It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
Someday, I’m getting this tattooed on me–the sky, the sand, the sea, and Corr. This is one of my favorite books by Maggie Stiefvater, and one of my favorite lines, and it’s definitely happening someday. I already have a Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Raven Cycle tattoo, so might as well.
November is my all-time favorite month of the year for a few reasons. It’s got the best weather–it’s not doing that Indian summer thing anymore, so it’s just chilly sweater weather. The leaves are turning and falling. Hats are back. THANKSGIVING. There are apples everywhere, the food is delicious, family is usually in abundance. It’s my favorite original character’s birthday month. And it’s the season for the Scorpio Races. It’s also the perfect time of the year to snuggle up and read.
What: The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass
Review: If this book had been 100 pages longer, I probably would have loved it. As it stands, it was just alright. The world, the concept, and the characters had so much to give, and the author just didn’t give them enough room to play. A lot of the scenes felt like they were chopped in half, and we just weren’t given enough space to fall in love with them and the story. Truly, I would have been a diehard fan of this if it had just been longer.
This follows Kitty after the untimely death of her almost lover, Nikki. After they visit a fortune teller (!!!) who lives on a boat that occasionally visits the canal outside of a rich, old castle (!!!), Nikki receives some shocking news: he doesn’t have a future; he’s going to die. Plot twists abound, the Life and Death parade shocks, and people are not who they seem. This book is dark and moody and lovely, and I want so much more.
What: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol. 2: Empire Decayed by Daniel Krauss
Review: IT IS FINALLY TIME TO RETURN TO MY FAVORITE LIVING DEAD BOY. My review for the first truly amazing book in this duology can be found here. And oh, this lived up to every single one of my hopes and dreams. This picks up where the first volume left off in the 50s, and follows Zebulon through to the late 90s with a little epilogue in the 21st century.
This was darker and, if possible, weirder than the first one. There were actually times were I felt like it’d gone just a smidge too far, and if I was wary about recommending the first one to the general public, this one I definitely wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it was still fantastically written, and this was everything I was hoping for out of the sequel, but wow was it disturbing.
As before, a list of things that you can find in this Very Bizarre, Very Uncomfortable, Very Gory epic: Woodstock in all its muddy, fiery, inspiring glory, a long, rambling description of the 60s and what it was like to be a martyr for the hippies, cannibalism and cults all in the same chapter, a quiet interlude of something sweet and sad with America’s widowed housewives post WWII, the inevitable discovery of Zebulon during 9/11, Mercury 7 astronauts with an alternate conspiracy theory history, and plot twists that will leave you going NOW JUST YOU WAIT A MINUTE. Seriously, it was one heck of a wild ride.
Again, I didn’t like this book–I was wholly consumed by it. I loved every second of it, even the moments where I was a little bit revolted by it. They will have a place of honor on my bookshelves, and I’ll be thinking about them for a long time.
What: Ink by Alice Broadway
Review: Honestly, get this book far away from me. I think a lot of why I didn’t enjoy it has to do with the time I read it. I voted this morning, and it’s been a tough week of conversations with different people, and this book just has no place in the world right now. It’s about segregation and discrimination, and I hate it. I gave it two stars because it’s an interesting concept once you get beyond the hateful rhetoric, and the cover is gorgeous. Even beyond its topic, the writing is poor, the characters are flat, and the world could be Earth, could be high fantasy, but no one’s ever going to know because nothing is described.
This follows Leora right after her father has died. As his soul-weighing ceremony is approaching to determine if he was a good man or not and should be remembered or cast into the flames of judgement, Leora uncovers (what she considers) a nefarious plot surrounding her father. He was working with Blanks, people who have chosen not to mark themselves with tattoos depicting their life story, and helping them survive, though Leora choose to see this as warmongering and helping a “disgusting” and “unworthy” people. Her words, not mine. Not much happens other than Leora worrying about her father, characters (Oscar) popping in and then disappearing for 100+ pages only to conveniently swoop in as a possible romance at the very end, drastic 180s with the character’s emotions that make little to no sense, and, of course, more crows! Because we didn’t have enough crows in the YA world already. But, you know, it’s funny, it’s almost like the other prolific crows actually have meaning, and this one didn’t at all. I’m going to stop now before this gets nasty.
