Bookish Facts

Bookish Fact #2: My first genre of choice was fantasy.

I rarely read fantasy nowadays; however, that’s pretty much all I read during my pre-teen/teenage years. The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce was the first series I picked for myself without any influence from family and friends. Kristen Britain’s Green Rider is the first book I stayed up all night to finish (it was not the last night of sleep lost to a good story). I loved fantasy.

I some how lost my love for the drama as I moved through my 20s and 30s. I’m actually ok with this change but I am beyond happy reading my current mix of nonfiction, historical fiction, and mystery.

I have held on to my favorites though, and I will find myself picking them back up when I need a read that feels like an old friend. My copies may be worn but they are well loved!

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What genre got you into reading? Which fantasy books are your favorites? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

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The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale is set in the 1300s in the northern forests of the Land of Rus’. Our main character, Vasilisa, or Vasya, is a gifted girl who must fight to save her father’s land from being destroyed by the evil spirit, Bear. Vasya struggles to find her place in a world where women have set tasks while her people attempt to find a balance between old and new beliefs.

I have strong conflicting thoughts about The Bear and the Nightingale. The aspects I enjoyed had me finishing the book over a weekend, but the aspects I disliked have left me reluctant to recommend it.

Let’s start with the things I liked. I adored the relationship between Dunya and Vasya. It was so kind, understanding, and nurturing. I found myself smiling while reading of Dunya doing her best to ‘tame’ the young Vasya, and failing miserably. I also loved the relationships between the siblings, especially between Vasya and Alyosha. The setting was fantastic. Arden’s prose had me immersed in the winter woods from the first word. I could smell the mead, feel the warmth of the fire, hear the faint crunch of snow underfoot, and embrace the struggle of the harvest. She kept me yearning for more information as each of the old world spirits emerged on the page. And Morozco…he was the main character that kept me reading. Just the complexity of his existence and the depth of his secrets are enough to carry the whole story. I wanted to know the details of his thoughts, his plans, his powers.

After that you’re probably wondering why I didn’t love The Bear and the Nightingale. Well, Iwould have preferred the book to be a standalone instead of the first in the series, which would have allowed for more questions to be answered by the end. I will note the pacing was very well done for a debut novel, though there were moments, such as the final battle, where I longed for more detail. And Arden is definitely able to provide unique and detailed characters. But still, I couldn’t commit to loving this story.

There are two reasons for this. First, I did not like how Christianity was handled. I liked how the village people mixed their old beliefs with their new religion. I understood the priest’s drive to rid the village of the old ways. However, I did not like how the religion was portrayed. At all. And this isn’t because I am a Christian. It was because the portrayal was only negative. All priests were political, power hungry people. Konstantin was a vain, cruel, selfcentered man who manipulated his ‘flock’ for personal entertainment. I know the religion was quite different in the 1300s but it only focuses on the need to fear God with not a single positive attribute of the faith shared. Honestly, the only time the church was painted in a remotely positive light was through Sasha’s eyes. I could make myself get past this if it wasn’t for the second point.

Second, I despised Anna. Sure we shouldn’t like the evil stepmother, but I despised EVERYTHING about her. From the madness, the religious fervor, the cruelty towards her stepdaughter, and the recurring issue of marital rape; she didn’t have one single redeeming trait. And I was relieved **SPOILER** when she finally died. The marital rape was unnerving. I get that it was part of the time and culture, but it was still hard to read. However, I couldn’t bring myself to even pity Anna because she was so horrid. She was too one-sided. The lack of empathy I felt for her made it hard to read, and I wished she was more developed. (And I admit to having a hard time reading the rape and ‘women’s role’ scenes)

Will I continue with the series? I want to say yes because I am intrigued by Morozco. And because I enjoyed how hauntingly dark The Bear and the Nightingale is. Still, I don’t see myself clamoring to pick up the next book. I do however look forward to Arden’s development as a writer. I find her background in history and cultures interesting and I think her writing, and story telling, will just continue to improve as time passes.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Lindsay

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

Sorry for the brief review hiatus everyone. I’ve been a little under the weather lately, which means much more reading and tv watching than reviewing. Anyways, I first heard about My Lady Jane from a number of BookTubers that I follow, and decided to give it a go for a couple of reasons: 1. historical fiction is a genere that is not often discussed on BookTube and I was surprised to see this novel keep popping up, and 2. everyone kept talking about how funny it was and I can’t say no to a good laugh!

So, a brief synopsis. My Lady Jane presents a very loosely historic recount of the life of Jane Grey and her limited term (9 days) as the queen of England. It’s definitely loosely historical as there is a magical element that definitely makes this a fantasy read as well. But don’t worry; the authors warn readers with a disclaimer on the very first page. 

