Books!, Calendar Girls, Signal Boost

Calendar Girls: November 2018

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome back to another month of Calendar Girls. As always I’ll start this post by saying that Calendar Girls is a monthly blog event that was started by Flavia and Melanie, but is now being hosted by Katie and Adrienne. They are all wonderful ladies, and you should check out their lovely blogs. Oh, and if you go to either Katie or Adrienne‘s Calendar Girls post each month, they will have links to all the other wonderful book bloggers participating in this event. It’s a great way to find new bookish friends, and also possibly add some more books to your TBR.

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First, more about the Calendar Girls. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers, and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song, Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme, and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. Make sure to post back to the hostess’s post, and both Katie and Adrienne will make a master list for the month. The master lists allow everyone to see the other Calendar Girls’ picks and to pop on over to their blogs. Thus, we all get to chat about books and even make some new friends!

Now it is time for the November theme…

Not Quite the End

Favorite Middle Book in a Series

Once again, this was a difficult choice for me. There are so many wonderful options. So, as per usual, I will be listing off a few honorable mentions before I get into my actual pick for this month. Oh, and there is a series that I could easily have picked for this month, but I’m really hoping the category I voted for as December’s theme wins, because then I don’t have to worry about what book to pick, because it is a book I recommend all the time.

Anyway, let’s jump into the honorable mentions.

First up: The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa. Now this one is the middle book of the spin-off trilogy for the Iron Fey series, so I’m still counting it as the middle book of a series, event though as part of the larger series it is next to the final book. But man, oh man. This book delivered the adventure and then the cliffhanger at the ending. I remember reading this book right after it was released, and I realized I had to wait a whole year just wondering how that ending was going to be resolved. It was fantastic. Also, torture. But mostly fantastic.

Then, I feel like I have to mention A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas, because that is the best book in the Feyre/Rhysand trilogy portion of the series. It did so well with character dynamics and development, and I so very much enjoyed exploring the Night Court.

Next, I absolutely have to talk about A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. Now, I’ll be honest, this series was my introduction into Victoria Schwab, and I was blown away. Discovering all about the parallel Londons, and following Kell and Lila was just a fantastic adventure. And this second book introduces us to more of the world of Red London, and brings in a magic tournament that was just really darn cool. Plus, even more character development. Oh, and don’t forget the fallout from the events of the first book. Actually, talking about this right now is making me want to go re-read the books. If only I weren’t occupied with NaNoWriMo.

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead also has to make my list of honorable mentions. This fourth book in the Bloodlines series was where things really got ramped up. Yes, the first three books were great, and I loved spending more time with Sydney and Adrian, but this book was absolutely amazing. It got me going not just with the romance, but also with the complications around them because of their relationship. It made the wait for the last two books even more intense for me. I love both the Vampire Academy series and the Bloodlines series.

Finally, my last honorable mention goes to The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. Now, don’t get me wrong. Uncle Rick’s books are all pretty much amazing. But there’s just something about this middle-ish book of The Heroes of Olympus series–yes, I know that The Mark of Athena is technically the middle book of this series–that was just completely outstanding. The last time I read through all of Rick Riordan, I was literally reading one book each day, and it led to a month where I read 31 books, which was ridiculous. But I am obsessed with all things Rick Riordan. Does it matter that I am a 30 year old woman and therefore not the target audience? Nope, not at all. I first discovered Rick Riordan’s books in my library in the summer of 2007, and I have been hooked ever since. Yes, I first read The Lightning Thief when I was turning 19 years old. It was shelved in the YA section (though it is Middle Grade), and it was based on mythology, which I will always be interested in reading.

Okay, now with all that gushing about a few other middle books in the series, I’m sure you’re wondering what book I have as my pick this month. Trust me, there will be a lot of gushing for this one as well.

All right, you’ve waited long enough.

My choice for Favorite Middle Book in a Series is….

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The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Yes, this is the middle book of a trilogy, and the third book will be out March 5, 2019. The first book is The Bone Witch, and I absolutely raved about it after I read it, and the same is definitely true for The Heart Forger.

