Scavenger Girl: Season of Atchem (Jennifer Arntson)

I received a free copy of Scavenger Girl in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

In Ashlund, Una and her family are Scavengers: forced to live on the fringes of society and scrounge out a life where they can. While their family bond runs deep, it becomes more clear that there are also secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Soon, Una will be forced to choose between the life she knows and a life of privilege that rejects much of what she holds dear.

Where should I begin? Overall, I’m intrigued by this book. It is the first book in a series and the world that Jennifer Arntson has built is a very interesting one. It’s dark and the issues Una is taking on are difficult ones. It’s does have a few things I didn’t like, but overall, it was nothing so egregious I couldn’t overlook it.

Initially, I was a little irritated with Una. When things got rough, she fell apart. More than once. However, I thought about it. Would I have really handled the situations any differently? Merely because she didn’t deal with some admittedly pretty nasty situations with the typical dystopian heroine’s hard-ass attitude was no reason to discount her. Deep down, Una is tough, and she does make some decisions that, in all honesty,  are very mature and probably not the ones I would have made myself. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This book does get pretty intense. I certainly didn’t finish it as quickly as I normally would. I had to step away every once in awhile just to give my emotions a break. One scene in particular was difficult to get through. When things go wrong in Ashlund, they go very, very wrong.

Scavenger Girl is definitely a different take on young adult dystopian fiction. If that’s something you are interested in, it’s worth your time. I, for one, am very interested to see where things go in the rest of the series.

Halloween Nonfiction and a Giveaway!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again!!

Most of you know that Halloween tops my list of holidays. Last year, I did a list of books and cocktail suggestions to make your Halloween a little better (you can read that here). This year, I’ve decided to go a slightly different route and share with you my favorite nonfiction works with a more macabre theme.

  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

Let’s get death positive for Halloween! Caitlin Doughty helps to bring a refreshing dose of humor to death. Her video series Ask a Mortician has long been a favorite of mine and her books are filled with fascinating anecdotes and her signature irreverence. She somehow helps make death a more approachable experience.

  • The Great Mortality by John Kelly

An engrossing and often heart-wrenching history of the black death, which decimated Europe in the Middle Ages. It’s educational, obviously, but it definitely has moments that help to convey the more human aspects of a tragedy that may seem very distant to us now.

  • Death’s Acre by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson

Dr. Bass is probably THE leading pioneer in the field of forensic anthropology. This book discusses how he helped develop the field as well as offering intriguing looks into actual cases and giving readers a peek into the Body Farm.

  • Beyond the Dark Veil

If you have ever seen The Others, then you are familiar with the Victorian practice of post-mortem photography. This book takes an look at the practice in an intimate, often poignant manner.

  • Empire of Death, Memento Mori and Heavenly Bodies by Paul Koudounaris

If you like skeletons, you will love Paul Koudounaris’ work. Whether he’s exploring medieval ossuaries or taking in bedazzled saints, his work is visually stunning and endlessly fascinating. These books are probably my favorites on this list, and that’s saying something.

NOW… giveaway time!! For quite awhile now, I have been following The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice, a fantastic blog on medical history from Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. She recently published The Butchering Art. I have not read it yet, but, having read her blog, I can’t imagine that it’s not fantastic. Long story short (basically, awesome boyfriend), I have an extra copy and I’m giving it away!

Sorry, this one is also US only and will stay open through midnight on Halloween!

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris

Book Related Movies (And Cocktail Suggestions!)

Since I haven’t been reading as much as usual lately (a fact I’m trying to rectify), I’ve decided to do something a little different. While books have always been my ultimate source of comfort, movies are a close second. I’ve written about my favorite book to TV adaptations previously here. My favorite book to big screen is another article entirely. Soon enough.

Today, I’m looking at movies that are about books. Plus, I’m throwing in cocktail suggestions. You can’t go wrong! Read on…

  • Stranger Than Fiction

When IRS auditor Harold Crick begins to hear a voice narrating his life, he thinks he’s going crazy. When the narrator suggests that he will die soon, Harold becomes desperate to discover the identity of the narrator so he can talk her into a different ending.

This has been one of my favorite movies since it came out. It is one of those things that I wish I could have written myself. While Will Ferrell movies can usually be over the top, this is definitely a more restrained performance, and I think without question one of his best.

Cocktail Suggestion: A green apple ginger martini. Green apples feature pretty noticiably in the story, so this seems fitting.

  • The Neverending Story

Pretty much everyone born in the 80’s already knows this movie. As a big fan of 80’s fantasy, I love this one, but, it definitely scarred me for life. You know the scene I mean.

