Vacation TBR Pile: Newfoundland 2019

Let me start this by saying I am being way too ambitious.

After Germany, Italy, and Disneyworld already this summer, I’m off on one last summer trip to Newfoundland (the feature pic is a view from the town I’m staying!) to visit my family. My great grandmother turns 98 this month so the whole crazy family is getting together again for a multi-day birthday party. My mom, sister, grandma, and I visit every other year or so for the shenanigans and it’s generally a few fast-paced days of party prep and actual partying, followed by empty days of rest. Obviously, this means that I have packed a TON of books for the downtime between fried bologna dinners and endless gin rummy tournaments.

I’m only gone for 10 days so the 9 books I brought are most certainly overkill and there is literally no chance I will get through all of them before I get home again and have to start that whole school prep madness I don’t want to think about yet. But I’ve never listened to reason when it comes to books so here’s my too-long list of books I’m excited to read/think about reading over my trip.

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Top 5 (Not)Tuesday: Books Under 300 Pages

Apologies for my accidental almost-two-week-long hiatus–it’s been a scramble of unpacking from one vacation and prepping for another, not to mention half a dozen social affairs crammed into just a few short days. Technically, this past week was Bionic Bookworm’s hiatus (click here for the August topics!) so there was no Top 5 Tuesday but since I missed the last one I figured I’d post it this round. I’d planned to have this ready for the Tuesday past and be all “hey, at least I got the day right this time!” but, ah, no. Alas.

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

As far as contemporary romances go, Shut Out was a fun change. Inspired by the Classical Greek comedy Lysistrata, as the wives in the original play, the gals of Keplinger’s novel vow to abstain from any kind of sexual activity with their boyfriends until they put a silly feud to rest. This one’s on the list not only because it was funny and different and because the Greek inspo automatically gives it points in my book (which it does) but because the sexual foundation gives way to some frank and important discussions about virginity and consent and knowing what feels right. All the girls come from different levels of experience, different opinions about what they’re doing, and different stances on why they’re doing/not doing it; the realizations they come to by the end of the book were important for me to hear in high school and definitely useful to other girls too. So yeah – top points for impact!

Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton

I am a sucker for a good spy novel. Two Lies and a Spy was one I expected to be little more than contemporary romantic fluff with some action suspense thrown in; fast forward to crazy family drama, Russian conspiracies, a decent love triangle, a relatively complex espionage adventure, and a main character that grows on you backed by supporting ones you love from the start and it turned into a book I rather enjoyed! It’s not my favourite spy novel ever but it was a really great read and definitely one of my favourite short books.

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

Another contemporary romance here! Stocking to the ‘espionage’ and secrecy theme of the previous pick, The Almost Truth centres on a family of con artists and a daughter ready to walk away from it all. Though cliché in ways at the outset, it’s the best friend–a boy also taken under the MC’s father’s conman wing–that really made the book for me. Sadie is likeable enough but I found myself attached to Brendan, the flirtatious boy with a broken past and strong loyalties. The con plot is intriguing and surprising, but the family dynamic and the Brendan-Sadie thing make it a top pick for me!

Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Okay, by now most associate Schwab (Victoria for YA, V.E. for adult) with wildly unique and completely amazing fantasy writing. I may (still…) not have read any of the A Darker Shade of Magic books but years ago I read her debut and was just as blown away by it as the rest of the world has been by her more recent work. I actually had an unfinished review for it saved from when I read it in 2015 that spent a single paragraph saying how surprising it was–it was never finished because I couldn’t figure out how to put my thoughts into words. It’s that good.

Crash by Lisa McMann (Visions #1)

This was one of my first reviews on this site (click here to read) so hurray for throwbacks! I was so caught off guard by how much I enjoyed McMann’s whole Visions trilogy – all of which are under 300 pages and each of which could be picked for this top (the second is my fave). Gonna be honest here: I bought it because the eye on the cover was stunning and the blurb’s feuding Italian restaurant families gave off some Romeo and Juliet vibes, from which I am utterly incapable of turning away. But the crazy murder visions and fast-paced prevention chase kept me chasing Jules until I flipped the last page.

