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Top 10 Books of 2018

So here we are at the end of 2018. I have read somewhere in the vicinity of 120 books over the last 12 months, and I’m pretty pleased with that. I’ve taken chances on books I normally wouldn’t pick up and have discovered new favourites. Equally,  I’ve learned to quit on books that I’m really not enjoying, rather than waste my time. (If you’re interested in my most disappointing books of 2018, click here.) So without further ado, I present to you the top 10 books I read this year and what I loved about them. (Synopses from Goodreads)

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir ( & A Torch Against the Night)

YA Fantasy

#1 of 4

What it’s about: Inspired by Islamic mythology and the Roman Empire, An Ember in the Ashes follows Laia and Elias. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

What I loved: This book manages to pull off the trifecta – phenomenal world building, complex and sympathetic characters, and an action packed plot. This book is so solid I can’t poke holes in it at all. The sequel was also a 5 star read! I’m looking forward to reading the third and fourth instalments (latest coming this April!).

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An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Urban Fantasy

Standalone

What it’s about: In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

What I loved: An Unkindness of Magicians was full of complex characters and really interesting magic. I enjoyed the multiple points of view, and the intricate plot. I also appreciated that it was light on romance.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

Historical Fantasy (Greek Mythology Retelling)

Standalone

What it’s about: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

What I loved: This book had me at ‘the world’s first witch’. I enjoyed following Circe’s personal growth throughout the novel. She is a powerful woman who is constrained by societal rules, and watching her come into her own was deeply satisfying. She is complex and flawed and trying to find her place in the world. I also loved the expansive world building, and all the little nods to other famous characters from Greek legend.

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Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Sci Fi/Horror

#1 in series (but reads almost like a standalone)

What it’s about: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

What I loved: To be sure this book was not perfect. I had some small issues with the editing, and didn’t feel it was as polished as it could have been. But what Mira Grant did well, she did VERY well. I loved the suspenseful atmosphere and the super creepy plot. It made me so glad that I live on a mountain, far, far, far away from the water. The cast of characters was diverse and it had LGBTQI and disability representation, but it wasn’t an advertising ploy. It was part of the characters, and it was important, but it wasn’t the ONLY dimension to them, and I appreciated that. It was also high on action, and the science (which I’m a sucker for) seemed pretty well grounded and believable.

To be candid, I will not be continuing the series. I felt satisfied with the conclusion, and frankly, I’m afraid my expectations would be so high for a second book that I am doomed to be disappointed. I will however continue to read Mira Grant’s (aka Seanan MacGuire) other works.

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Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

YA Horror/Fantasy

Standalone

What it’s about: 

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

What I loved: I will admit that the main reason I was attracted to Sawkill Girls in the first place was the diversity of the characters. I loved it for that. Claire Legrand managed to weave it so seamlessly into the fabric of her story that it didn’t feel contrived in any way. Zoey is black and asexual, Marion is overweight and bisexual. Like, it’s there, but these girls are so much more than those things. I loved the creepy atmosphere and horror elements of the plot (surprisingly, because I dislike horror in general). I loved the female friendships and relationships. I loved the exploration of grief, friendship, and family. I loved the inclusion of Sawkill Rock as a sentient place with its own voice. And finally I loved the whole feminist girl power vibe. There was really so much to love. Which is why I was super disappointed that I couldn’t get a physical copy of the book anywhere here in Australia for Christmas. (Something about the publisher not having stock or being able to print it, or something?) Never mind. I went to trusty BookDepository and my copy is finally winging its way to me.

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sci Fi/Fantasy

#1 of 3

What it’s about: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

What I loved: Sleeping Giants was yet another wildcard for me this year. I didn’t know if I would like it or not. But I loved it to pieces. It has a really interesting narrative structure – the whole story is told in interviews, reports etc. I’ll admit by the end it felt like it was a bit of a stretch, but suspension of disbelief is pretty much a given in SFF. I enjoyed the scientific mystery, and the giant robots as well. It had serious mecha anime vibes, which pretty much describes my teenage tv watching. It feels a bit like Neon Genesis Evangelion, or The Vision of Escaflowne, or Gunbuster (the last two are excellent series if you’re interested). Again, this is not going to be the book for everyone, but it was definitely the book for me. I also gave five stars to Waking Gods, the second book in the trilogy. Sadly, the third book only reached an average 3 stars.

