Wednesday, October 31, 2018

ARC Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Pages: 336
Add to Goodreads

//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honor they could hope for...and the most cruel.

But this year, there's a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she's made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after--the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king's interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. But Lei isn't content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable--she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.

Girls of Paper and Fire was one of my most anticipated reads of the year! I got my copy way back in April and immediately dug in, but I quickly realized that it was not going to work for me. While there are some really interesting aspects of this book, there were just too many issues for it to be really enjoyable.

Lei is the protagonist of this story and she's from the lowest caste in her world, which is unfortunate to her since it makes her easy pickings for the king's Paper Girls. Paper Girls, in case you're wondering, are concubines and this book does not shy away from the sexual aspects.

While I'm open to sexual content when done tastefully (even in YA) I was honestly shocked by the content. There was sexual assault and rape constantly throughout this book. In my original thoughts I compared this to The Handmaid's Tale, but while The Handmaid's Tale had a point to make, I'm not sure what the point is here. Maybe I'm just missing something. In any case, there were no content warnings on the ARC, but maybe there will be on the finished copy. There definitely should.

Lei herself is an interesting character, but I didn't find her to be particularly compelling or interesting. Wren was honestly more interesting and I'd love to have known more about her! Their romance was sweet and one of my favorite parts of the book. I really wish there had been a way to write this story but in a different setting with different circumstances.

The thing I really did appreciate about Girls of Paper and Fire was the mythology and worldbuilding. I don't know much about Malaysian culture, but Natasha Ngan definitely painted a vivid picture! The demon and human races were fascinating in their diversity. The writing was lush and I couldn't help but keep turning pages despite my issues.

I think a lot of people will enjoy this book, especially if they understand what the content is before they start reading. I don't particularly like reading about sexual assault, so that put a huge damper on my enjoyment. I will definitely be giving this author another try based on her world building and writing, though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday #211: Awesome pumpkins

Today's Topic: 
Top Five Best Halloween Pumpkins

Today was a difficult topic (Halloween freebie) because I've already talked about Halloween/Horror books and movies multiple times this year. I decided to go with something totally different and share ten favorite pumpkins (decorations and carvings) I've seen this year. Happy Halloween!

Star Wars - found on Reddit

Golden Snitch - found in the Room of Requirement

Disney Villains - found in a closed Disney FB group

Dumbledore - unknown source

Thanos - found on Reddit

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Weekly Recap: 10/21 - 10/27


Hi everyone! This week was insane with even more puppy nonsense. My tiniest puppy got a bug bite, which wouldn't be a big deal in itself. BUT it was where he could reach it on his neck and we've spent the last several days trying as hard as we can to keep him from tearing his skin up. Good times! As a result, I've had an embarrassing reading week. I've started three different audiobooks and changed my mind, instead listening to true crime podcasts. I need to find something to read! I'm also making very slow progress on Wicked Saints, which I'm loving, but having a hard time getting time to read. In exciting news, my best friend's wedding is coming up fast! I've been busy planning her bachelorette party and I cannot wait!


Nothing new this week!


Nothing read this week!


The topic was scariest villains for Top Ten Tuesday
Wednesday book review of Escaping From Houdini
On Thursday I went back Down the TBR Hole
Friday Fraterfest reviews of four horror books
On Saturday I did the Halloween Creatures book tag



We're linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Saturday, October 27, 2018

Halloween Creatures 2.0 Book Tag

Hi everyone! I've seen this tag around on several blogs and I had to do some digging, but I found the source at Keep Reading Forward. No, I was not tagged by anyone, thank you very much. I do what I want when it comes to tags because they're too much fun to pass up! If you're reading this and you think it looks awesome, I tag you too! Let's be rebels together!

A Magical Character or Book.

I said in my review of Caraval that it was pure magic and it really is. Everything about Caraval and Legendary can be summed up as magic and I can't wait to read it again!

The Perfect Book to Read at Night.

This is a weird question, but here's my answer. The House is horror, which is best read at night, but it isn't too scary and there's a sweet romance as well!

A Book that Truly Shocked You.

This twist shocked me on so many levels! I didn't see it coming and I really wish I could unread it just so I could read it again for the first time.

