January Wrap-Up & Book Haul

January was a month of quality reads for me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a month where every book I read, I loved. One thing is clear though, I am really enjoying Diverse reads and being able to relate to some of the characters. I am also still on a mission to lower my arc pile with the help of my handy spreadsheet lol & making progress. This however, has not stopped me from acquiring new books cuzzzz i’m a helpless bookworm who can’t resist good deals & steals 🙈🙈🙈 annnnnd let’s face it, February doesn’t look like it’s going to be a slow month in the book world either. Yet still, I do plan on mostly picking up those books that I’ve already read & loved in arc form in order to support the authors & cuz If I loved them so much, i’d like to own them 🤗😍🤗😍

I’m very happy that The Bear and the Nightingale & Gilded Cage are solid starters for series. I get to go back to these worlds/characters and see what they’ve been up to & I can’t wait! I also hope to see more from all of these debut authors, they were all seriously noteworthy for many different reasons. I’ve reviewed all and attached the links 😉

January also saw me host my very 1st giveaway (see here) and I am happy with the outcome. The winner of the Owlcrate giveaway was Naz @ ReadDiverseBooks, check out his wonderfully diverse blog for all things diverse reads! The next giveaway will most likely be in May to celebrate my 1 year blogoversary and there will be 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place prizes 🙂

 

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 Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

 American Street by Ibi Zoboi  ★★★★ (4STARS)

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden   ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

The Education of Margot Sanchez ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas  ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

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*These 3 were Goodreads wins, your girl was a bit lucky this month (thank the Book Gods)

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall 

The Story Of  New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2) by Elena Ferrante 

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante 

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The Bear and the Nightingale (the Bear and the Nightingale #1) by Katherine Arden

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 

Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney 

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry 

Wires and Nerve (Wires and Nerve #1) by Marissa Meyer

City Of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Arabella of Mars (The Adventures Of Arabella Ashby #1) by David D. Levine

Frost Blood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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January’s Book Of The Month, I went with Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk and added Good As Gone for $9.99. BOTM gifted their subbies Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup 🙂

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I purchased these two lovely Book Biff’s from Breanne over at BizzyLittleB, she was very sweet & filled my custom order very quickly. Currently she isn’t taking custom orders due to starting a new school semester but she’ll be back & i’m keeping an eye out for when she does 😉

what-i-watched-bannerunderworldbwposterI managed to squeeze in a movie with the hubby this month. We went to see Underworld Blood Wars & although it was enjoyable we felt it wasn’t the strongest film in the franchise. That’s tough to say cuz I’m a HUGE Underworld & Kate Beckinsale fan. I’m still not giving up on Underworld & hope that the next one is re-vamped (hehe see what I did there smh).

maxresdefaultOn the TV front, i’ve admittedly fallen behind on a lot of my shows since they returned from Winter break but the DVR is working over time saving them for me. However, I have returned to one of my faves Vikings Season 4 (link to IMDB) & i’m once again hooked. Team Lagertha all the way & I really hope they don’t kill off my boo lol 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼

As has been the case these past couple of months, I’m a bit late with this book haul/wrap-up but i’ve been catching up with some of yours. Seems like for the most part, January was all about getting back in the swing of things. Love seeing how your January went & wish all my bookish peeps happy reading in February <3’s!

 

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

30258320Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

Published by: Del Rey Books

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Dystopian

Pages: 368 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

I’d like to thank Del Rey Books, Netgalley, and Vic James for providing a eGalley of Gilded Cage in exchange for an honest review.

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Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

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Gilded Cage is a dystopian Fantasy set in an alternate England where all (no matter the color of your skin or your financial status) are expected to complete 10 years of slave life at a time of their choosing. The people are governed by the Equals who have Skill, abilities they are born with that for the most part only the wielder knows it’s full potential. Skill isn’t something spoken about freely & most among the Equals consider it taboo to discuss at all. The Equals control the Skill-less by imposing  Slave Days which are typically carried out in slave towns monitored closely. Life in these slave towns proves to be very difficult due to 6 day work weeks, small food rations, and often beatings from the patrolling security guards. We are introduced to a family of five: Mom, Dad, Oldest Daughter Abi (medical student), Son Luke (middle child), and 10 year old Daisy. The parents have been convinced by their eldest daughter Abi to submit an application to carry out their slave days at the Kyneston estate belonging to one of the top most powerful family of Equals. She is absolutely certain that they each can offer up a service that would make them ideal to be accepted at the estate as opposed to the slave towns. What Abi never expected was for the application to be accepted for all except her brother Luke. The family is immediately picked up & separated from Luke who is taken to the slave towns. From this point on Abi & Luke’s paths are divided and their experiences vastly differ from one another. Told in third person narrative, each character gets a chapter and we the reader get a dose of life through Luke and Abi’s eyes as well as the Equals. Luke is recruited by a small group of characters that are determined to bring an end to slave days. through a series of “jobs” they slowly begin to tear at the seams of injustice. One thing is for certain…the revolution has just begun.

