15 Books I’d Like to Re-read

15 Books I'd Love to Reread

I love rereading books that I previously enjoyed. It’s not something that I do often because there are so many new books coming out every week, and it’s hard to prioritize rereading a book when I’ve got ten brand new ones that I want to get to.

There are certain books that I make sure to reread frequently: I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road every single year; I’ll reread my favorite self-help books (Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck) whenever I need a pick-me-up; anytime a new book is released in a series that I love, I’ll reread the entire thing prior to the release date of the newest book.

There are several books, however, that I’d love to reread, but that I haven’t made time for yet. I’d like to try to reread these all in 2020. It wasn’t until I put the list together that I noticed that there are definitely a few themes! Here are the fifteen books that I’d love to reread!

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15. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

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Goodreads | Amazon

My mother had a complete set of these books and I read them a few times while I was growing up. It’s been nearly fifteen years since I last read them, however, so I’m curious to see if I’d love them as much as I used to now that I’m in my thirties. As a child, I saw the books only as fun fantasy adventure novels with interesting characters; now that I’m older, I’m worried that the Christian undertones that I’ve learned about over the years will either distract me from the story or even ruin the story for me. I’d still like to give it a shot one day if only to feel some nostalgia.


14. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

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Goodreads | Amazon

You’re about to see a lot of nature-oriented books on this list. I thoroughly enjoyed Cheryl Strayed’s account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trail from Mexico to Canada. I love the idea of long-distance backpacking trips, but this is a bit much for me in real life. However, I love reading about other people having these types of hardcore adventures, so this easily became a favorite of mine. I’ll probably reread this next time I’m in the mountains.

13. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

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Goodreads | Amazon

An ex-boyfriend recommended this book to me years and years ago, and it’s really stuck with me (one of two books on this list recommended by him, by the way). I’ve always dreamed of having my own homestead, where I could grow and raise my own food, live off of sustainable energy, and create a self-sufficient life. The older that I get, the stronger that desire becomes, to the point where I’m trying to plan out buying a house on a decent amount of land in the North Carolina mountains within the next several years. I’ve been wanting to reread this for years, but I’ve been putting it off because I know it’ll make me crave that sort of life even more, and I’m not financially able to jump right into it. Once I get closer to my goals, however, you better believe that I’ll be rereading this!


12. Blindness by José Saramago

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Goodreads | Amazon

I had never heard of this book before grabbing it second-hand at a thrift store. I briefly read through the synopsis and liked the cover, so I took it home. This dystopian, science fiction novel blindsided (hehe) me; I loved it so much, and it was absolutely horrifying. The story is about an epidemic of blindness that affects everyone. Can you imagine how hard the world would become if everyone lost sight? José Saramago will walk you through how rough it will become while enchanting you with his writing style. I desperately want to relive this book, so hopefully, I’ll be able to get to it very soon.


11. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess: Goodreads | Amazon
The Secret Garden: Goodreads | Amazon

Obviously, this is technically two books, but I’m combining them since they’re both written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and because I read them at the same point in my life – early childhood. These two books have been my favorites since I was very young, and they’re actually the earliest books I can remember reading (aside from some Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss perhaps). I’ve watched the film adaptations of both, I own fancy copies of both, and I will read both to my future children. I’ve been planning on rereading these for a while, but there’s a tiny part of me who is afraid I won’t feel the same way about them. We’ll see soon enough.


10. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

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Goodreads | Amazon

While Slaughterhouse Five might be Vonnegut’s most famous book, Breakfast of Champions has always been my personal favorite. It’s a novel that’s hard to explain, but the story follows author Kilgore Trout as he discovers that a midwestern car dealer believes his stories to be true. If you’ve never read Vonnegut, I’d recommend it – it’s a truly unique experience.


9. The Dharma Bums and On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Dharma Bums: Goodreads | Amazon
On the Road: Goodreads | Amazon

As of now, these are the only two Jack Kerouac novels I’ve read (despite owning many more), and when I first read them back in the early 2010s, they left a huge impression on me. I’d love to reread both of them, but particularly On the Road. One of the editions that I have of this novel is the original scroll, which is formatted in the way that Kerouac originally wrote the novel. It’s one long, continuous narrative with no paragraphs or chapters. It definitely won’t be easy to read, but I want to experience the story as Kerouac wrote it originally.


8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Goodreads | Amazon

Many of you who have been reading this blog for a while already know that I’m obsessed with post-apocalyptic fiction, and this is one of the best that I’ve ever read (third only to The Road and The Stand). I feel like it’s a little on-the-nose to read right now due to the book being about a deadly worldwide plague, so I’m going to wait until this plague dies out a bit. It’s a unique post-apocalyptic book in that it’s told from the point of view of a group of Shakespearian actors in Canada.


7. The Stand by Stephen King

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Goodreads | Amazon

Speaking of The Stand, this is another novel that I would love to reread. I’ve almost done so multiple times, but the novel’s 1,153 pages have held me back a bit. I don’t hate reading big books, and in fact, a lot of my favorite books are long, but I haven’t been ready for the time commitment anytime recently. It’s also another book that deals with a deadly plague, so I’d like to do my hypochondriac self a favor and wait until COVID-19 calms down a bit before sitting down with it again.


6. The Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai’an & Luo Guanzhong

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Goodreads | Amazon

I read volume one of this classic Chinese novel in 2019 and really enjoyed it. I held back on reading volumes two and three however because each volume is massive, written in a non-Western style that I wasn’t familiar with, and was extremely confusing when it came to the 100+ characters. Having enjoyed the story, however, I am determined to reread volume one and give two and three a shot.


5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

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Goodreads | Amazon

I was that kid in high school who spent a lot of their lunch breaks browsing the library. I remember in tenth grade randomly checking out this book. I don’t remember what prompted me to, but I’ve always been thankful that something pushed me to read it. It’s been one of my favorite books since 2003, and it’s about time that I reread it. A Fine Balance is a historical fiction novel set in India which follows several people with extremely tragic stories. It’s not the happiest novel to read, but a powerful and moving one. It’s realness and honesty are the elements of the story that have always drawn me in.


4. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

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Goodreads | Amazon

A Sand County Almanac was recommended to me by the same ex-boyfriend who introduced both Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, and The Road to me. Aldo Leopold writes in such a way that you really feel as though you’re sitting next to him observing the landscape and wildlife. It’s a beautiful, non-fiction book that I’d recommend to everyone who gets homesick for the great outdoors. I’m planning a vacation to the North Carolina mountains once this plague is over, and this is one of the books that I’ll be packing with me to finally reread.


3. Haroun and the Sea of Stories and The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie

 Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Goodreads | Amazon
The Ground Beneath Her Feet: Goodreads | Amazon

The first Salman Rushdie book that I ever read was The Ground Beneath Her Feet at the request of my brother, and I was instantly (and pleasantly) surprised by Rushdie’s poetic and moving writing style. There are plenty of authors who have unique styles, but I’ve never read any as beautiful as Rushdie’s. Haroun and the Sea of Stories isn’t one of his most-famous novels, but it’s always been my favorite. I would love to reread both, and read his other novels that I haven’t had the pleasure to pick up yet.


2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia

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Goodreads | Amazon

I buddy-read this book with my friend Tawni, and I fell in love with it quickly. I grew up on North Carolina’s coast, where the story takes place, and the familiarity with the setting drew me in just as much as the heartbreaking story did.  I haven’t written a review of this novel yet because I wanted time to process it a bit more, but it’s been so long that I want to reread it before finally writing about it.


1. Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

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Goodreads | Amazon

I read this book for the first time last year, and I have a feeling it’s going to join The Hobbit and The Road in being books that I reread annually. It’s one of the most amazing stories that I’ve ever read. It’s not a novel that I can sum up quickly, so read my full review to learn why this book left such an impression on me.



What books would you love to reread? Let me know in the comments!




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My May 2020 TBR

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Since it’s been a long time since I’ve actually stuck to a TBR, I’m just going to share the books that I know I’ll be getting to.

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I’m currently re-reading Cora Carmack’s Roar so that I can read the sequel, Rage.While there are a lot of common YA tropes in Roar, I still really enjoy the storm magic element. I’m looking forward to getting more of that in Rage, and the third book, Reign, is supposed to come out sometime this year.

I’ve owned a copy of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for years and have never gotten around to actually reading it. I’m going for it in May. It’s a pretty short book as well so it shouldn’t take me too long.

Speaking of classics that I haven’t gotten around to reading, I’ll also be picking up Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I know a lot about both novels but now I want to actually sit down and read them.

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My second favorite novel (because nothing will ever be better than The Hobbit) is Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road, and I own almost all of his other books. I want to read everything he’s ever written, so this month I’ll be reading his very first published novel, The Orchard Keeper.

I decided to throw in a romance novel and a couple of young adult novels, so I’ll also be reading Jojo Moyes’ Me Before YouMarkus Zusak’s The Book Thiefand Leigh Bardugo’s Language of ThornsLanguage of Thorns is such a beautifully produced book, with illustrations on every page, nice thick pages, and a pretty dust jacket. I’m a sucker for beautiful books!

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It’s been a while since I’ve read a Star Trek book, so this month I’ll be reading a book based around my favorite character, Lwaxana Troi. Peter David’s Q-in-Law should be a lot of fun to read.

My tenth grade English teacher had us read William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and to this day it’s one of my most hated books from high school. I’ve grown a lot since then, however, and I want to give this classic another chance.

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Finally, because I’m homesick for the Appalachian Mountains, I’ll be reading The Cove by Ron Rash. Ron Rash taught at the college I went to, which is where I first read his book The World Made Straight and fell in love with it. The Cove is one of his better-known novels, and I’m looking forward to getting lost in the setting.

So, there are the books that I’ll be prioritizing this month. None of them are long, so I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to read all of them. As I was writing this post, I did realize that I didn’t include any non-fiction, so I’ll be adding one to my list at some point. If you’ve read any of these novels, let me know what you thought of them down in the comments!


What books are you looking forward to reading in May? Let me know in the comments!




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The April Book Releases That I’m Most Excited About

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The world is scary and complicated right now, but at least we still have books, right?

April has quite a few new releases that I’m really looking forward to. And for some reason, almost all of them are coming out on April 7th!

Like many people, I’m not financially secure enough to run out and purchase any of these, so they’ll be on hold at my local library for whenever they eventually open up again. Don’t forget about free reading resources too! If you have a library card, you have access to books (including some new releases!) through Hoopla and Libby, which are wonderful resources.

I was fortunate enough to receive a few of these books in the mail from publishers, and they are all on my April TBR! These include Chosen Ones, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying VampiresThe Glass Magician, The Unsuitable, The Eighth Life, and Auras.

Amazon and Goodreads links are provided for all books listed below. Descriptions are courtesy of the publisher and Goodreads.

What books are you most excited about in April? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth – “Five twenty-something heroes famous for saving the world when they were teenagers must face even greater demons — and reconsider what it means to be a hero… by destiny or by choice” (read more).
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community…” (read more).
  • Ruthless Gods (Something Dark & Holy #2) by Emily A Duncan – “As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something” (read more).
  • Sword in the Stars (Once & Future #2) by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy – “In this epic sequel to Once & Future, to save the future, Ari and her Rainbow knights pull off a heist… thousands of years in the past” (read more).
  • The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer – “What if you could turn into the animal of your heart anytime you want? With such power, you’d enter the cream of New York society, guaranteed a rich life among the Vanderbilts and Astors” (read more).
  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez – “Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including – maybe especially – members of our human family?” (read more).
  • Conjure Women by Afia Atakora – “…a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women” (read more).
  • Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker – “The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease” (read more).
  • The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate – “A story of three young women on a journey in search of family amidst the destruction of the post-Civil War South, and a modern-day teacher who rediscovers their story and its connection to her own students’ lives” (read more).
  • The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson – “Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day… Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. … Zach ends up at band practice… the same night May goes. … [They] both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all” (read more).
  • Little Universes by Heather Demetrios – “When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that their mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston… each girl struggles with secrets their parents’ death has brought to light” (read more).
  • Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed – “Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries… Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of familial burdens and cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men” (read more).
  • Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan – “Mina, a classicist, searches for solutions to her failing mental health using mythological women. But she finds a beam of light in a living woman” (read more).

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  • The Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin – “…when the gigs dry up, their insurance lapses, leaving Dad’s heart condition unchecked and forcing Ellie to battle her bipolar II disorder without medication. … With the help of her online-only best friend and an unusual guy she pairs up with along the way, Ellie makes a plan to stage [her father’s] comeback” (read more).
  • The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig – “Iseult Wince is a Victorian woman perilously close to spinsterhood whose distinctly unpleasant father is trying to marry her off. She is awkward, plain, and most pertinently, believes that her mother, who died in childbirth, lives in the scar on her neck” (read more).
  • The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili – “At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian Empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste” (read more).
  • Auras: The Anatomy of the Aura (A Start Here Guide for Beginners) by Eliza Swann – “…a modern illustrated guide to the ancient practice of aura reading” (read more).
  • Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J Christopher – “Matt Kido is dumbstruck by Bridget – total love at first sight – but there’s one problem. She’s totally off-limits while she’s his boss. … An impulsive decision takes them to Las Vegas where, as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Unless you put a ring on it” (read more).

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  • A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen – “Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death” (read more).
  • Don’t Call the Wolf by Aleksandra Ross – “When the Golden Dragon descended on the forest of Kamiena, a horde of monsters followed in its wake. Ren, the forest’s young queen, is slowly losing her battle against them. Until she rescues Lukasz – the last survivor of a heroic regiment of dragon slayers – and they strike a deal” (read more).
  • Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1) by Zoraida Cordova – “Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice… As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people” (read more).



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Weekly Wrap-up – March 8th, 2020

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Happy Sunday, y’all! I’ve had a fun morning filming and editing a new video for my YouTube channel. This was my second choice for thumbnail, and I think it’s too hilarious not to use somewhere.

It’s been a strange week for me as I’ve been sick and my moods have been all over the place, but fortunately, I’m feeling better now. I actually have more energy now than when I was experiencing the worse of my oxcarbazepine withdrawal.

From this point on, I’m going to be doing my weekly wrap-ups through my YouTube channel, but of course, I’ll continue to link them here. Keep scrolling for my favorite links of this week!


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Are you a content creator? Share the post you’re most excited about having made this past week!




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The Best Books I Read in 2019

Read Yourself Happy

2019 was a great reading year for me.

A couple of these books have become all-time favorites of mine, and I’m looking forward to reading them over and over again.

It was hard to narrow this list down to ten books, so here are my top 15 books of 2019.