Courtship Tag

Hello hello hello! Back again with another tag while I get a handle on my reviews. I can’t remember where I first saw this since the draft has been sitting unfinished for the past year (yeah, sorry – at least I’m honest about having been trash?), but credit to whoever came up with it.

Please also appreciate that I spent a good 20 minutes trying to choose the best romance image from medieval manuscripts (this one’s from the love poetry of the fourteenth-century German Codex Manesse) because the history buff in me got way too excited about the word ‘courtship’. Aaaaand now we’re going to move on before I start rambling about medieval romance…

Phase 1: Initial Attraction a book that you bought because of the cover

Okay, to be clear here a lot of the books I’ve read for the cover have not delivered on its gorgeous promise. If you read my review of Tangled Webs by Lee Bross way back when (click here), you could see exactly how heartbroken I was about this—the lacy beauty of the cover sucked me into what would up being a subpar ‘spy’ novel too driven by insta-love to really hit home. Still, it’s one of my favourites to own because of how it looks on my bookshelf.

Content aside, isn’t that just stunning?

Phase 2: First Impressions a book you got because of the summary

Well this is most of the books I own so that’s tough. I’ll go with By Your Side by Kasie West or The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann. The descriptions of both drew me in instantly because of a sort of kinship I felt with the characters/dream to be the characters: By Your Side (turned out okay) has a teen trapped in the library with an attractive classmate–basically my Nirvana–and The Librarian and the Spy (turned out surprisingly great!), as it is so aptly named, has a reference librarian caught up in an international 007 affairs. I’ll be honest, it didn’t really matter the ratings or the content for these since I just had to get my hands on them regardless.

Phase 3: Sweet Talk a book with great writing

I read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi ages ago but I finally opened up the sequel the other day and remembered how much I loved reading Mafi’s writing! The way she manipulates words and grammar conventions has an almost poetic quality and adds so much to Juliette’s character, with the pace and tone perfectly matching the MC’s emotion. Love love love.

Phase 4: First Date a first book of a series which made you want to pursue the rest of the series

One of my darkest bookish secrets is that I am HORRIBLE at finishing series. I blame this majorly on an insanely busy schedule that as a general rule seems to weed out anything I love in life, and partially on a huge TBR of first books I feel guilty not reading and have no space to keep. The result: no matter how much I love and am dying to read a series, chances are I won’t have the time to finish it before I forget about it.

I SUCK.

Still, there are a number of books that even forgetting about them doesn’t make me forget them and the top of that list is probably The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Have I read the sequel yet? No. Do I internally sob every time I remember that I haven’t? Yes.

Phase 5: Late Night Phone Call a book that kept you up all night long

I can’t decide whether this is about staying up all night because you can’t put it down or because it has you too freaked out to sleep, so I’m choosing one that was both. I read Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter and was instantly obsessed with the storyline and the romance and the zombies to the point of utterly forgoing sleep–in fact, I think this was one of my first up-till-5am-before-school reads. On top of that, my freshly fifteen-year-old self was so unnerved by the zoms hanging outside Ali’s bedroom windows that about every 20mins I’d pop out of bed, press myself against my door (I had no lock) with my ear to the wood making sure I heard no footsteps, then scurry back into bed as far from my window as possible. Clearly, even moderate horror was never my thing.

Phase 6: Always On My Mind a book you could not stop thinking about

Generally, the books I can’t stop thinking about = relationships I can’t stop swooning over, whether in some saccharine contemporary romance or a fantasy’s forbidden enemies-lovers affair. But instead, for this I’m choosing Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross because the story and the relationship in this are so entwined that thinking about one always means thinking about the other. I’m a sucker for fairytales, particularly of the Grimm variety, and Cross’ unique approach to some of my all-time favourite stories PLUS the couple’s will-it-even-happen slow-burn have had it stuck in my brain on loop since I read it a almost a decade ago.

Phase 7: Getting Physical a book you love the feeling of

Easy: Talon by Julie Kagawa. I may not have enjoyed the book as much as I’d hoped I would–though I may give it another try some time–the embossed dragon scales on the cover gave the whole reading experience extra oomph.