I was able to read an early copy of the first book thanks to NetGalley, and then for the second book, I was sent a very lovely print ARC a couple months early. It was a complete surprise when it showed up on my doorstep one day.

The world created for this trilogy is a fascinating one. I enjoy the culture of it all, and the descriptions are absolutely wonderful. Then there is the magic system. Now look, generally I am not much of a fan of either zombie stories or necromancy, and this story pretty much has both. The main character is a Bone Witch, and at the beginning of the trilogy, her brother dies and she brings him back to life. But just the way the story is written, with the main character telling her story to a bard and how it jumps between the current story, and then the past where she is still learning and growing, I was just enraptured by it all. Oh, and the way it jumps back and forth really helps to add to the suspense of figuring out what exactly happened to make Tea this way, and also figure out which guy is her true love.

The second book brings in journeys or dealings with several other countries, which means even more hua designs, more lush descriptions of zivars, and learning even more about how different ashas wield their abilities. Plus there is even more interaction with the powerful daeva creatures, and so much more intrigue and action. And the character development as you get pulled even farther into the story. Seriously, both of these books have landed on my favorite reads lists, and I’m pretty sure the third book will as well. There’s just a few more months to wait. Thank goodness.

Whew, that was a lot of gushing about books for one post. Please check out the links to both Katie’s and Adrienne’s blogs, and they will have the links for the other Calendar Girls posts for this month. I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone else chose.

That is all for today, and I’ll be back soon with more bookish content.

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Books!, Inspiration, NaNoWriMo, Signal Boost, Writing

NaNoWriMo Prep 2018

Hey all, Dani here.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts in just a few more days. Ahhh…I don’t know that I’m ready yet. This is probably the least prepared that I have been in all my years of NaNo. But I’ve just been so out of practice with creative writing. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to write consistently through November. It would be really nice.

I just keep seeing all of these BookTubers who also write, and they talk about finishing drafts, or finishing edits. One just got her first bound ARCs for her book, and I got so happy for her because that is a big deal, but also sad because I feel like I’m starting to fail even more on my own writing journey.

So what am I doing for planning/plotting/prepping for NaNo? Well, I had some basic chapter title ideas written down, and some very loose character names. But looking at the names, some of them just didn’t fit…so I’m combing through character name databases or baby name databases trying to find names that do work.

But then I feel like I want to get a rough synopsis written. So I’m trying to get a draft of that finished today as well. But then that makes me wonder if I should play with Photoshop a bit and make a mock-up of a cover for inspiration purposes.

I also know that I need to come up with a writing playlist for this book too. I like to have songs that will inspire me for the actual plot of the book I’m writing. So I need to find at least 10-12 songs that work.

What I’m I working on this year? Well, as if it isn’t enough of a challenge for myself that I’m trying to get back into creative writing again, but I’m also going to be tackling a genre I don’t typically write in…and by that I am talking about romance. Basically my book is going to be a nerdy contemporary romance.

I’ve been inspired by my real life romance, and while I have been seeing a little more geeky and nerdy YA contemporary romance books, I think we could still use more of them. And honestly I think my book will be probably more New Adult to adult in age range. The characters all feel like they are in their low to mid 20s or so. I mean, I just turned 30 this year and my fiance is 26. So the characters will probably be around that range as well.

But I’m still so nervous about this project. I want it to be a great story. This is a tale that is near and dear to my heart, because in many ways it is a story I wish I could have read several years ago, when I was feeling so alone and believing that I would never find my own nerdy fairy tail romance. In many ways I feel like perhaps I am putting too much pressure on myself for this story, and that is making it harder for me to actually sit down and write.

However, NaNoWriMo is almost here, so hopefully I can push aside my inner editor and just write. I want to get this story out into the world.

Oh, and if you have any song ideas that you think would fit a geeky couple contemporary romance story, then please suggest them to me in the comments. I would be glad for the help.

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, are you ready to start writing in a few days?