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

YA Fantasy

#1 of 2

What it’s about: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

What I loved: Strange the Dreamer was not the best book I’ve read this year. But it’s probably the book I love the most. It swept me away to a world where librarian dreamers can have adventures, and solve the mysteries of forgotten cities and dead gods. Plus the prose was so lyrical and beautiful, I just wanted to stay lost in that world forever. I also gave 5 stars to Muse of Nightmares, the final book in the duology as well. It went in a different direction to the first book, but I still loved it. Plus the characters got a lot more depth and growth in book two, which I endlessly appreciated. Who knew I would develop soft spots for my two least favourite characters?

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The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Sci Fi/Thriller/Dystopia

# 1 of 2

What it’s about: Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

What I loved: The Girl with All the Gifts was a wild ride for me. I had no idea what it was about when I started it, and it was so so good. Firstly, I’m a sucker for believable science, which this has woven throughout the plot. There was action, there was a scientific mystery, and then there was a remarkable little girl called Melanie. While the three of the other main characters were pretty stock standard, Miss Justineau was complex enough that I liked her. And Melanie just shined her way through the whole story. It’s unusual to find a main character with the depth and innocence of Melanie. She is probably my favourite heroine of the year.

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Historical Fantasy

Standalone

What it’s about:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

What I loved: The Night Circus was a huge surprise for me. I knew next to nothing, and I feel like this is the best way to go into it. It is certainly the sort of book that  is quite divisive – you either adore it, or you despise it. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a middle ground.

I loved it for its rich atmosphere, subtle but intricate plot, lush world building, and gorgeous writing. If I had to describe it, I’d say it is more of an experience than anything else. I think this partly derives from the present tense narration, which Erin Morgenstern actually manages to pull off.

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Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Sci Fi/Fantasy

#1 of 6

What it’s about: 

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

What I loved: Three Parts Dead has, hands down, one of the most unique and fascinating magic systems I’ve come across. It’s sort of like contract law meets necromancy. Plus there are dead gods. I appreciate when an author puts so much into the world building that they create their own pantheon. The intricate plot (what? I like intricate plots and minds more devious than my own) is equal parts action and murder mystery, which is a brilliant mix.

 

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July Bullet Journal Flip Through|| Studio Ghibli Theme

Another month, another bullet journal theme. For July I chose to go with a Studio Ghibli theme, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. I drew almost everything free hand (except the bridge on the first page. I couldn’t get the perspective right.) I’m not going to go into a lot of explanation about each spread, I’ll just name the characters I’ve drawn (and from what movie.)

So to start with I’ve got Chihiro on the bridge looking at the bathhouse from Spirited Away.

I didn’t do much with the calendar spread. The little soot creatures in the corner are also from Spirited Away.

Here I drew Kiki and Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service. I didn’t finish her face because it looked weird every time I tried. I also didn’t colour my habit trackers because I couldn’t come up with a basic colour scheme for the whole month that I was happy with.

Next I’ve drawn Totoro and his little friends from My Neighbour Totoro.

I’ve drawn the Kodama from Princess Mononoke in this spread.

For this weekly spread I drew Nausicaa and an Ohmu in the Sea of Corruption from the movie Nausicaa Of the Valley Of Wind. I also didn’t complete her face. I figured a pencil line was better than every other attempt I made, so I just left it.

Here is Calcifer eating egg shells from the movie Howl’s Moving Castle. (Read the original book by Diana Wynne-Jones. It’s one of my favourites!) I did base this off someone else’s art, and here’s the link.

On the left I drew No Face and the hamster thing from Spirited Away, and on the right I drew Turnip Head from Howl’s Moving Castle.

And finally, it’s the Catbus from My Neighbour Totoro!

Thanks for checking out this post! If you have any ideas for future themes you’d like to see let me know in the comments below!

#RetellingAThon Week 1 Wrap Up & TBR

So for Week 1 the theme was mythology.

