My February Pre-Orders

My Book Bag is a new 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 February 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

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (Goodreads)

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell (Goodreads)

Raging Sea (Undertow #2) by Michael Buckley (Goodreads)

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard (Goodreads)

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas (Goodreads)

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan (Goodreads)

Calamity (The Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson (Goodreads)

A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab (Goodreads)

After the Woods by Kim Savage (Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a contemporary romance that I made a number one priority for 2016.  I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about this LGBTQ+ novel since it’s debut last year and I recently included it in one of my Top Ten Tuesday lists.  The novel is a coming out story told from the perspective of Simon, a high school teenager who hasn’t come out yet.  Like any teen, Simon struggles with his identity and what it is that makes him who he is.  He has a solid group of friends and a wonderful family and a love interest who goes to his school but since they communicate exclusively via email his identity remains unknown.  I loved everything about this book and I was amazed at how quickly I read it but I honestly could not stop.  I read an e-book version that I picked up on sale during December but I love it so much that I ordered myself a hardcover copy for my shelves!

Simon is one of my favorite YA characters probably ever.  I love his voice and being in his head is delightful.  He has a manic sense of enthusiasm and he obsesses over the things that are the biggest deal to him.  He’s both confident and vulnerable and I just want to hug him.  Everything about him feels so real and genuine and I’m sure anyone who readsSimon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda will be able to identify with the struggles Simon faces.  Besides sharing an affinity for Oreo’s and having a major sweet tooth, Simon is a theater geek who enjoys comics, Doctor Who and anime.  He is such a real and fleshed out character that it’s impossible not to feel invested in his story.  Even the side characters, from the most minor to that almost majors, are completely developed which enhances the story even more.  Because Simon has such a strong support system of family (the parents who want to be the cool parents but really care about their kids, an older sister Alice who’s in her first year of college and a younger sister Nora who keeps to herself) and friends (Nick, his music-loving, guitar-playing, video-game-addicted best friend, their third musketeer Leah, an sassy and sarcastic anime lover who dresses up as a Fruits Basket character for Halloween, and the new girl Abby who’s loving and accepting).  Even Martin, the antagonist who blackmails Simon is given depth.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

The mystery surrounding Simon’s virtual love interest kept me completely hooked but even if the story had focused on anything else, I would’ve been just as engaged.  Throughout the novel I would make guesses as to who I thought “Blue” might be and I am so happy to say that I was completely surprised and delighted once his identity was revealed.  It feels so realistic to see a teenage relationship progress via email since communication via the internet is where many people feel the most comfortable being completely open and honest. I would be willing to bet that I looked forward to Blue’s emails almost as much as Simon did and the banter between them was absolutely adorable.  There is a definite bond of friendship that formed between Simon and Blue and they come to rely on one another for distractions when their offline life feels too complicated.  Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a story about finding first love, finding yourself and figuring out what your identity is.

Final Thoughts: READ THIS BOOK.  I rarely think a book will appeal to everyone on a mass scale but Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is something SPECIAL.  Within the first few pages you’ll fall in love with Simon and his narrative and throughout the course of the novel you’ll experience all those feelings of first love over again.  Every single character so much as mentioned in this book has a very distinct and completely fleshed out identity.  Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an LGBTQ+ friendly story but it’s pretty solid proof that love between people, no matter what they identify as, manifest the same feelings as any “traditional” relationship.

Rating 6

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. (via Goodreads)

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BookTube: January Book Haul

It’s my first book haul of 2016! And it’s a BIG one.  I picked up a really good mix of pretty classic books, new YA releases and some backlist books I’ve been meaning to get to.  I’m pretty pleased with everything I acquired although I did buy a bit more than I thought I did. I’ve been using a spreadsheet to keep track of everything I read and buy and I was shocked when I looked at the number of books I hauled but it made it a lot easier to follow a list when creating my pile for the video.  What’s your favorite book you purchased in January?

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2016 Reading Challenges: January Recap

Welcome to my first reading challenges recap of 2016!  This is going to be 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: 10

Flights of Fantasy

flights of fantasy

Goal: 30

Read so far: 4

Books that Qualify: Truthwitch (review), Red Queen (review), Clockwork Angel, Fablehaven

Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge

contemporary romance reading challenge

Goal: 21+

Read so far: 4

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

The Re-Read Challenge

re-read challenge

Goal: 10

Read so far: 0

Books that Qualify: N/A

2016 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

TBR Pile Reading challenge

Goal: 50

Read so far: 7

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

2016 Finishing the Series Challenge

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*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: 2

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

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Kristin

BookTube: Spines With Wines: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

For our January book club, Cassie, Melissa and I chose to read Truthwitch by Susan Dennard which is the first book in the Witchlands series and it was indeed the BEST choice.  After HATING our last book Winterspell, it was a nice change of pace to spend time gushing about a new favorite of all of ours!  You can also find all of the links to Cassie and Melissa’s social media and blogs in the YouTube description bar and I highly recommend following them because they’re pretty top notch people and I consider them to be my Threadsisters<3!

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Life Update+ 5 Fandom Friday February Topics!

Hi everyone! Here are the 5 Fandom Friday topics for February! I’ve had such a busy week that’s been both physically and mentally exhausting so I’m going to have to start writing all of my blog posts on the weekend and scheduling them throughout the week.  I started a new chapter of my life this week at a new company and I’m really happy but still adjusting.  It didn’t help that the blizzard from the previous weekend basically ruined any kind of schedule the trains normally run by.  I’ve also been exercising every night and trying to eat well but by the time I get home and do those things, I’m ready to pass out.  I was barely even on social media, like, AT ALL and I really miss instagram.  I hope everyone else is doing well and Megan and I hope you’ll participate in this month’s topics!

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February 5th: OTP’s

February 12th: Womances I Ship (in honor of Galentine’s Day)

February 19th: Favorite Cupcakes

February 26th: 5 Things in My Purse at All Times

 

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BookTube: My Book Buying Habits

Today’s video is my first discussion post! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about book buying lately (because I’m moving and anyone who loves books knows that moving is HARD).  I’m not going to have an unlimited amount of space and I really want to make sure that the books I give shelf space to are the ones I completely love and which represent me as a reader.  What are some of your book buying habits?

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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

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