Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Secret of Perpetual Motion • The Square Root of Summer

The Square Root of Summer book cover
I didn’t know what to expect going into The Square Root of Summer, since I had gone into it without looking over the actual summary. Within a few chapters, however, I just knew that this was a book I would enjoy tremendously. It was a pleasant surprise, and I wound up really liking this one a lot! The Square Root of Summer is about Margot Oppenheimer, who is recovering from the loss of her beloved grandfather and her first love, as well as the surprising reappearance of an old friend in her life. To top all of that off, Gottie is experiencing some really crazy time and space phenomena that people have only theorized about and guessed at. As she struggles to make sense of the science behind her timeline jumping, Gottie also works at making peace with all of her real life problems and the feelings that go with them.

One of the most interesting things about this novel is how physics, as well as space and time theorems, are incorporated into the story. While I don’t profess to be any more knowledgeable about the science behind space and time theories, I really like how it was integrated. It didn’t feel jarring at all, nor was it too difficult to understand the concepts (especially when they would be explained in layman terms). Plus, it simply made sense, considering how Gottie’s mind worked and her own affinity for that particular area of study.

But Gottie is actually the major reason I liked this story (especially because it’s really character-driven). Gottie is the kind of gal I would totally have gotten along with in real life, if I had had the privilege of knowing her. She’s got a love of books, family, and personal space, all of which I could totally relate to. I also liked her odd sense of humor, unusual ways of looking at things and persistence in finding explanations for everything. All of this is enough reason for me to like her, in spite of the way she tends to get very singularly focused and to shut the rest of the world out or forget about other things going on. She’s not a perfect teenage girl, but no person (teen or not) is, so I found that charmingly realistic and refreshing.

The story unfolds very naturally, as Gottie struggles to make sense of everything going on in her life. It was really cool to see how carefully the author tackled Gottie’s approach to life, as well as her relationships with other people. It read really well, and I was completely absorbed from start to finish. I will say that, with the timey wimey stuff, it will be a bit confusing initially, but I promise that you’ll find it to be somewhat possible to make sense of it by the end. It was really compelling, and really good, and I really liked it a lot. Clearly, I was impressed by The Square Root of Summer, and I look forward to future novels from Hapgood.

What would you put in a time capsule?

In the context of Rachel & I creating this time capsule together, I would put in the following things: a photo strip I have with photos of the two of us, Ideal Bookshelf artwork featuring Throne of Glass, Something Strange and Deadly and Anne of Green Gables, a CD/USB with a copy of our road trip playlist, the friendship bracelet she gave me last Christmas and a letter for us both to read years later. I feel like this wouldn't be enough to encompass how much our friendship means to me in real life, but it comes pretty close!

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Source: ARC from the publisher (Thanks!)

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she's hurtled through wormholes to her past: To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory. Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie's past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone's heart is about to be broken.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Traitor Angels Blog Tour: Q+A with Anne Blankman (+ Giveaway)

I read Traitor Angels a couple of weeks ago and, once again, I was extremely impressed by Anne Blankman's ability to take actual historical facts and figures and weave them into a fictional tale. It was a really well-paced story about a girl who finds herself racing against time and circumstance in order to uncover the secret that her father has been keeping all this time, and I don't doubt that there are many readers who will enjoy it! I'm really happy to be a part of the blog tour for Traitor Angels, and very honored to have Anne Blankman answering a couple of questions.

Website | Twitter | Facebook
Alexa: Hi Anne! Welcome to Alexa Loves Books. I’m thrilled to have you on the blog today! To begin, let’s talk about historical fiction. What do you love most about reading this particular type of book? Writing this type of book?

Anne: Thanks so much for having me, Alexa! I love reading historical fiction because it sweeps me into another time and place. It’s an escape. Writing historical fiction is so challenging for me because I get obsessed with research and the tiniest details possible—but I also love it because I learn so much! 

Alexa: What is your favorite historical time period to read? To write?