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Luke may have entered the slave town a teenager but he is quickly gaining wisdom and perspective that provide him with a purpose. The friends he makes are characters who just like him, have been cherry picked for their knowledge and skill-less abilities. I enjoyed seeing the character development with Luke since I didn’t think he had it in him to survive in the slave town. I also enjoyed Reenie, the first friend Luke makes and also his recruiter into this rag tag team of misfits. Reenie is described as a POC not much older than 13 years of age who appears to have been in the slave town’s for way longer than laws permit. There’s still a lot to learn about this character, I got the feeling we’ll get her background later on in the series. On Abi’s end we get the sense that she has regret over ever applying to have their days carried out at the estate. She blames herself for Luke’s predicament & sets out on a mission to gather information to get him brought to the estate. Abi has potential to grow into a strong character & her development was nice to see as well. I definitely like the Abi we see in the end better than the one we meet in the beginning.  On the other side of the spectrum we have the Equals who we get to follow & get to know individually in each of their chapters. The Jardine’s: Lord Whittam Jardine, Gavar Jardine, Jenner Jardine, and Silyen Jardine are owners of the Kyneston estate and also one of the most powerful families of Equals. Lord Whittam is a power hungry man who doesn’t deem any of his sons fit to inherit his estate. Gavar Jardine is said to have uncontrollable skill, a great amount difficult to harness. This is made all the more difficult by his temper, he is not the nicest of the bunch lol. Jenner is my favorite, he also happens to be skill-less. I enjoyed this character the most because of all the Jardines, he was sympathetic to Abi & her family making sure they stayed out of harms way. Last but not least we have Silyen, he is an oddball and I haven’t decided whether to like him or not. He also has immense power behind his skill but what his intentions are, it’s too soon to tell. Silyen plays his cards close to his chest and I can’t wait to discover more of what he’s up to. There are also some power players in the story like Gavar’s soon wife-to-be Bhouda. This character has every intention of one day sitting in a position of power & can talk politics with the best of them. She’s also colder than ice and someone to keep an eye on at all times. With many pieces on the board, I  commend Vic James for giving each of these characters their own distinct voice in each chapter. I was never confused and found their stories easy to follow which is alway good in a fantasy series with many players. Also, in case some readers are wondering some of the Equals in power were described as people of color. In this world, you were either born with skill or not. The color of your skin did not determine your fate.

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The world building in Gilded Cage was impressive on the slave town side of the story. I did however, wish to have seen a bit more on the skill of each of the Equals we were introduced to. I’m not sure if the author purposely chose to leave that obscure til the next book or not but there were hints of this throughout the book. In the next book I hope to gain some clarity on the Jardine brothers Skill. This being book 1 in a series, I felt that it set down a solid foundation. The writing itself was enjoyable and never boring, I always found myself wanting to pick this book back up. With a plethora of characters, I enjoyed the short chapters and felt that it carried the story along at steady pace. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the Dark Gifts series & returning to these characters lives.

Are any of my bookish peeps planning on reading Gilded Cage? For those who already have, link that review down below & I’ll swing by 😉

Review:The Education Of Margot Sanchez

margotThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: February 21st 2017

Format: eGalley

Genre: YA Contemporary

Page Count: 304 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster for approving me to receive an eGalley of The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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Ok Guys & Gals, the time has come for me to review this awesome book & I cannot tell you how excited I am to do so! the Goodreads synopsis more than covers the plot so I won’t repeat what’s already up above, instead i’ll touch on some of my fave plot points. The Education Of Margot Sanchez is first & foremost a Own Voices book about a Puerto-Rican family living in the Bronx, New York. Margot’s dad is the owner of two Grocery Stores from which he provides for his wife, son, and daughter. Margot attends a prep school in Manhattan along with the children of wealthy families. Her brother Junior works with their father in the grocery in hopes to one day take over the family business. We start off with Margot getting caught stealing her fathers credit card to order clothes online. Her punishment is to work off the debt in one of the grocery stores throughout the summer. This does not bode well for Margot who has a social life to maintain back in the city if she ever wants to “fit in” with the wealthy kids in her school. We follow Margot’s daily routine as she fulfills her duties in the grocery store by stocking shelves, working in the deli with the meat, and basically handling all of the grunt work. Her dad has every intention of teaching her a lesson but also utilizing her knowledge of social platforms to possibly give the store a new edge. The neighborhood is experiencing Gentrification and the family business is feeling the side effects. Situated next to a college and a new and upcoming food market, the family business can either benefit or be hurt by the change in demographics in their neighborhood. Margot however, could NOT be bothered with these things. Her thoughts are occupied by that guy back in her prep school who may or may not be interested in her and the “friends” she’s made by appearing to be someone she’s not. Margot is pretty much living a double life, something she has learned to do in one way or another by her own family. When Margot meets a guy while working in the grocery store, who is the complete opposite of the guy she’s had her eyes on in prep school…everything she worked so hard to create starts to fall apart. Moises represents everything her family does not want for her & yet he seems so right. This story is about Margot & how certain events lead to her growing up & learning some hard lessons from those she loves most.