Book Releases, Book Review, Books!, Manga, Signal Boost

What I’m Reading (34)

Hey all, Dani here.

It has been a good week, but not a very productive reading week. Doctor Who came back on, and I’m liking the Thirteenth Doctor so far. And my fiance and I took my mom to the Renaissance Festival on Saturday–it was her first time there and she had a great time. It was Highland Weekend, so there were lots of kilts and a great deal of bagpipe music going on. Oh, and I met one of the most fierce and badass women, named Dame Jaclyn. She was one of the full-armored knights for the joust. On the first pass she took a poorly aimed lance that hit pretty much in the gut/ovary area. Then on the second pass she was unhorsed. But she got back up and mounted the horse again to go for the third pass. Dame Jaclyn said that in armor she weighs about 200 pounds and her opponent weighs more like 500 pounds in armor. It was an impressive showing, and I’m glad I got to talk to her and get her autograph after the joust was completed.

I read two books in the last week. Actually, I read both of these last night. But again, they are choose your own adventure books so they are pretty darn quick reads. With Big Trouble, I made a couple of bad decisions so it took about three tries to make it all the way through the adventure. Oddly enough, I made it through the first try with To Catch A Thief. So what did I learn from these four Endless Quest books (the fighter, the cleric, the wizard, and the rogue)? Well, apparently I have the easiest time surviving if I am in the mindset of a rogue. Which is weird to me because I tend to play clerics the most and I am generally pretty good at surviving in D&D.

Anyway, on to what I am currently reading.

Well, I’m still reading Access Restricted by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. I am really into the story, but I can admit that part of me is worried that this is the last book in the series or that it will leave off on a massive cliffhanger. Either way I don’t know that I’m ready for the book to end, which I think has slowed my reading speed a bit. Plus, obviously I got distracted by other books.

Okay, so I made it another 20 pages into Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. Overall I’m not doing too bad with my progress on this, especially since I’ve been in a Highlander mood. Granted, this one doesn’t have nearly as many Scots in kilts in it, but it’s still a good read. If I keep this up then I should reach my goal of reaching at least page 400 by the end of the month.

I also started reading a poetry book I picked up at the end of last month and I am so loving it. The poems are definitely resonating with me, and I plan on having a gushing review of the book up shortly after I finish it. For now I’m a little over halfway finished and I can definitely say that I recommend Fierce Fairytales: Poems & Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill.

What I plan on reading next is probably…hmm…I’m thinking the next book I’ll pick up is Rule by Ellen Goodlett.

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This book is giving me some Three Dark Crowns vibes, sort of. So I can definitely say that I am looking forward to diving into this read, and hopefully I enjoy it.

So what books are you reading? I’d love to know, so let’s talk books in the comments. I’ll be back soon with more bookish content.

Book Releases, Book Review, Books!, Recommendations, Signal Boost

Blog Tour Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Hey all, Dani here.

I am so happy to be posting this review today, as part of the blog tour for Jennifer Estep’s new fantasy novel, Kill the Queen. This book will be out in the world in just one week, on October 2nd, but I have had my eye on it for a few months now. So when I was offered the chance to sign up for the blog tour, I jumped on it, and thankfully I was approved.

Because of this I must give a huge thank you to Let’s Talk! Promotions for approving me to be on the book tour, and I must also thank Edelweiss, as well as the publisher Harper Voyager for granting me early access to this novel. As always, I need to say that being granted a galley (or being part of the blog tour) did not affect my rating or review in any way.

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I have read six of Estep’s Elemental Assassin series, plus the first novel in her Mythos Academy series. In all actuality I own about a dozen of her books that I haven’t read yet. She is an author whose work I follow, but I don’t desperately reach for the newest release as soon as it is available.

But this one sounded really interesting to me, and I wanted to see how a primarily urban fantasy and paranormal author took on a more epic fantasy style tale. Plus it is tagged as Gladiator meets Game of Thrones, so I was definitely intrigued.

Okay, let’s just jump into the review.