Anne: Ooooh, I don’t think I can choose just one. My favorite time period tends to be whatever I happen to be reading or writing about at any particular moment. I’m a history nerd, and I love learning about lots of different eras. Recently, I’ve been reading about Puerto Rico during the nineteenth century. My paternal ancestors immigrated to Puerto Rico from Spain in the 1800s, when it was a Spanish colony. Learning about Puerto Rican history has been a wonderful way to get in touch with my roots. 

Alexa: How do you choose what era to focus on in your novels? Do you think of the historical figure first or the setting or the event?

Anne: I love this question! Something different has triggered each of my books. I came up with Traitor Angels when I was in college and took a class on English poet John Milton. I learned that he had secretly met Galileo after the latter had been sentenced to house arrest by the Italian Inquisition. My daydreams about the men’s possible conversations eventually grew into this story.

Alexa: Tell us a little bit specifically about Traitor Angels. What was your favorite thing about writing it? The hardest thing?

Anne: Writing it was an absolute joy. For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a fun romantic historical adventure with a scavenger hunt whose clues are hidden in literary masterpieces. My favorite part was fitting all the different pieces of this story together—the clues, the poems, the real-life events that the story revolves around, the romance. The hardest part was getting all those pieces to fit! Concealing clues in a real-life literary masterpiece without changing a SINGLE word of that masterpiece was quite a challenge!

Alexa: Apart from your own fabulous historical fiction YA novels, what others would you recommend to readers?

Anne: Thank you for calling them fabulous. :) There are so many great YA historical books that it’s hard to select only a few. Some of my favorites are A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly; Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene; Shadow in Hawthorn Bay by Janet Lunn; and Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse (this is middle grade and so wonderful and heartwarming that I still get teary-eyed every time I read it!). 

Alexa: What can we look forward to next from you? 

Anne: I’m working on a project that I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but I can say that it’s VERY different from my first three books—and I’m super excited about it! Thanks so much for having me, Alexa!

Traitor Angels book cover
Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman
Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Publication Date: May 3, 2016

Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects. 

Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom. 

Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s man arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart? 

When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society.

Thanks to lovely people at Harper Collins, there are three finished copies of Traitor Angels up for grabs! The giveaway is US ONLY and you only need to enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

Don't forget to check out the other tour stops!
5/4: Alexa Loves Books - Q&A (That's me!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Abbreviations #23: Graphic Novels, Comics & Manga, Oh My!

Honestly, I have no idea what got into me last month, but I found myself devouring graphic novels and comics like nobody's business. I'm not complaining, as it's allowed me to read titles I've had my eye on for a while and I've discovered some new favorites in the process. But it's an unexplained current obsession of mine, so there's no rhyme or reason to the ones I picked out nor is there an actual explanation for how many I managed to read. 

(By the way, I'm only going to be talking about the first volumes of any given graphic novel series in today's post, just to keep things short and sweet, and will simply mention if I chose to continue with the series or not.)

Fun Home cover
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: June 5, 2007
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I had a very vague idea of what I was getting into with Fun Home, just based on what I’d heard about it from my husband and friends. But I wasn’t prepared for how engrossed I’d become in this story, nor how I’d be greeted with an onslaught of feelings with each page turned. Alison Bechdel’s non-fiction graphic novel tells readers of her home life, particularly her complicated relationship with her dad. It really manages to capture portions of her life with a sharp narrative told in equal parts dialogue, narration and illustration (and the style of illustration was one I actually quite liked). The story is equal parts charming and heartbreaking, and while it’s not necessarily the easiest graphic novel to get through, it is really well-done. It’s definitely one of the more unique reads I’ve encountered as well.

Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper cover
Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
Series: Amulet #1
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Publication Date: January 1, 2008
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I was constantly drawn to Amulet whenever I’d see it at bookstores or online, but never took the plunge. After seeing how Riley really liked it, I decided I’d try the first volume and proceeded to borrow it from the library. Guys, I should have just listened to my instincts, because I freaking loved this one! The story was fairly simple: Em, Navin and their mom have moved to their great-grandfather’s home; on their very first day, their mom is taken by an otherworldly creature and Em and Navin find themselves going after their mom into another world entirely. The art style was absolutely lovely, with vivid colors and images that drew me right in. And the story was quite charming! I really enjoyed getting to know Em and Navin, and I’m so excited to read more of their adventures. (And the fact that the novel left me with a ton more questions didn’t really bother me, just because I knew I wanted more already.) Very smooth set-up to the series, as well as being a satisfying volume all on its own. I’m definitely going to continue reading this series! (I already requested all the other volumes in this series from my library, and I'm just waiting for them to come in.)

Anya's Ghost cover
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

Anya’s Ghost is the story of a self-conscious, insecure girl named Anya, who is trying to figure out how to navigate her life best she can and whose life changes when she makes friends with the ghost of a girl in a well (that she has fallen into). It sounds pretty nuts, really, but it turned out to be a decent read all in all. I didn’t find it to be particularly memorable, as Anya is a character that rubbed me the wrong way and I just thought that the ghost girl was really creepy. But I can understand why many people would be drawn to this story, because it’s unusual and it’s charming (in its way). While it didn’t end up being my particular cup of tea, there’s no doubt in my mind that other readers might actually really like this one. (The art is pretty great though!)

Lady Killer cover
Lady Killer by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I had a feeling I would enjoy this one, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d wind up liking it. Lady Killer is the story of Josie Schuller, who is both a perfect happy homemaker and a killer for hire. The juxtaposition of Josie’s two lives – her charm and lightness as a housewife and mother, and her ruthlessness and practicality as a hired killer – was so interesting, and very compelling to read about. Readers get to see Josie dispatch quite a few people quite cleverly, but we also get to see her try to figure out how to maintain the balance between both her identities. It’s a bit gory with all the brutality, and definitely not for younger readers, but I really liked it. It ends on a pretty darn satisfying note too, so it was well worth reading! I certainly wouldn’t mind more of Josie’s story. (And the art style is so appealing to me!)
Runaways book cover
Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy by Brian K. Vaughan
with art by Adrian Alphona
Series: Runaways #1
Publisher: Marvel
Publication Date: December 6, 2006
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I liked the premise of this story a lot! A group of teens discover that their parents are part of a supervillain group, and are determined to escape their parents’ shadow and defeat them like true heroes. I really liked the characters! They’re all super unique in terms of culture, quirks and abilities, and I really enjoyed getting to know each of them. I feel like this volume was all about setting up their circumstances, and it was pretty darn obvious. While it had its moments, overall, the story was just okay. Still, I liked these characters enough to maybe consider picking up the next volume and finding out what happens next.

Lumberjanes book cover
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen (ill.) & Maarta Laiho
Series: Lumberjanes #1-4
Publisher: Boom!Box
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

If you like stories about camp and stories about friendship, then this would be a great graphic novel for you! The Lumberjanes – Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley – are planning to have an excellent summer, even if there are mysteries and supernatural beings and magic determined to get in their way. I honestly had no clue what I was in for with this novel, and I really feel like that did work in its favor! There’s this odd blend of contemporary and fantasy, but it totally works if you just let yourself run with it. I found the five friends really charming, the whimsy really awesome and the humor and silliness quite pleasing as well. All in all, it was definitely a fun way to pass the time. And I certainly think I’ll be checking out what happens next for the Lumberjanes! (I read the second volume shortly after this one, and enjoyed that one even more.)

Ms. Marvel cover
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
with art by Adrian Alphona
Series: Ms. Marvel (Marvel Now!) #1
Publisher: Marvel
Publication Date: October 30, 2014
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I was promised that this graphic novel was going to be awesome – and it was. Ms. Marvel is the story of Kamala Khan, an ordinary gal who is one day gifted with extraordinary gifts that turn her into a superhero. This is her opening act, her introduction to the world, and it was a damn good one. I like the lightness of the tone, even as this story tackles teen issues like identity and direction (in life). I was so impressed by the integration of Kamala’s culture, as well as her own insecurities as a teen who is just trying to figure things out. And, of course, it was fun to read about a girl who gets to be a superhero, both because it’s fun to imagine and because it’s interesting to see what she’ll make of her new powers. I certainly enjoyed this first volume, and look forward to reading more! (I actually ended up getting all of the remaining published volumes out from the library and binge reading them. They were so fun, and I loved all the cameos!)