characters-bannerI’ll start off with saying what I’ve seen many readers say about Margot…she’s not the nicest, she’s self-absorbed, selfish, deceitful, and ultimately an unlikeable protagonist. However, I understood this to be the whole point in educating her. Margot hasn’t had the best examples at home. Yes, her dad does pay for her to attend a pricey prep school in Manhattan but her values are all screwed up. Her parents marriage is not all that it seems and her brother is going through substance abuse issues. The problem is, there is no communication whatsoever between any of these family members. All is solved by simply not talking about it. On the surface this family appears to have it all but underneath they are hurting and divided. As a Latina woman, my childhood/family set up looked a lot like Margot’s. I experienced first hand what it’s like to look towards Papi (dad) as the bread winner and more than anything wanting to please him with success in school. Both Margot & Junior (son) want to succeed but get lost while trying to please a man who himself was failing. Mami (mom) was pretty much a silent figure in the background but you could feel her pain through her compulsion to keep everything extremely clean & tidy all day every day. I took this as her way of keeping control over something in her life when underneath it was all a giant mess. This family touched me because I was able to relate to their experiences, culture, and pain. This after all is the beauty of reading books by Own voice authors. I still think about this family & wonder whether these fictional characters are ok now…

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The Education Of Margot Sanchez was a light read that I flew through in just under two days. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a Puerto-Rican family since it truly is rare to come across. This family felt familiar and relatable making this read one that I devoured all the while making comparisons to my own experiences growing up Puerto-Rican. I was pleasantly surprised to see the topic of gentrification play a role in this neighborhood since it’s one that i’ve personally seen have an affect on local mom & pop stores. There are other more serious topics covered in this book however, I feel that mentioning them is very spoilery since when I came across them I was taken aback and was moved by them. Although I know that at it’s core the story is about Margot and her family, I would’ve enjoyed seeing her take on a more hands on approach with the issues & concerns affecting her community as a symptom of gentrification. I do however appreciate how Lilliam Rivera explored the morals and values of this family in a very realistic sense. These characters were deeply flawed and were all weathering internal battles that seeped into their relationships with one another. Sometimes parents don’t always have it right themselves. A lot of times the kids get caught up in the unspoken. Such is the story of Margot & her brother Junior.

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14358410Originally from the Bronx, NYC, Lilliam Rivera is a 2016 Pushcart Prize winner and a 2015 Clarion graduate. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from PEN Center USA, Elizabeth George Foundation, and A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Latina, among others. She hosts the Los Angeles-based radio show Literary Soundtrack on Radio Sombra and lives in Los Angeles with her family. Visit her at LilliamRivera.com.

December Book Haul & Wrap-Up

Here’s to hoping that 2017 will see me post these Wrap-Ups & Bookhauls in a more timely fashion *cheers* (said no one ever Baha!). I’m hoping everyone had a wonderful holiday, it feels good to be back in the mix of things. Slowly but surely I’m seeing more of my bookish peeps coming back & it’s been pretty awesome seeing all of your Christmas hauls and holiday posts. I honestly didn’t think I’d be hauling much of anything in the month of December because I did NOT ask for books this Christmas *gasps*…don’t get me wrong I totally wanted to, I’ve just been trying to read a lot of what I own & keep up with arc reviews. Now, ignore EVERYTHING you just read *covers eyes* on to my Wrap-up & shameful haul LOL..

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick ★★★★ 1/2 (4.5)

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel ★★★★ 1/2 (4.5)

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones ★★★ 1/2 (3.5)

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano ★★★★★ (5)

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera ★★★★★ ALL The Stars In The Galaxy…no # could do this one justice!

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Orange: The Complete Collection, Volume 1 (Bookoutlet)

Orange: The Complete Collection, Volume 2 (Bookoutlet)

All American Boys  (Bookoutlet)

Of Fire And Stars (Owlcrate)

Jane Steele (Bookoutlet)

Small Great Things (Bookdepository)

Here Comes The Sun (B&N)

Swimming Lessons (Book Of The Month)

All The Ugly And Wonderful Things (Book Of The Month)

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy #1) Gift from my Book Twin Bestie Gretchen @ChicNerdReads

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Ok…I admit that I am HOOKED on Amazon Kindle Deals SMH…yea…*silently shakes head*

Chillin on that instant purchase button in January, fo’ sho! 😉

December was a busy month for most, I also happened to celebrate my birthday on New Years Eve which I chose to keep low key. I had a mini staycation, 5 days of spending time with my 2 tiny humans & hubby…and on the 5th day I had a ME day *whoop whoop* I did manage to squeeze in one movie & that was Pixar’s Sing with my 5 year old & hubs. Sing was so much fun, usually hubs falls asleep during animated movies (I know smh, he can’t hang) but he actually stayed awake for this one so that says something there BAHA! lastly I blogged a little & decided to set some reading/blogging goals for 2017 as well as sign up for my very 1st challenge (see here). It was after my goals post went up though, that I came across Naz @ReadDiverseBooks who is hosting his own challenge ReadDiverse2017. I of course signed up immediately since one of my goals for 2017 after all is to support diverse & own voices reads. It’s also nice of him to include badges & prizes along the way so check him out my bookish peeps, his blog is one of my top favorites ❤ ❤ ❤

