Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag! (2019)

This is sort of an annual tradition for most book bloggers, I think– taking time in the middle of the year to reflect on the books we’ve read in the past six months.

I have had a fabulous year of reading as of right now and that is making me really excited for the rest of the year. Last year was just okay, but I have read some truly splendid books in 2019.

Let’s get into the tag!

Best Book of 2019 So Far

sky in the deep

I read Sky in the Deep (review here) a couple weeks ago and I am still reeling from it. It was magnificent. Everything about it was wonderful and I don’t think I’ll be forgetting about it for a very, very long time (if ever).

Best Sequel of 2019 So Far

wicked king

I *almost* used this for Best Book So Far but realized it fits this question too so this is where it’s going.

It had been a long time since a book made me feel the feels when I read this and it truly delivered in every department.

Also the last book in the trilogy is out in November and I AM NOT READY. If Holly hurts my son I will come for her.

Most Anticipated Release of the Second Half of 2019

queen of nothing

Yes I just need to read about Cardan resolving all the problems he started.

And he has a lot of work to do.

Biggest Disappointment of 2019 So Far

bad arranged marriage book 1

Yeah this was…terrible, actually. Sure, parts were good, but I had expected something entirely different and I didn’t get it. What I did get was not something I liked. Alejandro deserved better; that’s all I’m saying.

Books to Read by the End of 2019

I’m a mood reader, really, so I don’t have a set list to read. There’s a few upcoming releases I want to read ASAP but other than that, I don’t have anything I’m forcing myself to read this year.

I do want to read Midnight Beauties by Megan Shepherd, The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black, and Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi, specifically. There are more that I’m currently working on but those are just a few!

I’m tagging anyone who hasn’t yet done this this year and wants to!

What’s the best book you’ve read this year? The biggest disappointment? Let me know in the comments!

-Clara

Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

sky in the deep

Part Wonder Woman, part Vikings—and all heart.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating. (via Goodreads)

To Adrienne Young, the author, and Khristine Hvam, the narrator:

download_20170405_130129

I was completely, utterly blown away by this book. 

I did not expect to love this as much as I did. Vikings wasn’t the most appealing concept to me, but it’s been a long time since a book consumed my thoughts as much as this one. So much so that when the audiobook came to a close, I was tempted to go back to the beginning and listen again.

I loved absolutely everything about this story: the plot, the characters (especially the characters), the setting, everything. It was brutal but it was beautiful.

Sky in the Deep has one of the most unique plots I’ve ever seen in the YA genre. It seems so simple– a few Viking clans fighting each other– but it is compelling.

I will say that it is rather violent at times and I did squirm more than once during battle and medical scenes. But that comes with the territory.

Layered into this epic plot is an immense amount of character development. Eelyn goes through a beautifully written inner battle as she is forced to abandon everything she’s ever been taught about the Riki, her supposed enemy. It’s exquisite.

As a character, Eelyn is a strong, independent, brutal woman. I loved her. She’s going to be living in my heart for a long time. I loved seeing her strength, physically and emotionally. She was just a wonderful character throughout the entire book.

And now I would like to introduce you all to my new boyfriend. His name is Fiske and he’s Riki. He’s also dark and brooding and exceptionally attractive. We’re madly in love.

Ahem. Yes, I fell in love with a fictional character again. Fiske is such a good character on his own, but together, he and Eelyn were something else. They had so much chemistry from the very beginning and I think they may be my second favorite enemies-to-lovers romance now (Jurdan is first and that’ll be hard to beat).

Eelyn’s Aska family- her father and her best friend- weren’t my favorite characters ever, but in the end, I still found them fascinating. Myra had her own outstanding arc that drove me crazy but also made me love her.

I loved Iri (I think I spelled that right?) and his Riki family, too. They were all wonderful characters and I kinda wish I could live with them for a few days.

As a whole, Adrienne wrote a magnificent novel and Khristine Vham was a magnificent narrator. I was never bored, not even for a second.

If it’s not obvious, I gave Sky in the Deep a 5-star rating and I recommend it to anyone after a unique story with wonderful characters.

Have you read Sky in the Deep? What did you think?

-Clara

Summer Reading and Writing!

Hey everyone!

I have done my best to do somewhat monthly posts for a long time but I have no school for about 5 weeks now and will hopefully be able to write some more posts for you guys. I have quite a few books I’m hoping to read so you can expect some reviews!