A Dark, Evil Character.

The Commandant may be THE most evil character I've ever seen in a book. She's truly awful. Even when I think she's about to redeem herself, she proves me wrong. I can't wait for her death.

A Character that Should Never Have Died.

Harry Potter seems like the only safe series for this question and my answer is Sirius Black. Of all the deaths in the series, his hit me the hardest and I'm still not over it.

A Book that Made You “Hungry” for More.

This series was SO perfect! But it ended with a time jump and I just wanted five more books with all the in-between stuff. I could read about Alyssa and Morpheus forever.

A Character that You Would Protect at All Cost.

Luna Lovegood, hands down. She is so good and pure and I love her so much. She deserves to be protected at all cost, although I'm sure she's perfectly capable of protecting herself. 

A Book that Sucked the Life Out of You.

Go ahead and hate me, but I just could not with this book. I tried reading it multiple times over multiple months. I switched between the ARC, the finished copy, and the audiobook. I finally gave up 20% away from completion.

A Book that Still Haunts You.

Wintersong is another magical book that truly does still haunt me. Sometimes I think about Liesl and the Goblin King and I want to dive right back in. Part of it may be because I refuse to acknowledge that book two exits.

A Book that Really Scared You.

I know I talk about this book way too much, but seriously. If you enjoy horror you NEED to read this book! It's one of the very few YA horror books that legitimately freaked me out.

A Character You Have a Bone to Pick With.

I have a bone to pick with Alina. Mal? Seriously?

A Book You Would Preserve Throughout Time.

I've chosen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because I can't choose Harry Potter for everything. I remember loving this book as a child and I still love it as an adult. It should definitely be preserved for future generations.

A Cover too Scary to Look At.

This HP Lovecraft cover scares the crap out of me, honestly. I've never read anything by Lovecraft, but I have his complete works. This disturbing cover makes me want to read them all ASAP!

Which is your favorite spooky creature?
What is your favorite magical book?
Let me know in the comments!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Fraterfest 2018 Mini Reviews: The Merciless IV, Asylum, Wytches Vol. 1, & Rosemary's Baby

Title: The Merciless IV: Last Rites 
Author: Danielle Vega
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 290
Add to Goodreads
Reviews for book 1 & book 3

The fourth book of the scream-worthy cult series The Merciless combines Stephen King level terror with true crime stories like the Amanda Knox case.

The ropes tighten on Berkley Hubbard's wrists. Blood drips down her fingers and lands with a smack on the cold floor of the church basement. She's trapped, bound, and petrified by fear. A knife punctures her fragile skin as Berkley's captors search for the mark of the devil on her body. They say they want to save her--drive the devil away and cleanse her soul--but will she make it out alive?

When Berkley arrived in Italy a week ago, the last thing she expected was that she'd end up fighting for her life. After spending six months at the Institute, confined to a room with the dangerous-yet-alluring Sofia Flores, Berkley was certain that a vacation in Italy with her two best friends would be the perfect getaway. But Berkley is hiding a terrible secret, one that threatens to undo everything. As she's forced to face her wicked past, she learns that the devil is always watching, and no one is coming to save her. 

The Merciless series is one of my absolute favorite horror series with book 1 being my favorite, followed by 3, now book 4, and finally 2. These books are always good for a bit of anxiety filled horror reading, but this book was quite a bit different than the others in the series and not in a bad way.

The Merciless IV follows Berkley to Italy on a vacation with her best friends. She has recently been released from a mental institution and is just looking for a fun summer trip. Unfortunately, her "friends" think she's crazy and handle her with kid gloves. This becomes even more unfortunate when it means her friends don't believe her when she tells them things are going wrong.

This book took quite awhile to get to the horror, but I did enjoy following Berkley around Italy and her summer fling boyfriend was definitely swoon-worthy. Honestly I would read a whole book about their summer romance. There was a twist I did NOT see coming, which is exactly what I've come to expect from Vega. I know this is called Last Rites, but I really hope there are more Merciless books to come!

Title: Asylum (Afterlife Investigations #1)
Author: Ambrose Ibsen
Publication Date: June 4, 2017
Publisher: Independently Published
Pages: 232
Add to Goodreads

What lurks within Chaythe Asylum?

