January Wrap-Up

January was my best month of reading in a long time. I read a total of 15 books, 10 print and 5 audio. My favorites in print were Scythe and The Woman in Cabin 10. For audio, Shadowshaper and the first two books of the Firebird series were really great. I had really high hopes for both Blankets and Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday, but both were underwhelming.

 

 

Sand – 4 crowns

Bad Feminist – 4 crowns

Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday – 3 crowns

Eleven Hours – 4 crowns

Blankets – 3 crowns

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line – 5 crowns

Shadowshaper – 4 crowns

Mr. Kiss and Tell – 5 crowns

What She Knew – 5 crowns

Scythe – 5 crowns

The Diabolic – 4 crowns

The Woman in Cabin 10 – 5 crowns

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird Book 1)- 4 crowns

Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird Book 2) – 5 crowns

The Hypnotists Love Story – 5 crowns

 

I’m currently reading The Nix by Nathan Hill and listening to The Raven Boys on audio, and absolutely LOVING them both!! What is everyone reading?

Of Fire and Stars – Audrey Coulthurst

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Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication Date: November 22nd, 2016

From the Jacket:

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.

Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess , sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

You guys! A fairy tale where the princess falls for the PRINCESS? I am so here for this. Also, can we take a quick moment to admire the beauty of this cover art? Absolutely stunning.

I remember the day I saw the write up for this on Edelweiss. I read the synopsis twice to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, then I teared up a little, jumped up and down, and ran to tell my wife about it.

Immediately following that emotional outburst, I wrote to the publisher to plead my case about why I wanted a review copy. I reread that at least five times, held my breath, pressed send, and waited. I was thrilled when the acceptance email came back and could not wait to start reading.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. Not only because of the wonderful feelings that come with positive representation in mainstream media, but also because it was a genuinely good story. I read a lot of mixed reviews wherein readers were over the moon with the love story but bored by the rest of the content. I actually felt the opposite.

Of Fire and Stars tells the story of Princess Dennaleia, who, for political reasons, is betrothed to the prince of Mynaria. She accepts this fate without complaint. Her main concerns being keeping her dangerous and rare affinity for magic hidden, and being as useful as possible in a new place where (shocker) men make the political decisions and the women are expected to remain quiet. Quickly after her arrival in Mynaria, we meet Princess Amaranthine, who detests the royal life and wishes to spend all of her time and energy with her horses.

The two begin a friendship when Mare must teach Denna to ride horses before her coronation. Throughout these lessons, we learn a whole lot about horses, about the conflicts between the different kingdoms, and the beliefs and opinions about the use of magic (which is ultimately the underlying cause of this conflict). It was in these details that many readers were bored to tears. I enjoyed these parts and thought the plot was well written, if not at times, overly reliant on stereotypical tropes regarding independent, free thinking women.

I found the parts describing the growing relationship between Denna and Mare to be lacking. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or maybe it is because in order to read stories about lesbian characters, I often turn to fan fiction where the representation is broad and prolific. The growing relationship between them felt contrived at times, which made their chemistry hard to believe. I did appreciate the fact that their love was not considered taboo or even deviant. There are other gay characters in the book, and love is consistently displayed as a relationship between any two people, rather than two people of the opposite sex. The conflict comes because Denna is already betrothed, and a relationship with Mare threatens the alliance promised by their marriage.

There are genuinely sweet times between them and I was pulling for them to end up together. I just wasn’t as invested as I normally am when I read a good love story, and that in itself was disappointing. I think the book is great despite that, recognizing that I had high expectations, and even higher hopes due to the subject matter. There is love, intrigue, action and mystery in a quick moving plot that kept my interest and made me want to shirk all other responsibilities until I got to the conclusion. Overall, this is definitely one I would recommend, especially if you enjoy YA fantasy and appreciate lady love.

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 11.10.19 PM

Favorite Characters: Mare, Nils, Denna

Memorable Quotes:

For the first time in my life, I finally felt free – because some things are more important than a crown.
Saving a kingdom.
Knowing your heart.
Or riding into the sunset with a girl on a red horse.

I received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

2016 Wrap-Up

2016 was an excellent year of reading! I finished a total of 61 books in a combination of mostly print, some audio, and (for the first time ever) a few eBooks.

Print books: 39

Audio books: 18

eBooks: 4 (this of course does not count the mass quantities of fan fiction I read on my phone. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Books written by female authors: 34

Books written by people of color: 2

New authors discovered: 33

ARCs: 5

 

LGBT Fiction: 5

 

 

Some breakdowns:

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Clearly I need to try and get more non-fiction reads in for 2017.

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I read an overwhelming majority of YA and Scifi. Honestly, that’s not likely to change for 2017. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Rather than leave a bad review, I normally just don’t finish a book if I don’t like it. I think  honest reviews are important, but writing a negative review is still really hard for me. Not sure if that will ever change.

Favorite New Authors:

I was lucky to discover a lot of really great new authors this year, mostly thanks to Litsy and Bookstagram. My favorites were definitely Hugh Howey, Sarah J Maas, V.E. Schwab, Neal Stephenson, Cassandra Clare, Jay Kristoff & Aime Kaufman.

Favorite Book of 2016: 

My all time favorite for the year was definitely A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas, followed closely by Wool by Hugh Howey.

Most Fun Read: 

The most fun I’ve had reading a book this year, and for several years previous would definitely be, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Best Audio Books: 

Audio books changed my life this year as far as reading goes. I’ve got a full time job,  four young children, and a house to take care of. I started listening to podcasts, which led into audio books while driving and doing chores. Not only have those things become a hell of a lot more enjoyable, but I’ve been able to read more than ever. I’ve found that I enjoy audio books more when there is a cast of voice actors, but can still enjoy a singular narrator when they can convincingly play multiple characters well.

Top 10 Books of 2016: 

 

Most Anticipated Reads of 2017: 

There are so many incredible books coming out in 2017 that I cannot wait to get my hands on. I’ve also discovered a lot of older stuff thanks to Litsy, Bookstagram & the All the Books! podcast (which I highly recommend). I’ll be finishing several series that I began this year, and starting a few new ones as well.