15. $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

I’m fascinated (and infuriated) by class distinctions in America. Having grown up poor as well as having lived most of my adult life struggling to get by, it’s a topic that’s dear to me. It’s also a problem that I think we, as a nation, need to focus on much more.

This non-fiction book examines several families in America who are scraping by on so little money that it’s hard to believe that they’re surviving. I learned a lot from this book, such as the fact that there are areas in rural America without library access, and how hard it is for people living in this type of poverty to take advantage and get by on shrinking government assistance.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in class division in America, or anyone that wants to understand poverty better. It’s definitely not a happy read, but it’s important.


14. The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

The Simple Wild

Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

The Simple Wild is the novel that taught me that I don’t hate romance books.

I was inspired to pick it up due to its being set in rural Alaska but ended up falling in love with the characters. It’s a hate-to-love romance, which is done often in the romance genre, but it’s done so well in this book. I was in tears by the end of the novel, but I know it’s one that I will read and re-read many times. Also, the sequel to this book, Wild at Heart, was released just last month. I’m looking forward to reading that as well.


13. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

Young adult contemporary is a genre that I usually avoid. For the most part, I find the stories and characters much too young for me to identify with or even care about. I’m not sure what actually prompted me to pick up With the Fire On High (maybe it was the gorgeous cover?), but I’m certainly happy I did.

Elizabeth Acevedo made the characters come to life on the page, and her descriptions of Emoni’s recipes made my mouth water. The story is magical, and it was refreshing to read about a teenage character with a strong sense of responsibility, especially where it concerns her daughter. There is also an incredibly healthy romantic relationship in this novel that I thought was beautiful.

Even if you’re like me and rarely pick up YA contemporary, give With the Fire on High a shot.


12. Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

The only reason that I picked this book up was in order to participate in Chelsea Palmer’s Facebook Book Club. I clearly need to step outside of my comfort zone more often, because Summer of Salt is a beautiful, tragic, and powerful magical realism novel.

Following twin sisters nearing their 18th birthday, the story deals with difficult and heavy topics while the magical qualities balance it nicely. The setting was beautiful as well, being set on an island popular for its bird watching.

It was a very short read, but so heavy on the atmospheric beauty and story.


11. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

As I’m putting this list together, I’m starting to realize that maybe I don’t hate young adult contemporary.

The Hate U Give is a book that’s been talked about non-stop since its release at the beginning of 2017, and with very good reason – it deals with a topic that’s been heavily debated in America for years: gun violence. Not just gun violence, but specifically police killing black, unarmed citizens.

Angie Thomas did a fantastic job of handling this very heavy and tragic topic. You feel the pain of the main character, Starr, and the community at large, as Khalil, an unarmed black teenager, gets shot.

I’m not going to get into the politics of gun violence, police brutality, and racism on a book blog, but if these are topics that are important to you, give The Hate U Give a read.


10. The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

I love time travel stories, but so few books get it right. It’s usually sloppy, full of plotholes, or is just bad. Kate Mascarenhas wrote time travel right in The Psychology of Time Travel, though.

This novel has really stuck with me, despite having read it nearly a year ago. The story follows four female scientists building the first time machine, and one of them has a mental breakdown during the process. Due to the sensitive nature of the project, that team member is removed from the team, and the public at large never learn the real story.

Non-linear stories can be difficult for authors to pull off, but I was amazed at how well this author kept the story flowing. My mind was blown when I discovered that this was Mascarenhas’ debut novel! All of the characters have very unique and distinct personalities, practically the entire cast is made up of female characters, and there’s great LGBTQ+ representation.

My favorite part of this novel, however, was how the topic of time travel and the death of loved ones were dealt with. I imagine there are very few people in the world that don’t wish that they could go back in time and see a loved one who’s passed. I know I would. This is one of the main themes of the novel, it’s fascinating.


9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

Shirley Jackson is a name that’s been on my radar for some time, but I never actually got around to reading one of her books. Which is a shame, because her writing style and gothic fiction are right up my alley.

At less than 200 pages, this short novel offers a very rewarding experience for the reader. I tend to have a dark and morbid sense of humor, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a dark, morbid, and quirky novel. It was love at first paragraph:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I disklike watching myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.”

Woven into the story are themes of agoraphobia, mental illness, and isolation. The novel left a big impact on me, and I’ve been thinking about this book a great deal since reading it.


8. The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

Leigh Bardugo’s continuation of this series, the Six of Crows duology, ended up on my favorite books of 2018 list, so I wasn’t surprised at how much I loved the original trilogy (even though I read the two series backward!).

The world that Bardugo has created for her GrishaVerse books is enchanting. I love that it’s based loosely on Russian culture since that’s not something I’ve read a lot of in fantasy. The characters (especially Nikolai), the story, the landscape… it’s all wonderful. While far from perfect, the Grisha world has easily become one of my all-time fantasy worlds.


7. Sadie by Courtney Summers

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

Sadie is a dark young adult mystery/thriller novel about a girl searching for the murderer of her younger sister. It’s a very dark novel and one that you won’t be able to put down.

I listened to this novel as an audiobook, which was an amazing experience. It’s done with a full cast and, since parts of this novel are told in podcast format, works even better than the physical format (at least in my opinion).

One of the reasons I was so drawn to this novel and its main character, Sadie, is because Sadie has a severe stutter. I’ve written before on this blog about having a speech impediment, and although it’s not the same type as Sadie’s, I was excited about seeing a character with a speech impediment written into a book and not being made the comic relief.


6. The Last by Hanna James

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

This post-apocalyptic mystery novel blew my mind when I read it in May 2019. Many of you might already know that my favorite genre of fiction is post-apocalyptic, so I had a feeling that I’d enjoy this book set in a rural Swiss hotel. However, I wasn’t expecting the genre to mesh so perfectly with a murder mystery.

The review I wrote of The Last is still, to this day, the one that I’m most proud of on this blog. It would take far too much space here to explain the many reasons that I loved this book, so read the review for all of it. I also had the pleasure of doing an interview with the author.


5. The Last Wish (The Witcher #0.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish Andrej Sapkowski

Goodreads | Amazon | Review Coming Soon

The very last book that I read in 2019 definitely ended up being among my all-time favorites. A friend introduced me to The Witcher 3 game years ago, and I was so obsessed with it that I bought a Playstation just to play it (well, that and Fallout 4). Ever since finishing the game, I’ve wanted to start the book series, and with the release of the Netflix series, there was no better time to start.

My only complaint is that I wished that I would have read it sooner. I loved this collection of short stories, and am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Season One of the Netflix show follows many of the stories in The Last Wish, so it was fun to read while watching the show.


4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, is magical. While the writing might not be for everyone, if you tend to enjoy slow-moving, atmospheric, whimsical stories, then I strongly urge you to read this novel.

While the characters and plot were both well-done, it really was the atmosphere of the story that drew me in. The circus is done in shades of black, gray, and white, and some of the tents inside the circus are truly things of wonder, such as my personal favorite, the Ice Garden. I’m planning on re-reading this novel in 2020, and I feel that I’ll enjoy it, even more, the second time around.


3. Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Reincarnation Blues Michael Poore

Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

My older brother, who is also an avid reader, recommended this book to me. I trust his judgment, so I went into it with high expectations. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was this wild ride of a story.

