Wonderland an Anthology edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

The interesting thing about anthologies is the fact that you may love one story and hate the next. You have to be strong willed when reading them, you have to give it a chance. I really didn’t enjoy the first story I read in this one, I wanted to give up and say nope this isn’t for me, but I moved on in the hopes that I would love the next. Spoiler, I did, and I loved many more after that.

Each story had a side of whimsy that makes you take pause and think you might be reading a Lewis Carroll creation, but it is soon revealed you’re not in the same world, not even a little bit. Creatures in the night, mysterious scenes of horror, and loving tales of family snap you out of your daydream and thrust you down a rabbit hole you may not be prepared for. These stories are not for the faint of heart. They may terrify you or make your head spin with possibilities, but it’s worth every moment.

Synopsis

Join Alice as she is thrown into the whirlwind of Wonderland, in an anthology that bends the traditional notions of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, featuring ghosts, medieval quests, demons and cyborgs. Contributors include the bestselling M.R. Carey, Genevieve Cogman, Catriona Ward, Rio Youers and L.L. McKinney. 

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How to get out of a Reading Funk

If you’re reading this you might be in the lowest of low places right now; a reading funk. To an avid reader this is worst case scenario, bottom of the barrel, a disaster. You may have four books on your night stand right now that you’ve started but never finished. The book store still calls to you, so you buy more, but they wind up on that teetering TBR pile threatening to consume you whole. You want to read but once you start something happens, something unexplanable that causes your mind to drift and before you know it you’re slowly setting your new book down. This is a major problem.

If I just described you, know that you’re not alone. I was just there. I think I was also in a blogging funk because hello, it’s been a while! When they say life gets in the way, they aren’t kidding. I feel like I’m getting my groove back and I wanted to share a few tips for helping you get yours back as well.

Tip #1 Put Down that Phone!

This one may seem pretty obvious, but when you actually pay attention to it you’ll realize it’s a huge problem! It’s so tempting, having everything at your fingertips, all the beautiful book pictures on Instagram, the reading vlogs of people doing exactly what you SHOULD be doing, and the endless scrolling of social media acting like a black hole sucking you further in. When I started to pay attention to how often I was on my phone I was quite honestly pretty embarrassed. There were so many times I was endlessly scrolling instead of reading. I was waisting away precious minutes looking at what seemed like the same thing on repeat. I promise you, you won’t miss out on that much when you step away from the device. It will all still be there when you return.

I started leaving my phone in another room so I wouldn’t be tempted to pick it up. Seems silly when you think about it right? I’m a grown adult who takes care of three kids, pays my bills, and keeps my household running, but I had to set a limit for myself. With my phone in another room it was much easier than I thought. Out of sight, out of mind. That saying is pretty true. If I left my phone next to me it was almost as if it was calling to me with it’s little light up screen and constant notifications. So I banished it to another room and it freed up my mind to concentrate on other things.

Tip #2 Read an Old Favorite

Ahhhh the feeling of nostalgia, it’s like coming home after a long trip. It feels safe, happy and familiar. Most people think of places or people when they think of the word “nostalgia”, but us bookworms think of our favorite read. Whether it’s your favorite childhood chapter book or your top pick for last year, it’s nice to revisit an old friend. Because that’s what books are to us, friends who sat with us during moments of joy and moments of sadness. They were there for us in the middle of night, under the covers while we couldn’t sleep. They kept us entertained on long trips and on the edge of our seats in anticipation. Sometimes all you need to get out of your reading funk is to revisit an old world full of characters you already know and love. They’re always waiting, ready to take you on that epic adventure once again.

Tip #3 Be apart of the Hype

In the book world there is such thing as “hype”. It can be good or bad, but one thing is for sure people who are hyped about a book are some pretty passionate people. Those people aren’t in a reading funk, in fact they are exactly the type of people you need right now. Their excitement about a new release is contagious. They will pull you right out of the depths of despair and get you so excited you may even start sporting some new gear to match your new book obsession. Whether it’s a new release or a long anticipated sequel, find those people who are passionately waiting for it to come out. The best place for a bookworm is surrounded by other bookworms right? Those are your people.

Sometimes a reading funk can last days or weeks or even months! But don’t worry, we seem to all go through it and somehow we return to or old selves once again. Your books will always be waiting for you.

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

This book had it all for me! Mystery, fantasy, Kingdoms and a good slow burn romance. I was in love with the different perspectives, it made the mystery aspect so much better. The crime-solving in this story was done so well and the plot twist at the end had my jaw dropping. Throw in some political intrigue and queens with some major secrets and you have a new favorite book for me!

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Overall this book was a cute love story. I thought the two main characters were sweet. Kahi was a great male character who was learning his way around a relationship while Esme was a bit naive and I just couldn’t root for her the way the author wanted us to.

