#T5W: Favorite Underrated Books

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

January 25th: Favorite Underrated Books 
–Give some love to those books that aren’t as widely talked about. Those hidden gems. Those books that maybe used to be popular but people have forgotten about and they still deserve some love.

In no particular order (links bring to my reviews):

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, by J.C. Lillis

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Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. 

Truth in the Dark, by Amy Lane

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Adhhsdhjds read this one too please. 

The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

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And then read this while you’re at it. 

Air Awakens, (series) by Elise Kova

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This is the only one of these books that I have not reviewed (I will do it whenever I reread it, because I will rearead it) but I absolutely adore this series! It has such a classic fantasy feel to it and yet it feels completely fresh and it has so many different themes. The characters are spectacular and I love every single one of them (that’s not always something to be glad about, because people in this series get hurt for real. All I’m saying is: guard your hearts.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, (series) by Laini Taylor

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I feel like this trilogy is more popular than the other books I mentioned, but I still think it’s not as wildly popular as it should be. I’ve barely seen any booktuber mention it and I don’t really know why, because it deserves to hang out with the popular  books.

I understand why and how some books become more popular than others. That doesn’t take away from their value in my opinion, but I think we bloggers should try to do our best to review what we genuinely want to and try to keep in mind that while reviews for popular books will attract more blog views, it is important to also review books that aren’t as well-known, so that more people can have a chance to find out about them.

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Review: The Darkest Part Of The Forest by Holly Black

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★★★★

Ben told stories. Hazel became those stories.

There are many ways to describe The Darkest Part of the Forest. Everyone will tell you something different, probably. To me, it’s a story about brothers and sisters.

“You and your sister are very dear to each other. To show your regard, you give each other lovely bouquets of lies.”

Hazel and her brother Ben live in a town where fae and humans live on…not exactly friendly terms, but those who are born and raised in Fairfold are relatively safe (unlike the tourists who often visit it, many of which end up missing or dead).
When they were kids, Hazel had dreamed of being a knight, and she’d become one, hunting “bad” faeries with the help of Ben’s magic. Until things became too scary and dangerous and they’d stopped. That’s when they began keeping secrets from each other.

Sparing another person is a tricky thing. It’s easy to think you’re succeeding when you’re failing spectacularly.

Hazel makes a deal with the faeries and that changes the way she goes on with her life.

She seemed to be running toward trouble, leaving no stone unturned, no boy unkissed, no crush abandoned, and no bad idea unembraced.

She and Ben are still very close but everything is different now.

Flirting didn’t mean anything to her.[…] While she was flirting, Ben was falling in love for the first time.

But one of the things they still have in common is their love for the faerie prince who sleeps in the forest, in a glass coffin, to whom they have told their secrets for many years, but who has never woken in…decades? Centuries? (I’m not entirely sure about the timing in this.)

They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faeries and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. […] They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh. […] It wasn’t like it was real. It wasn’t like he could love them back. It wasn’t he’d ever have to choose.

Except now he’d woken. That changed everything.

His awakening has moved things and there’s a monster in town that they have to defeat, with the help of Jack (Ben’s best friend and a changeling) and the faerie prince himself, who is very much involved in this whole deal.

This is a very folklore-heavy book, but it doesn’t feel heavy at all. There’s a lot of myths mentioned and interwoven in the plot, but they’re all explained (in a very nice and non-boring way – I always lose my focus right away whenever a story is told within another story, but that never happened once in this book). Furthermore, if you grew up in an English-speaking country and/or have read a lot of YA fantasy, you might be familiar with some of these already. I personally was only familiar with this one I’m about to quote and let me tell you, I got tears in my eyes because this myth is told in my favorite German poem (Der Erlkönig) and to see it mentioned in a YA book made my day.

‘But Alderking has a more sinister meaning, too. Perhaps you’ve heard this before:

“Mein Vater, mein Vater,
Jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!”’

The other myths that I actually didn’t know anything about (we don’t really study northern/Anglo-Saxon mythology in Italy -faeries and such are completely out of our lore) were extremely interesting and told in such a way that made me want to find out more about them for the first time since I started reading fantasy.