College professor Stephen Barlow needs cash. Badly. When a student asks him to head a new campus organization that centers around paranormal research, he puts his skepticism aside and signs on in the hopes of scoring a fat bonus.

Enter Chaythe Asylum—a long-shuttered and controversial institution where patients were allegedly subjected to unethical experiments. Closed in 1989 after a series of grisly murders, Stephen deems the old building as good a place as any to explore the possibility of the supernatural and arranges to take a tour with his students.

But it turns out that the asylum is not as abandoned as it seems. There is something sinister in the building. It has watched and waited for nearly three decades, and when Stephen and his students enter, they find themselves at the center of a nightmare 28 years in the making. 

While gearing up for Fraterfest I was searching for a good, scary ghost story to read and came across Asylum. It's no secret that Grave Encounters is one of my all-time favorite horror movies, so Asylum seemed right up my alley!

Stephen is the protagonist of this story. He's a college professor and a skeptic who takes on a paranormal research student club as a means to a few extra bucks. He agrees to spend an evening exploring Chaythe Asylum, which is rumored to be haunted, and finds more than he bargained for.

Although I really didn't find Asylum to be a very frightening read, the asylum setting was definitely creepy and enjoyable as a Halloween read. I didn't care much for the other characters, but Stephen was interesting and I'd be curious to see what he gets up to in future books. Since the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, I may have to pick it up soon!

Title: Wytches, Volume 1
Author: Scott Snyder 
Publication Date: June 24, 2015
Publisher: Image Comics
Pages: 192
Add to Goodreads

Everything you thought you knew about witches is wrong. They are much darker, and they are much more horrifying. Wytches takes the mythology of witches to a far creepier, bone-chilling place than readers have dared venture before. When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they're hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient...and hungry.

Well this was different. I don't read many comics, but when I do they're in the horror or fantasy genres. I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into Wytches, but I was not disappointed!

This story is not about anything you'd ever think of related to witches. It's about a creepy small town doing creepy small town things and the evil that resides in the woods nearby. When Sailor moves to town with her family and starts behaving weirdly, her parents initially brush her off and realize too late that something very strange is happening.

The art in this graphic novel is dark and creepy and disturbing and exactly what I want in a horror story! I loved the original ideas and I'm extremely disappointed that no others were published in this series. I definitely think it's still worth the read.

Title: Rosemary's Baby
Author: Ira Levin
Publication Date: March 12, 1967
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Pages: 256
Add to Goodreads

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, an ordinary young couple, settle into a New York City apartment, unaware that the elderly neighbors and their bizarre group of friends have taken a disturbing interest in them. But by the time Rosemary discovers the horrifying truth, it may be far too late!

For my last read of Fraterfest, I decided to run a poll between two horror classics and Rosemary's Baby won. I had absolutely no idea what this book was about having somehow remained under a rock for my entire life.

Rosemary's Baby is about Rosemary and her husband Guy who move into a fancy new apartment building despite their friend's protestations. They quickly make friends with an elderly couple next door and shortly after that Rosemary becomes pregnant with the baby she's always wanted. Things become really weird and take a dark, sinister turn.

Like I said, I had no idea what to expect with this one and I was not prepared! This was a whole different level of creepy than I'd thought it would be and I loved how different it was than most horror books. I was terrified, but for different reasons than normal. The ending was absolutely amazing! If you've never read this and are as sheltered as I was about the story, I definitely recommend picking it up this Halloween.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Down the TBR Hole #6

Hi everyone! I'm back again with another edition of my TBR purge. I've made a tiny bit of progress, although I'll admit I've accidentally added a few new books. Whoops!

The Down the TBR Hole meme was started by Lost In a Story and it is the most perfect tool for cleaning off shelves that I've come across. Here's how it works:
  • 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?



