BookTube: Books I Want to Re-Read in 2016

I swear I am going to be sticking to my re-read goal this year after failing once again in 2015 (BUT I did re-read more than I usually do which is not at all so I suppose that’s winning on some kind of scale!).  I’m not planning on starting any of my re-reads in January because I feel like there are too many backlist books I wanted to read in 2015 that I haven’t gotten to yet and I’m really pleased with what I’ve been reading this month.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

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 Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter.  The story is inspired by the Russian fairytale Vassilissa the Beautiful so immediately count me in!  Vassa sounds like Cinderella (“she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters”)  and the local owner of a convenience store is Baba Yaga which is pretty BA.  Vassa lives in Brooklyn and her entire neighborhood is under a curse which she’s trying to break and it sounds like she’ll have help from a wooden doll that her deceased mother left her.  This one sound like it could go either way.  The general premise sounds fascinating to me but the first paragraph of the synopsis is a bit cheesy.

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In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yaga, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (The Witchlands #1)

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

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is the first book in a new series called The Witchlands and along with Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger it was tied for my most anticipated 2016 new release.   I’m so happy to say that Truthwitch definitely lived up to the hype surrounding it.  Dennard newest is only the beginning of an epic fantasy in the making and I’m already wishing I had a copy of Windwitch in my hands!  The story follows Safiya and Iseult, a pair of best friends, who are on the run from Safi’s kingdom.  They’re being pursued by numerous parties because of Safi’s ability and they end up aboard a ship captained by Prince Merik.  They’re also attempting to evade an impending war that’s about to break out once the peace treaty expires.  Truthwitch is largely non-stop action from beginning to end.

My favorite part of Truthwitch is definitely the characters.  I love Safi and Iseult’s friendship (they’re referred to as Threadsisters) and I appreciate that their bond is such a central part of the novel.  They continuously rely on each other and even when they’re apart, they’re making decisions with the other girl in mind (although Safi is much more impulsive than Iseult).  The girls are also very diverse from one another and despite Safi’s races prejudice toward Iseult’s people, Safi is always there to defend her.  Throughout the course of the book, the girls are being hunted by Aeduan, a Bloodwitch who is hell bent on revenge.  He is definitely a morally grey character and I loved reading from his perspective.  And then there’s Prince Merik who wants to do what’s best for his people.  I really fell in love with him more and more with each page I read and I completely ship his slow burn romance with Safi.  Their witty banter is to die for!  The best part is that the romance in no way detracts from the Threadsister friendship being the focal point of the story.

Truthwitch

Then we have the world-building, *swoon.*  Admittedly, it took a little bit for me to get really into the world (maybe about 100 pages or so) and it’s only because there is so much information to try to keep track of in the beginning.  While I love that Susan didn’t use the human discovering a fantasy world for the first time to make it easier for the reader trope, it definitely required concentration and re-reading some sections to get a clear picture of how many different type of witches there are.  I’m already anticipating re-reading Truthwitch because I will definitely have to brush up on the world before starting the second book (also it’s amazing and worthy of a re-read anyway).  Safi is a Truthwitch which means that she can tell when someone is lying and her Threadsister Iseult is a Threadwitch which allows her to see the relationships between people.  They’re being hunted by a Bloodwitch which is pretty scary.  He can smell blood and follow it’s scent, but he also has the ability to take control of someone’s blood.  There are a bunch of other types of witches introduced in the story but these are the main ones for now.  Also, I loved / was scared of the Sea Foxes! They sound like they could be cute despite how destructive they are but that was one of my favorite scenes in the book, along with the Lighthouse scene.  (Side note: I also love that it was obvious how influenced Dennard was by Avatar: The Last Airbender).

Final Thoughts: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is a must read for an fantasy fan.  The epic female friendship, incredibly intricate world-building, fascinating magic system, and political intrigue will definitely hook you.  We need more female friendships like Safi and Iseult’s in the world and I cannot wait to continue this series.  Plus, it was influenced by Avatar: The Last Airbender so I needn’t say more!