Today I wanted to let you all know what books I’m hoping to read and give you a writing update.

Here we go!

Books to Read:

Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian

I saw Laura on a panel at YALLFest last year and read Ash Princess over Christmas break. I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel since it was released and plan to kick off my summer reading with it.

Lovely War by Julie Berry

Another book I’ve been anticipating for a while and just haven’t gotten to yet. It sounds absolutely magnificent and I adore Julie’s book The Passion of Dolssa. 

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Apparently I’ll be spending my summer catching up on all of my anticipated 2019 releases that have already come out. I’ve also been predicting Sevérin to be a new crush so we’ll have to see if I was right or not.

I’m just focusing on these three for now, but I would like to add in at least one classic as well. Chances are I’ll end up reading The Great Gatsby again because I hope to expand and publish an essay I wrote on it.

Writing:

Captain Guinevere Book #3 is a top priority. I am having a lot of trouble finding a direction for this book but an idea came to me last night and I’m going to try it and see how it goes. I have a nice looking Pinterest board for it though and that’s definitely helpful. I made an aesthetic today that I may share here as a draft gets closer to being finished.

Edit The Nikolai Project. I’ve started this already (draft #2 is in progress!) and there is so much work that has to be done. But I love every second of it and I intend to work my butt off on this thing so I can a) start querying agents and b) start writing a potential sequel (no promises but I have an idea that I really love for two of the side characters to have their own full-length novel).

Expand my essay on The Great Gatsby. My English teacher suggested I do this and I honestly loved writing the essay. I’m hoping to expand it and submit it for publication.

There’s a lot to do this summer but I am really, truly excited about all of it.

What are your summer plans?
-Clara

Dear Clara- a poem

Dear Clara,

 We know what your talents are

We know you love the arts

We know there are two published novels to your name

We know you taught yourself a foreign language

We know you run a blog

We know you can leave your heart on the stage

We know your dream is to be a full-time author

 

We know you hate math

We know you hate science

We know you won’t ever need to know the Quadratic Formula

We know you don’t need to know about Saturn’s rings

Or the mitochondria, or logarithms, or matrices

We know you’ll have to do taxes and manage your finances

We know math isn’t your gift

We know science will never be your career

 

But your talents aren’t enough

Your art isn’t enough

You have to be good at math,

You have to be good at science

You have to know the Quadratic Formula to get into college

Sure, you’ll have to pay taxes

But you can figure that out on your own

While instead of teaching life skills,

We teach you about the cell

Instead of furthering your talents

We’re going to suppress them

Make you learn algebra instead of how to improve your novel

Make you know the mass of Jupiter instead of how to write for the theater

 

And here’s a test that we make everyone take

Same questions, same judgment

We know no two brains are the same

But we’ll judge them all on one test

One test that doesn’t really tell us who you are

It tells us how well you’ll submit to our oppression

How well you’ll study the things we want you to know

Instead of the things that will make you a better artist, a better person

 

So what we’re demanding

Is that you put away your writing, your blogging, your language learning

Take a break from the stage, although it keeps you sane

Put your life away, put us above your mental health

Stress yourself out studying for the things you hate

Because if you can’t solve equations

Or explain science you don’t even believe in

Clara, dear, you will never be good enough.

 

Love,

The School System

*************************************************************************************

Ordinarily I would never ask you to share my posts. But if you feel like I do– if you feel as though this poem of mine is a reflection of your own thoughts– please share this.

I want to do something about the oppressive American school system, and writing is my method. I don’t even write poetry, but I thought this was the best way to get these words on paper.

So if you understand exactly what I feel, if you too want to do something to change the school system in America, please don’t hesitate to share this poem to whatever social media you choose.

Thank you.

-Clara

The Grisha Trilogy, or the fandom I have now plunged into head-first

I did it. I read The Grisha Trilogy.

I’ve been wanting to read Leigh Bardugo’s books for a long time but just got around to it last week. I started Shadow and Bone last Saturday or so and I finished Ruin and Rising today. As I write this, Six of Crows is beside me, waiting to be read.

In short, I am officially a fan of Leigh Bardugo.

Non-Spoiler, Very Brief Series Review:

For starters, I absolutely adore her characters. If you’ve been here long, you probably know by now that characters are the single most important thing in a book for me personally. Bardugo did not disappoint. Alina is awesome; her development felt natural and was handled very well. Nikolai is honestly my favorite character I’ve read in a long time and you bet I’ll be reading King of Scars just because I’m mildly in love with him. And I’ll admit it, I might be just slightly in love with the Darkling, despite everything he did. I liked Mal, too, but not as much as I did the others.