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I completed three prompts, reading a total of 876 pages:

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Sun’s Mortality: A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

  • Hindu mythology
  • Retelling of the Mahabharata

Horus’ Eye: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

  • Egyptian mythology

Reader’s Choice: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Sylvia Moreno-García

  • Mayan mythology
  • Retelling of the Popol Vuh

Next week is focused on Shakespeare retellings.

Here are the prompts and my TBR.

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Do Not Say the Name – Macbeth retelling: Highland Raven by Melanie Karsak

Talk to the Skull- Hamlet retelling: Ophelia Queen of Denmark by Jackie French

Witty Fool or Foolish Wit? – Twelfth Night retelling: Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Foolish Mortals and Faeries – A Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling: Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Star Crossed Lovers – Romeo and Juliet retelling: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Choice – Othello retelling: I, Iago by Nicole Galland

Choice – King Lear retelling: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

July Wrap Up

General Comments

July was a very mixed bag for me. I honestly don’t remember a lot of it because I was sick with a sinus infection, and was fainting etc. But my birthday was good. It was a four day celebration, which was exhausting, but wonderful. I got new clothes that fit me, so I’m feeling pretty happy about that. Other than that, my Gran was in hospital twice and had to have major neck surgery, which has thankfully gone very well.

Books I Read

Albert: A Life by Jules Stewart ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This was a well researched read about a fascinating man. At the 3/4 mark my interest started to wane, but had that not been the case I would have rated in 4 stars.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This is the third book in the Discworld series, and the first to introduce witches. I love Pratchett’s humour, the way he weaves words, and his worldbuilding. As usual, the plot was solid, and I appreciate the themes. I like the characters, but I don’t always think they’re particularly complex. I find his novels enjoyable to read, but lacking emotional punch.

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved a lot about this book. It’s told mostly from Ana’s POV, but it’s interspersed with transcripts from trial interviews. The descriptions were amazing, and the world building was really immersive. I think the themes were probably the standout part of The Kingdom- free will, AI, autonomy, and genetic modification just to name a few.

Florence Nightingale by Catherine Reef ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was a young adult biography about England’s most famous nurse. It was easy to read, well researched, and included images. It doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of life, and provides plenty of context to Florence’s story.

Perception by Terri Fleming ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This is essentially a Pride and Prejudice sequel revolving around the middle Bennet sister, Mary. I quite enjoyed this. It was sweet and well-written. The only thing I really didn’t like was the portrayal of most women as silly and frivolous.

Currently Reading

Past Forward: Essays on Korean History by Kyung Moon Hwang

Hungry Hearts edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elise Chapman

Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

What I Watched

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Shazam ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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Anne of Green Gables (1985) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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The Hundred Foot Journey ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Downton Abbey (Season 1) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (rewatch) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (season 5-6) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Eureka ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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A Few Best Men ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Currently Watching

My Life is Murder

Catch up on my Blog

Wicked Fox|| Kat Cho (Mini Review)

June Haul

Retelling Mini Reviews|| The Tea Master and the Detective, Unmarriageable, & The Cold is in Her Bones

Fairytale Mini Reviews|| Blanca & Roja/ I’m the Vanishers’ Palace/ Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Descendant of the Crane|| Joan He

Perception|| Terri Fleming [Pride and Prejudice Mini Review]

Blog Posts I Liked

Favourite Fantasy Worlds I’d Love to go on Holiday to by The Orangutan Librarian

Desdemona and the Deep Review by Susan @ Novel Lives

The Golem and the Jinni Review by Dina @ SFF Book Reviews

Fairy Tale Retellings Still Focus on Appearances – And I Think it’s Lazy by Briana @ Pages Unbound

YouTube Videos I Liked

Star Trek: Picard – Official Teaser | Prime Video

I cannot find anyone else who is as excited about this as me. I love Picard, I love Next Gen, and I love Sir Patrick Stewart.

Fruits Basket 2019 Official Trailer 2

I can’t believe I didn’t know about this for so many months.

The Truth About Memory Loss by Jessica Kellgren-Fozard

This is my every day life. I have multiple sleep disorders that impact my memory, so this really resonated with me.