Phase 8: Meet the Parents a book you’d recommend to friends and family

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. This book, alongside Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, were what really turned me into a reader. I think the complexity of City of Bones in terms of the world created with also the simplicity of its fantasy storyline make it both accessible and intriguing enough to pull in my non-reader family while intricate enough to impress any of my reader friends who’ve yet to try them.

Phase 9: Dream About the Futurea series you know you’ll reread many times in the future

I will confess, I am not so much of a rereader. Though I will reread certain favourite parts of favourite books (not going to lie, it’s usually the moment the love interest and MC finally get together), I don’t like to read something when I know exactly what is going to happen, and with my memory, it could be years since I’ve read something and I’ll still recall the details. This is also why spoilers are the literal bane of my existence. Barring that, I would love to at some point get around to re-reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, since A) I’m a slut for mythology and could use a refresher and B) it’s been a solid decade or more since my last time reading them so I’ve forgotten enough to make it shiny and new again.

Phase 10: Share the Love – tag people!

Since I myself stumbled upon this without being tagged, I tag anyone else who wants to do it! Wishing you a successful and deeply romantic novel-filled courtship, my bibliophilic friends.

Top 5 Tuesday: UVWXYZ

Well, thank you technology and my utter absence of luck for WIPING MY DRAFT and making me write this whole thing over. I only just got back from Disney last night so the re-writing couldn’t happen until the flight had landed. But hey–here it is.

This Top 5 Tuesday is made possible by a lot of cheating. Turns out I’ve read…no books for a bunch of these letters, which had been my fear and made choosing matching books a whole heck of a lot tougher. A note to authors: please start naming books with poor, neglected letters like XYZ to make our little reader challenge lives easier.

Aaaaanyway, let’s get to this alphabet chaos.

U:

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and Undead by Kirsty McKay

Surprisingly, I found multiple good U books for this top pick! In a classic Indecisive Brittney move–and in major part due to the utter failure of my last three letters and sheer excitement at finding ones to match the category rules–I opted not to choose and instead to pick both.

The first one is Unspoken, the first of the Lynburn Legacy trilogy and set in the magic-laden English Cotswolds (an adorable setting, secluded and small enough to make the eerie magic bite believable). With an investigative heroine, delightfully awkward romance, silly jokes and dashes of dark magic, blood ties, murders, corruption, and secrets, the book is a gothic fantasy treasure.

My other pick, Undead, is a playful laugh-out-loud take on a zombie outbreak featuring some freaky veggie juice and a ragtag group of teens stuck on the worst possible school trip. What I liked most about this is that the elements are really well-balanced–the humour and the action, alongside the light romance and friendship themes, complement each other seamlessly. While I was holding my gut laughing, my heart was also pounding in suspense

V:

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

None of my V options were necessarily favourite books but nearly all of them were decent. Vampire Academy gets my pick because I really enjoyed the friendship between Lissa and Rose and it was a very good introduction to Mead’s vampire world and the following books. I haven’t yet finished the series but I have thoroughly enjoyed all the magic dark vamp-y goodness that I’ve read so far!

W:

(The) Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Flashback to when I reviewed this in a spoiler-y book talk on BookTube (click here to watch) and kept raving about how hot yet deeply confusing Khalid is! I loved this book since I opened it–the setting is beautiful, the writing is beautiful, the story is beautiful, the magic is beautiful. I still haven’t read the second book because I am lame, but I smile every time I see this one on my shelf just waiting for a reread.

X:

(E)Xquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Ooookay, here the cheating begins. Turns out, I have read a total of ZERO books that start with X, none that have a word beginning with X, and precious few that have an X in them at all. I’m trying to keep somewhat with the categories still so I’m picking the book with an X earliest in the title! Exquisite Captive follows a jinni (genie of sorts) in her attempts to gain freedom and return to her magical homeland. As if it weren’t enough that it’s inspired by Arabian Nights and filled with Arabic legend and magic–two things I find absolutely fascinating–everything in the book is rich, sensual and utterly captivating.

Y:

(M)Y Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Oh look! I also haven’t read any Y books! My Lady’s Choosing is my pick for this a) because it has the earliest Y and the most Ys in the title and b) because it was absolutely hilarious! This is one ridiculous romp of a CYOA romance. You get to ‘play’ as a lusty 19th-century heroine on her hunt for love through a ton of Victorian love story tropes made all the more hilarious the descriptions of her experiences. There are like 8 different possible love interest with multiple different endings and multiple different ways to get there and I am unashamed to confess I read every. single. one!

