OwlCrate Unboxing September 2017

Another month gone, another OwlCrate delivered. This month’s theme was Mythical Creatures, a theme that I am 100% behind. Not only was I psyched because I’d be getting items Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones related, but also the book in the box has dragons. FREAKING DRAGONS YOU GUYS! There really is no faster way to my heart. With all this good stuff ahead, let’s dig in.

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Comics Spotlight: Giant Days

We’re going to try something a little different this week. When I look at other book blogs, I notice that there is one type of book that is mostly left out: graphic novels. Now I know it’s not like comics are a niche thing. They have come a long way, telling a wider range of stories beyond the superhero genre. And yet, no one really talks about them. Well, I’m going to shake it up with a comic spotlight, talking about graphic novels that I think deserve more attention. So let’s get into one of my favorite new reads of this year: Giant Days.

Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird. –Goodreads

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Book Review: Alex and Eliza

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history. – Goodreads

I was not entirely surprised when I saw that a book based on Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler’s relationship popped up on the YA shelf. Hamilton the musical is obviously a very big deal right now and no doubt will have a lot of cash-in attempts as long as it remains popular. With several Tony wins and endless sold out shows, it looks like its appeal isn’t going anywhere. As a big fan of the show, I was interested to see how De La Cruz would weave the tale of this amazing relationship, but was immediately disappointed. The story itself is so drawn out and dully written that it was almost a challenge to get through. On top of being a sluggish read, it also has no real sense of conflict, making the whole book seem pointless. I went in with high expectations and an eagerness to see more of this inspiring duo, but only received a half-attempted love story that has no reason to exist.

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Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. – Amazon

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is the big, gay road trip novel I always knew I needed. When I read a sneak peek of it a few months ago, I was completely sold on this setup. This book has everything a reader could want: romance, wit, charm, adventure, and a decent amount of representation. Mackenzi Lee offers bushels of excitement as the three leads traverse Europe, encountering a nefarious duke, stolen treasure, and the most incompetent pirates one has ever seen. Along the way, the reader is treated to wonderful character dynamics and surprisingly relevant topics, such as sexuality, racial relations, and the treatment of disabled people. Though this book is a bit of a trek at 500 pages, there is certainly enough to keep one interested until the very end.

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Bookish Babble: OwlCrate Unboxing August 2017

For years, I’ve been meaning to subscribe to OwlCrate. This service has been on my radar for forever with its enticing surprises and endless praise from fellow readers. The only thing that was holding me back was a not-too-great income. I mean, 30 bucks plus shipping is a lot when that can also pay for almost three weeks of gas or multiple trips to Subway. As a poor college student, even I have to choose nourishment over books. It’s a rough world.

Fortunately though, the money situation has gotten better and I squirreled enough away to get the August box “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” With a name like that and a love for all things spooky, how could I resist?

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Book Review: We Are Okay

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart. -Goodreads

It’s not very often that I pick up a contemporary, realistic book. I don’t hate the genre or anything; I just gravitate more towards fantasy or something equally strange. Usually, when I read outside my comfort zone, the book usually deals with a topic or motif I’m interested in and I give it a shot. For some reason, I like stories about grief. I like seeing a character break apart due to some serious loss and somehow find the strength to endure and come to terms with it. We Are Okay, however, mainly shows the transformative powers of grief, how it can turn us into someone we may not even recognize. Despite a wonderful use of atmosphere and pacing, I didn’t get that punch of emotion one would usually get from reading a book like this.

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Book Review: Flame in the Mist

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires. –Goodreads

All right, cards out on the table. I like the legend of Mulan; I also like feudal Japan. Naturally, one would think this would be the perfect book for me. While I don’t exactly disagree with that statement, I don’t necessarily agree either. Flame in the Mist has a lot of good elements going for it: appreciation for the culture it is set in, a well-developed female lead, and a decent view on the strength of women. However, there are some points where, as a story, it falters.  Oddly enough, thanks to complicated and vague story-telling, it actually makes me want more. I know, weird.

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Book Review: The Edge of Everything

It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. –Goodreads

I can thank my endless scouring of Book Riot’s newsletters for this read. Once I saw that this book was about a demonic bounty hunter out for one last soul, I knew that this story was right up my alley. However, it didn’t unfold the way I expected it to. Even though I did get a typical paranormal/romance at times, there were moments that took me by surprise. It was mostly a few little things: some aspects of the characters, certain bends in the story, and ultimately the ending. While it sometimes follows in the same footsteps as some of its YA brethren, The Edge of Everything stands out enough to stick around for the rest of the series.

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Book Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut. –Goodreads

In terms of oxymorons, I think “bland fantasy” has to be one of the cruelest. You go in expecting certain staples of the genre, grand adventures, daring heroes, unbelievable magic, and receive a story that hardly gives 100 percent. In fact, a brilliant way to describe Kingdom of Ash and Briars is as a book half done. While the foundations of a story are present, it rarely builds towards its full potential and crumbles due to its own retelling aspect.

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Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday. –Goodreads

This book was meant to be in my arms. When I saw that Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, and Tamora Pierce all endorsed this book, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to get to this one for quite a while, but it’s been drowning in my TBR stack for forever. Finally, I’ve reached down and pulled it out from that sea of hardcovers. Judging by the styles of the above-mentioned authors, I can see why they like it. This book is full of whimsy and fantastical nonsense, though it also has enough dark undertones that bring into question what audience it’s really for. I have to say, my faith in my favorite authors’ tastes has never let me down. In the end, I have to agree that this was a very charming, though somewhat complex, read.

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