Death Note Vol. 1 cover
Death Note, Vol. 1: Boredom by Tsugumi Ohba + Takeshi Obata (ill.)
Series: Death Note #1
Publisher: Viz Media LLC
Publication Date: October 10, 2005
Source: Manga borrowed from the library

I’ve certainly heard of Death Note plenty of times, but I finally decided to take the plunge and get the first volume out from the library. I’m patting myself on the back right now for finally making an excellent life choice; this was really good! Death Note is about a boy named Light, who finds a “death note” that gives him the power to orchestrate anyone’s death (within the rules, of course). Light is determined to rid the world of terrible people, but not everyone finds his methods admirable. So, I was fascinated by the entire concept of the death note, and the mysticism that surrounds it. But I also really thought the cat-and-mouse game that ensues between Light and all the officials who want to catch this “mass murderer” as they called him was so fascinating, and I was constantly trying to figure out who was going to win. Of course, since this is only the first volume, we only get part of the story. But I’m definitely eager to read more volumes!

Nana Cover
Nana, Vol. 1 by Ai Yazawa
Series: Nana #1
Publisher: Viz Media LLC
Publication Date: December 6, 2005
Source: Manga borrowed from the library

Nana is actually a story split into two parts, both about girls named Nana who are so very different from one another. The girls are growing up, making choices that will shape the rest of their lives, forming friendships and falling in love. While this is perfectly ordinary fare to read about, what truly makes this manga interesting are the two Nanas. They’re basically extreme opposites, which means major differences in the outcomes of this chapter in their stories. One Nana is reeling from a broken heart from a man she thought loved her but was only using her; the other Nana is forced to let the guy she’s in love with go to secure his own future as a musician. Both experience heartbreak and hope, and it is all too easy to get swept up in the dramatic circumstances they are both experiencing. While each girl’s part of the story ends on a definitive note, I certainly want to find out what happens next and will definitely be picking up the next volume.

Batgirl cover
Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr (ill.) and Brenden Fletcher
Series: Batgirl Vol. IV #6
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: May 27, 2015
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

Before I picked this one up, I already had a preconceived notion of who Barbara Gordon was as a character, thanks to my husband. It caught me off guard to discover a Barbara who was young, impulsive, and very generation Y – but after a little adjustment time, I sank into this story and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Batgirl of Burnside chronicles Barbara’s move to Burnside, where she fights crime, works on her graduate thesis and also faces Batgirl impostors. It took a while for the story to pick up, in my opinion, but once it does, it gets really good – and then that ending happens, and I finished the volume feeling pretty impressed. It’s a fun take on Batgirl, though it certainly feels catered heavily towards the audience of young people today. While I’m not rushing to pick up the next volume, I think I may have to check it out just to see what happens to Barbara and her friends after the events of this story.

Step Aside, Pops book cover
Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton
Series: Hark! A Vagrant #3
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Publication Date: September 15, 2015

It’s nearly impossible to describe Step Aside, Pops! because it’s such an eclectic collection of comic strips that feature humorous, imaginative takes on literature, history and pop culture. I read it in two sittings, though I feel like it is probably better experienced in smaller doses. But I honestly need to stand up and applaud Kate Beaton on her creativity and sense of humor, because it’s so spot on, even when it’s irreverent. While this collection might not be for the faint of heart (there’s definitely some NSFW stuff in there), it’s really entertaining. I found some sections more amusing than others, but all in all, it’s a cohesive bunch tied together by the thread of irreverence and humor that is apparently Beaton’s signature style. I’m definitely going to have to check out the other two collections at some point!