Bardugo’s plot was fascinating and she beautifully executed the politics that came with it, especially in books 2 and 3, and her world building is magnificent. Ravka is the most excellently crafted world I’ve read since the InkHeart Trilogy.

As wonderful as the trilogy is (if you haven’t read it you really should), I really didn’t like the ending. I can’t say too much about it without spoilers, but it did frustrate me in more ways than one.

However, as a whole, The Grisha Trilogy is worth a read. It’s fast-paced and none of them get crazy long if that’s a concern for you.

Ratings:
Shadow and Bone– 5 stars

Siege and Storm– 5 stars

Ruin and Rising– 4 stars

Spoilery Stuff:

As much as I hate the Darkling at moments I am not going to deny that he is extremely interesting and, to an unfortunate degree, attractive.

But Nikolai is the man. He is actually Jack Sparrow but 10000x better. I love him.

But the ending? The romance part of the ending? No. Just no. To be honest, that’s what bothered me the most. Mal and Alina had far less chemistry than Nikolina or even Alarkling, so the fact that they ended up together doesn’t sit real well with me. It was too obvious and just a bit boring to me.

I also think Mal was very conveniently resurrected without a decent explanation- to my knowledge, Corporalnik can’t raise people from the dead yet it somehow happened with Mal? It just really didn’t work for me– if he was going to die he needed to stay dead. And I say that as someone who didn’t want him to die at all.

I was hoping Nikolina would happen in King of Scars before I finished Ruin and Rising but alas, I have no hope of that.

But despite the ending, this series was amazing and I am so excited to read Leigh’s other books!

 

Have you read The Grisha Trilogy? What do you think? 

-Clara

Books I’ve Been Reading… Since it’s been a while since I talked about actual reading on my book blog.

Hi, my name is Clara and I run a book blog that has completely forgotten to talk about reading books.

have been reading lately, I promise– I just haven’t fallen in love with a lot of books and have taken a long time to read quite a few of them. If they even managed to catch my attention in the first place.

But. There have been 2 books this year that I have downright adored, so that’s something.

So far, in 2019, I have completed 6 books and 1 novella. Not bad, actually. Here they are, with a little bit about what I thought:

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Ah, Christian fiction. I do not usually care all that much for it. I say that as a Christian girl myself…sometimes I feel bad about not liking it but I just feel like it’s of a poorer quality in terms of writing.

Redeeming Love was good; I rated it 4 stars. It’s decent; it’s proof that you can still write Christian fiction and talk about sex (I’m looking at you, Melanie Dickerson), and I did definitely appreciate that Francine did not sugar coat the fact that the main character was a prostitute. I just have a great appreciation for bluntness, okay?

However, the writing was slightly awkward at times. It was just a style thing, I think– again, I just don’t care much for the writing in Christian fiction so it may just be me as a reader.

Kinda-sorta-not-really spoiler:

I also feel like Michael very suddenly went from “this woman is a headache and I have no clue how I’m ever going to deal with her” to “Angel I love you” and that is still driving me crazy. Where was the actual development? I didn’t find it.

End spoiler.

The Wicked King by Holly Black

*endless screaming*

5 stars. I felt betrayed and didn’t touch the stupid thing for an hour after finishing. That is all you need to know.

The Lost Sisters by Holly Black (novella)

I actually forgot I read this, but apparently I rated it 4 stars. It was a nice, quick afternoon read, but nothing really special.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

So. We have established in posts past that I have a deep love for arranged marriage stories. My friend suggested this because the main character has an arranged marriage, and I got super excited because character development potential was everywhere. 

Aaaaaannnnndddd it went in a completely different, extremely disappointing direction. However, Elisa delivered in the character development department so I gave it 3 stars.

Ranty spoilers below:
So the romance, right? Elisa gets married at the beginning. Great. Alejandro seems like a super attractive man with tons of potential as a character and a love interest.

Nope. We get Humberto, who was great, but then of course he died. So I got excited because there are two more books in this series to make Alejandro a strong character (he is established as a weak king, etc. and you can’t tell me he couldn’t have changed throughout the series) and he and Elisa could fall in love.

Nope. Alejandro dies and I was angry for the next three days and I still get mad thinking about it.