Don’t let the fantasy element discourage you from reading My Lady Jane. The authors do a wonderful job of creating a detailed and engaging setting which left me feeling as I was running for my life along with the characters. The adventure is fast paced, but the love story of Jane and G progressed at a wonderfully realistic pace. No insta-love here folks, which I’m sure we will all find refreshing. And I absolutely adored our heroine, Jane. She is complicated, stubborn, passionate, awkward, and driven by her love of books. She is unapologetically herself! 

Now, I’ll reiterate that My Lady Jane is not historically accurate, but you are made aware of this point through out the story thanks to hilarious interjections by the narrator/authors. This gives it a fireside story telling atmosphere that more serious readers may not appreciate. I do also have to point out that many of the secondary characters and aspects of the plot felt a little under developed. This was  definitely evident when looking at G’s hobbies and the whole last quarter of the book. I would like to provide specific details, but I know y’all don’t like spoilers.

I heard a number of reviews describing this novel as hilarious. Did I find it hilarious? Yeah, it was pretty darn funny and had a delightfully honest tone that embraced teenage sexual awkwardness without all the tedious angst that is typical of young adult literature. It is fun, and very different which is why I recommend it for readers, especially those in need of a break from serious topics and prose.

Have you read My Lady Jane? Let me know what you thought!

Lindsay

Steal the Dragon

Steal the Dragon

by Patricia Briggs

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson series and the Alpha and Omega novels…

Slave. Swordwielder. Spy. Some girls have all the luck…

When Rialla was young, slave traders from Darran ambushed her clan, killing all the men and enslaving the women and children. For years, Rialla lived in bondage, until she escaped and fled to the mercenary nation of Sianim.

Now she can strike back at her former masters. A lord in Darran seeks to outlaw slavery—but there are plots to kill him before he can. Rialla is chosen by the Spymaster of Sianim to prevent the murder—and is plunged into a world of deadly magic…

Last week I decided to reread some of my favorite fantasy novels, and I have a story to share about Steal the Dragon. I first found the novel perusing the fantasy shelves during a family trip to Hastings (if you’ve never heard of Hastings…google it! they are in Texas and were epic!) This was the version I picked up.

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I think I was a freshman in highschool and who knows how many times I read it during those four years. About ten years later, my copy of the book was gone and I couldn’t remember the title or the author. But I needed to read it and I remembered the cover art. All I can say is thank goodness for Google! I have my own copy once again!

I’m not going to provide a summary because the book synopsis covers everything. I LOVE STEAL THE DRAGON! I continue to reread it, and somehow, it’s as if I am reading it for the first time each time! I love how Rialla stubbornly makes herself overcome the torment of her past.  And she is one kick butt heroine! I enjoy how kind and funny Tris is, and how he is the only one who is forward and open with Ria. And their relationship? Still one of my favorites after all this time because it is a solid relationship between two strong characters. The magic system is different but reads organically. And I enjoy how the plot unfolds.  

Technically, Steal the Dragon is the second book in Briggs’ Sianim series, but I prefer to read it as a stand alone. Because, my main complaint is that the rest of the books in this series are not near as good as this one! I also have to note that certain large story points, such as the end of slavery and the prophet, are left open at the end of the story. This doesn’t bother me because the story is actually about Ria’s journey, but many other reviewers have mentioned it. 

This review is short and to the point because I am having a hard time not fangirling over here. Seriously, I could gush about Steal the Dragon for hours! of course I recommend it! Anyone else a Patricia Briggs fan? Have you read Steal the Dragon?

Lindsay

The Realms of the Gods

The Realms of the Gods

by Tamora Pierce

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Daine and Numair are suddenly swept into the otherworldly home of the gods
after facing certain death on earth. But they cannot remain there for long,
because they are both needed to help fight the desparate battle raging in
Tortall. And so they undertake the dangerous journey back to earth…a journey
that will teach them a great deal about life and about each other, a journey
that will lead to the startling culmination of the conflicts, both mortal and
immortal, that have long plagued Tortall.

 Big changes are coming to Sand Between the Pages in the next week so I thought it was the perfect time to review a couple of my favorites. 

The Realms of the Gods is the fourth book in Tamora Pierce’s Immortals series. You can also check out my reviews of the first three novels: Wild Magic, Wolf-Speaker, and Emperor Mage. 

Stormwing Ozone has declared war on Tortall, leaving Daine, Numair, and their allies on the defensive. Daine and her mentor are pulled in to the realms of the gods by Daine’s parents during a losing battle. It is here Daine learns the goddess of chaos is backing Ozone’s fight. The pair must make it across the realms of the gods to the dragonlands and gain passage back home if they have any hope of stopping this war. 