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What are some of your bookish goals for 2017? see any good movies in December? hauled any good books/bookish swag? drop your links down below & i’ll swing by for a peep 😉

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

wintersongWintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: February 7th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling/Romance

Pages: 448 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 (3.5 Stars)

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press, S. Jae-Jones, and NetGalley for the eGalley of Wintersong in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

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Wintersong weaves the tale of Leisl, a young woman who has more than her fair share of duties in her home. Kathe’s father is a fallen musician who is mostly inebriated, Mother is more of a partner in running the household, younger sister is seen as the beauty, and younger brother is a musical prodigy. Leisl herself is musically talented, specifically in composition but has set that aside in favor of helping her brother perfect his craft and one day gain notoriety. Besides the fact that she is running the household, her gender is one of the reasons for which her father discourages her from taking interest/composing music. As young children both Leisl & her young brother Josef would play their music in the Goblin Grove for the Goblin King, a mysterious figure who played music with them. As time passed & Kathe’s responsibilities grew, the Goblin King was slowly forgotten. That is until Leisl’s sister is taken by the Goblins into the Underworld by order of the Goblin King. Leisl finds her way into the Underworld and strikes a bargain with the King to release her sister…A life for a life…she will remain in the Underworld & marry the King and he will let her sister return to the land of the living. Although it may seem harsh at first, Leisl’s “selfless” deed is a bit selfish. She is tired of being unseen , unheard, not beautiful, and cast aside in the shadows of her younger brother’s musical genius. What Leisl didn’t know, was that her sacrifice was much heavier than at first it seems. Leisl & the Goblin King reconnect through their love for music & soon enough a love for each other. As long as her passion shines bright, the Underground will sustain and the land of the living will see Spring instead of being thrust into a deep dark never ending winter…she is essentially it’s life force all while she physically fades away…

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Our main protagonist Leisl isn’t your typical YA character & this was both a good and I wouldn’t say bad thing, but definitely someone to get used to lol. She is very much aware of her musical talent & oftentimes a bit of envy sneaks up when she is helping her brother Josef in composition. Josef is precise, he has been able to play the violin since the age of 5 while Kathe is wild passion and emotion in her composition. She also looks upon her younger sister’s beauty & is self-aware of what comes across as her own plain Jane appearance (nothing wrong with a plain Jane *winks*). Her sister is already betrothed to someone that Leisl also can’t stop herself from wanting for herself. It isn’t so hard for her to (at first) leave this life behind in favor of one where she is the center of the Goblin King’s attention & her musical abilities are praised. We get to see major character development with Leisl which I came to appreciate because it provided a better understanding of all her underlying emotions. Although her family were central to her story, they also weren’t the focus & were more in the background of the story. The Goblin King himself is actually perfectly suited for Leisl in many ways lol, he’s pretty arrogant and controlling which probably can be credited to being immortal & seeing many brides come and go. He’s also musically talented and although he comes off as having this jerk-like exterior, can actually be a decent guy…it’s a common trope, I know but it happens to work well in Wintersong. This is a a 448 page book and the author gives us full on character development & history. The Goblin King’s history is interesting and I can understand how his story and how he came to be the king of the Underworld, molded him into such a undesirable character. I wasn’t a fan of the Goblin King, particularly because of his selfishness which he fully owns up to. Also, certain parts regarding Leisl’s appearance & what he thought of her made me a bit squeamish. I appreciate however, that these characters weren’t your typical cookie cutter personalities found in YA. They were flawed & complex, which oftentimes led to me holding back judgement until I got more story. There were however, two characters that I ABSOLUTELY loved and couldn’t get enough of. Twig & Thistle are two Goblins who are tasked with the not so easy job of tending to Leisl’s needs & wants as Queen of the Underworld. Although all Goblins can’t be trusted, Twig came as close to a friend to Leisl as possible. Twig is the sweeter of the two Goblins. Thistle is Twigs opposite, sarcastic & not happy whatsoever with having to tend to Leisl. Twig is also very vocal about this and gets a kick out of withholding information from Leisl. Thistle’s mischief really added the Goblin touch & those scenes were very entertaining.