I won’t be finishing the series.

End ranty spoilers.

Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

4 stars, because it got really good, but it took a long time to get really good.

I was also a bit confused because it was my first LaFevers book ever. The lore/gods/magic/etc. was a bit confusing.

However, it was good in the end and I plan on finishing the duology. And I really love Maraud.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

So. Much. Fun.

I’m telling you, I laughed so much reading this book and I can’t wait to get around to the rest of the series. 4 stars.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I actually hadn’t planned on reading this as I wasn’t particularly intrigued by the summary, but I am so glad I gave it a chance! 5 stars.

I loved the romance, the adventure, everything.

So that’s it! All 6.5 books I’ve read so far this year and what I thought about all of them.

What books have you been enjoying this year? Any you completely hated?
-Clara

 

 

 

So…I Finished My Rough Draft

So in the month that it’s been since I last posted (I have lacked blogging inspiration on an extreme level lately), I finished my rough draft of The Nikolai Project. No, it doesn’t have a title yet. Still.

Anyway, it came in at just slightly under 57,500 words. It’s going to be longer in editing- there were multiple times I just kind of skipped sections of the story because I didn’t want to write them at that moment, so I’ll have to expand on all of that.

It’s an odd feeling, being done with my draft. I started thinking about this project in at least July 2017. It’s been a year and half I’ve spent with these people inhabiting my brain. So to be done with the draft, to take a long break from it, is kind of terrifying to think about. Because I really don’t want to be done with this draft. Nikolai and Amira have become second nature to me– I don’t think I’ve ever known any of my characters as intimately as I know them and no story has developed so naturally. But if I were to keep drafting, there wouldn’t be any more of their particular storyline.

That said, there is going to be a sequel. I was trying to avoid that, but I believe I’m going to have a duology. The sequel will not be about Nikolai and Amira, although they will certainly have a role to play.

But. I am not writing the sequel yet, although it’s (extremely) tempting.

I have started the sequel (and conclusion to the trilogy) to Lady Gwen. I hope this draft won’t take long and I don’t intend for it to. I’ll be working hard on it as I have a lot to figure out.

After I’ve drafted that, I’ll do a round of edits for TNP and then finish/publish the conclusion to my trilogy (yay!).

So that’s an update on my writing life for you.

If you’ve finished a rough draft of a beloved story, how did you deal with it?

-Clara

50 Things That Make Me Happy Tag!

Ann tagged me to do the 50 Things That Make Me Happy Tag, in which I list 50 things that make me happy.

  1. Jesus
  2. My family
  3. My friends
  4. The Nikolai Project
  5. The characters in The Nikolai Project
  6. Amirkolai, the main ship in The Nikolai Project
  7. The Gwendolyn Trilogy, even though it makes me frustrated a lot. 😉
  8. My French fairytales class
  9. French as a whole
  10. Zaho
  11. Charlie Boisseau
  12. Florent Mothe
  13. French musicals
  14. Makeup
  15. Red lipstick
  16. Notebooks
  17. Kathleenlights
  18. Tati
  19. Tiramisu
  20. Macarons
  21. Café au lait
  22. Black coffee
  23. Cappuccinos
  24. Lattes
  25. Film scores
  26. Playing the piano
  27. Fur Elise
  28. This mug my friend got me that has pictures of me and my friends on it
  29. Earl Grey
  30. Skincare. All of it.
  31. Beauty and the Beast
  32. Disney
  33. Thor
  34. Marvel
  35. Watching chick flicks at 2am
  36. Tangled (I watched this on my birthday and I cried. I actually cried.)
  37. Being a Hufflepuff
  38. Pinterest
  39. Carswell Thorne
  40. Roshani Chokshi
  41. Brendan Reichs
  42. Prince Cardan Greenbriar of Elfhame (although we are having a rough patch in our relationship right now because he made a really stupid decision but we’re not gonna talk about that)
  43. BEN. SOLO. (my child)
  44. Dorian Havilliard (he is my child and you can’t make me change my mind)
  45. Hot showers
  46. New sheet music
  47. Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
  48. I Love Lucy
  49. Red roses
  50. SANDALWOOD EVERYTHING

I am tagging everyone who reads this: pause, pull out a piece of paper, and write down 50 things that make you happy/that you’re thankful for. It will make your day 10x better.

Love,

Clara

2019 Reading/Writing Goals

It is January 12th. Already.