What: Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino
Review: I enjoyed this so much. And I know I say that about every astronaut biography, but this is actually one that I think non-space fans would also enjoy so much. Mike Massimino is my first Hubble astronaut to read about. Usually, they’re either ISS or Apollo astronauts, and I didn’t know that Mike wasn’t a space station one going in, so it was really cool to realize about midway that I was going to be learning a lot of new stuff! I always learn new stuff, but I’ve read a few ISS astronauts, so I was ready for the usual setting, but nope, Hubble is an entirely different animal. This autobiography follows Massimino from the early days of running around his backyard in an astronaut costume with his space Snoopy to his last mission fixing the Hubble telescope.
I liked it for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most importantly, there was no toilet chapter! I cannot express enough how sick and tired I am of reading about how male astronauts need a condom to pee. I don’t care. I don’t want to hear about it, especially when it’s accompanied by the usual nonsense regarding sizes. You’re all stupid. Massimino, thankfully, gave us a chapter about food and sleep instead, and I really appreciated that. I also related to it a lot more. He’s a super funny guy, and the writing showed that really well. This is an enjoyable story, and it comes across that way. It’s not all numbers and hard-to-pronounce science terms. It’s goofy at times, it explains things in simple English, and it takes a solid moment to remind us how small and big we are at the same time. My favorite scene was definitely when Mike is outside for the first time and he realizes that the Earth is a planet, and that he’s in a spaceship. It was adorable, and I totally understood what he was getting at.
This is definitely going up there with my favorite astronaut biographies. It’s also the last one I currently own, which is just the saddest thing in the world, so fingers crossed I get a couple for Christmas.
What: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Review: So I started this in June and then abandoned it. Initially, I abandoned it because while it’s not necessary to read the Seraphina series, it’s still part of it, and I was feeling pretty lost in the beginning. Also, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be reading high fantasy, so it was taking me forever, and eventually, I just gave up after, like, a week. But then, November rolled around, and I’m really trying to get all the books from the first half of this year read, and I told myself that I was going to finish this thing, damn it, and I ended up really enjoying it. Probably because I’ve been craving high fantasy lately–it really does matter what mood you’re in when you’re reading!
This follows Tess’s journey as she runs away from home and a life she’s grown to hate. She sets out on the road, which begins as just a place to be and ends up as a capital r Road place that’s slowly been saving her. She’s traveling with her friend, Pathka, who is on a mission to find the World Serpent, which are different than the other dragons (who aren’t even really dragons) in the universe. I was expecting more actual dragons, but whatever. It’s a bit of a rambling, long journey that ends up not being over at the end, and while it was good, that’s all it was.
My three star reviews can really go either way. Sometimes, it means I didn’t really like it all that much, but it was still a decent book. Sometimes, like for this book, it meant that I liked it plenty, but it didn’t wow me. The writing was pretty good, the characters were interesting, and the plot, though I took some time to warm up to it, was great. I didn’t particularly like Tess at the beginning, which I think is the purpose, but I came to enjoy her a lot by the end, to the point where I’d even consider reading the sequel to this. I think I’d like to read the Seraphina books before that happens just so I have a better grasp of the universe, though. You really didn’t need to read them, but Seraphina played somewhat of a big part in Tess’s life, and I just felt lost every time she would come in. My biggest issue with this, though, was that Tess would arrive at a place, and we’d spend quite a bit of time there before just suddenly disappearing somewhere else with no in-between. I’d be just getting attached to characters, and then we’d be in a different place with no space to let them go. It was still good, but I wanted more depth.
What: Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Review: This gorgeous book is like if you took Rebel of the Sands and combined it with Empress of a Thousand Skies. Amani is brought to the world her moon orbits, kidnapped during an important ceremony and dragged before the heir to the throne with no explanation–until she sees Princess Maram. Amani looks exactly like her, and Maram is hated by her people, so Amani makes for the perfect body double. That is, until she starts to fall in love with Maram’s fiance and slowly becomes Maram’s closest (and only) friend.
I would say spoilers, but all of that is dead predictable. Recently, my brother was watching the movie Passengers, and at the end, he said, “I could have written the script, that’s how predictable it was, and I LOVED IT.” I felt the same way about this book. Everything happened exactly as I thought it might, and yet, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. At first, I was uncertain, but the second Amani and Maram started becoming friends, I was hooked. I love a good girl friendship, and this is set in space during a rebellion, soooooo yeah. I’m sold. The characters were really well done, and I enjoyed the story a lot. I’ll definitely be preordering the sequel.
