BOOK REVIEW: Kaitlyn Deann “The Brand of Anem”

41xtnkquoclTitle: The Brand of Anem

Author: Kaitlyn Deann

Genre: Dystopian/Romance

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

A brand is a divine marking that results out of intimacy and is considered beautiful… unless you’re unwedded.

Margaret James is the Duchess of Deneb and the daughter of the highest political figure in their city: Judge Mark James. She is expected to follow the rules without fail and to never, ever falter to her flesh. She has been pledged to the chief officer, William Lach. But there is one problem with this arrangement…

Margaret James shares a brand with Carson Owens.

Carson belongs to the infamous Owens family and to the Middle Class, which means it’s impossible for him to marry the woman he loves. Despite the rules, the two of them bound themselves together as young teenagers, and now they will do everything in their power to hide the brand given to them by Anem, the goddess of souls. If caught, they will suffer dire consequences.

Getting caught is inevitable.

The first in a series of novellas to follow, The Brand of Anem is a wild ride from start to finish.

Described by the author as an afternoon read, this book, while short, packs a punch. Deann manages to fit a lot of information in a limited number of words, and the story flows in an easy, simple way. We’re introduced to the characters and are immediately swept up in their lives and their forbidden love.

The Brand of Anem poses a lot of interesting questions about right and wrong, morality, sin and love. This will leave the reader with both a wonderful story and hopefully an engaged mind.

I found the world building fascinating and I’m excited to see the author develop on this in the next books. There was the obvious air of mystery regarding the Owens family and their history, and what lies in store for Carson and Margaret. The cliffhanger of this book was devestating and if I don’t get the next installment soon, I’m gonna lose my mind. (Trying to remain professional but on the inside, I’m screaming and using lots of exclamation points. Take that however you’d like.)

Definitely can’t wait to find out what happens next, and I highly recommend this special read!

Kaitlyn Deann: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

The Brand of Anem: Amazon | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW: Katherine Center “How to Walk Away”

91de-kA4w7LTitle: How to Walk Away

Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I’ve seen this book compared to Me Before You a few times, but let’s make something clear: How to Walk Away is better.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the chemistry in Me Before You. Louisa and Will were absolutely precious and I will never not think about how adorable the sock scene was. But that ending.

(Spoilers for Me Before You ahead.) That ending made me so angry. I understand it, I do. I understand why it ended that way, but it didn’t have to. Will didn’t have to die. Of course circumstances in his life had caused him to become miserable, but didn’t Louisa prove that happiness in spite of the tragedy was possible? I’ll never get over that, I just won’t.

So in How to Walk Away, Katherine Center took a similar approach: Margaret is left paralyzed and burned from an airplane crash. She loses everything: fancy job, not-mangled body, handsome fiance. She faces many trials in the months to come and alternates between obsessing over getting better and not wanting to try at all. Many things occur that make her want to quit, and she does contemplate suicide.

Yet this story shows that even in the wake of adversity, contentment and even joy can be found again. And it doesn’t even have to be in the arms of a lover.

Although that’s super helpful because duh, romance.

Margaret reacts very realistically to her circumstances, and it makes her human. She doesn’t have a bunch of wise words now to share with her family, which is suffering from a bit of dysfunction itself. She doesn’t treat her piece-of-garbage fiance with grace or kindness when all is said and done. Margaret hurls all the righteous rage that is due her. She has depressive episodes and sometimes let’s it affect her recovery.

But what Margaret becomes in the end is not a shell of a person, but a beautiful flowering human who finds new hope and purpose in spite of her circumstances. I loved the message of this story and I loved the outcome.

The secondary characters were wonderful also. I loved reading about Margaret’s family drama, and of course loved all the scenes that included her attractive Scottish physical therapist. *wink*

I cheered for Margaret from the very beginning of this story and it was so rewarding to see her life play out for the better. What an inspiring story, that even caused me to examine my own life. I think that’s all we can ask of any good book.