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Summary

The thrilling first novel in the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series combines magic, murder, and adventure when an unlikely member of the royal family suddenly becomes a contender in a clash for the crown . . .

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of combat, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

My Thoughts

Rating: 5 stars

I read this book so quickly, and honestly I did not want to put it down–though I had to because of things like work and food. Oh, speaking of food…I’m just going to say that I do not recommend reading this book on an empty stomach, because as with pretty much everything I’ve read by Jennifer Estep, her descriptions of food are just so vivid and realistic that I ended up being so darn hungry. There are so many details about the smell and the taste and the appearance that you feel like a banquet has been laid out in front of you.

Another comment I will make on this book is the writing style. Fantasy is a genre I read most frequently, and so I’m used to the differences in style and tone for epic fantasy versus urban fantasy versus historical fantasy, etc. This book has the scope of an epic fantasy, with a fascinating world, an intriguing magic system, and decent political intrigue, but written in the style I would expect from an urban fantasy. It is a sort of conversational style that makes you feel like the narrator is sitting in a lounge with you and telling you a story.

I guess if I had to have a complaint about the book, it is that there were times when I would have liked more elaboration in the gladiator training, but instead there were time jumps that propelled the story forward a week or two instead and progress in fighting ability had occurred during that time. But really, that isn’t a complaint that is going to reduce my rating or anything.

Oh, and the potential romance. Wow. I really want to say more, but frankly, I should just tell you all to grab the book and read all of this for yourself. Needless to say, I am absolutely counting down until the release of the second book in the trilogy.

Where to Buy

You can currently pre-order this fantastic read from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookseller. It will be released in just one week, on October 2nd.

JENNIFER’S BIO AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. 

Jennifer writes the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series. Kill the Queen, book #1, will be released on Oct. 2.

The Crown of Shards series focuses on Everleigh Blair, a member of the royal family who is distantly in line for the throne of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. But when the unthinkable happens, Evie finds herself fighting for her life—both inside and outside the gladiator arena.  

Jennifer is also the author of the Elemental Assassin, Mythos Academy, Bigtime, and Black Blade fantasy series.  

For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit www.jenniferestep.com or follow Jennifer on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter.

Website: http://www.jenniferestep.com/

Blog: http://www.jenniferestep.com/blog/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JenniferEstepAuthor?fref=ts

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Jennifer_Estep  (@Jennifer_Estep)

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/580315.Jennifer_Estep

Newsletter signup: http://www.jenniferestep.com/contact-jennifer/newsletter/

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So thanks for checking out my review, and be sure to check out the other awesome bloggers involved in this blog tour. Some of them are even hosting giveaways so you don’t want to miss your chance to possibly win those.

That is it for me today, and I will be back soon with more bookish content.

Books!, Signal Boost

Banned Books Week 2018

Hey all, Dani here.

Once again we find ourselves at the time of year to celebrate Banned Books Week, and like every previous year, I like to write up a little post to talk about the occasion. You can find out a lot more information by checking out the Banned Books Week site or by checking out the Banned Books Week section of the ALA(American Library Association)’s site.

Banned Books Week is the annual celebration by libraries, publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers, to celebrate the Freedom to Read. There are a number of different events being held all over at libraries and bookstores, so check out your local ones to see what might be going on near you. Banned Books Week was started back in the 1980s, in response to the increased challenges and protests, including a 1982 Supreme Court case (Island Trees School District v. Pico) which ruled that school officials can’t ban books simply because of their content.

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Each year a list is released of the top 10 most challenged books for the previous year. Take note of the reasons these books are challenged. I feel like most of these books are challenged by a small yet very vocal group of people, and the sad fact is that for a vast majority of these challenges, the person asking for the removal of the book from libraries and/or schools actually has not picked up the book. They are going off of the summary and/or what they might have heard about the book.

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There are a lot of popular books that find themselves on this challenged/banned list, and I have talked about them in a previous post. This topic is one that I feel like I need to talk about each year, so you can find my posts from 2016 and 2017 at these links. I also have a Banned Books Recommendations post, which I definitely recommend.