Rating 6

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Makeup Monday: LUSH Valentine’s Day Collection

My favorite LUSH collection is always the Christmas collection but the Valentine’s Day collection is a close second.  This year the collection is called Lush Crush and I’m most excited that it includes another unicorn horn.  The Prince Charming shower cream is also definitely on my list since it’s a blend of pomegranate and vanilla which sounds heavenly!  To view the full set and links for each of the products below you can see it on Polyvore.

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Kristin

BookTube: 2016 Reading Challenges

I’ve already written a blog post about the reading challenges I’ve signed up for in 2016 but I wanted to make a video version as well since some people prefer YouTube to reading a blog!

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Kristin

28 Before 29 Mid-Year Check In

On my birthday in 2015 I posted a list of goals I had set for myself that I wanted to accomplish over the course of the following year, aptly named 28 Things to Do Before 29.  It’s a mix of small and big goals and I stumbled across it the other day while I was looking through my 2015 posts.  So far I have to say that I’m making some really great progress! I haven’t necessarily been following this list to a T but they’re the kind of goals that I’ve had in the back of my mind so I’ve completed more of them than I thought I would’ve by this point!  There are a few that I’m going to have to put forth a conscious effort to achieve by July 23, 2016 but I’m up for the challenge, and there are others that I’ve begun completing but will forever be a work in progress (ie. learning Photoshop).

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1. Take the ABM Blog Life Courses

I’m almost finished with all of the lessons in the Blog Life course at this point!

2. Learn Photoshop

I’ve made a bunch of blog graphics and edited a ton of photos since I began learning Photoshop and I feel comfortable using it on my own without having to bother Andrew too much for help! 

3. Read 200 books – Most of which I should already own

Since my birthday last year I’ve read 61 books so I have a long way to go on this one.  Considering I read a total of 108 books overall in 2015, I’m not so certain that I’ll make this goal.  I think I’ll actually lower it to 100 books from July 23 – July 23.

4. Watch enough YouTube videos to be okay at doing my own hair

Nope. I’ve mastered like two hairstyles (which is a huge improvement for me!) but I want to be able to do a few more versatile styles before my 29th birthday.

5. Outdoor movie night beneath the stars with Andrew<3

This hasn’t happened yet but there’s still time.  I didn’t really think about the whole bugs and heat aspect when I set this goal so we’ll so how that goes!

6. Get engaged

:-) :-) :-) This is the best completed goal on my list and if it were the only thing I completed I would be still be happy<3

7. Utilize what’s in my closet unless I really love a new article of clothing

I’m kind of a clothes addict.  I have culled some of my wardrobe but ModCloth is my weakness and I developed a Peter Pan collar affinity last Fall >.<

8. Visit Diagon Alley

Not yet BUT this is where Andrew and I are planning on honeymooning so it will happen!

9. Take a macaron baking class

Not yet.  There is a place in NYC that offers macaron baking classes that I want to go to but I get really lazy about traveling into NYC on the weekend since I spend so much time commuting there during the week.

10. Create a cookbook of my favorite recipes

Not yet, but I have come up with a cover concept and I already have some recipes bookmarked (physically, not digitally!) that I want to include in it.

11. Be better about seeing new movies

I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening day (which really is the most important film of 2015)!  I also saw Crimson Peak (which I didn’t love review here) and Spectre (which was pretty okay!) on opening weekend.  However, I still haven’t see Mockingjay Part 2 so that’s really my only movie fail so far.

12. Eat healthy!

I *could* do better.  I just really love dessert you guys!

13. Dance more

Meh. I’m giving up on this one. I’m not a dancer.  I’ve tried to push myself but I mostly just feel uncomfortable.

14. See more Broadway shows

I saw Hamilton so I win Broadway shows for the year.  Also, Andrew took me to Finding Neverland for my birthday and it was so absolutely wonderful<3!