August Anticipated Releases

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The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Polite Society by Mahesh Rao

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A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

My Star Rating System In Brief

I’ve been planning a post explaining my star rating for eight months now. I added to it, and added to it. I’m still no where near finishing. So I thought I’d just write a brief post.

I generally work out my ratings based on the following criteria:

  • Writing (style, ease of reading, editing/grammar)
  • Plot (Engaging, surprising)
  • Characters (Internally consistent, complex)
  • Worldbuilding (Setting, backstory, mythology etc)
  • Personal Enjoyment (Emotional investment etc)

Each criteria gets up to one star. Occasionally I’ll make slight exceptions if I think one element outweighs another element. For example, if the plot is a bit lacking, but the characters and worldbuilding more than make up for it, I might still rate it slightly higher. This is usually only rounding it up by half a star at most. I don’t break down my star ratings in my posts, but I try to cover each element in my written review, so if one is worth a bit more than usual, it’s usually pretty clear.

I am trying to do half stars now, but for much of the year I did round up or down to the nearest star. I don’t think it has a great impact, but if you check out any old reviews, you may want to bear that in mind (This usually happens with 3.5 star books).

I’ve tried to make my system of rating as objective and as consistent as possible, but obviously there’s always going to be some subjectivity involved.

If you want to have an even more basic explanation, here it is:

0 stars – DNF

1 Star – I really hated it, but I finished it

2 Stars – I disliked it

3 Stars – It was a decent book

4 Stars – I really liked it

5 Stars – I absolutely loved it

Just to be clear: for me, a three star book can still be a good book, and often I still recommend them. Just because some parts of a book aren’t quite working for me, doesn’t mean they’re not going to work for someone else.

Let’s Chat!

How do you rate your books? Do you have a defined system, or do you rely more on instinct when you rate?

July Haul #4|| Non-Fiction

Another haul. I am so embarrassed and I have absolutely no excuses.

Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein,comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. 

The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.
Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece.

Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen

Biography of the author of Little Women

A vivid, energetic account of the life of Louisa May Alcott, whose work has delighted millions of readers

Louisa May Alcott portrays a writer as worthy of interest in her own right as her most famous character, Jo March, and addresses all aspects of Alcott’s life: the effect of her father’s self-indulgent utopian schemes; her family’s chronic economic difficulties and frequent uprootings; her experience as a nurse in the Civil War; the loss of her health and frequent recourse to opiates in search of relief from migraines, insomnia, and symptomatic pain. Stories and details culled from Alcott’s journals; her equally rich letters to family, friends, publishers, and admiring readers; and the correspondence, journals, and recollections of her family, friends, and famous contemporaries provide the basis for this lively account of the author’s classic rags-to-riches tale.

Alcott would become the equivalent of a multimillionaire in her lifetime based on the astounding sales of her books, leaving contemporaries like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry James in the dust. This biography explores Alcott’s life in the context of her works, all of which are to some extent autobiographical. A fresh, modern take on this remarkable and prolific writer, who secretly authored pulp fiction, harbored radical abolitionist views, and completed heroic service as a Civil War nurse, Louisa May Alcott is in the end also the story of how the all-time beloved American classic Little Women came to be. This revelatory portrait will present the popular author as she was and as she has never been seen before.

Lucy Maud Montgomery by Mary Henley Rubio

Biography of the author of Anne of Green Gables

Mary Henley Rubio has spent over two decades researching Montgomery’s life, and has put together a comprehensive and penetrating picture of this Canadian literary icon, all set in rich social context. Extensive interviews with people who knew Montgomery – her son, maids, friends, relatives, all now deceased – are only part of the material gathered in a journey to understand Montgomery that took Rubio to Poland and the highlands of Scotland.

From Montgomery’s apparently idyllic childhood in Prince Edward Island to her passion-filled adolescence and young adulthood, to her legal fights as world-famous author, to her shattering experiences with motherhood and as wife to a deeply troubled man, this fascinating, intimate narrative of her life will engage and delight.