And the ALA’s Banned Books Week Web site also includes a bunch of handy dandy infographics, which I think are cool to include. They give a quick glimpse at why books are challenged, where they are challenged, and more.

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So this might not be my longest post, but I still think it is absolutely an important one. As members of the book community, we pretty much have a responsibility to fight against censorship. If a book has content you don’t want to read, then that’s fine. The sensible solution is to just not buy/borrow/read that book. Don’t ruin the reading fun for others just because you don’t agree with the content of a book.

That’s like saying that because you don’t like hamburgers that nobody else should have access to hamburgers. Not cool.

On another somewhat unrelated note, I am getting pretty near to 500 followers on my blog –THANK YOU ALL–and I have always had it in mind that I will be doing a giveaway when I reach that point. So when I reach 500 followers I will be uploading a post with details on how one of you awesome people can win $25 worth of books from Book Depository.

I do believe that is all from me today. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon with more bookish content.

Book Releases, Book Review, Books!, Signal Boost

What I’m Reading (29)

Hey all, Dani here.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far. Mine hasn’t been too bad, and I’ve accomplished some reading (though not as much as I would really like to have completed). But I am very much looking forward to the books I’m hoping to read this month, so with any luck I will have a productive time of reading and have a really good wrap up here in a few weeks.

Basically, since my last update, I have only managed to finish one book. It was a really good book, and I’m now mad at myself for taking so long to read it, but I’m already guessing that I’m going to marathon the rest of the series very soon, so we’ll see what happens.

What is that book, you may be wondering? Well, it was Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. I plan on writing up a review for it, so I don’t want to say too much here, but I was so drawn into the story from the beginning. Even though I figured out who Jack the Ripper was about 30-ish pages before the reveal, it still didn’t ruin any of the reading experience.

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As for my current reads, at the moment I am only focused on one book, but I am thinking I am going to fly through it, because it is just such an easy to read narration. Seriously, I am finding the narrator to be pretty darn amusing. So, with any luck, I’ll actually finish this book in the next day or so.

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Finally, let’s talk about the books I am definitely getting to very soon. Because, yes, while I really want to read Access Restricted by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, I’m worried that I’ve been hyping the book up so much in my head that I’ll disappoint myself. So I am making myself read a few other books first.

Also, I was recently selected to be a part of the blog tour for the release of Jennifer Estep’s Kill the Queen, which will be released on October 2nd. My post–a review–will be up on September 25th, so I definitely need to get to work reading the book. But I can also admit that right now all I want to do is start reading Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco, because I absolutely devoured the first one, and the third book will be out in just a couple more weeks. Of course, I am also super excited to get to continue the Spellslinger series by picking up Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell, because I definitely loved the first book and am anxious to find out what is going to happen next.

Pretty much I’m just excited for all of the books I have planned to read in September. It is going to be such a lovely reading month.

Well, that is all from me today. Let me know what great books you have recently finished…or that you are currently reading…because I would love to know what books I should be adding to my TBR. As always, I will be back soon with more bookish content.

Books!, Calendar Girls, Signal Boost

Calendar Girls: September 2018

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome back to another month of Calendar Girls. As always I’ll start this post by saying that Calendar Girls is a monthly blog event that was started by Flavia and Melanie, but is now being hosted by Katie and Adrienne. They are all wonderful ladies, and you should check out their lovely blogs. Oh, and if you go to either Katie or Adrienne‘s Calendar Girls post each month, they will have links to all the other wonderful book bloggers participating in this event. It’s a great way to find new bookish friends, and also possibly add some more books to your TBR.

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First, more about the Calendar Girls. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers, and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song, Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme, and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. Make sure to post back to the hostess’s post, and both Katie and Adrienne will make a master list for the month. The master lists allow everyone to see the other Calendar Girls’ picks and to pop on over to their blogs. Thus, we all get to chat about books and even make some new friends!