15. Hit 5,000 YouTube subscribers

I’ve been on BookTube for almost one year now and I’m just about at 2,000 subscribers so there’s still hope for this one!  It’s really just a fun reach goal though since I love what I’m doing on there and that’s the most important thing!

16. Attend a Harry Potter meetup

I haven’t done this yet but I’m hoping to find one soon!

17. Host another theme party

It wasn’t *technically* a theme party (unless wedding counts as a theme?) but I did have all of my Bridesmaids over to ask them to be part of my magical girl circle on the big day<3  Andrew and I do have some party ideas for our new place though!

18. Use my DSLR for photos and not just BookTube videos

I still use my iPhone for photos more than I should but I have used my DSLR 100% more than last year (which was not at all).  Again, this is a work in progress.

19. Complete an outline & start writing my first novel

I tried to do NaNoWrimo in 2015 and I failed miserably.  I’ve still been working on my story here and there but it’ll be much easier once I move and don’t have to leave my house at 6:30 AM for a parking spot.  So I’ve succeeded on the starting part but I’m not a big outliner.  I like to start writing with a general idea and see where my characters take me.

20. Be active in the NovelTea Book Club

Since I’ve previously read several of the books chosen for the club since my birthday I haven’t been super active in the Goodreads group because it’s hard to discuss a book you know the ending of without spoiling it for other people.  I did however create a Spines With Wines Goodreads group with Cassie and Melissa for our bookclub!

21. Review all of the books I read

*pats self on back*

22. Save at least triple what I spend

Aw yeah! This is a thing I’ve struggled with for my entire life.  I like stuff. I buy too much stuff.  But this year, I’ve saved a lot more than I’ve spent and I plan to keep that momentum going!

23. Use my candles

My favorite candle I used this year is the Bath and Body Works Fresh Balsam candle which creates a lovely atmosphere while sitting around the Christmas tree with family and catching up over gluhwein.

24. Catch up on Welcome to Night Vale (stolen from Sara)

Not only have I caught up on Night Vale, but I also started and completed Limetown, and I’m roughly halfway through First Draft.  I think I may start Hank and John Green’s podcast next!

25. Attend more conventions

Once Andrew and I get married this is our top priority!

26. Meet blogger friends!

I’ve met so many lovely people in the past couple of months, both bloggers and BookTubers.

27. Get back into crafts & post some DIY ideas

I have some crafts bookmarked that I want to get to, but again, it’ll be easier once I move and pick up and extra 7.5 hours a week in the morning.

28. Learn how to use my green screen

I haven’t done this yet BUT Andrew and I did use our black backdrop to create our stellar Save the Date (good job Andrew!)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen #1)

Oh Red Queen you are a challenging review to write.  It took me quite a while to feel ready to read my copy ofRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard despite having picked it up on it’s release date in 2015.  There was so much pre-release hype surrounding Red Queen that I was really excited for it but once the reviews started coming in the general consensus was very mixed.  Then I stopped hearing about it for a while and it kind of fell off of my radar but with the release of Glass Sword (the second book in the Red Queen trilogy) rapidly approaching my interest level sparked again.  I ended up really enjoying Red Queen and I will definitely be picking up the sequel but I do recognize the flaws that are present in the story.  Red Queen is a fantasy novel set in a dystopian world about a girl named Mare who was born into a society where people are discriminated against based on the color of their blood.  Mare is a Red which is the low class but she soon discovers that she has an ability, something only seen in Silver bloods.

First of all, Victoria Aveyard can write.  The story Aveyard tells is exciting, the characters are compelling, the pacing is on point and the worldbuilding is all encompassing.  Red Queen is a book that hooked me from the start and I genuinely enjoyed all of my time spent in the world of the Reds and the Silvers.  There are plenty of action packed scenes and there are plot twists and turns that’ll keep you on your toes.  Plus, the characters are what had me invested.  I like the main character, Mare, who’s your typical YA heroine complete with sass and the hope that she can change the world for the better.  Mare is family oriented and makes the best choices she can in the society she was born into.  We get a good feel for her home life but it isn’t until later on that we meet my favorite characters, the royals.  There’s Prince Tiberias who will be the successor to the King, Prince Maven, the often overlooked younger brother, Queen Elara, the wicked stepmother with the ability to read minds, and the King himself who honestly doesn’t play too huge of a role.  I also appreciated that the story is not romance heavy (at least not yet).