Realms of the Gods is the exciting end of one of my all time favorite series! We are introduced to a new cast of characters (my favorite are the Darkings) and get to watch the development of old favorites. The settings are vibrant and colorfully written, and I like how we are just dropped with Diane in to this new world. And DRAGONS! The interactions with the adult dragons is the best but I won’t be sharing any more to avoid spoilers. As for the budding relationship between Daine and Numair….FINALLY! I shipped this before I even knew what a ship was. The two are perfect for each other and I love how Pierce gives them a very adult outlook on their future. This is rarely seen in young adult books, much less a book designed for preteens. 

I have a slight complaint about the pacing. I feel like readers are rushed through the majority of the book because we practically jump from setting to setting during the journey to the dragonlands. And then the pacing comes to a screeching halt when we come to that final battle. I just felt the novel should have been longer to even out the pacing. The only weird thing is the age difference between Daine and Numair. She is supposed to be sixteen years old while he is in his mid-thirties. Normally, big age differences do not bother me but this series is aimed at preteens and that made it a little awkward. I’ve always felt that Daine should have been a few years older than she is, which would have made the age gap less drastic. Don’t get me wrong; I adore the relationship between Numair and Daine! The age difference just made it a tad awkward is all. 

This is still a favorite series of mine, and I may end up rereading it, again, before the end of the year. I adore the world Pierce has built and I still connect with Daine years later. What is your favorite Tamora Pierce novel?

Lindsay

Goose Girl

Goose Girl

by Shannon Hale

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Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt’s guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani’s journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her.

Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.

Goose Girl is a pre-teen high fiction story about how a young princess survives a mutiny and discovers her own hidden strengths. High fantasy was my favorite genre as a pre-teen. There is just something about magic and adventure that helps you get through that awkward stage of life, and Goose Girl is perfect as it details Princess Ani’s coming-of-age journey. It is a well-constructed debut novel; Hale provides extensive main character and plot development while also delivering all those ‘how to live’ morals every young reader needs.

I like Ani. She wasn’t the typical independent, strong female or the head-over-heels-in-instalove females that currently dominate the pre-teen and young adult genres. Ani is socially awkward and insecure. She gets along better with animals than humans. She is not physically strong. And it is because of all this that we get to join a wonderfully relatable character on her journey of self-discovery. I listened to the audio book which was interesting as the novel is read by a number of actors. This made the story read like a movie, and I wish all audio books were done in the same format.

The one big negative I have is Ani’s magical ability. I don’t want to provide any spoilers so I will just say that I felt it needed to be tied in better. The magic its self was fine; I just found it difficult to believe she was the only one with this ability. Plus, the reactions to her powers at the end just did not feel believable. That’s all I am going to say about that!

PARENTAL ALERT: Goose Girl is written for a younger audience but there are a few graphic scenes that may be a bit much for some readers. This includes suggestions towards rape (no actual attempts or the physical act) and animal cruelty. You may want to read it first before recommending it to younger readers.

Goose Girl is a great story for readers of all ages as it reminds that we don’t need external approval to feel special and strong. Pick it up if you’re in the mood for an interesting fantasy and let me know if you have any fantasy recommendations!

Lindsay

The Siren

The Siren

by Kiera Cass

The Siren

Love is a risk worth taking.

Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again.

Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny…and Kahlen doesn’t want to.

Falling in love with a human breaks all the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart.

The Siren is a young adult fantasy romance by Kiera Cass, best known for her Selection series. It was originally released in 2009 and has sense been edited and rereleased in 2016. The story follows Kahlen, a young woman who is dedicated to the Ocean as a siren for 100 years. Serve 100 years and get a brand new life at the end; disobey the rules and the Ocean takes all life away. Kahlen has spent her first 80 years following all the rules, until she meets her one true love.

Ok, ok. Before you start rolling your eyes, because I definitely did when writing that last line, just know that The Siren is definitely a YA romance. I was initially drawn to the book because, well sirens! No one writes about sirens! I managed to get the book for free on Audible, which was good because I honestly would have been irked if I paid full price for it. The Siren was ok, but just ok. 

I am going to start with some good points. I actually enjoyed the relationship between Kahlen and Akinli. Sure, it contained a healthy dose of the Insta-love that has become staple for Young Adult, but I like the relationship Cass develops. It was very grounded, despite the fact that Kahlen is a siren and doesn’t speak. Cass focuses on the simple yet wonderful aspects of a solid relationship built on friendship: days spent doing nothing, dancing, inside jokes, and happiness. I love how Akinli sees past Kahlen’s stunning exterior beauty and sees all the things that makes her who she is. It’s a sweet relationship. 

