March Into Middle Earth: A Month to Celebrate Tolkien

Ever since Andrew and I went to see Lord of the Rings in concert at Lincoln Center I’ve been wanting to re-read the books as it’s been years since I delved into the world of Middle Earth in any medium other than film.  When I heard about March Into Middle Earth through Melissa of Readerly Geek, I discovered Rin of Rin Reads (who is hosting the event and created the lovely header graphic) and that she and her book club, Dungeons & Jetpacks, would be buddy reading The Fellowship of the Ring this month.  Could there be a more perfect time to revisit my favorite characters and accompany them on their journey one more time? I certainly can’t think of one!

I love the idea of participating in a month long celebration of all things Tolkien so I’m already planning my posts for the rest of March.  As you may already know, March 25 is Tolkien Reading Day which originated in 2003 and is created by The Tolkien Society and inspired this months buddy read.  If I stick to the schedule, I should be finished with The Fellowship of the Ring by then so I may do something else that day in celebration.  But in the meantime, you can count on seeing a Tea & Book Chat, a collectibles post, an outfit of the day post and more here on my blog.  I may also follow in Melissa’s footsteps and finally watch the animated version of The Hobbit. And, if you’re a fellow Tolkien fan, I would highly suggest joining in the Middle Earth madness this month!  Until my first post, I’ll leave you with my newest addition to my Tolkien collection, the Folio Society box set.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is Samantha Mabry’s debut YA novel following a teen named Lucas who lives in Puerto Rico. Lucas is not well liked within the community, especially by the local police officer, because he is mostly viewed as a troublemaker who has everything handed to him.  He spends most of his time drinking and hooking up with local girls and he doesn’t have any concrete direction for his future but he expects to work for his father once he’s old enough.  One day, a girl from the states goes missing and her case because the talk of the island.  Then several more girls disappear and their common denominator is Lucas.  On the same day Lucas’s girlfriend disappears, he receives a mysterious note from local legend Isabel, a girl with green skin and green hair who is said to be poisonous to the touch.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a diverse read as it takes place in Puerto Rico.  While the main character, Lucas, is half white, half Dominican, all of the supporting characters (except his hotel mogul father and Dr. Ford, a botanist living in the supposedly cursed house at the end of Calle Sol) are native to the island.  The text within the novel is predominantly English but throughout the story, it’s also interspersed with some Spanish.  Having taken Spanish for 5 years in school, I found it mostly easy to follow with the exception of a few words here and there.  If you’re unable to speak or understand any Spanish, you’ll still be able to figure out what the author is saying for the most part (although I did struggle with a couple of words and then curse my memory for not having remembered them once I figured them out).  However, the description of locations within Puerto Rico and the beaches on the islands were absolutely beautiful.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison

Because the characters are living on a tiny island, everyone seems to know everyone’s business.  I appreciated the lore of the island and how all of the senoras would tell younger generations the same legends.  The one legend we read about most is that of Isabel, the supposedly cursed girl who lives with her father Dr. Ford in the house at the end of Calle Sol.  Dr. Ford is a botanist who tends to the Caribbean garden in his backyard and people fear his house because of the circumstances under which his wife left (his wife was a local island girl who was said to be cursed as a child which is why she bore an anomaly such as Isabel).  Lucas becomes involved in their lives during his quest to find one of the missing girls and I won’t spoil what happens from there.  One complaint I have is that the pacing of the story was very uneven.  The beginning of the story is very slow, interesting, but slow and by the final pages I was worried that the story wouldn’t have enough time to tie everything up. The conclusion is open ended so if that’s a thing that bothers you, I would skip this one.

Final Thoughts:  A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry is an intriguing debut YA novel as it is a blend between magical realism and a thriller.  The Puerto Rican island setting is described beautifully and the legends of the cursed girl who’s touch is fatal will keep you intrigued as everything unfolds.  The pacing is a bit inconsistent and the conclusion is open ended but overall I found it to be a quick and enjoyable read.

Rating 3

In this stunning debut, legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison.

Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Waiting on Wednesday: Map of Fates by Maggie Hall (The Conspiracy of Us #2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting.  This week I’m choosing Map of Fates by Maggie Hall which is the second book in The Conspiracy of Us trilogy.  Luckily, I wont’ be waiting much longer for this one because it comes out next Tuesday!  I enjoyed the first book (you can read my review here), and it only got a lower rating due to the awful love triangle that manifested at the end of the book.  I’m really hoping that’ll get sorted out quickly in Map of Fates but all of the other elements of the book are exciting enough to warrant my excitement even if it doesn’t.  I love the second cover (pink is just the best<3) and I really hope there are some more exciting chase scenes in haute couture shops.

Map of Fates

Two weeks. 



That’s how long it took for Avery West’s ordinary life to change forever: In two weeks, she discovered she was heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, learned her mother was taken hostage by the Circle’s enemies, and fell for a boy she’s not allowed to love, just as she found out another was her unwelcome destiny. 