The September theme is…

Back to School
Best Novel Set in a School

Can I just say that I actually miss going back to school around this time of year? I pretty much finished up my schooling at the end of 2011–at least until I can find some way to get my finances in order so I can go back for my doctorate. So I’ve been out of the world of academia for quite a few years now and I just really miss it. I was so much more productive with writing back then.

An obvious choice for this month’s theme would be Harry Potter, so I guess that series will be my first honorable mention. And I suppose I should also say that a part of me wanted to name the Animorphs series, because so much of it does revolve around their school.

Oh, and right now I’m just going to go ahead and toss a couple manga options into the mix. Because they are both series that I really enjoy, and the school portion of the story is actually rather important for both of them. The manga honorable mentions for this theme are My Hero Academia and Blue Exorcist. They are both great series and I definitely recommend them. One follows a school that trains professional superheroes, and the other is a school for exorcists.

Now we come down to the part we’ve all been waiting for…the novel I have selected as my pick for “Best Novel Set in a School.” This was actually a difficult choice for me. There are so many great books out there with schools in them, but I wanted to pick something where the school setting was a huge part of the story.

I spent a good fifteen minutes or so scanning all the books on the shelves of my home library, trying to narrow down my options so I could figure out which novel to select. I was tempted to choose Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, or The Magicians by Lev Grossman. But ultimately, I decided on something else.

Though many of these have interesting school settings, or have a spotlight on learning or being at school, over all there was one book that I read last year that felt so much like being in school for me, so it has to be my choice for this month’s theme.

That book is Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia.

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Eliza is the creator of a massively popular web comic, but nobody at school knows. That is, until the number one fanfiction writer of her comic transfers to her school and they become friends because of their shared fondness for the web comic. Of course the fanfiction writer has no idea that Eliza is the creator.

To me, this book just reminded me so much of being a student in school. Yes, I love academia, and I pretty much always enjoyed my classes. But in many ways I didn’t exactly feel like I fit in or that I belonged. Yes, I had some friends from band, and most of my friends were geeks too. But I didn’t start being an open and proud geek until just a few years ago, when I decided to just be myself and not care if people found me odd. So I relate to Eliza on a number of levels.

Plus, when I was in high school, not only did I spend a lot of time reading, but I also spent a lot of time writing stories and posting my chapters up on fictionpress. So this book is near and dear to my heart, and I feel like sometimes escaping into a fantasy world is all you can do to endure the social aspect of school.

You can find my review of this book here, and I definitely recommend it if you haven’t read it already.

Whew, okay. Now I just have to wait until the October theme is announced…and then I can once again stare at all the books in my library and try to figure out which ones are just honorable mentions, and which one will be my pick for the month. Oh, and wait for the Calendar Girls Twitter chat and all the other fun social media interactions.

That is all for today. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be back soon with more bookish content (specifically my August Wrap-Up and September TBR tomorrow).

Books!, Calendar Girls, Signal Boost

Calendar Girls: August 2018

Hey all, Dani here.

So, at the end of last year I told myself that in 2018 I was going to join the Calendar Girls, because I loved the posts, and had found some great new blogs because of the monthly meme. But then Calendar Girls went on hiatus, so it changed up a few of my planned posts for the year. Now though, Calendar Girls has found a new home, and today is the first month  of the meme. This was originally created by Flavia and Melanie, and is now being hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreams Reader. So, feel free to go check out all of their blogs, because they are all wonderful ladies.

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First, more about the Calendar Girls. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers, and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song, Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme, and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. Make sure to post back to the hostess’s post, and I will make a master list for the month. The master lists allow everyone to see the other Calendar Girls’ picks and to pop on over to their blogs. Thus, we all get to chat about books and even make some new friends!

Dog Days of Summer
Best Novel Set in Summer

The theme for August is Dog Days of Summer, and we are supposed to select our best/favorite novel set in summer.

Before I get into my choice for this month, I first want to include a couple honorable mentions, and both are actually series. First is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. These books came around while I was in high school, so I related to them quite a bit, and they were nice quick summer reads. And then the fifth book was released years later while I was in grad school, so once again, I really felt like I understood all of the characters. I still own these books, and talking about them now makes me want to reread the whole series.