What: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
Review: Hey guys, you remember that time I legit just flailed nonstop for two paragraphs about my love for Eugenides? Well, buckle up, it’s happening again.
I realize that this image (done by the fabulous Emily B. Martin) is from the previous book, and that Costis isn’t even in this book–heck, even Gen really isn’t in this book until about halfway through, BUT GUYS. It’s the perfect representation cos he’s a little shit all over again, and I just love him for it. Half the time, I was just cackling over his antics when he wasn’t even in the scene. Because honestly, for the first half of the book, it’s just the narrator (SPOILER) telling a story to Eddis, but the narrator seriously looks up to Eugenides, and it’s great.
The whole plot of this is spoilery, so it’s really hard to summarize it. It involves Sounis mostly, Gen and Attolia a little, and Eddis even less, but they’re all in it, and there’s a lot of just talking and a little bit of war and Sounis totally stole the show, and yeah, that’s about all I can say. If you’ve read any of the books previous to this one, you’ll love this, as well. Turner writes in such an interesting way where, like with the previous one, it can just be about a soldier in the army and still be hella interesting. Most of the time, there’s not even all that much going on, but it’s just so well written, and the plot is so intricate, that I really and truly love these. (I mean, obviously. I swear, there’s only one left that’s published, and then you won’t have to put up with me dying about this series until March when the new one comes out.)
What: The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine
Review: YO THIS BOOK. THIS BOOK IS BRILLIANT. It’s a Snow White retelling, obviously, and it’s got all the tropes you’d hope to see–evil queen stepmother, true love’s kiss, Snow White’s connection to the earth around her, and actually, kind of dwarves? Oh my god, I totally didn’t even realize that until right now. The freaking dragons are her dwarves. This was, like with Mirage, super predictable, but also a little not because DRAGONS??? YES PLEASE! But also, of course Lorelai was going to defeat Irina. Of course Kol was going to kiss Lorelai at the end. Of course everyone lived happily ever after. (Except for you-know-who, and I do not, under any circumstances, want to talk about it. I’m still mad.)
This was exceptionally well written, and I already have the second one on its way. I actually purchased the third one, The Traitor Prince, back in September before realizing it was part of a series. And, at the time, I thought it was the second in the series, but nope. When I want to mark this as read in Goodreads and check out the next one, it was to find that it was, in fact, the third one. And really, these are all about different fairytales, so I probably could read them out of order, but they’re in the same universe, so I’m going to read The Wish Granter next. But, The Shadow Queen, holy moly. I’m wicked biased, I have to admit that, because DRAGONS. It’ll sell me every time. But they were really great, I loved the characters, I was so enamored with the way she retold the Snow White story, and I can’t wait to read the next one.
What: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Review: This was the last book in my #fallintofantasy readathon for Penguin Teen’s challenge, though I didn’t complete it during the challenge because damn, 4 books in 8 days in the middle of Thanksgiving break was not a piece of cake like I thought it was going to be. I had so many plans that interrupted my reading time! Thus, I got to take my time with this, which I think I liked better, but I also think that given the opportunity, I would have had this read in two days tops because it was so damn good. This follows two perspectives, Laia and Elias, one whom (Laia) has recently lost everything and is working as a slave in the most terrifying environment possible, and the other whom (Elias) is trying to make a decision between running for his freedom or staying to fight for a future he doesn’t believe in. It takes place in the desert, there’s a little bit of magic, but not in the way you’d expect, and I am definitely reading the rest of the series.
So why did this get docked one star? You know, I was so happy almost the entire book about the romances. I was just so pleased that it wasn’t Laia/Elias, that they were allowed to find love in other places besides each other, and then that all got squashed at the end. I really, really liked Keenan. And not even that, but I really liked that the two main characters weren’t romantically involved. It was such a different spin on things. I would have liked to see them just become friends and figure things out together platonically. But NO, we have to make them fall in love. I’m over it. Other than that, though, this was fantastic. The writing really kept me hooked, and I loved bouncing between Laia and Elias’ POVs. They were both super interesting characters with excellent and well-fleshed side characters around them, and I was rooting for almost everyone. It did remind me very strongly of Rebel of the Sands, which I understand came out after it, but which is also better, so if you liked that, read this.