‘Tis the Season for Fantasy, Thrillers, and Cheesy Holiday Rom-Coms!

Fa la la la la, la la, la, la! Am I one of those people? You bet I am. I love Christmas, and if it were even remotely acceptable to start celebrating in October, you bet I’d do that, too. But alas, I suppose two months of Christmas will have to be enough.

close up of christmas decoration hanging on tree

Photo by Gary Spears on Pexels.com

So it’s that time of year: the time to rewatch Harry Potter, Home Alone, The Grinch, and all the corny Hallmark Christmas movies. It’s also the perfect time to read all the thrillers, all the dark, atmospheric fantasy reads, and any wintery romance.

Of course, fantasies and thrillers are great to read any time of year, but isn’t it just so much nicer during the holidays? You can cuddle up in a warm fuzzy blanket, light a Christmas-y candle and read.

I say this like it actually gets cold where I am. Here in Hawaii, it doesn’t get below 70 degrees, so if I want to do any burrowing, I have to crank up the AC. But still!

51N8TdfrZ6LSo let’s talk about some of the books I’m planning on reading this holiday season! The first one is so obviously Christmas: My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of 12 short stories all set during the holidays. This will be perfect to read in the days leading up to holiday; I can read one story for each of the 12 days of Christmas! I’m especially excited to read the stories by Holly Black, Jenny Han, and Stephanie Perkins, who is actually the one author who edited and put the stories together.

9781492656623Next, I plan to read Furyborn, a fantasy from Claire Legrand about two women one thousand years apart. From what I hear, it’s full of magic and action, and it sounds like the perfect book to curl up with and read with a cup of hot chocolate. Several of my friends have already read this and said amazing things about this, plus I’m excited to read Sawkill Girls by the same author!

9781101985380_p0_v2_s550x406Final Girls by Riley Sager has been on my TBR ever since it came out, and I can just see myself huddling deeper under my covers and cuddling with my husband while I read this, scared out of my mind. This is about a group of women who are the lone survivors are horror movie-like situations. I’ve been interested in this story since the moment I first heard the synopsis, so I’m pumped to finally dig into this in the next few months! Maybe not the spirit of Christmas but the perfect book to keep you company during the winter months.

9780142412145Another very obvious choice is Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. This is three different stories about a snowstorm in a town called Gracetown by three different authors. It sounds like the perfect formula for a cozy, adorable read that’s going to make my heart burst with happiness and Christmas cheer. Bring on the cheese, John Green! I’m ready!

815D5sneiNLThe last title I’m going to include in this collection is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This looks like the absolute perfect novel to get me through the cold nights of the AC blowing on my face… wait. Disregard. It will still be perfect magical read for the season!

I’d love to know what you lovely people will be reading during the holidays! Let me know in the comments below so that I can add those titles to my TBR!

Writing Update

person using green typewriter

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

First of all, announcement: I’m writing a book! I know, you totally didn’t see that coming.

I’ve tried to write so many stories these last few years, but you could say I have commitment issues. I tend to work on a project for a little bit, take a break, and when I read it back a few days later, I realize it sucks and I trash it.

In my head, I know that writing the entire first draft in one go and editing later is the best course of action. Getting your entire book and all of your ideas out is essential; I just have a hard time making it past that stage of the writing process.

When NaNoWriMo started up this year, I felt inspired to really begin my writing journey. Of course, I haven’t really been keeping up and I think I’ve written about 1000 words total, but it is progress. This is the most motivated I’ve ever been to write, and I’m going to take advantage of it.

It’s a little early for me to decide what’s going to happen once I complete this book. There are so many options where publishing is concerned, so I’m really trying to do my research and take my time deciding which direction I want to take. If any of my followers have suggestions or advice on first-time publishing, I would appreciate anything you could give me!

It’s also too early for me to reveal much about my book, but at this moment in time, my project is shaping up to be an adult contemporary novel. It’s going to be full of tears, laughs, strong female friendships, and of course lurrrve. If that sounds interesting to you, great! I expect you to buy my book. I’ll be watching.