My second honorable mention is the Percy Jackson series. With the exception of I believe one book, these all start at the end of the school year and then lead Percy to his summer at Camp Half-Blood. I discovered these books in the summer after my first year of college, but I couldn’t help but be sucked into the story thanks to all of the wonderful mythology and adventure within the pages. The fact that I am still a huge Rick Riordan fan (at the age of 30) is a testament to how great his books are, regardless of your age.

All right, I guess now it is time to reveal my actual choice for Best Novel Set in Summer. This one took a little bit of thought and debate, but in the end, I couldn’t help but pick this fun contemporary read that I flew through, even though it was over 500 pages long.

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My choice is The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, and I talked about this book as one of my favorite reads in 2016, as well as in my Contemporary Recommendations post. But I guess I never actually wrote a review post for this one. Hmm…I may have to reread it so I can refresh my memory on the book before I write up a nice review.

But anyway, this story follows Andie, who has everything all planned out for her summer, including a nice internship that will help her with preparing for her future. But then a political scandal around her dad changes everything and she has to scramble to figure out a new plan for the summer. This ends up including a job as a dog walker, and meeting the adorable geek Clark.

I flew through this book, and I enjoyed the way the relationship developed between Andie and Clark, as well as watching the growing and changing relationship dynamic between Andie and her dad. Plus, in true Morgan Matson fashion, there are little cameos from her previous books in this one, because all of the books take place in the same area. (Andie and Clark end up making an appearance in Matson’s newest book release, Save the Date).

But when it comes to books set in summer/released in summer/read in summer, I tend to go for ones that are quick reads. Sometimes they are cutesy contemporary reads like this one, and sometimes they are filled with magic and adventure.


I do believe that is all for today. The announcement of the September Calendar Girls theme should be up on Katie’s and Adrienne’s blogs next week. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon with more bookish content.

Book Releases, Book Review, Books!, Recommendations, Signal Boost

Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Hey all, Dani here.

We all have certain themes, tropes, or story elements that generally turn us off from picking up certain books/movies/shows. For me, I am not a big mystery or thriller reader, though I am okay with watching those kind of stories. I also typically don’t reach for zombie stories. But I will say that as long as a story sounds interesting, I am totally willing to give it a try. And that is totally the case for the book I’m talking about today.

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Summary

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

My Thoughts

Rating: 5 stars

Let’s start with the cover. I love how badass Jane looks holding her sickle and that is a cool and powerful stance. It gave me expectations for how the story within the covers was going to go. Thankfully the story matched up with beauty of the outside.

Jane has spirit. Her spunk was great, even though her sass quite regularly got her in trouble. But she did also go out of her way to help others, even ones who hadn’t been the nicest to her at school.

The alternate history laid out in this book was well done and so interesting. It really makes you look at the sanitization of history, how often we try and bury the unfair treatment and blatant racism of the past. Actually if we’re being honest many in society today don’t seem to recognize the racism of modern times. Based on the notes in the back of the book, there were industrial schools where Native children were sent and “civilized” based on the accepted white culture of the times. Many of the comments made by white characters towards people of color in this book made me cringe; it was pretty atrocious and despicable.

Jane handles it in stride, though. Sometimes she even uses their expectations against them, by pretending to be less intelligent or civilized. Even Jane’s classmates don’t expect Jane to be as smart as she is, though she can read and write, while most of them can’t.

But this was a pretty adventurous story, and I am so glad that I gave it a chance. The zombies, or shamblers as they are known in the book, are not really romanticized in any way. They are mindless savages and a group of them approaching can be a terrifying situation.

Where to Buy

You can pick up this fantastic novel from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.

Book Review, Books!, Recommendations, Signal Boost

Top Ten Reads of 2018 — So Far

Hey all, Dani here.

The wait is over. My list of favorite reads from the first six months of the year is here at last. Before I jump into which books made it, I first want to go over the rules that I set for myself when it comes to what can or cannot be considered for this list. As a book blogger, I do receive early copies of books for review, but it wouldn’t be fair to include books that have not been released to the general public. I also don’t include rereads on this list, because obviously I enjoyed the book enough to read it again, so those books have an unfair advantage.