What: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Volume 1 by Brian Froud, Brian Holguin, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John
Review: Oh, this was fantastic. I am so enjoying being able to dive back into the Dark Crystal world and discover more about it. I can’t wait to finish reading the Creation Myths so I can finally rewatch the movie. I’ve been trying to do everything in order, and I’ve already failed miserably by reading the YA novels before anything else. This is the very beginning of the Dark Crystal world. Different myths are told in little vignettes, and we’re able to witness the beginning of Aughra, which means the beginning of Thra, really, little snippets of Jarra-Jen, and the birth of the Crystal castle.
Obviously, the art in this was amazing. I mean, it’s by Brian Froud, who has done all of the artwork for the universe, and it is, in turns, creepy and beautiful. Most of the time, I’m more sucked in by the story than I am by the artwork, but it was the complete reverse this time. I love the stories, I do, but Froud has such a mastery over these characters and the world around them that it leaves me gaping at the pages in awe.
This is, of course, definitely only something to get into if you love the Dark Crystal universe or if you want to start diving into it, though I wouldn’t recommend it as the first thing. (The original movie should always be the first thing.) It’s very broken up and more just additions to the lore that we already have, so it would be confusing if you’d never read/seen anything in this universe before.
What: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
Review: HI I LOVE THIS BOOK A LOT OKAY BYE. Is anyone surprised that I loved this? I mean, come on, no way. This was incredible. I’ve already put it into my top 10 list. GUYS. You know what else is in my top 10 list? EMERGENCY CONTACT! I’VE READ SO MANY GOOD ROMANCES THIS YEAR! Okay, two, whatever, but I loved this one the same kind of level as I did Emergency Contact, and that book just about murdered me. This is about Arthur, who’s just in New York for the summer on an internship, and Ben, who just broke up with his boyfriend and is trying to send his break-up box in the mail when he meets Arthur, who’s wearing a hot dog tie and is so starry-eyed at New York, and who is madly in love with Ben from the literal first second. And it’s just get better from there.
This was ooey and gooey and mushy and gushy AND I LOVED IT. It was also super dramatic, like woah. Calm down there. I guess I should have expected drama from the person who wrote Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda, but woooooo, they tried to kill me. Extratolly. This was just so good. It was sad and sweet and bright and beautiful, and I loved it so much. It’s just boys kissing in New York and being a little
a lot bit dumb with each other and so much nerdiness and ugh it was just so good, do yourself a favor and read it right now.
I can’t believe next month is the last month of the year. I can’t believe it’s almost 2019. This year has both seemed like the longest and shortest ever. I have both big plans for reading during the month of December and the year 2019. I’m hoping to get at least 10 books read next month, and I think I’ll be shooting for 100 again in 2019. A part of me kind of wanted to try to go over 100, but I don’t particularly feel like stressing out about reading, so 100 feels like a nice number. Don’t forget, too, December marks the annual Top 10 reads of the year, so that’ll be coming out likely on the same day as the wrap-up review for December.
As for next month, though, I’m only setting 5 books for my TBR to give myself some leeway:
- Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
- Pacifica by Kristen Simmons
- Spinning Starlight by RC Lewis
- Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry
I didn’t manage to complete everything on my November TBR, though I’m blaming that on the readathon challenge I did. It completely took over those eight days, and then I didn’t feel like being disciplined anymore. That said, I put one of them back on my TBR, the last one from February, and I tried to do an even mix of high fantasy and not for the others. I’d also like to try to read another Mortal Instruments book this month, but we’ll see if that actually happens. I still have The Bane Chronicles and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy from last Christmas because I wanted to reread the entire series before diving into those. And I still have to read the other series, one of which I own. You know what, I’m making that my official goal for 2019–I’m going to finish rereading TMI and then start and finish at least one of the spin-off series.
Do you have any reading goals for 2019 besides a number of books? I’d really like to get my TBR shelf down to one shelf instead of two before I go book shopping again, which should be around my birthday, so that’s three full months. I’d also like to try to read more classics in 2019. I own so many that I haven’t read, and I want to try to work my way through some of them. Overall, I have 133 unread books on my shelves, and I’d like to change that, start whittling away at the ones that aren’t on my immediate TBR. Let me know in the comments below what your 2019 book goals are!
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