Anyway, more details on that to come! I’m very excited to take these next steps on this new journey and I can’t wait to share my experiences with my lovely followers. You all are so incredibly supportive in the bookish community, both on WordPress and on Instagram, that my heart is just overflowing with encouragement. I don’t know what I would do without you guys.

A Guide to Stop Book-Hoarding

As a book lover and someone who has dreamed of someday having my own library, I know that we all want something that looks a little like this:

beauty-and-the-beast-library-1024x576

What’s not to love? Of course I want to dedicate a room in my house to just books.

Yet recently, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the amount of books that I owned and had not read. I had been so focused on accumulating that I had allowed my unread shelf to pile up until it was completely unmanageable. It caused me to stagnate, and when it came time to pick my new read, it was impossible to choose.

If you’re not the kind of person who gets stressed by unread books on their shelves, then go crazy, kid. Buy all the books you want. You are your own person and you are free to own all the books in the world and read them at your own pace. I envy you!

However, if you’re like me and feel the need to purge and start fresh, then this post is for you.

One of the first things that I did was purge the books that I had already read, but may not have liked very well. Personally, I threw out any book that I had given 3 stars or lower, but you can do it however you’d like! I found this to be a great starting point for me because it was good practice in letting go for a person who tends to hoard everything.

Next, I got rid of any books that I owned that I wasn’t interested in reading anymore or anytime soon. Maybe I was when I first bought it, but some time has passed and my interests have changed. So that book that’s been sitting on your shelf, collecting dust for 5 years? Chuck it. You don’t need that weight in your life.

I did this in waves, because I’d go through my books one time and find a few that I wanted to part with. Then I’d look through them again and find a few more. I did this 3-4 times until I felt satisfied that everything left on my shelf was either a book that I’d read or a book that I was definitely planning to read in the near future.

The most important thing to do is make rules for yourself so that this never happens again. You may say, “No, I’ll do better. I won’t buy as many books.” But old habits die hard, and soon you’ll be drowning in unread books again.

I have two guidelines for myself when it comes to buying books now: either I’ve already read it and I gave it 4 or 5 stars; or I haven’t read it, but it’s by an author that I have read and liked at least 75% of the time.

For example, I’m interested in reading Markus Zusak’s newest book, Bridge of Clay. I have read The Book Thief, which was amazing, and I Am the Messenger, which was not so much. Because I’ve had two different experiences with this author, I don’t want to take a chance and waste money on a book I may not enjoy.

For this reason, I’ve put Bridge of Clay on hold at my library. If I end up enjoying it, then I can purchase it and add it to my personal library. If I don’t, then no harm is done and no money is wasted.

I want a big library just as much as the next bookworm, but I want to fill it with books that I love. But, this is just the way that I do things; if you read strictly from the library, that’s absolutely fine and doesn’t make you any less of a bibliophile. If you buy all the books in the world, it doesn’t make you any more of one. We all love to read, and that’s all that matters in this community: not the size of your library or the amount of books you read.

BOOK REVIEW: Sarah J Maas “Kingdom of Ash”

9781619636118Title: Kingdom of Ash

Author: Sarah J Maas

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

There are going to be major spoilers in this post so if you haven’t finished Kingdom of Ash yet, leave for your own good. GOODBYE NOW.

Okay, I’m starting now.

Can I first just say holy crap???? Like, what a journey, am I right? This series has been a favorite of mine since the very beginning, and I’ve been following Throne of Glass since practically the beginning. It’s been a wild ride, and I have always said that each book gets better than the last one. Sarah J Maas ups the stakes somehow, or introduces new, awesome information.

Say what you will about Maas, but she can write one detailed high fantasy, which can’t be said for many established fantasy authors out there. I know that Maas is criticized almost constantly, but I have to say that I think she’s an incredibly talented writer. She had to have done a ridiculous amount of research in writing this series, and it shows. She can write a great romance, but have you read any of her battle scenes?