Welcome to Gotham Academy cover
Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher + Karl Kerschl
Series: Gotham Academy #1-6
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: June 17, 2015
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

When I first saw the cover, I had the inkling that this would be a fun read. Thankfully, Welcome to Gotham Academy proved me right! Set up to follow the hijinks and shenanigans that follow Olive Silverlock, a student of the prestigious academy that admits only the best and the brightest. Olive has to deal with the trauma of the past summer, the mystery that’s right under her nose and navigating the world of school hierarchies and friendships. It’s a fun adventure through and through, laced with just the right amounts of heart and humor. I also thoroughly enjoyed the introduction this provides to this eclectic bunch of characters and their school. It wraps up the mystery well, but leaves just the right amount of unresolved plot at the end (as well as the appearance of someone I am extremely excited to read about). I honestly just can’t wait to read the next volume! (I totally ended up buying the second volume, and it was really fun too!)

Rat Queens Vol. 1 cover
Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
Series: Rat Queens #1-5
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

A group of girls who are best friends and kick monster butt? Yes, please. I honestly wouldn’t have heard of Rat Queens were it not for the online book community, and it would have been a crying shame because it was so, so good. It’s like Buffy meets Dungeons & Dragons (as far as I understand D&D to be anyway), and I couldn’t stop reading once I’d started. These characters are unique individuals, particularly the four Rat Queens who are very different from one another in personality and ability. The amount of sass and smarts these four show in the face of the mystery that they need to solve and the fights they need to win is really great, and I lapped it up eagerly. I honestly can’t wait for more adventures with these guys!

I Kill Giants cover
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

Confession: The first time I tried reading this, I had to set it back down because I found it really confusing and I didn’t particularly gel with the main character. But I decided to give it another go before I returned it to the library – and I’m glad I did, even though I still found some parts of the story muddled. Basically, this is the story of a gal named Barbara Thorson, who is a killer of giants. It follows her as she navigates school, friendship and family, and while things start to make sense by the end, it’s definitely really confusing at first. I think the art style is actually quite a match for the story, which is something I can appreciate. And I really like how the story unfolds too! It’s hard to get into (at least it was for me), but it turned out to be a pretty good read in the end.

Preludes and Nocturnes cover
Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III
Series: Sandman #1
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2012
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I had no idea what I was in for when I started reading the first volume of Sandman, save for the fact that it was sure to be twisty and imaginative and oddly compelling – and all those things were totally true. This particular story centers on Morpheus after he finally escapes the prison the humans caught him in, and how he slowly regains control of his three tools of power – a pouch, a helm and a ruby. It’s a compelling story, with some fun cameos too (I had no idea those characters would show up, but I was delighted). However, it’s not for the faint of heart since it does get quite gruesome and disturbing (though you’ll have to really judge for yourself what you can tolerate). It’s still pretty compelling, and I’m really curious to see what happens next.

Robin Reborn cover
Robin Vol. 1: Reborn by Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Tom Lyle + Norm Breyfogle
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Source: Paperback purchased from Amazon

So, before I read this volume of comics, I was pretty neutral on the subject of Tim Drake. (Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne are my favorite Robins, in case you wanted to know.) But after I finished, I realized I had a newfound respect for Tim Drake. This volume tells the story of how Tim becomes Robin, and it’s quite illuminating. He’s got a different approach to it, for one thing, though a tragic story that fuels his fire is something he shares in common with the others. I really like how we’re given the opportunity to get to know Tim, to see his both his determination to succeed at being a great Robin and his fear that he won’t live up to the reputation the others built before him. It’s definitely a chapter in the Bat Family’s story that is worth a read, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing Tim in action in future comics.