Cocktail suggestion: The Neverending Story. It’s too perfectly named. And you will want the alcohol to deal with the emotional trauma. Or alternately: a tequila sunrise: just like this movie, it looks like a fun time, but you know you’re just going to end up on the edge of a blackout, crying on the floor. (This was a suggestion someone else made to me that I lifted almost word for word. #sorrynotsorry )

Perhaps you can make it look this sexy and dramatic. I cannot.
  • The Princess Bride

Another for those 80’s babies out there. While stuck at home sick, a young boy’s grandfather reads him the tale of the Princess Bride. Full of adventure and true love, and a good dose of humor, this classic has definitely stood the test of time. This is also one of the few cases where I like the movie much better than the book.

Cocktail suggestion: The Buttercup. Something warm and fuzzy to go with all those cozy childhood memories.

  • Notting Hill

Travel bookshop owner William Thacker leads a predictable, boring life, until his world is suddenly thrown into turmoil when famous actress Anna Scott enters his shop. After a somewhat messy introduction, romance inevitably follows.

Of course it’s a silly chick flick, but it is still one of my all time favorites. Hugh Grant is, in my opinion, at his charmingly befuddled best.

Cocktail suggestion: A classic screwdriver, which will make perfect sense when the time comes for the meet cute.

  • Inkheart

Young Meggie is startled to discover that her father, Mo, can pull characters from books, simply by reading them aloud. This soon proves to be dangerous when villain Capricorn decides that he likes this world, and does not want to return to the book.

Cocktail suggestion: Honestly, I have nothing here folks. This movie originally inspired this list, and I had a great one at one time. But, as usual, I didn’t write it down. Just enjoy it with a nice glass of port.

If you’ve been following for awhile, you already know books (and now movies) and drink pairings are some of my favorite posts to write. Have any suggestions? Leave them in a comment and I’ll consider it for a future post!

One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake)

I know. Some of you are completely floored that I am finally getting around to actually posting something substantial. I really am sorry. You know that I always have the best of intentions, but life gets in the way sometimes. And boy, let me tell you, life has certainly made its presence known these last few months. Breakup, family death, sick pets, car troubles… to say it’s been nuts would be an understatement. But, I’m trying to get back into the swing. Bear with me.

Back to my book this week: Kendare Blake‘s sequel to Three Dark Crowns: One Dark Throne. When I initially read Three Dark Crowns a few months ago, I enjoyed it, but wasn’t totally in love with it.  The twist at the end was enough to bring me to the second book and I am glad I decided to stick with it. This might not make much sense to you if you haven’t read the first book, and… well, you should. Just go read it. I’ll wait.

ANYWAY. We catch up to our three sister queens of Fennbirn with the Ascension year well underway. Queen Katherine, once considered the weakest is now stronger than ever; Queen Arsinoe is grappling with how to make her newly discovered secret gift work to her advantage; Queen Mirabella, once the certain choice to be Queen Crowned faces fights that put those she loves in danger.

Katherine was a particular favorite in this book. It was fascinating to watch her slip further and further into darkness, becoming more and more unstable. While Arsinoe and Mirabella each grew, as well, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just more fun to watch a villain develop than it is to watch a hero.

There was plenty of time spent with the supporting characters as well, but there were times when I felt they were in my way. I know supporting characters are necessary. However, the three queen’s are so satisfying to read, that sometimes it was hard to let them share the stage.

There also seemed to be a heftier dose of teen angst going on here than in the previous book. Or maybe I’m just getting old and just noticing it more than I did before. Who knows?

Overall, One Dark Throne was enjoyable and full of enough twists I’m going to keep going with the series. (Apparently, this was originally going to be a duology, but it was popular enough she decided to expand to four books.) For all my fellow YA fantasy lovers out there, it is certainly not one to miss.

I Know a Secret (Tess Gerritsen)

I recieved a free copy of I Know a Secret in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles return after a horror movie director is found in a startlingly staged murder with an unknown cause of death. Together, they struggle to find the truth filled with symbols of martyred saints and a decades old scandal that is still far from over.

Tess Gerritsen is one of the few mystery writers that hasn’t managed to completely disappoint me over the last several years. Not only is I Know a Secret at least as good as previous stories in the series, it might be better. Part of it is a great mystery, maybe not as interesting as others (I really loved The Mephisto Club), but part of it definitely has to do with the fact that I am invested in these characters now. They are flawed, but understandably so. There is another series that I won’t name where I keep reading even though I want to punch the characters in the face. Not so here. Do Jane and Maura make choices in their life that I don’t agree with? Sure. But they are choices that seem to fit them and I can understand it.