So…my 2019 has already been very interesting. I won’t go into details, but it’s been both amazing and difficult.

That said, I have some books I’d like to read this year specifically and some writing goals that I want to share with you all here. I am not including any books I put in my Anticipated 2019 Releases post.

Books to Read:

  • The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo: I have been wanting to read this for a while and I think I am finally going to do it.
  • The Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo: Same as above.
  • Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers: I received an ARC of this and am currently reading it.
  • The other books I got at YALLFest: There were a bunch that I have yet to read; if you’d like to know what all of them are you can read about them here.
  • Emma by Jane Austen: I need to read more Jane Austen because I always LOVE her books.
  • Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody: I got this for my birthday, have started a little bit of it, and I am so excited to continue!
  • Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel by Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill: Another birthday gift, and seeing as I’ll be editing soon it’s going to be very useful.
  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi: I’ve been wanting to read this because hello, it’s Roshani Chokshi, and I received it for my birthday as well.

My Goodreads goal is 50 books, and obviously this list isn’t that long, but I am a mood reader through and through.

Writing Goals:

  • Finish my draft of The Nikolai Project
  • Come up with a title for The Nikolai Project
  • Write and edit the third book in my Gwendolyn Trilogy
  • Possibly, depending on Gwen, start editing TNP

This is a shorter post, but I always like to share my goals for the year.

What books are you hoping to read this year? If you write, what are your writing goals?

Love you all,

Clara

Best Books of 2018

I am writing this after pulling an all-nighter for the first time in my life, but I have fortunately slept since then. Hopefully this will be mostly coherent.

For starters, happy new year! I hope you have a wonderful 2019.

I had intended, repeatedly, to write this during what we’ll all now be calling “last year,” as I normally do, but on top of all the holiday craze my mom and I have been planning my birthday party.

As a whole, I didn’t read a lot this year (I barely managed to make my goal of 40 books). I think it was just harder to get into books this year–as I learn more about writing, I am a much pickier reader. I also had a lot of moments when I really didn’t want to read, which made me uncomfortable, but I realized that sometimes I just don’t want to read, and that’s okay.

But most of the books I read this year I really loved. So while I read less, most of what I did read was amazing.

Without further adieu…

The Last Jedi by Jason Fry

The movie The Last Jedi made me fall in love with Star Wars again, and of course I had to read the novelization. It was certainly worth reading, and I usually don’t enjoy movie novelizations (that said, I haven’t read many). If you’re a Reylo shipper and you haven’t read this, you should. You won’t regret it.

French Women don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

Or, as it is affectionately called around my house due to my mom confusing the title, Fat Women don’t Get French. A good nonfiction book about eating right without depriving yourself of things like bread and chocolate. It’s also full of recipes that sound absolutely fabulous, plus it’s about French culture.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

This one has stood out since I read it in January. It’s a good, mostly character-driven fae novel, with a love interest I loved very much.

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs 

This one deserves a spot on this list simply because it’s the first MG novel I’ve enjoyed in what feels like forever. It’s also marvelously entertaining.

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Paris. Magic. A scene set in a giant fashion store (that is real, and I going there one day). A dark brooding prince who’s one-half of what is possibly one of the most interesting ships in the world. There was no way I wasn’t going to love this.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

This book is extremely relevant to today’s culture, and that’s part of why I loved it so much. In addition, I enjoyed the characters a lot along with the political intrigue, and I expect some plot points in the sequel that I know I will love.

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

I read this a couple weeks ago and I LOVED it. I read it in two days. It was very fast paced, had lots of political intrigue, and Theodosia is amazing.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Okay, so Renegades was a little bit disappointing, but THIS BOOK. I can’t say much without spoilers, but it’s amazing and I can’t wait for the conclusion to the trilogy.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

I could really put any book in the Throne of Glass series after Crown of Midnight on this list. While I definitely don’t agree with all of the content of this series, especially in Empire of Storms, I would be lying if I didn’t say this is one of the best series I’ve ever read (please no Kingdom of Ash spoilers in the comments).

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

I am not the only one who loved this book, and for good reason. It’s beautifully written, with fascinating, less-than-perfect characters, and the plot was enthralling. The Wicked King is definitely one of my most anticipated reads of 2019.

It was a year full of good books, for sure. I hope there are just as many wonderful books in 2019, and that you have a great year of reading and otherwise.

What was the best book you read in 2018? 

-Clara