The Bronte Sisters by Catherine Reef

The Brontë sisters are among the most beloved writers of all time, best known for their classic nineteenth-century novels Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily), and Agnes Grey(Anne). In this sometimes heartbreaking young adult biography, Catherine Reef explores the turbulent lives of these literary siblings and the oppressive times in which they lived. Brontë fans will also revel in the insights into their favorite novels, the plethora of poetry, and the outstanding collection of more than sixty black-and-white archival images. A powerful testimony to the life of the mind.

Florence Nightingale by Catherine Reef

Young Adult biography of famous English nurse, Florence Nightingale

Most people know Florence Nightingale was a compassionate and legendary nurse, but they don’t know her full story. This riveting biography explores the exceptional life of a woman who defied the stifling conventions of Victorian society to pursue what was considered an undesirable vocation. She is best known for her work during the Crimean War, when she vastly improved gruesome and deadly conditions and made nightly rounds to visit patients, becoming known around the world as the Lady with the Lamp. Her tireless and inspiring work continued after the war, and her modern methods in nursing became the defining standards still used today.

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Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Biography of the author of Pride and Prejudice.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights, Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster, in fact, had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

Past Forward: Essays on Korean History by Kyung Moon Hwang

A wide-ranging collection of concise essays, ‘Past Forward’ introduces core features of Korean history that illuminate current issues and pressing concerns, including recent political upheavals, social developments and cultural shifts. Adapted from Kyung Moon Hwang’s regular columns in the ‘Korea Times’ of Seoul, the essays forward interpretative points concerning historical debates and controversies in order to generate thinking about the ongoing impact of the past on the present, and vice versa: how Korea’s present circumstances reflect and shape the evolving understanding of its past. In taking the reader on a compelling journey through history, ‘Past Forward’ paints a distinctive, fascinating portrait of Korea and Koreans both yesterday and today.

Containing both extensive chronological and subject tables of contents, the essays are grouped into themes demonstrating a particular facet of the recurring connections between the past and the present. In addition, the book contains a timeline of contents that situates the essays in chronological context and a subject index. While all the self-contained essays introduce particular facets of Korean history and society, they are free of jargon and written for the general reader.

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Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders by Susanne Alleyn

this is not a book on how to write historical fiction. It is a book on how not to write historical fiction.

If you love history and you’re hard at work on your first historical novel, but you’re wondering if your medieval Irishmen would live on potatoes, if your 17th-century pirate would use a revolver, or if your hero would be able to offer Marie-Antoinette a box of chocolate bonbons…

(The answer to all these is “Absolutely not!”)

…then Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders is the book for you.

Medieval Underpants will guide you through the factual mistakes that writers of historical fiction—-both beginners and professionals—-most often make, and show you how to avoid them. From fictional characters crossing streets that wouldn’t exist for another sixty years, to the pitfalls of the Columbian Exchange (when plants and foods native to the Americas first began to appear in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and vice versa), to 1990s slang in the mouths of 1940s characters, Susanne Alleyn exposes the often hilarious, always painful goofs that turn up most frequently in fiction set in the past.

Alleyn stresses the hazards to writers of assuming too much about details of life in past centuries, providing numerous examples of mistakes that could easily have been avoided. She also explores commonly-confused topics such as the important difference between the British titles “Lord John Smith” and “John, Lord Smith” and why they’re not interchangeable, and provides simple guidelines for getting them right. In a wide assortment of chapters including Food and Plants; Travel; Dialogue, Expressions, and Slang; Guns; Money; and, of course, Underpants, she offers tips on how to avoid errors and anachronisms while continually reminding writers of the necessity of meticulous historical research

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The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely The Other Alcott

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Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup

The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The name Frankenstein has become part of our everyday language, often used in derogatory terms to describe scientists who have overstepped a perceived moral line. But how did a 19-year-old woman with no formal education come up with the idea for an extraordinary novel such as Frankenstein? The period of 1790-1820 saw huge advances in our understanding of electricity and physiology. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, and newspapers were full of tales of murderers and resurrectionists.

It is unlikely that Frankenstein would have been successful in his attempts to create life back in 1818. However, advances in medical science mean we have overcome many of the stumbling blocks that would have thwarted his ambition. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants–these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. Many of these modern achievements are a direct result of 19th century scientists conducting their gruesome experiments on the dead.