The ten books that make up this list are ones that I read in the months of January through June in 2018. Overall I ended up reading 59 books in that time, so narrowing down to ten was something I thought was going to be difficult…but I read some books that just really stood out for me. As always, I am placing these books in the order I read them in, not any sort of last to first ranking order or anything. Oh, and if I have a review up for the book, I will also include the link, in case you would like to check out more of my thoughts.

Let’s get started.

  1. The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco
    I am so glad that I was able to read an ARC of this book, because this series continues to blow me away. I love diving into Tea’s world, and seeing how her story unfolds. Overall I did not want to put this book down, and I am so looking forward to the third book.
  2. Love & War: An Alex & Eliza Novel by Melissa de la Cruz
    Well, the first book of this series made my list last year, so is it any surprise that my Hamilton obsession is still going strong? This YA version of Alexander Hamilton’s romance and relationship with Eliza Schuyler Hamilton continues to keep me hooked…even when certain elements of history have to be altered slightly to make for a better story. I’m not reading this for a 100% historically faithful tale. I can read Hamilton’s writings or any number of nonfiction books on Hamilton if I want the facts.
  3. Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen
    Now that I have read this book, I am so sad that I didn’t try and snag a copy in 2017 at BookExpo. It was completely outstanding. I loved the magic system and the overall setup. Plus the characters were so interesting…even the ones that were so awful that I hoped for their death. I am very much looking forward to the second book.
  4. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
    Based on the way this book was described, I was sure I was going to enjoy it, but it ended up completely sucking me in, and I didn’t want to stop reading until I reached the end. I enjoyed the descriptions, the action, the character development…it was all so good. The only thing that upset me is that I feel like the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly. But there is apparently a companion novel coming (probably next year), so we’ll see what happens next.
  5. Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy
    I need to get a review written for this one, so I am adding that to my to-do list. But this was such a cute contemporary story, with a nice dash of fantasy since it was based on a movie adaptation of a beloved book series…and a romance between one of the film’s stars and the grand-daughter of the series’ author.
  6. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    Why haven’t I written a review for this one yet? I read it during a 24 Hour Readathon, but I would have read it super quickly anyway. It was such a deeply fascinating series, with an amazing set of characters, a cool adventure, and an intriguing magic system. Needless to say, I am already counting down until the release of the sequel.
  7. The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde
    Jen Wilde makes my list again, with another cute and diverse contemporary novel, one that features cameos from characters who were in her debut novel. I loved following the three members of the band The Brightsiders, and seeing all the drama and issues that seemed to follow their lives. And the romances were pretty cute too.
  8. Furyborn by Claire Legrand
    Another fantasy book with great world-building and magic systems. This was also another book that I absolutely flew through. I admit that the cover design caught my eye, and then I read up on the book. I am so glad that I did, because it was an outstanding read, even at the hefty number of pages it contained. Seriously, I loved it.
  9. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
    Amanda Foody has written another wonderfully atmospheric and interesting fantasy read, and I can say that I also flew through this book. I read The Brightsiders, Furyborn, and Ace of Shades all in one weekend, and I’m so glad that they were all so interesting that I easily could have landed in a book slump, but they all stood wonderfully on their own merits. Amanda Foody’s characters and writing style have definitely placed her up on my list of favorite new fantasy authors.
  10. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
    The review for this book will be up tomorrow, but this was kind of a surprise favorite for me. While I do like the occasional historical fiction story, I am not as into books (or shows or movies) with zombies in them. But I was immediately drawn in by the narrative voice of our main protagonist, Jane. She was one awesome and spirited young lady, and I loved following all of her mishaps and adventures, all while fighting off the shambler plague.

So far it has been a pretty great year for reading, and I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of 2018 brings. Thanks for reading. I hope you are enjoying some great reads of your own, and I’ll be back soon with more bookish content.