I also enjoyed the relationship Kahlen has with her sisters. Sirens are rarely covered in modern fiction, so this was a nice change. The life they share is awesome. I like how they are from all different walks of life, how they have each other’s back no matter what, and how they spend their years learning everything they can. Plus, Cass’ take on the Ocean was awesome!

Now time for the negative. EVERYTHING soured in the story as Kahlen’s heartbreak consumed her. I can hear your arguments: Lindsay, heartbreak does that to the best of us and it was a pretty realistic representation. True points, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read and this is the main reason I have stepped away from YA. The Ocean became overwhelming, her sisters seemed so naggy, and Kahlen was all over the place. It just took the wind out my sails because The Siren really isn’t a bad story. Just, blah; whiny teen romance. Plus, I wish there was more siren lore and history.

The Siren was a good book. It’s the perfect choice to get you in the mood for the beach and it should be a pretty quick read. Have you read The Siren? Are you a Kiera Cass fan? 

Lindsay

What to Expect: APRIL

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Spring has officially arrived in Florida!

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It is still a tad too cold (for me) to hit the beach, but I have enjoyed sitting outside and soaking up some sun while reading!

I have decided April will be dedicated to sharing all my back logged reviews. Those who follow me on Goodreads may have noticed that my ‘To Be Reviewed’ list keeps getting longer and longer. These books will be covered this month, so you can expect mysteries, fantasy, and young adult!

I also plan on sharing a few outdoor reading pictures. Please share your own and let me know what book you’re reading this month!

Happy reading!

Lindsay

What to Expect

February

Good morning fellow readers and happy February! It’s time for the monthly ‘What to Expect’ post.

So what type of book reviews can you look forward to in February? I honestly have no idea because I’ve been a genre jumper for the last couple of weeks. For those who have never experienced this frustrating situation it goes sorta like this…

What would I like to read today?

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A sci-fi book? Oh yeah! I love sci-fi! But maybe not right now…

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A romance novel? Yuck. But it is the month of love so maybe I should….

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Oh, how about a YA?! (nose crinkles in thought) Maybe….

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Fantasy? Hmmmm….

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A mystery? Yeah! A good mystery! Eh, I don’t know…

It’s INFURIATING! I just want to sit down with a good book that can keep my attention for more than a few minutes! So we all get to live on the edge this month, wondering what review will turn up next.

The one thing you can be certain of is I will be participating in my friend Liz’s #nerdslove challenge on Instagram. Check out my daily posts here and be sure to check out Liz’s account for the topic list and her nerdy posts.

That’s about it from me. What books do you have in the works this month? Anyone binge reading romance books? Anyone reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to prep for the movie release? Let me know!

Lindsay out!

Hello Old Friend…

We have so many favorites. We have favorite TV shows, favorite movies, and favorite shoes. We have favorite classic cars, favorite candles, favorite food, and favorite people. And of course we have favorite books!

You know the books I speak of! The novels that you find yourself randomly thinking about on a quiet day. Books with worn edges because you’ve read them over and over. Battered paperbacks and hardbacks with a prestigious spot on that first book shelf. Yep, I’m pretty sure all readers have a few favorite books. And I’m sure it’s pretty obvious to all of you that I read a variety of genres. Luckily, I tend to have a favorite book in each that I come back to on a regular basis, and you can check out the full list on my Favorites Page.

January always finds me knee deep in a stack of books about wintery survival, but for some reason I have been thinking about all my go-to novels this year. Typically, I reread my favorite survival stories, Last of the Breed and Julie of the Wolves, during this month, but last week I was on a western kick. So, I reread and shared Milo Talon. This wasn’t a big difference since most westerns involve a good bit of surviving. But last night I was hit with the urge to reread my favorite fantasy series, The Green Rider books by Kristen Britain, as well as my sci-fi fav, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles! I am going blame these sudden urges on watching MTV’s Shannara Chronicles and getting the last book in the Lunar Chronicles, Winter, for Christmas.

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But what keeps us coming back to these books? You can only experience the excitement of the first read once, so that’s not it. Sure we reread books we find well written and enjoyable, but its more than that. Otherwise we would find ourselves rereading all the time because I think that most of the books I review are well written and enjoyable. So, I asked Facebook and the general consensus is rereading a favorite book is like meeting up with old friends.

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We connect with the characters! We are invested, involved, and excited about their stories. We discover some small detail we miss previously each time we pick the book back up. And each time we remember how we felt the first time we followed the character into space, the first time we battled through a Siberian winter with them, and the first time we watched them use magic to save a kingdom. All those reasons are why we keep coming back to our favorites.

Sure, my shelves are over flowing with books that need to be read. But sometimes its ok to say “hello old friend,” and pull that battered book down for a needed reunion curled up on the couch.

What books are your favorites? Do you plan to spend your weekend rereading?

Lindsay