Hmm, this one sounds interesting! I actually really enjoyed the one other book I read by this author, which included an MC with OCD and anxiety. This one follows a woman who wonders if anyone would notice if she died in her own house. I think I'm going to have to pick it up soon, actually! VERDICT: KEEP


This is one of the first books I added when it was coming out! The Jewel caught my eye with its great cover and interesting synopsis. While I never did get around to reading it, I think I may keep this on my TBR because it's a dystopian book and, though there were a million being published in 2014, there are far too few now. VERDICT: KEEP


I added this way back when after I discovered that I was obsessed with retellings. This is one I actually have on my physical TBR shelf and have meant to get around to forever. It sounds interesting, but I worry that I may have read and loved too many BatB retellings to fully enjoy this one. I'll still be giving it a chance at some point, though. VERDICT: KEEP


Another dystopia book! But this one is more zombies and less fantasy. Alas, I am sick to death of zombies, even after a few years of not reading about them. There was a time when I found zombie books enjoyable, but that day has passed. I just don't think this one is for me. VERDICT: PASS


I remember when this book was HYPED! Aliens weren't my thing then and they still really aren't my thing now. I've read a lot of reviews for Alienated and it sounds a bit too young for my tastes. I'm just not into it. :/ VERDICT: PASS

This is my worst week yet! I only got rid of 2 of 5 books, but the good news is my TBR is now down to 389!

What have you added or deleted from your TBR lately?
What did you used to enjoy that you're over now?
Let me know in the comments! 
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book Review: Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) 
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Pages: 416
Add to Goodreads

Reviews for book 1 & book 2

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. .

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

I thought Stalking Jack the Ripper was just okay when I read it before publication in 2016. I didn't expect to give the rest of a series a chance, but had a change of heart and ended up really enjoying Hunting Prince Dracula earlier this year. Of course, I had to read Escaping From Houdini and was lucky enough to get an ARC from a friend! I'm not sure what changed for me between the first book and the other two, but the series definitely got better for me.

Escaping From Houdini follows Audrey Rose and Thomas onto a luxury ocean liner on the way to New York and into a world of mystery and magic. There's a new serial killer and a new mystery to solve and, as usual, it's not who you'd expect. I really enjoyed the relationship between Audrey Rose and Thomas in this book. It was interesting to see their relationship a bit more mature and how they withstood their first real tests as a couple.

Speaking of, Mephistopheles was easily my favorite character in Escaping From Houdini! He was mysterious and handsome and a bit swoon-worthy. I loved the way he challenged Audrey Rose and brought out a different side of her. This book does feel like it has a bit of a love triangle, but I found it totally realistic. It isn't uncommon at all for a relationship to be tested by outside forces and I can totally see the temptation of Mephistopheles as the tall, dark, and handsome mysterious stranger. I would love to read an entire book about him!

There are other new important characters here as well. Audrey Rose's cousin Liza was a fun addition to the crew and it was nice to have another woman around. Her relationship with Houdini was fascinating and I would definitely read their book as well! Houdini, surprisingly, isn't a huge presence in this book, but I did enjoy the few times he was on the page. His death-defying acts were particularly fun to read about!

But let's talk murder mystery. While I think I enjoyed the setting of the castle in Hunting Prince Dracula best, this was a close second. I've always had a fear of being stuck on a ship with nowhere to escape and this really played to that fear. It was also very strange that the cruise just went on as usual despite people being killed daily. It just didn't seem very believable. That being said, the murderer just didn't inspire the terror that I'd hoped they would. Their motives were a bit iffy for me and I'm not sure all of their actions made sense. Still, the mystery kept me guessing and I was mildly surprised when the mask came off.

I really enjoyed Escaping From Houdini and I'm glad I continued the series! There are definitely flaws with this book over the previous one, but the carnival and ship setting made it a fun ride anyway. As far as the Stalking Jack the Ripper series goes, this one falls to the middle of the pack. If you enjoyed the first two, this will probably be a good read for you also!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday #210: Scary villains

Today's Topic: 
Top Ten Scariest Villains

Villains!! Today I realized that a lot of my favorite books don't have clear cut villains. I tend to enjoy books with more morally gray characters. Eventually though, I did manage to find ten that I found to be genuinely scary or disturbing. 

Amarantha - A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Dolores Umbridge - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Gilead - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Jack Torrance - The Shining by Stephen King
Keris Veturia - An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

The Nightmare Elf - Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
President Snow - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Other Mother - Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Queen Levana - Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Saruman - The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.