So do I think she gets a bad rep for no reason? Kind of. I understand some of the complaints that people have, I do. But if you don’t like her books, then don’t read them. But I’ve seen so many people talking crap about her books, who haven’t liked her from the beginning yet keep reading them? I mean, to each their own I suppose, but typically if I didn’t like the first book of a series, I just quit and leave it at that. These people need to get a life.

*I* don’t even like all of her books. I’m not a huge fan of her ACOTAR series. I’ve always been partial to Throne of Glass, but I can at least acknowledge the huge fan-base that ACOTAR has and recognize that she must be doing something right.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a Maas defense post, this is a review of Kingdom of Ash.

I’ll start with the bad: Maas apparently has a problem with killing of her characters. Not to say that I’m mad or anything, because of course I’m thrilled that all of my favorites lived; but I also know that it’s not realistic. I definitely expected someone important to die in this book, and I’m almost disappointed that no one did. It seems like the last crucial character she killed off was Nehemia, and that was ages ago.

I gotta reiterate: I ain’t mad. I’m so happy that all my characters ended up happy in the end. But also not? Like isn’t it so convenient that everyone ended up paired off and married by the end? I can’t say I’m mad about that either because yay love! Yay marriage! Yay for my ships that ended up together! But also, not realistic.

If Maas hadn’t killed off Manon’s Thirteen, I probably would have been a little more peeved by all of this, but that scene was heart wrenching. I admit that when Manon and the Thirteen were first introduced, I wasn’t the biggest fan. I was still obsessing about how amazing Aelin’s character was becoming and how hot Rowan was.

However, by this last book, I was definitely on board with the Thirteen, particularly Asterin, and I ship Manon and Dorian forever.

Maas has written some of the most interesting, fleshed out characters in all of YA fantasy, and I am going to miss them with my whole heart. When Aelin said her goodbyes to Dorian and Chaol, I thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest. Such an iconic trio, there from the beginning! It’s the end of an era! Literally kill me!

Was the book maybe a bit too long? Um, yeah. Come on, Sarah, are you trying to kill me? Yet this was the perfect conclusion to an awesome series, and I can’t say I would have changed a thing.

Why It’s Okay to DNF Books

If we’re not all familiar with the term, here’s a fact for you: DNF means “did not finish”. The abbreviation has become a verb in the bookish community: “I didn’t like this book, so I DNF’d it.”

People tend to turn their noses up at people who DNF books, especially if they proceed to review it/give it a rating on Goodreads, or any platform really. It’s a tough call, but I believe it’s completely okay.

woman wearing brown shirt carrying black leather bag on front of library books

Photo by Abby Chung on Pexels.com

There is literally an immeasurable amount of published books in the world, and thousands more are published every year. It’s become my philosophy that if I’m reading a book and I’m not enjoying it, I shouldn’t have to suffer my way through it. I’ve got dozens of other books on my TBR (to be read) shelf that are calling my name. If this one book that I’m reading is making me miserable, or taking me forever to get through, there’s no shame in putting it down and picking up something more interesting.

Because here’s the thing: it’s your life. You can do whatever you want. You can read whatever you want. Screw what the snobs tell you; if you don’t like that book, you don’t have to read it. Simple as that.

Now when it comes to reviewing the book on Goodreads, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with leaving a short explanation as to why you weren’t into it and why you DNF’d it, because those feelings are completely valid. However, I have found that for books that I DNF before the halfway point, I will leave off a star rating as a respect to the author since I didn’t complete the book. If you read more than half the book though, I think that can be up to you if you’d like to give it a rating or not.

You are the reader, and if you’re not happy with a book, pick something else! You should not have to put yourself into a slump to make other people happy. Make you happy.