I’ve never read a story like Reincarnation Blues. It was a wholly unique experience, with slight vibes of Salman Rushdie’s magical realism and dark humor. It follows a character named Milo, who is coming close to his ten-thousandth reincarnation. He only has a few more tries to reach perfection, and while trying to reach that goal, he also tries to help his girlfriend, Death (yes, that Death) lead the life she wants.

Here’s part of what I wrote in my original review:

There’s so much dark humor, along with wisdom about making the most of our own lives. Filled with plenty of joys and tragedies, this book will make you feel so many different emotions as you turn each page, making the experience of reading this novel quite powerful.

I don’t use the term masterpiece often, but Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is a masterpiece. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year and has easily forced its way into my top ten favorite books of all time. It’s been ages since I’ve read something as unique and imaginative as this, and I recommend that everyone read it.

Read this book.


2. A Hero Born (Legends of the Condor Heroes #1) by Jin Yong

A Hero Born Jin Yong

Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

In late 2018, not long after Read Yourself Happy got started, I was researching Chinese fantasy novels and came across the Legends of the Condor Heroes series. The author, Jin Yong, is one of the most famous writers in China, and this series is widely regarded as a solid piece of China’s cultural heritage. At that point, I definitely wanted to read it, but I could not find an English translation still in print. It was disappointing as hell, but I kept it on my TBR list in hopes of one day finding a translation

A couple of months after this, St. Martin’s Press announced a new reprint of the English editions! It was worth the wait! A Hero Born is incredible – I literally could not put this book down. I read it in just a couple of days and cannot wait to read the sequel, which the publisher very kindly sent to me for review (psst.. review coming soon!).

A Hero Born is an epic Chinese martial arts fantasy series that was originally published in a newspaper as a serialized story, and then published as a novel later on. The tale follows two sworn brothers who pledge that their children will also become sworn siblings.

After a tragic event, the children are separated and brought up in very different settings. The people who raised them are trying to do so in order to prepare them for a duel that they will perform against one another when they turn 18, even though the children don’t know this.

The fight scenes were so well-written and intense that it was easy to visualize every step taken by the warriors. The book has so much to offer, from love, war, betrayal, and friendship to amazing scenery, fight scenes, and dialogue. It’s a series that you can easily lose yourself in.


1. The Stormlight Archive Series by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings Sanderson

Goodreads | Amazon | My Review

I don’t even know where to start with how incredible this series is. Brandon Sanderson deserves his title as the master of world-building.

Thus far, I’ve only read the first two books in the series, The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, and I’m planning on doing a re-read of those during the summer, along with the third book, Oathbringerin preparation for the newest part of the series, Rhythm of War

I rarely say that books are perfect, but these first two books are about as perfect as you’re going to get without getting into Tolkien territory (a position I will gladly defend as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are my favorite books of all time).

Without writing another full review here, suffice it to say that the characters, landscape, world, and everything else in these books are incredibly well-done. My favorite character is definitely Kaladin, a former warrior and surgeon’s apprentice who finds himself a slave, and as such suffers from depression. Mental health was dealt with so well in this novel.

Another aspect of this world that hooked me was the highstorms, massive storms featuring giant rocks being tossed about in the wind, torrential rain, and weather so bad that people caught outside during them usually wind up dead.

If you call yourself a fantasy fan, and you haven’t started The Stormlight Archive series, stop procrastinating and do it. Yes, the books are long as shit (1,000+ pages), but so worth it.



What were your favorite books of 2019? Let me know in the comments!




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My March 2020 TBR

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It’s finally March (my birthday month!!), and to celebrate I’ve put together an extra-long TBR! I tend to set very, very unrealistic goals for myself, as you can see with this TBR. Will I be able to finish 31 books in 31 days? Probably not, but it’s a goal for me to strive towards!

One of the reasons I like to have huge TBRs is that I’m a mood reader. I like having a pile of books to choose from depending on what type of book I’m in the mood for.

I think I have a decent shot at finishing a lot of these since there are a lot of poetry collections and graphic novels, which tend to take me just an hour or two to finish.

If you’d prefer to watch this TBR, the video is linked below. Scroll down for the written TBR otherwise!


Poetry

Let’s start off with the poetry collections I want to read this month. Reading and enjoying poetry is something very new to me. I hated poetry in school, probably because we always read classic poetry, and I couldn’t stand the flowery metaphors and pages upon pages of repetitiveness.

Fortunately, I recently discovered that I do like poetry. Mostly modern poetry, but I want to experiment a bit more with classic as well. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

  • Live Oak, With Moss by Walt Whitman – I haven’t read this poem before, but the main reason I picked it up at my local library is that this edition is actually the poem told through illustrations! It’s a really unique format and I love the idea of it. The actual poem is included as well, of course!
  • The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver is a name that I’ve continuously heard since her death last year. I wanted to give one of her collections a try, and out of the selection at my library, this one sounded the most promising since it’s about animals and nature.
  • The Tradition by Jericho Brown – I discovered Jericho Brown through this article at Garden & Gun. I was so impressed by the interview that I watched several of his readings on YouTube, and loved all of the poems that I heard. I’m really excited to read this full collection!
  • So Far So Good by Ursula K. Le Guin – This is Le Guin’s final poetry collection before her death in 2018, so I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit melancholy. I don’t know too much about it aside from it being about her life, the people she’s known along the way, and her experiences. I really enjoyed The Left Hand of Darkness, especially her writing style, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this too.
  • Dear Darkness by Kevin Young – The only thing I know about this collection is that it was inspired by the sudden death of Kevin Young’s father. Another melancholy collection, but one that I think I might be able to relate to, having lost my mother.
  • The Flame by Leonard Cohen – Did you know that musician Leonard Cohen wrote poetry? Because I didn’t! I have no idea what to expect from this, but I picked it up because I absolutely love his music.

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  • Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly – I found this tiny book tucked into the poetry section at my library, but it isn’t poetry. It’s fifty-two micro-memoirs about her life. The length of these micro-memoirs range from a few sentences to a few pages. I’m really intrigued by the format of this memoir.

Graphic Novels

I only picked up three graphic novels, but I’m really excited about all three of these!


Fiction

  • Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski – This is the second book (chronologically) in The Witcher series, but the most recent to be published. The Last Wish was the very last book I read in 2019, and one of my favorites. Just like The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny is a collection of short stories.
  • The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams – You’ve probably seen this romance novel everywhere in the book community. I love the idea of a group of guys reading smutty romance novels to learn to be better spouses. I’m expecting plenty of humor.
  • The Bear by Andrew Krivak – This short novel was released earlier this year, but I just didn’t find time to get it prior to publication. I’m still really excited, however, as it’s a post-apocalyptic tale about the last two humans left alive and a girl’s journey home with a bear.
  • The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams – First of all, I want to mention how much I love the faux-embroidery of this cover. It’s so beautiful. This historical fiction novel takes place after a mysterious flock of red birds descends over a girls’ school. It follows a number of symptoms the girls all experience afterward.
  • No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez – In this thriller/mystery novel, a woman has to deal with a stalker that knows too much about her family’s history. I’m still trying to get into thrillers, and this sounds like a great next step.
  • 142 Ostriches by April Davila – I’m so thankful for the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel! It’s set on an ostrich farm in California, and honestly, that’s all I needed to intrigue me.
  • A Bond Undone (Legends of the Condor Heroes #2) by Jin Yong – Last year I read the first novel in this Kung Fu fantasy series, and it ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. I’m really, really excited to find out what happens next!
  • Providence by Max Barry – I really like the cover of this science fiction novel. I’m purposefully keeping myself ignorant of the plot because I want to go into it a little bit blind. However, I do know that it has to do with a war against an alien race.
  • The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James – This gothic novel is told in dual timelines. First, we have a governess at an English estate; then, we meet the heir to that estate – a woman living in modern-day New York City.
  • The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan – Dealing with the heavy topic of suicide, this definitely isn’t going to be a light, fun read. In it, we meet people trying to figure out why Miwako killed herself. It reminds me a little of a grown-up version of 13 Reasons Why.
  • The Last Human by Zack Jordan – Here are the reasons I requested this book from the publisher and did a little happy dance when I received it earlier this week: Space opera, a ball of fluff with an IQ in the thousands, and “an android death enthusiast.” I’m ready.
  • Thunderhead and The Toll by Neal Shusterman – I’m buddy-reading this series with my friend Tawni, and it’s so freaking good! This might be one of the best young adult series I’ve read in ages. I’m constantly finding myself shocked by what happens, and I’m intrigued by all of the characters.
  • 88 Names by Matt Ruff – Matt Ruff is the author of Lovecraft Country, which is how I know of him. This novel is “part cyberthriller, part twisted romantic comedy.” It sounds wonderful.