Battle for the Cowl cover
Batman: Battle for the Cowl by Tony S. Daniel and Fabian Nicieza
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Source: Comic purchased for Kindle from Amazon

I'm just really loving the Bat Family these days, and it's been really fun catching up on all their back stories and side stories and relationships with one another. My husband has been feeding the obsession by supplying me with all sorts of stories about the clan, and Battle for the Cowl is one of the latest. In this world, Batman is dead and without him, Gotham is falling to pieces: crime lords warring for turf, people in an uproar and no one there to help the police sort things out. Dick Grayson has his hands full trying to juggle crime fighting, rallying the team and looking out for Bruce Wayne's other Robins - Damian Wayne and Time Drake. But when an impostor Batman starts showing up and fighting crime in a style decidedly unlike Bruce's, Dick is forced to make a move. Now, honestly, there are some very loose ends regarding some side plots going on in Gotham. But I was completely interested in seeing all these Robins and other vigilantes reconcile what to do now that Bruce was dead. It was pretty compelling stuff, and I wasn't quite sure exactly where this was going to go. I will say that I'm quite satisfied with how that particular arc turned out, though I wish we had also gotten a wrap-up of what happens in Gotham itself with the crime lords.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Harry Potter Spells Book Tag

I was tagged by one of my BFFS Kelly of Belle of the Literati to do the Harry Potter Spells Book Tag. This tag was created by Kim of Kimberley Faye Reads, and may just be one of my favorite book tags that I've ever, ever, ever done. Because who doesn't love Harry Potter and book tags? It took me a while to come up with my answers for this one, but I'd like to think I did it justice!
I'm really just a massive fan of Sarah J. Maas and her novels! I really want Empire of Storms because I need more time with my squad. Basically, I just want all the Sarah J. Maas books ever (and she can just keep them coming!) (Thank goodness for A Court of Mist and Fury being out today! We have a new Sarah J. Maas novel, people!)

I reread The Burning Sky a couple of months ago as part of my series binge, and I loved it even more than the first two times I'd read it. Thomas has constructed such a fascinating world and magic system, and she's crafted really incredible characters. It's really not a surprise that I think this is one of my favorite series starters ever, as it sets up everything for the next two books perfectly.

I haven't mentioned it in a tag for some time, so I thought it was high time I professed my love for Open Road Summer again. I really, really, really adore this book, you guys. I reread it earlier this year, just because I could, and I loved it even more. Reagan and Dee have the most amazing friendship; Reagan and Matt have great banter and chemistry and bring on the swoons. I just love this story, and it just makes me happy whenever I read it.

I was going to go with my default answer (Second Chance Summer, in case you weren't aware) for this, when I realized that I had another novel that I could mention: One Plus One. It's this incredible story of family and friendship, and triumph over circumstances, and I absolutely loved it. It surprised me when the waterworks arrived, but I spent the latter third of this novel just sobbing my way through it because it was so lovely, so heartwarming, so perfectly well-written.

If you had me choose a hero to protect me, I'd go with Wrath from the Black Dagger Brotherhood (Here's my mini-reviews for Dark Lover, Lover Eternal and Lover Awakened!) . First of all, Wrath is a massive fighting machine who knows his way around a fight, with or without weapons. He has a protective instinct that goes beyond anything I've ever read, and I know he'd jump in the line of fire to save my life without hesitation. Second, Wrath happens to be King, and as such is guaranteed protection of all the Brothers... which would mean I would be too.

As for a gal I could see protecting me in real life, I'd go with Sybella from the His Fair Assassin series (Here's my review of Dark Triumph!). She's an excellent fighter, basically trained to bring death in various means, and I think having her on my side would be awesome. She would work hard to keep me safe, and she would also always have my back; I'd trust her implicitly to do what needs to be done.

I really give a shout-out to this series whenever I can, but the Newsoul trilogy - Incarnate, Asunder and Infinite - is amazing. It's definitely not a story that can be sorted into a category (because there are hints of both science fiction and fantasy), but it has themes that any reader will be able to connect to. I still feel like this series is so underrated, and that needs to change!

It's probably cheating to say Harry Potter (though I certainly wish this hadn't ended and would happily read more stories set in this world and about these characters, so yay Cursed Child), so I think I'm going to go with The Lumatere Chronicles. It took me a little while to get my bearings in Finnikin of the Rock, but I tore through Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn without hesitation. Marchetta's world, and story, and characters, are incredible. I wouldn't mind having a little more time to spend with everyone, and in this world, fraught with peril and secrets as it is.