Making the Monster explores the science behind Shelley’s book. From tales of reanimated zombie kittens to electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Mary Shelley and inspired her most famous creation, Victor Frankenstein. While, thankfully, we are still far from being able to recreate Victor’s “creature,” scientists have tried to create the building blocks of life, and the dream of creating life-forms from scratch is now tantalizingly close.

July Book Haul #3

Yes. It’s my third haul. I sometimes go completely overboard. I’ll be good next month. I swear. *shifty eyes*

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

For fans of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Lois Duncan, and Daphne Du Maurier comes a powerhouse anthology featuring some of the best writers of YA thrillers and horror

A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.

Toil and Trouble edited by Jessica Spotswood & Tess Sharpe

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

Hungry Hearts edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman

From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.

Finders by Melissa Scott

Cassilde Sam is a barely solvent salvage operator, hunting for relics in the ruins left by the mysterious Ancestors—particularly the color-coded Elements that power most of humanity’s current technology, including the ability to navigate through hyperspace. Cassilde is also steadily fading under the onslaught of Lightman’s, an incurable, inevitably fatal disease. She needs one last find big enough to leave a legacy for her partner and fellow salvor Dai Winter.

When their lover and former colleague Summerlad Ashe reappears, offering them a chance to salvage part of an orbiting palace that he claims contains potentially immense riches, Cassilde is desperate enough to take the gamble, even though Ashe had left them both to fight on the opposite side of the interplanetary war that only ended seven years ago. The find is everything Ashe promised. But when pirates attack the claim, Cassilde receives the rarest of the Ancestors’ Gifts: a change to her biochemistry that confers near-instant healing and seems to promise immortality.

But the change also drags her into an underworld where Gifts are traded in blood, and powerful Gifts bring equally powerful enemies. Hunted for her Gift and determined to find Gifts for her lovers, Cassilde discovers that an old enemy is searching for the greatest of the Ancestral artifacts: the power that the Ancestors created and were able to barely contain after it almost destroyed them, plunging humanity into the first Long Dark. Haunted by dream-visions of this power whispering its own version of what happened, Cassilde must find it first, before her enemy frees it to destroy her own civilization.

The Lens and the Looker by Lori S. Kaufman

There’s hope for the future, but what about the past?

It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s), have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.

These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history.

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, The House with No Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphan

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

“That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist.”

And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.

Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps.

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais—that of the famous chef Madame Mallory—and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers.  Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo–in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman–travels through time to Oakland, California, where she opens a shop from which she administers spices as curatives to her customers.  An unexpected romance with a handsome stranger eventually forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life.

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The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

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The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder

Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps, and obscure historical documents. Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestows great magic to its wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city.

But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft. Forced to flee, with the Prince’s soldiers and the Priestess’ deacons on her trail, Shyla must recover the jewels and clear her name. A quest that will unearth secrets even more valuable than The Eyes of Tamburah themselves..

July Book Haul #2|| Retellings

Since I went absolutely crazy this month in terms of purchasing books, I’m only going to link to the Goodreads synopsis instead of including them here. I’ll give a super brief outline of each book.

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The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Egyptian gods and their mortal, snarky teenage daughter, Isadora.

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Eastern European folklore

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Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe

Pride and Prejudice retelling/sequel

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What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

Pride and Prejudice retelling/sequel

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The Grimoire of Kensington Market by Lauren B. Davis

Modern retelling of The Snow Queen

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Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Anne of Green Gables retelling/prequel

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Realm of Ruins by Hannah West

Fairytale mash up

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The Phantom’s Apprentice by Heather Webb

The Phantom of the Opera retelling/sequel

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Rapunzel retelling

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Beyond the Briars by Shelley Chappell

Four fairytale Retellings, including Rumplestiltskin and Sleeping Beauty

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Cadaver and Queen by Alisa Kwitney

Frankenstein retelling

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A Little in Love by Susan Kay

Les Miserables retelling from Eponine’s POV

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The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet by Jennifer Paynter

Pride and Prejudice retelling

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The Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan

Mahabharata retelling from POV of Kunti

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Phantom by Susan Kay

Phantom of the Opera retelling

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Perception by Terri Fleming

Pride and Prejudice retelling/sequel

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Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