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The writing in Wintersong is beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical, and dark which managed to keep me enthralled whenever I picked this book up. However, there were two things that I struggled with just a bit. This is a slow paced book which typically I don’t have any problems with, however it may just be the dark mood and setting that made this one feel a bit too slow. The second issue I had isn’t really one that bothered me too much but it did affect the reading experience a bit, the heavy use of Classical music terminology. Its been years since I took the basics of Classical music in college but that didn’t help me much here. Although one can easily say that it’s not necessary to be knowledgable of the subject, because it was such a focal point & the author used a lot of terminology…I did feel left out of the story on more than one occasion. I won’t however, take away from the writing because it is seriously some of the most beautiful writing I have come across. I also couldn’t stop diving back into this world which leads me to the excellent world building. The Underground came to life through vivid description, the author left nothing out down to the Goblin furniture. I loved the attention to detail that was given in creating this world & can honestly say it played out like a movie for me. I will most definitely keep an eye out for this author’s future works & recommend Wintersong for those who love great world building, Romance, Fantasy, lyrical writing, and especially those who enjoy Classical music/Composition 😉

2016 FAB Moments & 2017 Reading Goals/1st Challenge

 2016 will go down in the books (Haha!) as the year that I decided to stop watching the book community from the sidelines wishing I was partaking in all of the book discussions, fangirling, reviewing and opened up Lairofbooks…a blog…something completely outside of my comfort zone. I really just wanted a place to connect with other bookworms and talk about all things books but I ended up getting so much more. This community is AMAZING & most welcoming, at any hour of the day/night I can find someone who has just finished a book and is looking for anyone willing to rant or rave. I’ve made some pretty awesome friends in the book blogging community in such a short period of time & for that I am truly grateful…

 

2016 FAB Moments

💎 Starting this blog after being on the sidelines of the book community for 2 years has brought me so much happiness. A place where I come to de-stress & reach out to many other bookworms who are doing the same. A safe place to be myself, May 24th was a very good day for this bookworm ☺️

💎  Lairofbooks finally motivated me to put my Twitter to good use LOL, another platform that has connected me to so many great bookworms & authors

💎 Meeting my Book Twin Gretchen over at ChicNerdReads has been one of the highlights of this year. I’ve mentioned it before here on the blog but i’ll say it again, Gretchen played a key role in motivating me to start LairofBooks & she didn’t even know it 💕 This year has been made all the better because of our friendship 💕

💎 Attending my 1st Bookcon & acquring some physical ARCS early October made my rest of the year LOL

💎 Getting approved by HarperCollins on Edelweiss after a slew of declined emails, taught me to never throw in the towel 😉

💎 Reading 71 books out of the 60 I set as my goal, the most I’ve read any year…I don’t see myself setting the 2017 challenge at 100 but I do think i’ll mentally be cheering myself on to the 100 finish line lOl *over achiever*

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2017 Goals

💎 To keep on keepin on? Lol nah, I’m not very good at sticking to my goals but I sure do try. I’ll keep it simple though…To continue having fun reading, blogging, and meeting new bookish peeps 😄

💎 Working up the nerve to post my 1st discussion…it’s coming this year *pinky swear*

💎 Participate in any reading challenge or Read-A-Thon (I used the dashes not sure if that’s a thing)

💎 Possibly hit that 1K mark on my Bookstagram Lair_Of_Books 🤔📸📚

💎 Read outside my go-to genres starting with Poetry & a bit of Horror

💎 Continue reading Diverse Books & supporting Own Voices authors

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Challenge Guidelines

💎 The challenge will run from Jan 1, 2017 – Dec 31, 2017.

💎 Anyone is welcome to join. You do not need to be a blogger, just post your reviews and come back every month to link them up.

💎 Any genre, release date, request date, length, etc. counts so long as it came from Edelweiss or Netgalley.

💎 At the beginning of each month there will be a roundup post for you to add your reviews.

💎 If you forget to link up one month it’s not a problem just add your reviews next month.

💎 If you would like to move up or down levels that is completely fine and at your discretion.

💎 If you have any questions tweet me @BookishThings or e-mail katrina@bookisthingsandmore.com!

Levels

Bronze – 10 Books

Silver – 25 Books

Gold – 50 Books

Platinum – 75 Books

Diamond – 100 Books

This being my very 1st reading challenge, i’ll set my goal level at 25 & move up (hopefully) as I progress. No pressure but a good way to keep me motivated with the good ol’ ARC pile 😉

 Happy New Year my Bookish Peeps, wishing you all a FAB 2017 filled with great books along the way!!! 🎉🍾😃🎉💕

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On a World of Words and to participate all you have to do is answer the three W’s listed below. Once you’ve posted your WWW, drop a link to your post in Sam’s comments <3’s!

The questions are:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

*All covers will take you to their Goodreads page*

 

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Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

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Currently reading this short story collection and honestly taking my time with it because of the heavy subject matter. The author was nice enough to send me a eGalley a couple of weeks ago after seeing me express interest in her book. The writing is poignant & thought provoking. I’m currently on story 4 out of 5 and think I already have a favorite unless the last one dethrones my current favorite. My heart strings have been pulled while reading Manipulated Lives, making me think of my own personal experience with a manipulative friendship. My husband says that he’s never seen me take such copious notes lol, I just don’t want to forget anything with my terrible memory. I should be done reading Manipulated Lives by tomorrow & then a full review will follow 😉

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

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I recently read & reviewed Scrappy Little Nobody (review here) by Anna Kendrick, I listened to the audiobook which I tend to do with all comedienne autobiographies/memoirs. I gave this one 4.5 stars, Kendrick delivered tons of laughs & an inside look to her childhood and come-up. Never once did she sound braggy of her fame, instead we get a humble down to earth Anna who is still in awe of just how far she’s come. If you’re a fan of her movies and find her funny, Scrappy Little Nobody is worth a read.