BOOK REVIEW: Adrienne Young “Sky in the Deep”

91yWNvuYmwLTitle: Sky in the Deep

Author: Adrienne Young

Genre: Historical Fiction

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

My thoughts:

I definitely see what the hype is about. I also see why there have been a few big name reviewers who did not like this.

Some complaints included flat, emotionless characters and a dull story/writing. I agree that there were some slow, boring parts throughout the book. However, I felt that the characters, particularly Eelyn, were strong and I absolutely felt connected to our MC. I felt her pain and was invested in her journey.

Another thing I loved was the slow-burn, hate-to-love romance. It’s one of my favorite literary tropes and I thought it was well done here in Sky in the Deep. I also loved the familial elements and love in this story: the father-daughter bond, the brother-sister bond, the father-son bond.

This is a more personal preference, but I actually have a hard time reading fight/action scenes, and there’s a lot of that here. It’s not that the action in Sky in the Deep is bad; however, it tends to make me anxious and I end up skimming so that I can just know what happens.

All in all, this was a strong debut, but I don’t think it was everything that everyone else in the world is making it out to be.

 

Adrienne Young: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: E Lockhart “Genuine Fraud”

https___blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com_uploads_card_image_346502_3ea5e24d-98fb-49fd-9586-7269cef4e243Title: Genuine Fraud

Author: E Lockhart

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

This is the story of a woman who is a master of disguise and reinvention. Jule’s cleverness and quick thinking (and constant costume changes) keep her out of trouble and living her luxurious lifestyle.

Unfortunately, that’s about all this book is about.

You’ll find that it’s difficult to even summarize this book because I feel as though very little actually happens. I’m not quite sure what the main plot truly is. The concept is intriguing and I like the idea of the story, but it never goes anywhere.

This is so terribly difficult to review. I was disappointed by this, to say the least. We Were Liars by E Lockhart had such a shocking twist, and I was expecting much the same from this novel. The story is told in backwards chronological order, and while I understand why, it didn’t make things any less confusing. And I was expecting a solid ending that wrapped things up and left [at least most] everything explained. Ultimately, I closed the book feeling dissatisfied, puzzled, and confident I had just wasted several hours of my life.

I wish I had more to add to this review, but seeing as very little happened in this book, I have very little to say about it. All in all, Genuine Fraud was anticlimactic. frustrating, and pointless. By all means, however, read Lockhart’s earlier work We Were Liars, or another thriller I recently read, Little Monsters by Kara Thomas.

 

E Lockhart: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

I’m a Terrible Reader, Please Help Me

I seriously suck.

Here we are, basically halfway through November, and I have read one book. ONE BOOK. And get this: it wasn’t even a book on my November TBR. Get this, there’s not a single book on my TBR that looks appealing to me.

So, yeah, I hereby ban monthly TBR lists for me. I can’t do them. I picked out a bunch of books, and I’m not in the mood to read a single one. Yet I feel guilty picking up anything that’s not on my TBR, so now I haven’t read anything. What a vicious cycle this is.

As of today, this monthly TBR has been disbanded and I am free to read anything I want. What a freeing, liberating feeling! *looks at my mile-high forever TBR pile* *cries* *hides in shame* *plays Skyrim instead*

I am in the worst reading slump, guys, and I need help. I can’t afford to be in a slump, so what are some all-natural remedies for a book-hangover? I thought that reading Geekerella would do it, and I really enjoyed it, but I still look at my pile of books and cower in fear. I still pick up a book, read three pages, then turn on Netflix.

In an attempt to pull myself out of this, I’m going to read another mystery/thriller type book, which was what seemed to have put me in a slump to begin with. The last book I completed last month was Little Monsters by Kara Thomas, which I loved. It was everything I wanted in a mystery/thriller and checked all of my boxes and was just so satisfying. Maybe if I read another book like this, I will cure myself; so Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart should hopefully do the trick.

In all seriousness, what are some tips and tricks from my fellow booklovers for pulling yourself out of a reading slump? How do you do it?