Oliver Twist retelling

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Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

Modern Sense and Sensibility retelling

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Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Les Miserables retelling in space

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The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Island of Doctor Moreau retelling

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Jane Eyre retelling in 1960s/70s

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Havisham by Ronald Frame

Great Expectations retelling from Miss Haversham’s POV

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Black Spring by Alison Croggs

Wuthering Heights Retelling

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Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye

Jane Eyre retelling (sort of)

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The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss

A mash up featuring the daughters of Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, Dr. Moreau, Frankenstein, and Rappaccini. And also Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

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The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Sherlock Holmes retelling

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A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Female Sherlock Holmes retelling

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Dust and Shadow by Lindsay Faye

Sherlock Holmes retelling

July Book Haul #1|| New Releases

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Touted as a Mulan retelling, it also draws inspiration from the French tale Donkeyskin, the Chinese tale of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, and the Norwegian tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

And Shall Machines Surrender by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

On the dyson sphere Shenzhen, artificial intelligences rule and humans live in luxury, vying to be chosen as host bodies—called haruspices—for the next generation of AI, and thus be worshiped as gods.

Doctor Orfea Leung has come here to escape her past of mercenary violence. Krissana Khongtip has come here to reinvent herself from haunted spy to holy cyborg. But the utopian peace of Shenzhen is shattered when the haruspices begin committing suicide, and the pair are called upon to solve the mystery—and survive the silent war between machines . . .

David Mogo Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Nigerian God-Punk – a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen

A future chieftain

Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

A fugitive prince

When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.

A too-cunning bodyguard

Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?

The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species–formerly extinct–roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty–and what it truly means to be human.

The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter

WELCOME TO THE FOREST OF GOOD AND EVIL.

A DREAM COME TRUE…AND A LIVING NIGHTMARE.

Far, far away, in the realm of Enchantia, creatures of legend still exist, magic is the norm and fairy tales are real. Except, fairy tales aren’t based on myths and legends of the past—they are prophecies of the future.

Raised in the mortal realm, Everly Morrow has no idea she’s a real-life fairy-tale princess—until she manifests an ability to commune with mirrors.

Look. See… What will one peek hurt?

Soon, a horrifying truth is revealed. She is fated to be Snow White’s greatest enemy, the Evil Queen.

With powers beyond her imagination or control, Everly returns to the land of her birth. There, she meets Roth Charmaine, the supposed Prince Charming. Their attraction is undeniable, but their relationship is doomed. As the prophecy unfolds, Everly faces one betrayal after another, and giving in to her dark side proves more tempting every day. Can she resist, or will she become the queen—and villain—she was born to be?

The battle between good and evil is on.

The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang

Since it’s the fourth book in the series, I’ll just leave this with the link to the Goodreads synopsis if you want to have a look.

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Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

Retelling of Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers from Milady de Winter’s perspective

She was the greatest nemesis of d’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers–but Milady de Winter was so much more than just a villain in their swashbuckling adventures.

I’ve gone by many names though you know me as Milady de Winter: Villainess, seductress, a secondary player in The Three Musketeers story.

But we all know history was written by men, and they so often get things wrong.

So before you cast judgment, let me tell you of how a girl from the countryside became the most feared woman in all of Europe. A target for antipathy, a name whispered in fear or loathing.

I don’t need you to like me. I just need to be free.

It’s finally time I tell my own story. The truth isn’t tidy or convenient, but it’s certainly more interesting.

Perception|| Terri Fleming [Pride & Prejudice Retelling Mini Review]

Perception by Terri Fleming

Historical Fiction

400 Pages

Published 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Synopsis

Mary Bennet does not dream of marriage. Much to her mother’s horror, Mary is determined not to follow in the footsteps of her elder sisters, Jane (now Mrs Bingley) and Lizzy (now Mrs Darcy). Living at home with her remaining sister, Kitty, and her parents, Mary does not care for fashions or flattery. Her hopes are simple – a roof over her head, music at the piano, a book in her hand and the freedom not to marry the first bachelor her mother can snare for her.