Z:

(Cra)Zy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

To end this month off, I’m cheating again because there are no Z books I’ve read either! Sidenote: I’m actually super disappointed at this and will now be on the hunt for books starting with XYZ so I can finish off this alphabet thang. Anyway! Crazy Rich Asians at least has a Z (that’s zed to me, btw) in and the fact that it was also a great book made this choice rather easy! The story and setting were just so much fun that it’s impossible not to have this one pop up somewhere in this tops list.

Reading Rush TBR 2019

Hello, my dear lovely fellow bookaholics! Have any of you heard of Booktubeathon? Every year at the end of July it’s a week of bookish reading and video challenges to get more engaged in the online book-loving community–and win a few ARCs, if you’re lucky (I have not been lucky). The past two years I’ve done and filmed my week over on my YouTube channel (click here to watch my overexcitement) but given how hectic this year has been–hence my utter lack of posting on any bookish media platform–and the fact that I will be on vacation for last few days of it and unable to film, I decided to just stick to the reading challenge of 7 books in 7 days.

Now dubbed Reading Rush (click here to see the intro video) to include readers from other mediums (bookstagrammers and book bloggers, the week technically started this past Monday but my lack of filming has made me sad because I miss it. Thus! I have chosen my books to match each of the reading criteria and give you my belated Reading Rush TBR!

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Top 5 Tuesday: PQRST

“Wow, I did not expect these letters to be so difficult!” has pretty much become my motto for every Top 5 Tuesday (click here for Bionic Bookworm’s original launch post) and I don’t know why I’m still surprised by it. Actually, I’m kind of terrified for next week’s U-Z… But anyway, here’s my complication-laden list of fun and favourite books for the next 5 letters!

P:

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

My P pick (and also one of the only 3 P books I own) is this cute high school semi-hate-to-love secret relationship romance. The MC, Kate, is at times the most frustrating character alive and the novel itself is full of cliches, and yet it is still relatable, real, and enjoyable all at once. Despite the naivety at times, Perfect You is honest, which, beyond all the swoony stuff I love, is probably what made me like it so much. I can almost guarantee you’ll want to reach into the pages, grab Kate by the shoulders, and scream ARGGHH while shaking some sense into her, but the end will leave you satisfied and proud and smiling.

Q:

(The) Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter

Aside from one school book that I very much did not enjoy, this is both the best and the only Q book I’ve read, making it an easy choice for this top letter. Barring my utter lack of decision in this matter, though, The Queen of Zombie Hearts (a decently satisfying end to the highly enjoyable Alice in Zombieland trilogy) is a great read! I’m a sucker for zombies but not so much in the post-apocalyptic quarantine illness way, so Showalter’s conception of zombies as spiritual manifestations of evil that feed off of the good was the best thing I could have hoped for! Plus, she is the champion of sexy paranormal romances and though less racy than her adult books, the whole team of tattooed zombie-killing warrior bad boys was more than enough for my sixteen year old heart to take.

R:

Royally Jacked by Nikki Burnham

Cheesy cover, cheesy rom-com novel. Royally Jacked was one of my absolute favourite books back in high school and I will give it 5-star ratings until I die for all the swooning and smiling it brought to me. This book, a prince-‘peasant’ story set in the imagined kingdom of Schwerinborg in Germany a) reignited my love for Heath Ledger b) confirmed my complete weakness for princes with accents and c) instigated many failed attempts to learn German (I’m still trying but mostly all I’ve got is bröt). The best way to read Royally Jacked is in the trilogy omnibus, Royally Crushed, since I’ll admit the story is better as a cohesive whole, but sweet and fun and cute and giggly and swoony all the same. Seriously. I don’t know how it’s taken me 5 years of this blog to talk about it…

S:

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

I can almost guarantee that if the blurb had not all on its own made me want to read this, I would have read it just because of the quirky cute title. For all my interest though and the implicit promise of a good, lighthearted, smile-on-your-face romance, I still had not expected the book to be as enjoyable as it was! An airport meet-cute is obviously the dream for a travel-lover like me, but more than that it was the genuine feel of the characters and the tinge of seriousness within the story that complemented rather than detracted from the sweet lovey goodness I adore.