Non-Fiction

  • Pisgah National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer – If you’ve been subscribed to this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me mention that I lived in Asheville, NC for all of my twenties and that I’m constantly homesick for the mountains of Western North Carolina. This book is a history of Pisgah National Forest, an area that I am very familiar with.
  • Midnight in Siberia by David Greene – This book drew me in for two reasons – the remoteness of Siberia, and a long train ride. I’ve always wanted to take a long, scenic train ride, plus I love remote areas, so I’m really excited to be able to live vicariously through NPR’s David Greene.
  • Stateway’s Garden by Jasmon Drain – I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher, and I’m looking forward to reading it. It’s a collection of real-life stories from people living on the Southside of Chicago.
  • Death is But a Dream by Christopher Kerr – I’m starting to notice that I chose some really dark topics for March’s TBR. This is a book written by a doctor about his experience working in hospice with dying patients.
  • Lost Feast by Lenore Newman – Many of the foods we love are threatened by climate change, pollution, and overpopulation. Lost Feast is about these foods and the extinction of culinary treats that we’ve come to take for granted.
  • Footprints by David Farrier – This book reminds me a little of The World Without Us, which is one of my favorite non-fiction books. Farrier examines what traces of humanity are going to be left long after we’re gone.
  • Grain Brain by David Perlmutter – I’m guessing you’re probably somewhat familiar with this non-fiction book about the effect that gluten has on our brains. It’s been a best-seller for many years. I was recommended this book twice in one week, for both my polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and bipolar disorder. I had no idea that diet could possibly influence bipolar disorder, so, at my doctor’s recommendation, I’m currently doing 45 days of a gluten-free diet to see if it helps.

Whew! I know that was a long list! Have you read any of these books? If you have, let me know what you thought down in the comments!

What are you planning on reading in March?




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Small Spaces, DCeased, & Quiet Girl in a Noisy World – Review Quickies #2

Review Quickies

Between working massive amounts of overtime and dealing with the normal ups and downs of life, I haven’t had a lot of time to write reviews. In order to catch up, here are a few quick reviews of books I’ve read lately.



Small Spaces Katherine Arden

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Middle Grade | Horror | Fantasy
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Released September 25th, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

I don’t often read middle-grade books, but I wanted an audiobook that would be easy to listen to and found Small Spaces on Scribd.

The story follows eleven-year-old Ollie who joins her class on a trip to a local farm. There’s quite a bit more going on, though, as Ollie discovers a bizarre scene with a crazed woman attempting to dispose of a mysterious book. Ollie starts reading the book and notices strange parallels between the story in the book and what’s happening on the farm. Ollie, along with two of her classmates, has to work together to save the rest of their class as the night takes a supernatural turn.

Small Spaces was super adorable and fun. I know this is the type of book I would have loved had I read it in middle school. The story touches on difficult topics such as grief, yet it is also a rich tale of friendship. It’s a short novel but packs a lot of punch. I’ll definitely be reading the sequel, Dead Voices.


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DCeased by Tom Taylor
Art by Trevor Hairsine & Stefano Gaudiano
Horror | Graphic Novels/Comics | DC Universe
Published by DC Comics
Released November 26th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Tom Taylor is my favorite comic book writer. He has a unique ability to combine humor with darkness, and I absolutely love it. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the DC Universe (I much prefer Marvel), I’ll read anything that he writes.

DCeased is an apocalyptic story involving a disease spreading across Earth, turning victims into zombies (essentially), and even superheroes aren’t spared.

What really struck me about DCeased is how dark it is. One of the reasons that I don’t read many DC comics is that the stories and characters often seem a little cartoony for me, but DCeased is dark and serious. I’m not going to spoil the story and say how it ends, but let’s just say that I wasn’t expecting it to end like it did, and I thought that it was great.

The only downside to this collection is that, for many of the characters, I had no real idea of who they were. Obviously, the big names like Batman and Wonder Woman are obvious, but to someone unfamiliar with the DC Universe, there were a lot of less well-known characters who I didn’t care about. If you’re a DC fan though, you won’t have that problem.


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Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung
Graphic Novel | Memoir
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Released November 7th, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Last year I had the pleasure of reading Debbie Tung’s newer graphic novel release,  Book Love. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World is a collection of black-and-white comics about life as an introvert. I felt as though I was reading about my own life. All of Debbie Tung’s work is adorable and perfectly captures introversion. This would make a perfect gift for your bookworm friends.



Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!




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December 2019 TBR

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I recently accepted that there’s no way in hell that I’m getting to my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal this year (I’m at 149 of 225 currently), and as a result, I’m feeling a little more relaxed about my reading goals this last month of the year.

There are three books that I’m currently in the process of finishing:

I’m also participating in FantasyAThon Round 2, from December 13th-22. These are the books that I know for sure that I’ll be reading for it:

There are also some December releases that I need to get to:

Finally, the rest are a mix of wintery books, books sent by publishers that I haven’t gotten to yet, and a couple books that I really want to get to this month:


What books are on your December TBR? Let me know in the comments!




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Today is National Read a Book Day!

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In case you didn’t know, September 6 is National Read a Book Day!

I’m definitely planning on spending pretty much the entire day reading, especially since I live in an area impacted by Hurricane Dorian and as of this writing the winds are blowing at around 50 mph and I imagine our power won’t be on much longer.

I’ve been a bookworm since I was a child and grew up in a house full of books. Books have been my escape through bouts of depression and my main form of entertainment.

What is perfection to me? A cup of hot tea or coffee, a cozy blanket, a sweet cat, a lit candle… and a book. You can’t beat that kind of afternoon.

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I hope that, whatever you’re doing, you’re able to enjoy some relaxing reading time today.

If you need some inspiration for what to read, here is a list of some of the best novels I’ve read over the past year.

What are some books that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!




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America… in Books

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One of the reasons I’ve always loved to read is that a good book can transport you to a whole new life, whether it’s a new planet or a new small town. I love novels that spend time building up the setting so that you really get a solid idea of where the story is taking place. I’ve never had the finances to travel, so I travel through books.

For the next 56 days (not including weekends), I’ll be sharing books that will introduce you to each state and U.S. territory. I hope you enjoy! As we proceed each day, I’ll add links to each state here.