I did appreciate the representation of autism. Kahi was a great character and I felt his anguish and struggles. His character ARC was amazing! I was really rooting for him, and it made me appreciate the struggles someone with autism might face on a daily basis.

The story takes place over the summer so the romance moves fast. It started out slow which I wanted, but soon snowballed into Instalove. It’s a fast read which is nice, I think it would be a great summer vacation book. I gave it 3 stars, cute but not my favorite love story.

I received an eArc of this book from First to Read for my review. All my opinions are my own.

Synopsis

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love. 

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Synopsis from Goodreads

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. 

My thoughts : 4.5 Stars

First off the cover of this book is absolutely stunning! I know covers don’t necessarily matter, but this one really caught my eye. I kind of wanted to read it before even knowing what it was about! Then I found out it was a dragon story and that was that, I HAD to read it!

The protagonist in this story has such great character growth. Asha is a dragon slayer who completely stole my heart! Not only is she a bad ass heroine, but she has complex emotions and an amazing inner dialog. I listened to the audio book and Pearl Mackie’s accent made this story for me. I had scenes from Game of Thrones buzzing in my mind and she got me completely hooked.

This book is a bit of a slow burn but totally worth it. I’m usually one to gravitate towards fast paced action novels when it comes to fantasy, but I kind of like the slower pace of this one. It kept me intrigued and always wondering. I’m excited to pick up the next book in the series! If you love dragons, slow burn romances and some major old world family drama you’ll love this book.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

My kindle became slippery in my sweaty palms, my pounding heart causing me to gasp for breath. I had made a huge mistake. I was reading this book on my kindle at night… in the dark… and I was completely terrified in the best possible way.

Synopsis

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next. 

My Thoughts.

I really don’t like scary stories, I’m a bit of a chicken, but I couldn’t put this one down. I needed to know what was happening after every beautifully delicious plot twist. Right when I thought I was on the right track everything would be ripped from me and turned upside down. The way this book was written blew my mind and kept me always searching for answers.

The sisterly love was one of my favorite parts of this story. I found myself crying and laughing right along with the them. Their story is tragic but gripping. You can’t stop reading and caring for these characters.

The ending felt a little rushed to me. I would have liked more during the last big climax, but overall I really enjoyed it. This book was the perfect mix of dark fantasy and a little romance. I will definitely be reading more from Erin A. Craig.

Expected Publication : August 6th 2019

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I gave this 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed this book! It’s not only an informative novel about the horrific Los Angeles library fire and the possible arsonist who caused it, it’s a book about the long standing love for libraries and the importance they hold in our communities. From the inner workings of a functioning library to the impact historical events have on the information we seek, we get a glimpse into the ever changing job of a librarian. I found the history to be my favorite part of this novel and couldn’t get enough. For the love of libraries and the people who keep them running, read this novel.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I was able to read A curse so Dark and Lonely early thanks to Netgalley.com. When I heard this was a Beauty and the Beast fantasy retelling I knew I needed to read it. Obviously, as a reader girl, I loved Beauty and the Beast growing up. I also loved the story of finding love in an aberrant way. Throw in a fantasy twist and I was sold.

Synopsis

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin. 

I gave this book 5 stars! It delivered on every aspect I was expecting. It had characters I fell in love with right away, plot twists that made my jaw drop, and fantasy elements that were unique and engaging. I found myself not wanting to put it down.

The characters in this book had me from the beginning. Harper is a young girl with cerebral palsy who completely blows away any stereotypes that go with having a disability. Her character was relatable and endearing. Rhen, the prince, was a perfect representation of “the beast”. He starts off cynical and grows into a character you love. One of my favorite characters was actually a side character named Grey. He was rigid and stoic as a soldier but his transformation was my favorite. By the end I found myself completely invested in his storyline.

I was really pleased with the way this story developed. I went into it expecting it to be more like the original Beauty and the Beast, but was pleasantly surprised with the modern twist it had. With Harper being from the modern world thrust into another dimension we got a good mix of reality and fantasy. I liked how the witch in this story was much more present than in the original. She was a villain you could root against along with the characters. The twists and turns of this story kept it engaging and the ending leaves me wanting more.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a bit of fantasy and a sweet love story. The true essence of the original story are present without it feeling repetitive. I’m hopeful there will be a book 2 in this series and can’t wait to see where this story leads.

This book releases on January 29th 2019.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

“On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . . “

If you’re looking for a feel good Christmas story this is the perfect book! It’s a little funny, a little sad and full of heart. The pieces of the story fit together like a perfect puzzle and by then end the entire picture comes into view. It’s a different take on A Christmas Carol, with a fun corporate feel and futuristic elements while keeping to the true meaning of Christmas. I found parts to be a little predictable, but I didn’t mind. It’s exactly what I wanted for the holidays.