T:

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore

Well, it looks like rom-coms are largely the flavour of the day since we’ve got yet another swoonful of young love in Taste Test by Kelly Fiore. The hate to love story with the charming, cocky competitor alone was enough to make me love this book, but since I seem to have a weird soft spot for cooking show novels (very niche, very odd, and very surprising since I a) hate to cook and b) dislike actual cooking shows), the kitchen sabotage mystery and cutthroat chef-ery makes it all the better.

Top 5 Tuesday: KLMNO

Aaaaaand we’re back again with another Top 5 Tuesday (click here for Bionic Bookworm’s theme breakdown)! I think N was DEFINITELY the most difficult letter so far, quite to my surprise, since I’d only read about two books starting with N and neither of them were favourites, but otherwise I’m happy with my choices. Mostly I’m just happy to be droning on about other favourites I don’t get to talk about enough!

So, without further ado…

K:

(The) King Slayer by Virginia Boecker

I love love LOVED The Witch Hunter duology (The King Slayer is #2). It has magic, alchemy, dark creatures, conspiracy, corruption, murder, witches, hunters, romance. The Tudor-inspired YA historical fantasy with a dose of maturity is the biggest 5-star surprise I’ve had in a while. I’m not entirely certain which of the two I enjoyed better since I loved so many bits of both, so the duology as a whole is a must read.

L:

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

This one is the second to Stiefvater werewolf series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls. I absolutely love Stiefvater’s writing and storytelling and these wolf-y novels are the first ones of hers I read. Now, I’m not usually into the werewolf fantasy stuff but I am into the romantic fantasy stuff and Sam and Grace’s sweet story was just enough to hook me. Linger is my pick here because it brings in a new character, Cole, who is my FAVOURITE in the series and starts a couple that is one of my all-time faves.

M:

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

Maid of Secrets surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. Following former pickpocket-tuned-spy for the Tudor English queen Elizabeth I, the story is exactly my thing, and exactly similar to other historical fiction books I’ve read (it’s always Tudor spies!). I was surprised by how much I loved Meg as a heroine, I loved the fact that the spy girls weren’t just blindly loyal to the queen but push and question where necessary, and I love that the story and the romance were inseparable from the other and perfectly balanced. Plus, a rougish Spanish courtier love interest? The book is a buffet of all the things I enjoy.

N:

Of Neptune by Anna Banks

Okay, technically this is an O, but I’m not insanely into most N books I’ve finished reading (if anyone has any N recs, I am OPEN) so I’m calling the “Neptune” bit close enough. Anyway, I’ve always had a fondness for ocean-y watery tales and mermaid stories, so Anna Banks’ Syrena trilogy was a ton of fun to read! Of Neptune is the second and the first, Of Posiedon, was definitely my favourite but the series is most certainly a to-read as a whole!

O:

Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston

Give me Celtic time travel romances or give me nothing! Real Celtic history I find is so underdone–if we get Irish or Scottish history, we get druidic priestesses in fantasy or a Jamie Fraser from the 1700s. I find that the later stuff, the crazy cool human sacrifices and animal gods and body paint are hard to find, so this time travelling gem that sends our dear MC back to Boudicca and a hot warrior definitely gets the top O title. The series is quirky and not always serious but it’s fun and the characters are endearing and keeps you laughing throughout the misadventures through time.

Summer TBR

Welcome! to my latest list of unrealistic expectations – AKA my summer TBR! It’s been a while since I’ve done a legit one of these (TBH I think the last one was in video form. Awks.) and, frankly, I’ve been a terrible reader these past months. But today is a new day! July is here! The sun is out! The birds are singing! My bibliophilic hopes are soaring! And I am gonna kick some serious TBR ass.

To be fun for once, instead of repeating the same books I STILL have on my shelf that you’ve probably heard about a dozen times and I apparently think about reading more often than actually reading, I’m making this more about what I want to add to my ever-growing shelf of unread-tragedy. Three cheers for shiny new reads! Continue reading