U.S. States

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • District of Columbia (Washington, DC)

U.S. Territories

  • American Samoa
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Puerto Rico
  • Virgin Islands



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Down the TBR Hole (Again) – #1

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This challenge is something that I did a couple of times when I first started this blog. The idea behind it is to reduce the number of books on your TBR list.

As far as I can tell, this challenge was created by the writer at the literary blog, Lost in a Story, but it appears that the domain is no longer valid.

Here are the rules:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m going to aim to do this challenge once a week because as of this writing, my TBR list has 3,768 titles on it. 

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Yes, I know that’s a ridiculous and impossible number of books that I hope to read. I have a tendency to add books to my TBR if they are even mildly interesting to me although, logically, I know I’ll never actually read most of them.

Here’s the first post in many more to come.



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Verdict: Keep

I still can’t believe I haven’t read this classic novel. I’m a bit ashamed of myself, so this is definitely one that will stay on this list until I actually get around to reading it.


The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

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Verdict: Keep

After reading the synopsis of this one, it’s definitely something that I’m interested in. It follows a single woman throughout her entire life and her “inability to understand her place in her own life.”


The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper

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Verdict: Keep

According to the synopsis on Goodreads, this novel “is set in a post-holocaust feminist dystopia that offers only two political alternatives: a repressive polygamist sect that is slowly self-destructing through inbreeding and the matriarchal dictatorship called Women’s Country.” I’m sold.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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Verdict: Keep

This is another classic that I’m eager to read, so it’s an obvious keep.


Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Verdict: Keep

I tried to read this very short novel years ago, but I remember setting it down as it wasn’t holding my attention. I want to give it another chance, so it’s another keep.


So far, I’m not doing great on this whole “cleaning up my TBR” thing.

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Anyway…


A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

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Verdict: Toss It

I’m only mildly interested in A Spark of Light, so I’m not going to keep it on my TBR. I’ve heard very mixed things about it anyway, so I don’t feel like I’m really missing out on much.


Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

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Verdict: Keep

This magical realism novel sounds bizarre, which usually means I’ll love it.


Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

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Verdict: Toss It

Years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s non-fiction book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and loved it. I’ve always been curious about a homesteading lifestyle, and that book showed me what it might be like. This fictional novel, however, doesn’t spark any interest in it. I have a feeling I added it to my TBR just because I recognized her name.


The Witch Elm by Tana French

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Verdict: Keep

The main reason I’m deciding to leave this novel on my TBR is that I keep hearing amazing things about Tana French, and out of her novels this one seems the one I’m most likely to enjoy.


The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle #6) by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Verdict: Keep

Even though this is the sixth book in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle series, from everything I know this series does not need to be read in order, so I’m keeping this one on my TBR. The main character, Shevek, “will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe.” I adored Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darknessso I’m eager to read more of her work.



Two out of ten books removed from my TBR is less than I was hoping for, but I feel like the books I’m keeping on this list are books that I’m going to love.


Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you thought of them in the comments below!




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New Releases for the Week of April 30, 2019

New Book Releases

Here are the new releases for April 30, 2019!



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2019 Edgar Award Winners Announced

News

The Edgar Awards are an annual award given to the best mystery books of the year. The lists are put together by Mystery Writers of America.

Here are the 2019 winners. If you’d like a full list of the nominees, click here.

Book synopses are courtesy of the publishers and Goodreads.



Best Novel

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Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

From trailblazing novelist Walter Mosley: a former NYPD cop once imprisoned for a crime he did not commit must solve two cases: that of a man wrongly condemned to die, and his own. 

Joe King Oliver was one of the NYPD’s finest investigators, until, dispatched to arrest a well-heeled car thief, he is framed for assault by his enemies within the NYPD, a charge which lands him in solitary at Rikers Island.

A decade later, King is a private detective, running his agency with the help of his teenage daughter, Aja-Denise. Broken by the brutality he suffered and committed in equal measure while behind bars, his work and his daughter are the only light in his solitary life. When he receives a card in the mail from the woman who admits she was paid to frame him those years ago, King realizes that he has no choice but to take his own case: figuring out who on the force wanted him disposed of–and why.

Running in parallel with King’s own quest for justice is the case of a Black radical journalist accused of killing two on-duty police officers who had been abusing their badges to traffic in drugs and women within the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Joined by Melquarth Frost, a brilliant sociopath, our hero must beat dirty cops and dirtier bankers, craven lawyers, and above all keep his daughter far from the underworld in which he works. All the while, two lives hang in the balance: King’s client’s, and King’s own.


Best First Novel

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Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Rice Moore is just beginning to think his troubles are behind him. He’s found a job protecting a remote forest preserve in Virginian Appalachia where his main responsibilities include tracking wildlife and refurbishing cabins. It’s hard work, and totally solitary—perfect to hide away from the Mexican drug cartels he betrayed back in Arizona. But when Rice finds the carcass of a bear killed on the grounds, the quiet solitude he’s so desperately sought is suddenly at risk.

More bears are killed on the preserve and Rice’s obsession with catching the poachers escalates, leading to hostile altercations with the locals and attention from both the law and Rice’s employers. Partnering with his predecessor, a scientist who hopes to continue her research on the preserve, Rice puts into motion a plan that could expose the poachers but risks revealing his own whereabouts to the dangerous people he was running from in the first place.

James McLaughlin expertly brings the beauty and danger of Appalachia to life. The result is an elemental, slow burn of a novel—one that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.


Best Paperback Original

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If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin

Late one night in the quiet Hudson Valley town of Havenkill, a distraught woman stumbles into the police station—and lives are changed forever.

Aimee En, once a darling of the ’80s pop music scene, claims that a teenage boy stole her car, then ran over another young man who’d rushed to help.

As Liam Miller’s life hangs in the balance, the events of that fateful night begin to come into focus. But is everything as it seems?

The case quickly consumes social media, transforming Liam, a local high school football star, into a folk hero, and the suspect, a high school outcast named Wade Reed, into a depraved would-be killer. But is Wade really guilty? And if he isn’t, why won’t he talk?

Told from a kaleidoscope of viewpoints—Wade’s mother Jackie, his younger brother Connor, Aimee En and Pearl Maze, a young police officer with a tragic past, If I Die Tonight is a story of family ties and dark secrets—and the lengths we’ll go to protect ourselves.


Best Fact Crime

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Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler

Buried for decades, the Up Stairs Lounge tragedy has only recently emerged as a catalyzing event of the gay liberation movement. In revelatory detail, Robert W. Fieseler chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman on June 24, 1973, at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until 2016. Relying on unprecedented access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates an indelible portrait of a closeted, blue-collar gay world that flourished before an arsonist ignited an inferno that destroyed an entire community. The aftermath was no less traumatic—families ashamed to claim loved ones, the Catholic Church refusing proper burial rights, the city impervious to the survivors’ needs—revealing a world of toxic prejudice that thrived well past Stonewall. Yet the impassioned activism that followed proved essential to the emergence of a fledgling gay movement. Tinderbox restores honor to a forgotten generation of civil-rights martyrs.


Best Critical/Biographical

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Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger

American crime writing was reborn in the 1920s. After years of dominance by British authors, new American writers—with fresh ideas about the detective and the mystery—appeared on the scene and rose to heights of popularity not witnessed since the success of the Sherlock Holmes tales in America.  