Now, Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle, setting her mom and herself free before it’s too late. By her side are both the boys: Jack—steady, loyal, and determined to help her even at the expense of his own duty—and Stellan, whose connection to Avery grows stronger by the day despite her best intentions, making her question what she believes at every turn.
 

But at the end of a desperate hunt from the islands of Greece to the red carpet at Cannes comes a discovery that not only changes everything, but could bring the whole world to its knees. And now Avery is forced to face the truth: in the world of the Circle, no one is what they seem. (via Goodreads)

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TTT: Top Ten Books To Read if You’re in the Mood For a Fairytale Retelling

Top Ten Tuesday’s are a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which anyone who participates creates a Top Ten list of books based on a weekly prompt they provide (the list for advance topics can be found by clicking the link above). 

This week’s topic allowed for a bit of customization so I decided to spotlight books to read if you’re in the mood for a great fairytale retelling.  Four of the below are books that I’ve read and six are currently on my TBR.  This winter I’ve been in such a fairytale mood<3

TTT- Fairy Tale Retellings

Books Mentioned

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Review) / (Goodreads)

Reign of Shadows (Review) / (Goodreads)

Sunshine by Robin McKinely (Goodreads)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Review) / (Goodreads)

Beauty by Robin McKinley (Goodreads)

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (Goodreads)

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (Goodreads)

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Goodreads)

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (Goodreads)

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier (Goodreads)

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2016 Reading Challenges: February Recap

Welcome to my reading challenges recap for 2016!  This is a monthly post where I’ll be updating my progress throughout the year by challenge so you (and I) can see a breakdown of what I’ve read and which goals those books apply to.  I’m always open to suggestions in the comments as well!

GOODREADS

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Goal: 100

Read so far: 24

FLIGHTS OF FANTASY

flights of fantasy

Goal: 30

Read so far: 11

Books that Qualify:

January: Truthwitch (review), Red Queen (review), Clockwork Angel (review), Fablehaven

February: Grave Mercy (review), Poison Study (review), The Storyspinner (review), The Assassin’s Blade (review), Reign of Shadows (review), Stars Above, Shadow and Bone

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE READING CHALLENGE

contemporary romance reading challenge

Goal: 21+

Read so far: 7

Books that Qualify:

January: Meant to Be (review), Pivot Point (review), Summer of Sloane, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (review)

February: Firsts (review), Boomerang (review), The Love that Split the World

THE RE-READ CHALLENGE

re-read challenge

Goal: 10

Read so far: 1

Books that Qualify:

January: N/A

February: Superboy: Smallville Attacks (review)

2016 TBR PILE READING CHALLENGE

TBR Pile Reading challenge

Goal: 50

Read so far: 13

Books that Qualify:

January: Meant to Be (review), Mitosis, Firefight (review), Pivot Point (review), Red Queen (review), Clockwork Angel (review), Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (review)

February: Grave Mercy (review), Boomerang (review), Poison Study (review), The Storyspinner (review), The Assassin’s Blade (review), Shadow and Bone 

2016 FINISHING THE SERIES CHALLENGE

finishing the series challenge

*This challenge will fluctuate throughout the year based on whether a new book in the series has been released. A star denotes that I am either finished or current with the series.

Goal: 3-6 series

Series completed so far: 0

Series current with so far: 4

Books that Qualify:

January: Mitosis, Firefight (review), Pivot Point (review), Truthwitch* (review), Red Queen (review), Clockwork Angel (review), Fablehaven

February: Grave Mercy (review), Boomerang (review), Into the Dim* (review), Poison Study (review), The Storyspinner* (review), The Assassin’s Blade (review), Reign of Shadows* (review), Shadow and Bone, Ranma 1/2 volume 3 by Rumiko Takahashi

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Kristin

Art Gallery: If Disney Princesses Were Anime Characters

This past weekend my fiance showed me the most adorable artwork that appeals to me on every level.  I immediately asked him to send me the link so I could post them here because heart eyes.  Artist Maryam posted a series of portrait style illustrations of Disney Princesses if they were anime characters.  The girls still look very much like themselves and their clothes haven’t changed but they’re flawless beauties with enlarged eyes and I could look at these forever.  Mulan might be one of my favorites because I love the cherry blossom in her hair but I also really love Belle and Sleeping Beauty. Which one is your favorite?

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Kristin

Outfit of the Day: Smallville Attacks

Lately I’ve been in the mood to re-read all of my favorite comics.  I’m not sure what it was that drove my desire but the force is strong with this feeling.  It could be that I’ll be moving soon so I’ve been packing and rediscovering some of my favorite trades that I haven’t had the ability to display while I temporarily lived at my parents.  All I know is that I want to start with Geoff John’s Teen Titans run and continue reading about those characters.  One of my favorite trades revolving around a Titans alum is Superboy: Smallville Attacks by Jeff Lemire.  Lemire has always been one of my favorite comic book writers and I really love his take on Connor Kent.  I totally ship him with Wonder Girl<3  My fiance Andrew and I even dressed up as Connor and Cassie two NYCC’s ago!