Another element that I loved in this book was the romance. Don’t let the synopsis fool you, there’s no love-triangle in this (at least I don’t see it as such). This is also a really good example of how to include more diversity in fantasy. A character just happens to be gay, and instead of being only defined by his sexual orientation, that’s just part of who he is.
Let me just add that the whole gender-role-reversal was amazingly done. Hazel was the one who wanted to be a knight and there is no shame in that. That didn’t make her masculine-looking or other stereotypes like that. Not to say that she couldn’t have been masculine-looking, but that would have really been a little bit too stereotypical and frankly we can all do without that. At the same time, Ben wasn’t just uselessly waiting for his sister to save him, and even if he wasn’t the knight, he helped fight the faeries with his magic, and saved the day at times when physical force wasn’t going to be of much help.

As I was saying, the romance. It felt refreshing in a way. There’s a lot of kissing and talking about kissing -kissing for fun, kissing because you’re scared, because you don’t know what else to do at a party, because the boy you want to kiss is the sleeping faerie prince inside the glass coffin that won’t break. If you judge Hazel for the way she acts I will personally fight you.

When actual romance (and not just random kisses) develops, it is so sweet and -combined with the amazing writing- it makes me want to reread parts of this book right away because they were just too good.

“When I heard your voice that night, I recognized it instantly. It’s a voice I know better than my own. […] You know, it nearly drove me mad to listen to so many voices, a cacophony of sound, of words I didn’t know piling up, of time slipping in skips and jumps. And then you, speaking to me-to me. I started to know the length of a day in the interval between your visits.

While reading this book, I couldn’t help often being reminded of The Raven Cycle. There are some parallels – the town where magic stuff happens, the kiss-talk – but this book is also more…grounded? I adore TRC with all my being but the actual fantastic elements can be confusing at times, just because they’re not explained, whereas with this one everything is explained and it leads back to a myth.

There are no loose ends (it’s a real standalone) and I found the ending very satisfying and I would recommend this book to everyone ☺

Review: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

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★★★★

Wow. This was so incredibly cute and heartwarming, and it’s definitely a new favorite of mine.

I keep asking for signs. And here she is. Someone who prays to a neon Virgin Mary and lives her whole life in all-caps and thinks God and my happiness go together just fine.

Brandon lives in a very religious family, to which he came out as gay not long ago. They didn’t take it well, bringing their priest into it and all, but allow him to go on a six-weeks road trip with his friend Bec, in the hopes that he…becomes straight and falls in love with her, I guess. This road trip will connect all the locations of the conventions of Castaway Planet, a show Brandon is huge fan of.

Little does his family know that Abel, co-host of the most famous Castaway Planet vlog channel together with Brandon and very openly gay, will go on the road trip with them.
They have one purpose besides meeting the Castaway Planet actors at the conventions: prove the Cadsim (Cadmus+Sim, protagonists of the show) crazy fangirl shippers wrong by asking the actors and creators of the show whether something happened or not between Cadmus and Sim in the season finale, because it obviously can’t have happened, despite what every piece of Cadsim fanfiction says. I mean, Sim is a freaking android, so there’s no way. No way.
Fangirls go a bit beyond Cadsim shipping though, and Brandon and Abel will have to deal with them in a different way.

There are so many themes within these 250 pages.

First off, the fandom and fanfic themes are huge and interwoven in the narrative, a bit similarly (but even more so) to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. If you are or have ever been an active member of any fandom, this element alone will appeal to you.

“When I give the world my characters, it’s because I don’t want to keep them for myself. You don’t like what I made them do? Fucking tell me I’m wrong! Rewrite the story. Throw in a new plot twist. Make up your own ending.”

Second, is obviously the romance. There’s not much I can say without spoiling it, but know it’s just adorable.

I want to make a sweater out of this week and wrap myself up in it until it falls apart.

Last but not least is the religion. I wouldn’t say that Brandon is struggling with internalized homophobia because he never thinks his feelings are wrong, but throughout the story he remembers what Father Mike told him or he imagines what he would say. Horrible things that I don’t even want to repeat here, coated with a facade of understanding and “God loves you”.

…I glance past the rides and snack stands to where the blond stone wall of the church is, but I can’t let my eyes linger there either. It’s like looking at a house you don’t live in anymore. You wish you could go in again, but strangers live there now and you aren’t welcome, and it wouldn’t be the same anyway.