Classic American Crime Writing of the 1920s—including House Without a KeyThe Benson Murder CaseThe Roman Hat MysteryRed Harvest, and Little Caesar—offers some of the very best of that decade’s writing. Earl Derr Biggers wrote about Charlie Chan, a Chinese-American detective, at a time when racism was rampant. S. S. Van Dine invented Philo Vance, an effete, rich amateur psychologist who flourished while America danced and the stock market rose. The quintessential American detective Ellery Queen leapt onto the stage, to remain popular for fifty years. Dashiell Hammett brings readers another mystery narrated by the Continental Op. W. R. Burnett, created the indelible character of Rico, the first gangster antihero.

Each of the five novels included is presented in its original published form, with extensive historical and cultural annotations and illustrations added by Edgar-winning editor Leslie S. Klinger, allowing the reader to experience the story to its fullest. Klinger’s detailed foreword gives an overview of the history of American crime writing from its beginnings in the early years of America to the twentieth century. This gorgeously illustrated volume includes over 100 color and black and white images as well as an introduction by the eminent mystery publisher Otto Penzler.


Best Short Story

English 398: Fiction Worksop by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine


Best Juvenile

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Otherwood by Pete Hautman

What happened in the woods that day? Pete Hautman’s riveting middle-grade novel touches on secrets and mysteries — and the power of connections with family and friends.

“Hatred combined with lies and secrets can break the world.” Grandpa Zach used to say that before he died, but Stuey never really knew what he meant. It was kind of like how he used to talk about quantum physics or how he used to say ghosts haunted their overgrown golf course. But then one day, after Stuey and his best friend, Elly Rose, spend countless afternoons in the deadfall in the middle of the woods, something totally unbelievable happens. As Stuey and Elly Rose struggle to come to grips with their lives after that reality-splitting moment, all the things Grandpa Zach used to say start to make a lot more sense. This is a book about memory and loss and the destructive nature of secrets, but also about the way friendship, truth, and perseverance have the ability to knit a torn-apart world back together.


Young Adult

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Sadie by Courtney Summers
Read my review of Sadie

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!



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New Book Releases – April 2, 2019

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It’s Tuesday again – which means new books are being released today! Here’s some of what’s coming out today. If you know of a new release that I missed, let me know in the comments!


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New Releases for January 22, 2019

It’s Tuesday, which means new book release day! There are so many coming out today, of which the titles below are just a small percentage. As always, the synopses are courtesy of the publisher.

What books are you most excited about this week? Let me know in the comments!


Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2) by S. A. Chakraborty

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Fantasy | Historical Fiction
Goodreads | Amazon

Return to Daevabad in the spellbinding sequel to THE CITY OF BRASS.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabadand quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family and one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the maridthe unpredictable water spirits have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.


The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson

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Mystery | Young Adult | Thriller
Goodreads | Amazon

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.


The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle Van Arsdale

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Fantasy | Young Adult | Retellings
Goodreads | Amazon

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.


Crucible (Sigma Force #14) by James Rollins

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Thriller | Adventure
Goodreads | Amazon

Arriving home on Christmas Eve, Commander Gray Pierce discovers his house ransacked, his pregnant lover missing, and his best friend’s wife, Kat, unconscious on the kitchen floor. With no shred of evidence to follow, his one hope to find the woman he loves and his unborn child is Kat, the only witness to what happened. But the injured woman is in a semi-comatose state and cannot speak—until a brilliant neurologist offers a radical approach to “unlock” her mind long enough to ask a few questions. What Pierce learns from Kat sets Sigma Force on a frantic quest for answers that are connected to mysteries reaching back to the Spanish Inquisition and to one of the most reviled and blood-soaked books in human history—a Medieval text known as the Malleus Maleficarum, the Hammer of Witches. What they uncover hidden deep in the past will reveal a frightening truth in the present and a future on the brink of annihilation, and force them to confront the ultimate question: What does it mean to have a soul?


The Current by Tim Johnston

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Mystery | Thriller
Goodreads | Amazon

Tim Johnston, whose 2015 national bestseller Descent was called “astonishing” by the Washington Post and “unforgettable” by the Miami Herald, returns with another tour de force about the indelible impact of a crime on the lives of innocent people.

When two young women leave their college campus in the dead of winter for a 700-mile drive north to Minnesota, they suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Black Root River, just miles from home. One girl’s survival, and the other’s death—murder, actually—stun the citizens of a small Minnesota town, thawing memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may yet live among them. One father is forced to relive his agony while another’s greatest desire—to bring a killer to justice—is revitalized . . . and the girl who survived the icy plunge cannot escape the sense that she is connected to that earlier unsolved case by more than a river. Soon enough she’s caught up in an investigation of her own that will unearth long-hidden secrets, and stoke the violence that has long simmered just below the surface of the town. Souls frozen in time, ghosts and demons, the accused and the guilty, all stir to life in this cold northern place where memories, like treachery, run just beneath the ice, and where a young woman can come home but still not be safe.

Brilliantly plotted, unrelentingly suspenseful, and beautifully realized, The Current is a gripping page-turner about how the past holds the key to the future as well as an unbreakable grip on the present.


Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

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Nonfiction | Memoir
Goodreads | Amazon

Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.


The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation by Alex Dehgan

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Nonfiction | Environmental
Goodreads | Amazon

The remarkable story of the heroic effort to save and preserve Afghanistan’s wildlife-and a culture that derives immense pride and a sense of national identity from its natural landscape.

Postwar Afghanistan is fragile, volatile, and perilous. It is also a place of extraordinary beauty. Evolutionary biologist Alex Dehgan arrived in the country in 2006 to build the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Afghanistan Program, and preserve and protect Afghanistan’s unique and extraordinary environment, which had been decimated after decades of war.

Conservation, it turned out, provided a common bond between Alex’s team and the people of Afghanistan. His international team worked unarmed in some of the most dangerous places in the country-places so remote that winding roads would abruptly disappear, and travel was on foot, yak, or mule. In The Snow Leopard Project, Dehgan takes readers along with him on his adventure as his team helps create the country’s first national park, completes the some of the first extensive wildlife surveys in thirty years, and works to stop the poaching of the country’s iconic endangered animals, including the elusive snow leopard. In doing so, they help restore a part of Afghan identity that is ineffably tied to the land itself.


Miraculum by Steph Post

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Fantasy
Goodreads | Amazon

The year is 1922. The carnival is Pontilliar’s Spectactular Star Light Miraculum, set up on the Texas-Louisiana border. One blazing summer night, a mysterious stranger steps out onto the midway, lights a cigarette and forever changes the world around him. Tattooed snake charmer Ruby has traveled with her father’s carnival for most of her life and, jaded though she is, can’t help but be drawn to the tall man in the immaculate black suit who has joined the carnival as a geek, a man who bites the heads off live chickens. Mercurial and charismatic, Daniel charms everyone he encounters but his manipulation of Ruby becomes complicated when it no longer becomes clear who is holding all the cards. For all of Daniel’s secrets, Ruby has a few of her own. When one tragedy after another strikes the carnival, and it becomes clear that Daniel is somehow at the center of calamity, Ruby takes it upon herself to discover the mystery of the shadowy man pulling all the strings. Joined by Hayden, a roughneck-turned-mural-painter who has recently reentered her life, Ruby enters into a dangerous, eye-opening game with Daniel in which nothing and no one is as it seems and yet everything is at stake.