Strangely enough, I also enjoyed the fact that, although the mystery is solved, it is not wrapped up perfectly neatly. I actually loved that ambiguity. She could return to this story again (as she has with others in the past) or not. Either way, it works. Tess Gerritsen also has a magical way of adding something truly chilling in each of her books. Most mysteries have something unsettling in them, it’s just their nature, but hers often have something particular that makes you look over your shoulder. I love it.

If you have not previously read any of the Rizzoli and Isles books, you would probably be alright starting here, but I really think you would be better off starting at the beginning of the series. It’s well worth the time and for me, they go quickly because I usually have to know what happens.

End of July Roundup

I know. I’ve been distant lately.

But truly, it’s not you, it’s me.

Writing a book is hard. I sort of suspected it might be, since I had never just written one before, but the reality is harder than I could have guessed. The good news is, things are still moving along well with the book, despite several stalls over the course of the month. I’ve just begun chapter 10, which is more or less the halfway point in my story. This journey has been excited and made me really proud of what I can accomplish, but it’s also been incredibly stressful. I second guess myself all the time. I’ve thought about giving up, because there is no way anyone would want to read this garbage.

But, I’ve kept going. I don’t write everyday, but I do most days, even if it’s only a paragraph or two. I’m not yet one of the super disciplined writers who can sit down and churn out several thousand words a day. Aside from discipline, I don’t really have the time. The book will get done, but it may take some time.

I’ve also been reading lots. Since reading is helpful in dealing with my stress and I’ve been VERY stressed out lately, it has helped make the month tolerable. I’ll have full reviews coming up on some of what I’ve read, which I’ll note, but otherwise, I wanted to summarize my reading list and maybe give you some ideas for your summer reading.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’m late to the Grishaverse. I ordered Six of Crows several months ago looking for books with amoral protagonists and it languished on my TBR piled for quite awhile before I finally picked it up last month. I order Crooked Kingdom well before I ever finished the first book. The world Leigh Bardugo has built is rich and engrossing and the characters were fascinating. I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I’ve always had a soft spot for fairy tale retellings, so this seemed like it would be right up my alley. It was definitely well written and creative, but overall the story didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t expect a happy ending, and certainly didn’t get one, but I sort of hoped for something less bleak.

What the Raven Brings by John Owen Theobald and Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Each of these books is, respectively, the second books in their series. You might recall I reviewed the first books (These Dark Wings and Menagerie) last year. I finally kicked myself into gear to read these. Look for full reviews of each in the next month.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

I was surprised as anyone to find out the legendary basketball player was not only writing books, but fiction books. With a soft spot for Sherlock and a great deal on Kindle, I decided it was worth trying. It was actually pretty good, occasionally bordering on a little stuffy, but hey, this is Mycroft we’re talking about. Definitely a worthwhile read if your into all things Holmes.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy– Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Robin Wasserman

This has seriously been collecting dust on my TBR since November. Which is weird for me, particularly since I usually gulp down anything Shadowhunter related pretty fast. Once I started, this one was no exception. Despite 600+ pages, I read it in an entire day. It was enjoyable and certainly helped fill in a few gaps between the Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices.

Dragon Unbound by Katie MacAlister

The usual Katie MacAlister Dragon craziness, distilled down to novella size. Here, we finally get a little more with the First Dragon. Of course I loved it. I always do.

Dream World by Erin A Jensen

I had many of the same issues with Dream World as I did with the first book, Dream Waters, which I reviewed awhile back. It wasn’t a bad book, I’m intrigued enough to keep going, but it wasn’t great.  The switching between perspectives got a little confusing and I’ve seriously never seen so many variations on ‘pissing oneself’ in my life. This made it hard for me to read for long periods of time without having to step away. But, I’ll stick around and see what the next book holds.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Ok, so technically I read this one last month, but I’m including it anyway. This was one I picked up at the same time as Six of Crows and it waited in the TBR pile for awhile. I really loved this one, guys. It had moments where things got a little confusing, but I chalked that up to the atmosphere of Caraval. It was dark and magical. Cannot wait to read more.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee)

As Henry “Monty” Montague prepares to set out on his Grand Tour with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy, he fears his days of pleasure are fast approaching an end. He is expected to return from the trip more mature and ready to learn how to take over the family estate. On his trip Monty’s father expects him to be on his best behavior or disinheritance looms. Monty has different ideas and plans to drink, party and flirt with Percy the whole way across Europe. When their trip takes a sudden dangerous turn, Monty will find himself calling everything about his life into question.

I first discovered The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue a few months ago. One of the many bookish sites I follow on Facebook was advertising the first four chapters of a new YA novel. Why not? I thought to myself. I was in love before I finished the first chapter and the next several months of waiting were absolute torture.