It was easy enough to choose a novel for this category - Rules for Stealing Stars, one of my favorite middle grade reads from last year. Even though the parents in this novel have serious issues to deal with, I love the overall messages that we can pick up from reading it. Like the fact that it does get better. Or the fact that it is important to have a strong, steady support system. Or the fact that holding on to hope is always a good choice. It's really very inspiring, and I feel like it's an important book for younger readers.

There are quite a few novels that I can think of to fit this category, but alas, I must give this category over to Dangerous. I read this one back in the days where I wasn't a big fan of doing the good ol' DNF, no matter how much I wasn't liking what I read. Unfortunately, that meant forcing myself through a story that felt underdeveloped in all elements - and it was my turning point where I finally felt like enough was enough and started to loosen up about dropping a book when it wasn't working for me. So, I suppose you could say some good came out of it!

Reading a Lisa Kleypas novel, whether it's a reread of my favorite bits in my favorite books or starting something I haven't yet read from her, is always guaranteed to put me in the mood to read. I really love her romances! She always manages to create such excellent characters, write incredibly swoony moments and just tell stories that I'm always and forever going to want to read. I really adore her Wallflowers series and Travis series in particularly, and constantly recommend those!

I love a lot of book boys, to be fair. But at the moment, one of my favorite book heroes is Kol in The Shadow Queen. (This is one of my latest fantasy obsessions, and the best fantasy novel I read in 2016 thus far!) He is incredible. His love for his kingdom and comrades, his determination to do the right thing, his strength (physical and mental), his heart - it's just all so swoon-worthy. Plus, he's really great at banter and I love a hero who can dish snappy, clever remarks out in an instant.

Six of Crows, hands down. I read this one a little bit early last year (at the end of summer, to be specific) and I was swept up in this incredible story from start to finish. I literally could not set it down (until I was absolutely forced to because of actual work needing to get down), and I finished it in under a day. It's a brilliant heist story, set in the Grisha universe that Leigh Bardugo introduced us to in her debut series, and I just love it so. (I actually want to reread it. I love the Crows!)

I was dying of emotions when I binge read The Boleyn Trilogy last year. My goodness, but that series is so intense on the feels. I didn't expect to find myself so invested in what was going to happen in this alternative history, but man, I was sold almost right from the start! Kelly will know what I'm talking about, as she was the person I was venting all of my feelings to from start to finish. My feelings, especially about the romance, really, really, really overwhelmed me!

I recently read The Deal, and oh my goodness, I was laughing out loud so much when I read it! I giggled on trains, standing on subway platforms, waiting for my coffee, reading on my sofa, snuggled under my blankets. Honestly, it was impossible not to! I was so amused by Garrett and Hannah both, and I loved their banter and interactions so damn much. I enjoyed myself tremendously reading this NA novel, and I can't wait to read more of this series!

I was so anxious-slash-angry-slash-confused while I read Dangerous Girls. It just gave me so many things to think about, and invited me to feel intensely while I read it - and I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. I do feel like it's really clever in terms of storytelling and characterization, but man, this story was a doozy on my feelings. I don't know if I could ever put myself through that experience again, even though it was worth it!

Oh, look, Harry Potter is sneaking into this book tag inspired by the books! But seriously, I feel like it would be so much fun to visit this world in particular - Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in particularly. This is why my heart is so happy that the theme parks exist; it gives me a chance to sort of go to these places myself. I've been more than once (and love it) but I would definitely enjoy being able to experience the actual world for myself.

Oh, this is an easy one. Let's just say that both books in the Firebird trilogy - A Thousand Pieces of You and Ten Thousand Skies Above You - had twists that made me gasp out loud. I was not expecting the direction that Claudia Gray took for both, and I really like that she managed to surprise me! Both of these books are excellent stories, and I'm thoroughly invested in discovering what happens next for Marguerite.

The biggest character deaths that ever affected me all happened in the Harry Potter series. I won't say which characters but I will say that all the deaths I'm thinking of happen in the last three novels. Man, just thinking about it makes my heart hurt, and I totally felt the loss of all these people more deeply than I ever thought was going to be possible for me.

