Saturday, December 14, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey

Pages: 323
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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 a book I've been wary of starting for years. I was intrigued by the summary and the fandom but everyone has told me that it's slow and I probably wouldn't like it. The mood struck recently and I decided to go for it, even knowing it would probably take some time to get through. I'm so glad I stuck with it!

Vasilisa lives with her father and siblings in the Russian wilderness. The story begins when she is born and follows her throughout her life. Vasya can see the spirits no one else can - the people say she is a witch. I loved Vasya! I loved how strong and sure of herself she was from a very young age. Although her world is full of misogyny and people set on marrying her off, Vasya never accepts "a woman's lot in life" and forges her own path.

This story is steeped in Russian folklore. Admittedly, I am not well versed on Russian tales, but even I picked up on a few references from other fairy tales. Although this book is indeed slow, I loved all of the mythology throughout. The household spirits and forest spirits were all so interesting and their individual personalities were so much fun to read. The world, while small, is wonderfully built and made me feel like I was there with the family in the harsh Russian winter.

Vasya's life is fascinating, but this 323 page book did take me a couple weeks to get through. I switched from a hardcover to the audiobook once I realized it might take forever. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the story because I definitely did! It wasn't even a particularly heavy book. It was just long and meandering and at times a bit boring.

I am excited to see what happens in book two of this series! I've heard that it's much faster paced and that there may even be a hint of romance. It was certainly set up, so I'm eager to find out. If you're a lover of intricate fairy tales and folklore, this is a book you definitely do not want to miss.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

5 Goodreads recs I actually want to read

Every now and then I browse the Goodreads recommendations pages. Most of the time they're books I know about and know I don't care to read. Sometimes they're books I already have on my physical TBR but haven't added on GR yet. Other times I'll see books I haven't heard of but sound awful. For example, Goodreads is determined that I am obsessed with zombie books for some reason.

Last night I dug through the recommendations tabs and found five new-to-me books that actually sounded really good! I'm hoping to get to some of them in 2020!

When the Earth's rotation slowed to a crawl mankind was plunged into a harsh world of burning hot days and endless, arctic nights. Some fled to the mountains for shelter. Others took to the seas, sailing forever in the perfect gold between the night and the day; a place known as the Seventh Hour.

Liv was raised aboard a ship chasing the Seventh. She's never seen the night, never known true cold, and when a storm destroys her home she’s on land for the first time in her life. She’s alone, surrounded by strangers and perils she couldn’t have imagined in her worst nightmares. Her only chance at survival is Grayson.

He saved her. He’ll protect her. He hates her.

Old grudges run deeper than the sea, and Liv and Gray will have to overcome them together to make it to morning.

To survive the longest night.

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze -- the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years -- collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

At first glance, Phil Pendleton and his son Adam are just an ordinary father and son, no different from any other. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat together overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to set his own bedtimes and eat candy whenever he wants. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined.

What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life.

Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison.

Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

Have you read any of these?
What's the last great Goodreads rec you got? 
Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

2020 Retellings Reading Challenge

Hi everyone! The Retellings Reading Challenge is back for another year and I'm so excited to be doing this all again! Last year the challenge pushed participants to read retellings they may never have discovered and this year we're back with an all new BINGO card full of new prompts!

  • This challenge will run from January 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020.
  • Books must be read and reviewed in 2020. (You don't have to review books to count towards your goal, but you do have to review them if you want them to count as giveaway entries.)
  • Audiobooks, e-books, re-reads, short stories, novellas, and graphic novels all count, and you can read adult, YA, and middle grade books for this challenge.
  • It's also totally fine to use books from this challenge to fulfill other reading challenges and vice versa. 
  • ALL retellings count! 
  • You don't have to be a book blogger to participate! You can link up and track your progress on Goodreads, Instagram, Youtube, or wherever you share books!
  • Sign up below with your post, shelf, etc. and leave a comment letting me know what your personal goal is. 
  • Link up your reviews each quarter on the post provided! (Bookmark this page to make sure you don't miss a link-up!) 

  • Silent Assassin: 1-5 Retellings
  • Warrior Princess: 6-10 Retellings
  • Elemental Witch: 11-15 Retellings
  • High Fae: 16-20 Retellings
  • Fairest of them All: 21-25+ Retellings

  • Each block describes a book or type of retelling. For example, "POC author" means that you can read any retelling written by an author of color to complete that category. "Edgar Allen Poe" means that you can read a retelling of any Poe work. 
  • Getting BINGO (making a line vertically, horizontally, or diagonally on the card) will get you an additional 5 entries in the end of year giveaway!
  • If you get a Bingo blackout (filling the entire card), you get an additional 10 entries in the giveaway! 
  • Right click to save the card to your computer!

  • The Goodreads group can be located HERE!
  • We will have monthly group reads and suggestion threads to help complete bingo categories. 

  • Link-ups will be posted here at the beginning of each quarter for you to share your reviews!
  • Come back throughout the quarter to link up your reviews. 
  • Each linked review will count as an extra extra entry in the end of year giveaway.
  • Giveaway will be posted in December 2020. 

  • This year we will have an email list to send out reminders and updates!
  • Emails will only be sent once a quarter with updates and reminders to link up.
  • Sign up HERE if you don't want to miss any link-ups or giveaways!