Completely worth it. Mackenzi Lee certainly did not disappoint. This book was fresh, fun, fabulous and full of heart. It’s not often that I can say a book genuinely had me laughing out loud at points, tense with anticipation at others and in tears at the end. When it first arrived I was surprised at it’s length and was a little worried about finishing it within the deadline I set for myself. Turns out, there was no need to be concerned. I finished it in just slightly over 24 hours. It would have been faster, but I still have to go to work.

If there is anything I like in a historical fiction book, it’s a rakehell, and I was not left wanting. Monty is the lovable kind of rake that warms my heart. Percy is dreamy and sweet while Monty’s sister Felicity is sharp and sarcastic. All in all, a group that suits each other and the story well.

The 18th century has long held my interest (I have a BA in art history with a focus in 18th century painting, super useful, but that’s another story…). Art related to the Grand Tour was definitely something I studied, but it was honestly a little dry. This brought it to full, dramatic life. While Monty, Percy and Felicity’s Tour was certainly out of the ordinary and full of danger, it was still a fun romp through 18th century Europe.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I finished it less than an hour before writing this and I already am looking forward to reading it again. Read it. Read it now. It’s witty and fast-paced, certainly a book to devour.

 

A Singular Baptism (Carlos J. Server)

I received a free copy of A Singular Baptism in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Calling Lucía’s family unusual would be an understatement.  With all of them gathered on the beautiful island of El Hierro for the baptism of her son, Agrimiro, she has her hands full. Between juggling not only her own family, but her husband’s, Lucía also must try to figure out if her suspicions about her son’s paternity are real or just a misunderstanding. It all adds up to a weekend that is destined to be unforgettable.

As with his previous novel, A Lucky Day (see my review here), Carlos J. Server once again delivers a cast of fun, quirky characters in somewhat unusual situations. While they were definitely fun to read about, I was certainly left thinking that at least my family isn’t that nuts. Well… most of the time.

While there were a few times where it veered close to just flat crazy, overall it was a lighthearted take on a stressful situation. Think of your favorite rom-com, but less sappy. One particularly notable scene introduced me to a barraquito. This is something I’m going to have to try very soon. Googling “barraquito” also led me down the rabbit hole where I discovered the Spanish really seem to have this coffee thing down. I need to research more in person. Someday. But I digress…

A Singular Baptism, is, as it’s title suggests, unusual and definitely great fun. If you have wacky relatives of your own, you are sure to find yourself right at home among Lucía’s family. As we are entering the sweltering days of summer, it is the perfect book to kick back in the AC, pour a drink and imagine yourself on the gorgeous El Hierro… with or without your family.

Title & Cover Reveal: Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt

Her death was just the beginning.
 

Quinn Rogers doesn’t exist. There are no records of her name. Her DNA has no match. She is a ghost. A phantom killer no one can trace. The perfect assassin. Or so she thinks.

At the top of her game, Quinn’s no longer looking over her shoulder. Her master will protect her, save her, like he always has. But there are forces at work neither of them suspect.

Can Quinn find the truth in a world of lies? Or will her unsanctioned past catch up to her in the end?

Now, you all know I’m a sucker for a good cover. Isn’t this one great?!? Unsanctioned Eyes not only sounds amazing, but it looks fantastic too. Check out Brianna at one of the links below for more information!!

Author Bio:

Brianna grew up in a small town in Oklahoma learning the language of the wind and trying to survive the heat of summer. She fell in love with all things literary at an early age and the journey from reader to writer followed. With the help of One Year Adventure Novel, she finished her first novel in 2012 and hasn’t been able to stop creating new worlds and adventures since.

As well as writing, Brianna is addicted to tea, chocolate, and music. When she isn’t reading or writing, Brianna teaches Ballet and Jazz.

She lives in Virginia with her family and spoiled Dalmatian, Valentine.

Website: https://briannamerritt.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/briannawriting

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/briannamerrittwriting/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/briannawriting/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/bgmwriting/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/59014298-brianna-merritt

Tumblr: https://briannawriting.tumblr.com

Lord of Shadows Giveaway!

So… because its a holiday weekend (and because I somehow managed to pre-order two copies) I think it’s time for a giveaway. Last year I fell in love with Cassandra Clare’s books, so I’m happy to continue that obsession into this year.

If you haven’t read them yet, there are now three series featuring the Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices and now The Dark Artifices. There are also several other books that relate to the series: The Bane Chronicles, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, The Shadowhunter Codex, a coloring book and probably some other things I have forgotten to mention.

Lord of Shadows is the second book in The Dark Artifices series.

 

 

Lord of Shadows Giveaway