Red Queen

My main issue with Red Queen is that while I really enjoyed reading the book, I couldn’t help feeling like I had already read the same story as told by other authors.  The two big series Red Queen mimics are The Hunger Games and The Selection series.  There’s an event in the beginning of the book where women are competing to be the Prince’s bride which felt a heck of a lot like a condensed version of The Selection.  There are several other direct parallels between each series but some of them may be argued away since they’re all dystopian so some elements (oppressive governments spewing propaganda, rebel groups looking to overturn a corrupt society, ie) are to be expected.  I listened to a podcast which interviewed Victoria Aveyard after finishing the book and I learned that the world was supposed to mirror Ancient Rome which I didn’t totally get while I was reading.  The only indicator were the one on one battles between Silvers where the rest of the population would spectate and I wish it had been more clear than that.  I’m also hoping that Glass Sword will include a map.

Final Thoughts:  Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is an entertaining and action packed story that reads like a film.  There are constant plot twists, the writing is beautiful and the characters will capture your heart.  There’s no doubt that the story is derivative of other popular YA dystopians such as The Hunger Games and The Selection but it is enjoyable nonetheless.  If you’re looking for a fast paced story featuring a outspoken female heroine in a well developed dystopian world you should pick up Red Queen.

Rating 4

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart … (via Goodreads)

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Bookstagram Wrap Up: January 1-15

One of my Bookish Resolutions for 2016 is to be more active on Bookstagram.  I think I did a pretty okay job of keeping up for the first half of the month and I’m looking forward to continuously challenging myself every day to take better photos and be more creative in the process.  I thought posting a bi-monthly recap would be a nice way of looking back on the photos I took and it’ll also help me hold myself accountable for actually posting on a consistent basis.  I’ve always had so much fun taking, editing and posting photos in the past and I’m trying to take some pressure off myself and make being active a habit again. So far, so good!  If any of you know of any February Bookstagram photo a day challenges please tell me about them because I’ve been trying to find one to join in on! I’m really looking forward to Kristin from My Life as a Teacup’s next challenge!

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Waiting on Wednesday: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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 A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.  Last week, Bloomsbury treated us to the long awaited ACOMAF cover reveal and I and completely thrilled with the new design.  We get to see a bit more of Feyre’s face, but it’s her intricate outfit, the gorgeous shade of blue and of course the hand tattoo (which if you’ve read A Court of Thorns and Roses you’ll know how that got there!).  This is probably the first time that I’ve ever loved a U.S. cover more than a U.K. cover which is also a huge deal.  The U.S. cover has some of the buildings from the court in the distance, the stone archway and visible mist while the U.K. cover is more plain but it does keep the thorns instead of mist.  A Court of Mist and Fury is definitely in my top 3 most anticipated releases of 2016 and I’m dying to find out what’s next for the characters I fell in love with last May.  I’m also really excited that ACOMAF is 624 pages.  I would honestly love if it were thousands of pages long!

A Court of Mist and Fury

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court–but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms–and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future–and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights. (via Goodreads)

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BookTube: Villain Squad Tag

Today I’m here with a video I filmed a couple of months ago! I filmed it the week Riley tagged me but I’ve just had so many other videos I’ve wanted to post that this one sat in the bank for a longer than I planned.  I really like the premise of this tag because instead of just answering some questions, there is an overall purpose and that purpose is to create the ultimate Villain Squad.  While it was fun to create a hypothetical super-villain team, I don’t think I could actually work with these characters under any circumstance!

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