I could have used Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or Inheritance for this one, but a recent favorite is Winter. It just perfectly wraps up the story that began in Cinder, giving equal amounts of attention to every single character's story even as it tackles the main plot arc that we've been reading about from the start. The blend of humor and heart was just perfection, and I was riveted as I listened to this one last year.

I'm not sure who hasn't done this one yet, but I'm tagging:
Rachel from Hello, Chelly
Kristin from Super Space Chick
Lindsey from Bring My Books
and whoever else wants to do this one!

Friday, April 29, 2016

{Bookish} Travel Buddies: A Court of Thorns and Roses (+ Flights of Fantasy April Linky)

I wanted to come up with a way to combine my love for books with my love for travel, and thus {Bookish} Travel Buddies was born. It's quite simple, really, as I'm pairing up characters from books I've loved + the places that I'd love to go visit with them. I've hung out with the Queen of Shadows gangwent on adventures with the Winter crew, and traveled to new places with the Anna and the French Kiss group.

For April, I couldn't resist featuring the characters from another one of my absolutely favorite reads: A Court of Thorns and Roses. (It was on my mind because the sequel A Court of Mist and Fury is out next week!) I fell in love with this fairytale-inspired fantasy from Sarah J. Maas last year, and I'm so, so eager to be back in this world and with these characters soon. For now, I'll settle for sharing where I'd go with these guys if I had the chance! (It's also kind of funny and fitting to me how all of these places are in Europe, as that's where I am right now while you guys read this post.)

"Austria - Opera House at night, Vienna" by Lukes_photos is licensed under C.C. BY-SA 2.0
Feyre | Vienna
I was trying to think of a vacation spot that would suit Feyre's artistic sensibilities, as well as her sense of adventure. For some reason, Vienna was the first place that came to mind! I've never been, but from what I've heard about this city, it seems like a place that she and I could enjoy exploring together. We'd be able to soak up our fill of their culture, eat our share of their cuisine and just really feel in awe of the rich history of this European city.

Tamlin | Ireland
Honestly, I was just trying to come up with a place steeped in culture, folklore and lots of natural sites to visit, and Ireland popped into mind. (That's my impression of the country, in case that wasn't clear.) I just feel like Tamlin would make the best company if we were to go exploring the Cliffs of Moher, for instance, or if we were visiting a cultural hotspot that had plenty of Irish folktales surrounding it. As the High Lord of the Spring Court, I feel like this is a location he'd approve of.

"Slowing it down" by Dave Johnson licensed under C.C. BY-NC 2.0
Lucien / Scotland
I'm fairly certain it will not surprise you to hear that I came up with this pairing first when I started thinking about this post. After all, Lucien is my favorite character in the novel! I think he'd be fun to travel to Scotland with. He'd make for a fun companion while we traipsed through castles and tasted all the Scottish fare, and I think his sassy commentary and bluntness would keep me entertained as we wandered all over.

"Prague" by Nuno Dantas is licensed under C.C. BY-NC-SA 2.0
Rhysand / Prague
When I was thinking about where I would go with Rhys, it occurred to me that he'd make an interesting companion to go to Prague with. There's just something about this particular location - maybe the culture or perhaps the overall vibe I'm getting from what I've seen online - that immediately makes me connect him with it! I think he'd be up for an adventure, and I'm sure we'd be discovering all sorts of interesting parts of the city together.

Can you believe we're wrapping up another month of 2016 already? I sure can't! At the time of reading this, the long-awaited family vacation to Europe is happening (which is why I probably haven't been online as much). As of April 22, these are the fantasy novels I've read this month: The Archived, The Unbound, The Star-Touched Queen, The Crown's Game, The Forbidden Wish and a reread of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I've also read Preludes and Nocturnes, two volumes of the Death Note manga, the first six volumes of Amulet and two volumes of Saga. Whew. Who knew I'd still manage to read so many? Now it's your turn - link up to your recaps and reviews so we can see them! (And if you're only hearing about Flights of Fantasy now, feel free to sign up!)


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