Lost Girls by Merrie Desetefano 

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Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano was HANDS DOWN a 5 star read for me (review here) for the plot, characters, writing, and yes even world building…a dark & seedy one. This is a Young Adult Thriller/Mystery yet I honestly got a more mature vibe to Destefano’s characters & found that to be refreshing. The Goodreads synopsis describes this as Black Swan meets Fight Club, and a more accurate description there is not! If you’re interested in characters that are morally gray, stories with awesome family dynamics, and adrenaline infused reads then this is the book for you 😉

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Roseblood by A.G. Howard

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Goodreads Synopsis

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

A Phantom Of The Opera re-telling? I couldn’t resist picking this one up at NYC Comic Con/BookCon. I’ve always admired this authors book covers from afar & even have her Splintered series on my TBR. I’m hoping this one is a hit & if it is then 2017 will be the year I binge this authors books.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Goodreads Synopsis

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Thankful to have an eGalley from Soho Teen/Adam Silvera. After reading More Happy Than Not last year I started following Adam Silvera on social media & relaized how cool & down to earth this author is with his fanbase. Once I read the synopsis to History Is All You Left me I immediately knew that it was going to put me through it but I am SO READY! super excited to read this one & I know Adam will not fail me 🙂

Review: Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano

lost-girlsLost Girls by Merrie Destefano

Published by: Entangled

Date of Publication: January 3rd 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery

Pages: 360

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating:★★★★★ 5 Stars

 

Goodreads:

Fight Club meets Black Swan—Rachel wakes up in a ditch to find she doesn’t remember the last year of her life, and that everything—including herself—is vastly different than she remembers.

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

*I’d like to thank Entangled Teen for approving me to receive an eGalley of Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The 1st sentence in the synopsis for this book immediately had me clicking Request This Book over at Netgalley because my mind sees Black Swan & Fight Club as the ultimate mashup & i’m all for it.

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I can happily confirm that the description doesn’t lie & if you’re looking for your next adrenaline infused read then Lost Girls is the book for you! The book opens up with Rachel in a ditch in the middle of no where with no recollection of how she got there. Rachel makes her way on to an open road and is able to flag down some help & call her parents. It turns out that she’s been missing for the past 2 weeks however, her last clear memory is of being in her room studying for a class she took 1 year ago. See, Rachel has lost all recollection of the past year and can’t provide any insight as to what led to her disappearance. Once she is back home and begins to settle in, she sees that her room looks completely different than it did 1 year ago. Everything went from light colors to black. Digging around in her closet she finds a box with articles of clothing and items that indicate she was quite possibly living a double life–one that isn’t so much Girl Next Door but more Good Girl Gone Bad. In school she realizes she is now popular, a part of the cool kids, and dating the hottest guy in the school. Yet last she can recall, her best friends name is Molly & they enjoy dressing up in Lord Of The Rings Cosplay. Everything had changed in Rachel’s life and she was intent on getting answers. She went along with her new friends and quickly realized they knew more than they were letting on. She finds it easy to establish herself as the leader of their crew of friends, something that she is almost positive would NOT have been the norm 1 year ago. Rachel is the Alpha whether she has her memories or not, she also has a new found love for danger & fighting but no clue as to how long those feelings have lived with her. Rachel returns to ballet practice to try & bring some normalcy back into her life, not realizing that this too is a clue to her missing year of memory. Little by Little she begins to piece together the mystery of her disappearance & her personality change, in doing so she finds that she was involved in a very dangerous lifestyle…

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Rachel is our protagonist and she is not your typical run of the mill YA protog in the sense that I wasn’t able to fit her into any of the YA roles. She is not a hero, anti-hero, or what some would call a “good character”. Rachel is flawed in a lot of ways & this made her all the more relatable. I understood that she had made a ton of mistakes and that she has this calling towards fighting. She struggles reconciling the person she was a year ago with the person she changed into. Was it really a gradual change? or was it something embedded in her personality all along? is this just her nature? I loved this character so much because she understood that there is no good or bad but there’s plenty of gray. Seeing how she handled her returning memories was also interesting and played into her need for control. She internalizes a ton and that brings me to another character I loved who plays a major role in building her trust, her dad. Rachel’s dad was formerly a Navy Seal and is the more quiet and observant type of parent, her mom is a nurse who handles crisis in the hospital well but not so well when it comes to her kids (I can totally relate lol). It was her dad who kept a close eye on her even when she wasn’t aware he was doing so. One of my favorite scenes in this book is between Rachel & her Dad…a few tears were shed *no shame*

There’s also the crew of Girls & Guys that run with Rachel (don’t want to giveaway too much) that each add personality to the group. Loved the loyalty they all had for each eachother & how protective Rachel was over each of her girls. We get to learn a bit of back story on each of the girls who ALL can fight & crossing paths with Rachel may have just saved their lives. There is a love interest in the story & he also is a part of the underworld Rachel thrives off of, a fighter and a poet. No instalove here though since when we meet him, they would have been dating for more than the past year. Rachel’s reconnection with him feels fated & I enjoyed learning how exactly they fell down the rabbit hole they are in when the story begins. I also can’t go without mentioning Molly who was/is Rachel’s nerdy best-friend. I absolutely ADORED Molly and seeing how fiercely loyal she is to Rachel even when she didn’t exactly deserve it. Molly is that one friend you have that you know is ride or die HAHA!