  • Enter your information in the link-up below (Your name @ Your blog name).
  • Make a post with your goals and be sure to link back to this post!
  • Join the Goodreads group!
  • Tweet about the reading challenge using #2020RetellingsChallenge.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Weekly Recap: 12/1 - 12/7


Hi everyone! This week I finally took a couple days off of candle making to do a bit of nothing. I desperately needed some mental health days and they were absolutely wonderful! Now it's back to full time madness as I get the rest of my current orders ready to go and prepare for my family to visit at Christmas. We're trying to get the guest room redecorated in time so we'll see how it goes! This week I also finished City of Brass and, hurray, I have a new obsession. So, yay me! I have to collect all the editions. Anyone else have a serious problem with needing to collect your faves?





On Monday I posted the final Retellings Challenge update
On Thursday I asked how long is too long between books?
Saturday book review of The City of Brass


I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Saturday, December 7, 2019

Book Review: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Title: The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1)
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Publication Date: November 14, 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pages: 533
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Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for...

I have avoided The City of Brass for two years for one simple reason: it is massive. The book itself was intimidating at over 500 pages and the audiobook was approximately one million hours long. But recently the mood struck and I decided to finally give it a chance. Within a few hours of audio I was absolutely hooked and had to switch to the ebook halfway through because I just couldn't wait to see what happened! Suffice it to say I'm glad I took the chance.

Nahri lives in Cairo making a living through a combination of healing and stealing. At one healing ceremony she accidentally summons a djinn and is swept away on an adventure to a world she'd thought was only fantasy. Much of this story is about Nahri and her journey to Daevabad with Dara. There is a lot of walking and talking and I never grew bored of it because I loved every moment I got to spend with these two characters! Nahri is tough and smart and jaded and Dara is a mess of a warrior. I loved them so much, together and separately!

Of course, there are many more characters I could talk about, but my favorite (obviously) was Alizayd. He starts out as a supremely unlikable character who immediately dislikes Nahri, who distrusts him (as she should), but eventually he grew on me and their relationship was one of the most interesting parts of this story.

The world of The City of Brass was as amazing as its characters! Daevabad was fascinating and, while I never fully understood all of the lore, I did love spending time in the world the author created. The magic system was complex and the mythology built up around the world was one can't wait to dig into deeper. Every time we were given another glimpse into the vast history of the djinn I was on the edge of my seat.

There isn't much I can say about the story without giving things away, but I was absolutely enthralled from beginning to end. The City of Brass has definitely found a spot on my favorites shelf, which is unfortunate because it means I have to locate several editions to collect. There were so many twists and turns and the ending caught me completely off guard! I can't wait to dive right into book two.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

How long is too long between books?

Since 2014 I've read YA books almost exclusively, although I do venture into adult fantasy and horror more often now. Something I've come to depend on is that my favorite series will release books every year. Any longer than that and readers start to wonder how they'll ever wait for the next book.

One series that has defied this multiple times is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. The publication date for book two (and now book three) was pushed back multiple times. There were two years between A Torch Against the Night and A Reaper at the gates, which was pushed back from one. I still remember how people cried about the delay and then the same happened with the still untitled book four. It was pushed to 2020 and the Goodreads comments started rolling in.

Yesterday I saw a post from Sabaa Tahir about finishing the "dirty draft" of Ember 4 and immediately ran over to Goodreads to double check the date, only to be greeted with "June 2021" as the publication date. In case you hadn't heard about it, yes, there will now be a three year gap between books three and four. I cried a little and then went to see what other YA books have had such a long gap between them. I couldn't find any, but did find a few articles about how you have to pump out a book a year to keep reader's interest. Yikes, I'm glad I'm not a writer with that pressure on my shoulders.

I did find a few other YA series with small gaps between books. The Lady Janies by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows are published every two years and there was a three year gap between The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix but most YA books do seem to come out every year.

I absolutely still plan on picking up Ember 4, but I do wonder at what point people lose patience or just forget about a series (see George R.R. Martin). How long are you willing to wait between books in a series? What other book series do you know of that have been delayed?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Retellings Reading Challenge: Final Update & Giveaway

Hi bookworms! The Retellings Reading Challenge is drawing to a close already! I hope you've all met your goals and have read lots of amazing new retellings throughout the year. I've loved having the challenge group this year - the group reads have been wonderful! Now let's look at what we've done this year:



This quarter I only read two retellings: A Heart So Fierce and Broken and Teeth in the Mist. Both were AMAZING and I cannot wait to sing the praises of Brigid Kemmerer once again when it comes time to post that review!


I GOT BINGO! I'm going to be honest, I was a little worried I wouldn't this time around, but hurray me! I hope some of you got blackout!



The group reads were amazing! I loved the discussion and I definitely think this is something we should bring back next year!


Now it's your turn! Link up to your reviews for the challenge to get an extra entry in the year-end giveaway (below)! As a reminder, you can also get extra entries for getting bingo or filling your bingo card completely. Do NOT share your quarterly updates in this link-up! This is for reviews only. Instead, share links to your updates in the comments! 


Enter to win $20 worth of books from Book Depository or Amazon as long as they ship to you!
Must be 18 or have a parent's permission to enter. No giveaway accounts. Ends 12/31/19.
Winner will be contacted via the email within 3 days after the giveaway ends.
If winner does not respond within 3 days, a new winner will be chosen.

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