: Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

This book redefines heart-wrenching. Rarely do I get to read a book that packs so much emotional turmoil into a standalone story.

5/5 stars

cover black dove white raven

Goodreads Description

Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.

My Review

Everything about this book is breathtaking. It’s hard to know where to start.

The characters are the most amazing part. I am head-over-heals in love with Emmy and Teo–they are the cutest and bravest sibling ever. Emmy is bold and daring socially, unafraid of standing out from the crowd or of standing up for those she loves. More reserved, Teo is constantly aware of the effects his race has on his life, but he still has a fierce determined streak. I completely understood each of their characters and my heart broke trying to keep them safe. I loved how they didn’t agree with each other 100%, but that they always stood by each other anyway. None of the motifs surrounding their relationship felt forced; they simply built upon a magnificent story to make it stronger.

Though I would categorize this book as YA, the characters start out very young. I loved watching them grow up; it was honest and believable. As teenagers, I could still recognize the kids that they used to be in their actions. I’m glad that there was never any romance between them–or anywhere in the story, for that matter-because it let their friendship take center stage.

Momma–Emmy’s mom and Teo’s adoptive mom–was a powerful characters as well. I usually don’t love parental characters in books because they get in the way, but Momma did the exact opposite: she enhanced the story. She’s trapped between conflicting loyalties and desires, but at the center of everything is her maternal need to protect her children. An American in a small Ethiopian village, with ties to both the Italian and Ethiopian governments, she was put in a position that had no right answer, but she somehow keeps her head above water. She is far from a perfect person, but she is the epitome of “making it work.” Rarely does an entire family get to be the protagonist of a book, but Wein did it perfectly.

The setting of this book is obviously the source of the most conflicts: Ethiopia on the verge of WWII. The conflicts surrounding the family’s ties to both Italy and Africa were emotional, and the scenes that involved mustard gas broke my heart. As historical fiction, BDWR does an incredible job of showcasing the struggles and horrors of Mussolini’s invasion, as well as all of the motivations involved.

As always with Wein, vintage planes play a major role in this story, and I loved every single scene that involved flying. The imagery was so vivid that I honestly felt like I was flying over Ethiopia with them.

However, the most emotional part of the book for me was its discussion of racism and sexism. Obviously, there was a prevalent discussion of racism, both in America and Africa. What killed me about this book was the catch 22 the siblings faced: they left America to save Teo from racism, but in Ethiopia, Emmy was constantly held back by the society’s sexism. I loved that Wein took the opportunity to make the book about more than the predictable racial conflicts and to highlight the heart-wrenching impossibility of living in a prejudice-less society in the late 1930s.

BDVR is a book that I honestly believe everyone should read. The writing is poetry, the story is powerful, and the characters are alive. This is the kind of book that sticks with you, the kind of book that your heart will always be scarred by. However, even with all the emotional turmoil, this book as a positive message of empowerment, and it left me with a smile on my face (and tears pouring down my cheeks).

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. 

My Fall TBR…

Well, since I’m notoriously bad at sticking to my TBRs, this is sort of a shot in the dark. Still, there are a lot of books that I plan to read this fall season. Titles in parentheses would be rereads to refresh my memory of the series.

  1. Lair of Dreams (and The Diviners) by Libba Bray

My #1 auto-buy author returns…there’s no way I’m not reading this book. The only thing that kept me from reading it the day it came out is that both books are HUGE and they require focus that I don’t have right now…whoops.

2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

cover court of thrones and roses

Seriously, I can’t wait to see what Maas comes up with with with this one. My sister just read it–actually devoured it–and now I can’t wait to read it myself.

3. Crown of Midnight (and Heir of Fire) by Sarah J Maas

Do I need to explain myself? I HAVE to know what happens. And I have to read it quickly before everything gets spoiled for me. 😉

4. Reborn (Shadow Falls: After Dark #1) by C. C. Hunter

cover reborn

I just binge-reread the Shadow Falls series and seriously loved it. I never read the spin-off series when I originally read these books, but I need more of C. C. Hunter’s hilarious writing style and Della (the new protagonist) was my favorite character of the original series.

5. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

cover illuminae

I’m reading this right now and there aren’t words for how much I LOVE IT. I’ve never really read anything like it, but it’s blowing me away.

6. Cress (and Scarlet) by Marissa Meyer

I need to see if the hype is deserved. I’ve already read Cinder, but I wasn’t really paying attention, and I want to figure out if I like the series before Winter comes out later this year.

7. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

cover everything everything

This book keeps popping up in my Reader and besides the fact that I LOVE the cover, the premise seems really cool.

8. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

cover the fill in boyfriend

This book looks CUTE AF. I am fairly certain that during one of the upcoming, stressful weeks, I’m going to need this in my life.

9. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

cover the rest of us just live here

Patrick Ness wrote another book and it has an amazing title. I didn’t even need to know the second part of that sentence to preorder this book.

10. Shadows of Self (Mistborn) by Brandon Sanderson

cover shadows of self

It’s another Mistborn novel! I loved The Alloy of Law and I loved the Mistborn trilogy even more so how could I not preorder this book?!?!


What books are you planning to read this fall? Are we reading any of the same books?

Happy Tuesday!

Poetry: Never a Fair Fight

Man versus nature?
It’s not even a contest
This isn’t a chess game
It’s a boxing match
Every time we throw a punch
The earth throws it back
Tenfold.
So-called solutions only create
More problems
Trying to simplify our lives
We turned them into minefields.

The extremes only get more extreme.

The only way to win this fight
Is to stop trying
Maybe Mother Nature wins this round
Maybe our manifest destiny
Doesn’t have to extend
So far
As to conquer the world.
Not while we’re trying to live
On the battleground.