99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai

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Contemporary Fiction | Magical Realism
Goodreads | Amazon

A coming-of-age story about one boy’s journey across contemporary Afghanistan to find and bring home the family dog, blending the grit and immediacy of voice-driven fiction like We Need New Names with the mythmaking of One Thousand and One Nights.

Twelve-year-old Marwand’s memories from his previous visit to Afghanistan six years ago center on his contentious relationship with Budabash, the terrifying but beloved dog who guards his extended family’s compound in Logar. Eager to find an ally in this place that’s meant to be “home,” Marwand approaches Budabash the way he would any dog on his American suburban block—and the results are disastrous: Marwand loses a finger and Budabash escapes.

The resulting search for the family dog is an expertly told adventure, a ninety-nine-night quest that sends Marwand and his cousins across the landscape of Logar. Moving between celebrations and tragedies, deeply humorous and surprisingly tender, 99 Nights in Logar is a vibrant exploration of the power of stories—the ones we tell each other, and the ones we find ourselves in.


Golden State by Ben Winters

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Science Fiction | Dystopia | Mystery
Goodreads | Amazon

A shocking vision of our future that is one part Minority Report and one part Chinatown.

Lazlo Ratesic is 54, a 19-year veteran of the Speculative Service, from a family of law enforcement and in a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else. This is how Laz must, by law, introduce himself, lest he fail to disclose his true purpose or nature, and by doing so, be guilty of a lie.

Laz is a resident of The Golden State, a nation resembling California, where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life, and governance, increasingly impossible. There, surrounded by the high walls of compulsory truth-telling, knowingly contradicting the truth–the Objectively So–is the greatest possible crime. Stopping those crimes, punishing them, is Laz’s job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths–to “speculate” on what might have happened in the commission of a crime.

But the Golden State is far less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the Objectively So requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance, recording, and record-keeping. And when those in control of the truth twist it for nefarious means, the Speculators may be the only ones with the power to fight back.


Song of the Dead (Reign of the Fallen #2) by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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Fantasy | Young Adult
Goodreads | Amazon

The Dead must stay buried.

Karthia is nothing like it used to be. The kingdom’s borders are open for the first time in nearly three hundred years, and raising the dead has been outlawed. Odessa is determined to explore the world beyond Karthia’s waters, hoping to heal a heart broken in more ways than she can count. But with Meredy joining the ocean voyage, vanquishing her sorrow will be a difficult task.

Despite the daily reminder of the history they share, Odessa and Meredy are fascinated when their journey takes them to a land where the Dead rule the night and dragons roam the streets. Odessa can’t help being mesmerized by the new magic–and by the girl at her side. But just as she and Meredy are beginning to explore the new world, a terrifying development in Karthia summons them home at once.

Growing political unrest on top of threats from foreign invaders means Odessa and Meredy are thrust back into the lives they tried to leave behind while specters from their past haunt their tenuous relationship. Gathering a force big enough to ward off enemies seems impossible, until one of Queen Valoria’s mages creates a weapon that could make them invincible. As danger continues to mount inside the palace, Odessa fears that without the Dead, even the greatest invention won’t be enough to save their fates.

In this enthralling, heartrending sequel to Reign of the Fallen, Odessa faces the fight of her life as the boundaries between the Dead and the living are challenged in a way more gruesome than ever before.


All is Fair by Dee Garretson

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Historical Fiction | Young Adult
Goodreads | Amazon

When Lady Mina Tretheway receives a telegram at boarding school, she doesn’t want to read it. In 1918, with war raging, she dreads telegrams, knowing they never bring good news.

At first she doesn’t understand the cryptic message. Then she realizes it’s written in code, and the message leads her home to Hallington Manor. When Lord Andrew Graham appears with a dashing young American, Lucas Mueller, Mina learns that the two of them must work together on dangerous project for the war effort.

Thinking Mina is just a spoiled aristocrat, Lucas tries to complete the project alone, fearing her inexperience will give them away. But when the project goes very wrong, Mina and Lucas are thrown together to complete the mission before more soldiers disappear into the darkness of war.


The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

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Fantasy
Goodreads | Amazon

A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy.

The city has always been. The city must finally end.

When three thieves – an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man – are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born.Cari is a drifter whose past and future are darker than she can know.

Rat is a Ghoul, whose people haunt the city’s underworld.

Spar is a Stone Man, subject to a terrible disease that is slowly petrifying his flesh.

Chance has brought them together, but their friendship could be all that stands in the way of total Armageddon.


The Eulogist by Terry Gamble

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Historical Fiction
Goodreads| Amazon

From the author of The Water Dancers and Good Family, an exquisitely crafted novel, set in Ohio in the decades leading to the Civil War, that illuminates the immigrant experience, the injustice of slavery, and the debts human beings owe to one another, witnessed through the endeavors of one Irish-American family.

Cheated out of their family estate in Northern Ireland after the Napoleonic Wars, the Givens family arrives in America in 1819. But in coming to this new land, they have lost nearly everything. Making their way west they settle in Cincinnati, a burgeoning town on the banks of the mighty Ohio River whose rise, like the Givenses’ own, will be fashioned by the colliding forces of Jacksonian populism, religious evangelism, industrial capitalism, and the struggle for emancipation.

After losing their mother in childbirth and their father to a riverboat headed for New Orleans, James, Olivia, and Erasmus Givens must fend for themselves. Ambitious James eventually marries into a prosperous family, builds a successful business, and rises in Cincinnati society. Taken by the spirit and wanderlust, Erasmus becomes an itinerant preacher, finding passion and heartbreak as he seeks God. Independent-minded Olivia, seemingly destined for spinsterhood, enters into a surprising partnership and marriage with Silas Orpheus, a local doctor who spurns social mores.

When her husband suddenly dies from an infection, Olivia travels to his family home in Kentucky, where she meets his estranged brother and encounters the horrors of slavery firsthand. After abetting the escape of one slave, Olivia is forced to confront the status of a young woman named Tilly, another slave owned by Olivia’s brother-in-law. When her attempt to help Tilly ends in disaster, Olivia tracks down Erasmus, who has begun smuggling runaways across the river—the borderline between freedom and slavery.

As the years pass, this family of immigrants initially indifferent to slavery will actively work for its end—performing courageous, often dangerous, occasionally foolhardy acts of moral rectitude that will reverberate through their lives for generations to come.


Ship of Smoke and Steel (The Wells of Sorcery Trilogy) by Django Wexler

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Young Adult | Fantasy
Goodreads | Amazon

Ship of Smoke and Steel is the launch of a cinematic, action-packed epic fantasy trilogy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and The Legend of Korra.

In the lower wards of Kahnzoka, the great port city of the Blessed Empire, eighteen-year-old ward boss Isoka comes to collect when there’s money owing. When her ability to access the Well of Combat is discovered by the Empire—an ability she should have declared and placed at His Imperial Majesty’s service—she’s sent on an impossible mission: steal Soliton, a legendary ghost ship—a ship from which no one has ever returned. If she fails, her sister’s life is forfeit.

“Truly epic, fierce, and exhilarating, Ship of Smoke and Steel will capture you and lock you away. With magical combat sequences fit for the big screen, the action is almost as breathtaking as the intrigue.” —Morgan Rhodes, New York Times bestselling author of the Falling Kingdoms series.


Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

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Fantasy | Young Adult
Goodreads | Amazon

Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied behind his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.

As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging to the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark. So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group.Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.