The religious element isn’t too heavy and, as an atheist, its presence didn’t bother me. What bothered me were Brandon’s family’s hateful words – don’t get me wrong, they’re not the worst family I’ve ever read about, but for some reason this made me legit angry-cry even more while reading their words.

Despite the last few things I wrote about, this is a very fun and overall lighthearted novel. I really have no idea why I haven’t heard about it before my friend read it and recommended it to me, because it seems like it should be on everyone’s bookshelves.

#T5W: 2017 Debuts You Are Excited For

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

January 11th: 2017 Debuts You Are Excited For
–There is already a ton of hype for well established authors, but here is an opportunity to discuss some debut (new) authors and showcase their books. There are plenty of debut author challenges and lists you can find if you are having trouble with this one 🙂

 

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

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Release date: May 16th 2017

Goodreads synopsis:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

This is by far the debut I’m most excited for. In case the blurb isn’t clear enough, let me tell you: this is exactly what it sounds, which is, a love triangle planned by a secret organization, in which the two Love Interests fall for each other instead of for the girl. Sounds amazing, right? I’ve been trying to get my hands on an ARC but I’ve missed my chance when it was on edelweiss some weeks ago and I’m so sad. I really hope to somehow put my hands on this baby before release date because I really can’t wait until May.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Release date: January 31st 2017

Goodreads synopsis:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

This book is one I’ve heard so much about that honestly the hype has almost turned into anxiety. It sounds awesome, but for some reason it looks like one of those books that you either love infinitely or you just can’t get into.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

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Release date: February 28th 2017

Goodreads synopsis:

If you want something done right….

When the ruthless Pirate King learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows that there’s only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the enemy ship. After all, who’s going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell?

Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it’s down to a battle of wits and will… Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

Pirate stories are so cool, and yet I haven’t really read many. For some reason they seem to be pretty rare in the YA genre, but I’m really excited to see more coming out, and this debut sounds very intriguing. (Also, yay for female pirate!)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Release date: February 28th 2017

Goodreads synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

I really want to read more books based on events and issues of the real world (even though fantasy is my favorite genre). This book sounds like an important one, and I’ve heard so much about it already that I’m really excited for it to finally come out.

Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields

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Release date: January 10th 2017

Goodreads synopsis:

A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like– a poison kiss– and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard.

Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya a poison maiden is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

This is the only one of this list of books that is already out. It sounds like a really classic YA fantasy and while I think I should wait to be in the right mood for it (I’ve been in a weird let’s read something different than I usually read mood lately, I don’t know why), I’m excited to eventually get to it.

#T5W: 2017 Goals

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! I’ve been a bit absent on the blog (the holidays do that to me), but hopefully now I’ll get back on track. Let’s start with the first Top 5 Wednesday of the year.

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

2017 Goals:
–These do not need to be reading goals specifically, they can be any goals you want to talk about. Reading goals, blog/channel/instagram goals, personal goals…anything!

So here are some of my goals, in no particular order:

  • Keep cultivating meaningful online friendships: when I started finally writing reviews, first only on goodreads and finally on my own blog, I was certainly hoping to find like-minded people to share opinions with. What I didn’t believe was possible was finding true friends, especially within just a couple of months of being an active goodreads user. So I hope this trend will continue ♥
  • Be more supportive: this is both in general and on the bookish community. I really want to help others without expecting anything back, and that’s something I only managed to start doing this past year.

    what terrifies me most is how we
    foam at the mouth with envy
    when others succeed
    but sigh in relief
    when they are failing

    our struggle to
    celebrate each other is
    what’s proven most difficult
    in being human

    Rupi Kaur, from milk and honey

  • Read outside of my comfort zone. I am a Fantasy girl and I don’t want that to completely change, but I also want to find new genres and formats (for example I just read milk and honey and it was great).
  • Find new things that I enjoy doing. In the past few months I’ve found a couple of things that for many reasons I’d never tried (like writing), and I hope I can continue finding more.
  • Be better and more consistent with blogging…but I feel like we’re all on the same boat 😛

I’d love to hear your guys’ goals!