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The world Merrie Destefano has created in Lost Girls is so DARK & ADRENALINE FUELED…I couldn’t put this book down. I’m talking full on phone slapping me in the face awake at 2am because I thought I could break night just to find out what was going on. There are both female and male groups that fight in this underworld for the most part they are all high school students. This isn’t some luxury club in  a good neighborhood either, she took us into the worse of the worse. The part of town you don’t want your car to break down in & she accurately describes what it would look like & the characters that you would come across. Of course, you can’t realistically fashion an underworld with illegal fighting without the appearance of drugs. There are different types of drugs with names like Pink Lightning or Blue Thunder that the fighters are given so as to get them addicted. The writing (specifically fighting scenes) is descriptive enough to make you imagine how much pain was being inflicted. The plot & pacing were on point and maintained my attention to the very end. I look forward to reading more from this author and hope we do get another book soon *crosses fingers*

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Photo Credit: The Planet’s Last Dance

 

Review: Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

29477965Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: October 4th 2016

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Genre: Suspense/Mystery

Page Count: 360 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (3.75)

Goodreads Synopsis:

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

*I’d like to thank Lake Union for approving me to receive an eGalley of Fractured by Catherine Mckenzie via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT

Fractured is the 2nd mystery/suspense novel I’ve read this year in which I was unsure whether one of the main protagonists was a unreliable narrator or not. This novel kept me in the dark for almost the entirety of the book with incredible build up. Formatted in past & present tense, Fractured is narrated by Julie Prentice who is the newly moved in neighbor & John Dunbar who has resided in the close-knit neighborhood all his life. This book gave me such Stepford/Desperate Housewives feels & I wasn’t complaining since I loved the movie & tv show. I will say that any time I read or watch anything that takes place in a suburban community, I am always left feeling creeped out and thankful for my city and the neighbors who couldn’t be bothered to watch my coming’s & going’s HAHA! So, Julie Prentice who is looking to start a new life far away from her stalker decides to move to Cincinnati with her husband and twins. Julie has had much success from her debut thriller The Murder Game based loosely on old law school games she used to play with her law school buddies. “The Book” as Julie refers to it, runs parallel to her own life with many similarities between her and The Book’s protagonist Meredith. In “The Book”, someone is murdered and it just so happens that within Julie’s circle of real life law school buddies, someone was murdered while they were all at a frat-like party many years ago. Now a well known debut author with rising fame, Julie is used to all of the rumors swirling around The Murder Game aka “The Book” except that her stalker isn’t just some random Jane. Julie’s stalker actually attended the same law school & claims to know the truth. Julie struggles with depression & is a recovering alcoholic. Her transition into the new neighborhood is awkward from the very beginning & unfortunately only takes a downward spiral after a series of encounters with some of the neighbors (cue The Stepford Wives jeje). John Dunbar is the first to befriend Julie over a mutual love for morning runs. They develop a friendship since he’s a work-from-home dad & she an author with a deadline for book 2. In a community where every move is watched & reported, a friendship like theirs is sure to stir up some talk. However, it is the decisions they make that put into effect a series of life changing events. Since this is a Mystery/Suspense novel I don’t want to go to in depth. I went in blind like I do with most mystery/suspense novels & I think it works best with Fractured.
 

CHARACTERS

Since this book is told by Julie & John both in past and present tense, we get to see a mixture of old and new friends for each of these characters. Their family set-up is almost identical except for that Julie’s twins are I believe around 5 or 6 years of age and John has two teens. They are both married and their spouses work coincide with one another. Everyone is connected one way or another and everything is treated as public knowledge with very little room for privacy. We get introduced to some of the neighbors who under the leadership of one of the residents, have formed a committee. The leader of the committee throughout the book sends out these memos updating & revising (more like adding) the policies (rules) for the neighborhood and monthly block party which served to insert some humor into this book. I found myself thinking how it could be possible for all of the neighbors to follow these rules without protest but chucked it off to group thinking. The neighborhood as a whole down to some of the teens were pretty intense and very quick to pass judgment on Julie. The giph below perfectly describes how I pictured the women of Mount Adams would look at Julie every time there was a so called “incident” on their street. Most of the time I disliked the way the other women were towards Julie but there were some occasions that made me raise a brow. John I wasn’t too fond of at all, he came across as weird in a gross way and cowardly. Catherine McKenzie gave us two very complex protagonists & for that I am thankful since I like my characters roughly shaped LOL. 
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THOUGHTS