But Mrs Bennet is not accustomed to listening to her daughters. When one of Meryton’s wealthiest residents reveals her son is returning home, Mrs Bennett is determined to hear wedding bells ring for one of her girls. Thrown into society, Mary discovers that promises can be broken, money can conquer love, and duty is not always a path to happiness. But by the time she realises her perceptions might be false, might she have missed her chance at a future she’d never imagined?

Comments

The main protagonist is Mary Bennet, the middle daughter of the family. In the original she is described as plain, and is mostly interested in music and reading. She had no interest in social occasions beyond finding an audience to display her accomplishments, of which she was rather vain.

This book takes place a few years after the end of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. There are many familiar characters, plus a few new ones. It mirrors the original in many ways and plays on familiar riffs of Pride and Prejudice.

Perception keeps to similar themes such as gender roles, marriage, social and class divisions, social climbing, and family. However, at its heart, it is a romance.

Yes, you heard me – a romance revolving around Mary Bennet. It was sweet and very well written. I was a little dismayed at the whole makeover part, but I enjoyed reading about Mary’s internal growth and change as a character. I felt it was perhaps a teeny bit dramatic, and sometimes I found myself wondering how believable it was. But this might not be an issue for others.

My only real issue was the portrayal of the majority of women as frivolous and stupid. It’s been a while since I read the original, but I’m pretty sure this type of talk was present. It still makes me uncomfortable.

The language is more accessible than Austen, but still keeps the historical feel. It’s very readable, and I’d recommend it to fans of Austen, and historical romance.

Descendant of the Crane|| Joan He (Mini Review)

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Young Adult Fantasy

416 pages

Publication: 9 April 2019

#1 in series

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

General Comments

I could wax poetic about this Chinese inspired fantasy for hours. Well, it would be less poetic and more incoherent ramble. This book seriously has it all. At least, a bit of everything I enjoy. It was completely addictive and so easy to read. I literally devoured it in a few hours.

What I loved

  • Complicated family dynamic: Hesina has complex and varying relationships with all the members of her family. The relationship with her mother is strained, bordering on loathing. It doesn’t help that her mother lives in some far off mountain monastery or something and acts like a bit of a b****. Hesina has, on the other hand, completely idealised her now-deceased father, which is obviously never an accurate or realistic representation of reality. She’s got a strained relationship with Sanjing, her biological brother, for something that happened when they were kids. Added to this, she has two adopted siblings. Lillian is absolutely awesome and very supportive, while Caiyan, her adopted brother is very logical and Hesina’s closest adviser.
  • Court politics: When this is done well I really enjoy all the intrigue and deals and sacrifices that come with being part of an imperial court. I wasn’t perhaps terribly surprised by all of it, but it was still a lot of fun to read.
  • Legal trial: In a lot of fantasies the legal system doesn’t get a lot of focus, so I was absolutely fascinated by the trial/inquest part of DotC, and I loved Akira being Hesina’s legal representative. He’s intelligent and it sort of leaves me in awe.
  • Murder mystery: I don’t read a lot of murder mysteries (I watch them though), so this was another element that I loved. Hesina’s quest to find out what happened to her father is a goal I can get behind, and I enjoyed reading how it played out. It went in a direction I was absolutely not expecting AT ALL, and I loved it.
  • Detailed mythology/ back story: This mostly pertains to the founding of the current dynasty, and the laws and advice the founders, know as The Eleven, left behind to run a fair and just society. It added so much more depth to the novel, and was fascinating in and of itself. I’d actually love to read that story if Joan He would consider writing a prequel.
  • Forbidden blood magic: Certain people, called sooths, have the ability to see the future. It’s an inherited blood-related magic, and it was fascinating. It really spoke to inequality and the dehumanisation of vulnerable groups.
  • Themes: There are quite a few themes running through the story. A big one was whether the concept of a just and equitable society is achievable, and what sort of sacrifices a person is willing to make to achieve their goals. What price is too high?
  • Complex characters: The bad guys aren’t wholly bad, the good guys aren’t wholly good. They’re human, and they’re messy, and they’re complicated. Everyone had realistic motivations and their reactions were always consistent with their personalities, which is pretty important to me.