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Jacket: ModCloth (N/A) | Shoes: Sam Edelman | Tank: Target
Superboy: Funko  | Skirt: Forever 21 (N/A)
Graphic Novel: Superboy Vol. 1: Smallville Attacks
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Kristin

My March Pre-Orders!

My Book Bag is a monthly feature where I’ll be sharing all of the books that I preordered for the month.  There are so many amazing stories to look forward to this month so without further ado, here are all the new releases I’ve pre-ordered! Links to each book’s Goodreads page can be found down below if you’d like to read the synopsis.

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Books Mentioned

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Goodreads)

The Crown and the Arrow (The Wrath and the Dawn #0.5) by Renee Ahdieh (Goodreads)

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1) by Cassandra Clare (Goodreads)

Map of Fates (The Conspiracy of Us #2) by Maggie Hall (Goodreads)

A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann (Goodreads)

The Skylighter (The Keepers’ Chronicles #2) by Becky Wallace (Goodreads)

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke (Goodreads)

The Moth and the Flame (The Wrath and the Dawn #0.25) by Renee Ahdieh (Goodreads)

The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski (Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan (Reign of Shadows #1)

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan is the first book in a series (it’s unconfirmed whether it’s a duology / trilogy or other but it feels like a duology) that is heavily inspired by Rapunzel.  I hadn’t originally planned on reading this one until I read positive pre-publication reviews and then the closer I looked at the cover the more I fell in love with it.  And of course, once I found out the Rapunzel aspect I couldn’t wait another minute for it!  The story follows a girl named Luna who’s spent her life living in a secluded tower due to her complicated royal family history and a boy name Fowler who has a past of his own to contend with.  The pair are living in a world where an eclipse occurred 17 years ago and there hasn’t been light since.  Humans live in fear of dangerous creatures called Dwellers and bats have grown to four feet in size.

Throughout Reign of Shadows there were plot twists at every turn.  I do not want to spoil anything because it was really exciting to discover new things as the story unfolded and I would hate to take that away from anyone.  As the story progressed, I developed very strong feelings for these characters.  They’re polar opposites and the relationship they form leads to a deep connection.  Luna is a unique heroine for several reasons, all of which will not be revealed here.  She is not your typical gorgeous lost rightful heir to the throne.  Luna is a kind spirit and she makes decisions with her heart even when they might not be the best ones whereas Fowler has lost someone in his past and refuses to allow himself to care for anyone because of how bleak their society is.  He’s purely logical in his decision making and despite his rough exterior, he lives by a code of conduct.  My heart was racing during the last 50 pages or so of the book and I needed a hug once I finished reading.

Reign of Shadows

I loved seeing all of the parallels to Rapunzel in Regin of Shadows and I’m curious if they’ll continue in the second installment or if it will branch off into even more of its own story, similar to how The Lunar Chronicles handles itself.  Sophie Jordan did an incredible job with the worldbuilding and convincing me that this is a society I would never want to experience. I couldn’t imagine the constant feeling of living in fear with little hope that anything will change in the future.  The imagery of the forest and the scenes with the Dwellers painted such a clear picture in my mind which doesn’t always happen for me while reading.  My only complaint is that while I was initially excited that the book is so short (without acknowledgements it’s under 300 pages), I really wanted more, especially upon reaching the end.  The story ends very abruptly with a gut wrenching cliffhanger and I need the second one as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts:  Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan is the first book in a fantasy series set in a world which is heavily inspired by Rapunzel.  Jordan crafted an enchanting story in a terrifying and bleak society and I couldn’t get enough of it.  I have so many feelings for Luna and Fowler and I need them to be together because I am shipping them so hard.  Opposites attract and while they could not be more different, each has found their way into my heart.

Rating 5

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadowsis Sophie Jordan at her best. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Waiting on Wednesday: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting.  This week I’m choosing Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.  Ever since I read Anna Dressed in Blood (and it’s sequel Girl of Nightmares) I knew that I would be reading all of Kendare Blake’s books.  I listened to her recent episode on the First Draft podcast which is how I found out about Three Dark Queens. The premise is fascinating and when I heard Kendare’s inspiration behind it I was even more convinced that this is a Kristin book.  In an interview with Hypable, Kendare explained her inspiration coming from “how the queen bee will leave her hive and lay some queen eggs, and whichever queen hatches first kills the others and gets to take over the old hive. And I thought…rad. How can I make people do that?”  In addition to the cover reveal last week, artwork of a map of the world by Virginia Allyn was also released and it’s stunning.  Also look at the cover!  I’m hoping / guessing that the design of each crown is based on the region each potential queen was raised.  They remind me of Rapunzel, the Fire Nation and The Jungle Book respectively.

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Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

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