I read Fractured in a fairly short amount of time which usually means that I enjoyed what I was reading, and I did. I was desperately trying to figure out what exactly happened and didn’t see that ending coming at all. I especially enjoyed the formatting of the chapters in past & present tense counting down to the final present hour. It all felt like flashbacks and you the reader get the full picture of how exactly the cookie came to crumble. There were certain things that played key roles in Julie’s life that I wish weren’t so easily tucked away (won’t say what due to spoilers) & some questions from her past that lingered in my mind. Overall though, this was an enjoyable read. What I loved most about reading Fractured had to be Catherine McKenzie’s writing style, which means I will definitely be looking into her other books. If you’re looking for the next suspense filled mystery novel this one is sure to hold you in it’s grasp till the very last page 😉

 

P.S. It aint a block party if the punch aint spiked! BAHAHAHA! 

October Wrap-Up & Haul

 

Wrap-Up

October saw me reaching for cozy reads which I find mostly in mystery, suspense, and humor. I was lucky to have come across some quality reads, three of these were real page turners and 1 was an audiobook. I’m now interested in reading more books by Lisa Unger, Cyna Blog, and Anna-Marie McLemore. Personally, I love when I come across new or under the radar authors in my TBR’s that truly surprise me. October was a slow blogging month for me & I’m only now crawling out of my blog slump but I never stop reading. As a matter of fact, the rest of the year is going to demand that I organize my reading schedule & tackle some arcs. The month of October was pretty AMAZING for me with bookish experiences. I attended my very 1st Comiccon/Bookcon (event post here) with my husband & bookish twin Gretchen @Chicnerdreads where I met some AMAZING authors & scored some epic arcs. I attended 3 days out of 4 and learned some valuable tips & tricks all while having a blast surrounded by the book community. I loved my October & I’m looking forward to Bookcon 2017 since at the moment BEA is up in the air due to all of the changes taking place with the event (Publishers Weekly article). November is here & with it comes Thanksgiving & basically the start of all of the end of the year festivities. I’m hoping to take advantage of some of my days off to read on the go since mostly, I spend it with family. Next week on the 17th, I have a Crooked Kingdom Buddy read & i’m hyped up for that 🙂

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When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore 5 Stars

Gemina by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman 5 Stars

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (audiobook) 3.5 Stars

Ink And Bone by Lisa Unger 4.75 Stars

Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog  5 Stars

Book Haul

My October Book Haul was humble…at least I think it is compared to previous months LOL. A major reason for this was that as I mentioned above, I attended Bookcon & came home with a good stash to keep me far away from the bookshop. Two of the books listed below were gifts from my hubby (Harry Potter & Vassa) and the others were either Bookoutlet, B&N, and Book Of The Month. I did purchase 1 Kindle book, I jumped when I saw The Underground Girls OF Kabul for $1.99 since this is a book that i’ve been itching to read since last year smh *covers eyes*  Overall though, my book shopping is going to see a MAJOR slow down for the rest of the year. I won’t call Book Ban LOL cuz that would be setting myself up for failure haha! BTW I had to cancel Book Of The Month, they changed their plans after I subscribed for the very 1st time. Switching me from my preferred month-to-month plan to a 3 month plan at $48…yea no, as much as I love BOTM I am simply not rollin in the dough to give them all my $$$ so instead I’ll check out their monthly picks & continue buying books from their selections sans a subscription. If they ever bring back the month-to-month plan I would gladly sign right back up but until then, i’ll admire from afar 😉

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A Study In Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro  (Bookoutlet)

Every Heart A Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire (Bookoutlet)

Vassa In The Night by Sarah Porter (Owlcrate-recurring VDay gift from Lé Hubby)

The Mothers by Brit Bennett  (Book Of The Month $5 for their 1st box)

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (B&N Coupons & Sale =$5.99)

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (full price cuz it’s worthy LOL)

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (gift from Lé Hubby)

The Underground Girls Of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg  (Kindle $1.99)

 

In Other News…

October saw me become OBSESSED with Luke Cage!!! every night I came home & after settling our 2 tiny humans in for the night, hubby & I would watch 1 episode a night. Netflix has been putting out some quality series & this one is no exception. Luke Cage touched on relevant current day issues taking place within black communities, thought provoking with it’s subtleties. I couldn’t stop watching this man who is bullet proofa man of colorbullet proof…let that sink in my fellow bookies. Hands down, this show was one of the best i’ve watched in 2016 & I’m looking forward to any news of a 2nd season. Also, the soundtrack…I am truly old school with my music & when I say old school I mean old school hip hop. The series has WuTang on it’s soundtrack which was a perfect fit & gave it more character. If you’re into that old school feel with a mix of politics and kick a** scenes then Luke Cage is for you. It does have a bit of a slow beginning but the pay off is HUGE! This is the 3rd series after Daredevil & Jessica Jones (to be followed by Iron Fist last) that will tie into Marvel’s The Defenders (Youtube trailer here).

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​Hope you’re all having a great November, I’m a bit late with my October wrap-up & haul ​but if you’d like to share a link to yours, i’d love to take a gander 😉