Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Review: Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

Hello everyone! You might know Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin trilogy, and if so, you’ll be excited to hear that her newest novel, Courting Darkness, is the beginning of a stand-alone duology set in the same world. And whoa, this book was good on so many levels- the unique backdrop, the political intrigue, the characters...

Death wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning…

Sybella has always been the darkest of Death’s daughters, trained at the convent of Saint Mortain to serve as his justice. But she has a new mission now. In a desperate bid to keep her two youngest sisters safe from the family that nearly destroyed them all, she agrees to accompany the duchess to France, where they quickly find themselves surrounded by enemies. Their one ray of hope is Sybella’s fellow novitiates, disguised and hidden deep in the French court years ago by the convent—provided Sybella can find them.

Genevieve has been undercover for so many years, she struggles to remember who she is or what she’s supposed to be fighting for. Her only solace is a hidden prisoner who appears all but forgotten by his guards. When tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands—even if it means ignoring the long awaited orders from the convent.

As Sybella and Gen’s paths draw ever closer, the fate of everything they hold sacred rests on a knife’s edge. Will they find each other in time, or will their worlds collide, destroying everything they care about?

I love the premise of Courting Darkness- it reminds me a little of Kiersten White’s And I Darken in the sense that it explores an era in history not commonly seen in YA fiction (in this case, 15th century Brittany and France) while adding a fantasy twist. As a result, the political drama has a realistic and unique note to it; this is not your standard fantasy monarchy with a tyrannical king and obedient puppet advisors- this book follows the complex political struggle as the duchess of Brittany and her court attempt to maintain their sovereignty from France. Politics play a considerable role in this story, and I found it to be well-written and interesting to follow, especially since it’s based loosely on history.

The author also takes the time to develop all the characters and their relationships so that they are realistic as well. Sometimes the relationships in novels can be a little generic (e.g. the stereotypical father figure or the domineering older sibling) when in real life our relationships (with our peers, family, superiors, etc.) are constantly shifting and are extremely complex, and Courting Darkness depicts this well. I would say the relationships between Genevieve and Margot, and between Sybella and the duchess are especially unique. This novel is also impressive given the number of characters involved and the author’s ability to make each one of them have lives, intentions, and purposes that don’t just revolve around the protagonists. The subtle characterization throughout this novel brings all the characters to life, making you view even the minor ones as individuals rather than just plot devices. In all, there is a definite sense that everyone has a life of their own, as if the novel could easily shift to follow a different character and it would still be a well-rounded and complete story.

Finally, Sybella and Genevieve are such compelling protagonists. While both of them are Death’s daughters, they are very different people with unique backstories and circumstances. Both of them are strong characters who are mature, self-sufficient, and refuse to be reined in by others. They are so well-written, and there are many moments and scenes that make you feel everything from indignation and dread to grim satisfaction.

In all, this novel has so many unique characteristics. If you like medieval fantasy, action, politics, and historical dramas, Courting Darkness is for you!


Find Courting Darkness in the Monroe County Library SystemGoodreadsBarnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday Fun Post: Anticipated Books of 2019

Hey guys! Katie C. here with my first post of 2019! Today I'm going to share with you guys some of my most anticipated reads of the upcoming year!

First on my list is On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Normally, I'm not much of a realistic fiction kinda gal. However, after falling in love with Angie's first book, The Hate You Give, I put her next release, On the Come Up, right at the top of my TBR. If it's anything like her first book, On the Come Up is sure to be full of dynamic characters and strong themes that will stick with the reader long after the final page. And the best part about this book? unlike all the others on this post, On the Come Up is out right now! You can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but if you're running low on cash, you can borrow it from your local library!

Next, The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

Bill Konigsberg is one of my favorite authors of all time! So of course, when I heard he had another book coming out this year, I couldn't help but be excited! Last year, when Bill Konigsberg came to TBF, he said that unlike his other books, Openly Straight and Honestly Ben (which he described as coming of age novels), The Music of What Happens would be a rom-com style of book. And if you're like me and can't wait to get your hands on this book, have I got good news for you! The Music of What Happens will be released on February 26th, which is less than a week from when this post was made! it'll be available on Amazon and Barnes and noble.

Next up, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu

Outside of reading, one of my favorite hobbies is drawing cartoons, which is why I'm a huge fan of graphic novels and comics. One of my favorite graphic novels, Check, Please!, originally started out as a webcomic, where I was first was introduced to Bitty and the rest of the Samwell Hockey team.  Over time, Check, Please! gained such a big fanbase that Ngozi Ukazu was able to get a publishing deal! Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the second installment of the series and will be released this coming fall on an unspecified date. However, the first book is currently out, or if you prefer a digital medium, most of the series is available for free on the original website!

(this is the first book cover since 
the 2nd isn't availibe yet) 

Also being released in 2019, The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews

Even before C. G. Drews became a published author, I've been a big fan of her book blog, Paper Fury. Back in 2016 when Drews first started writing this book, she'd talk about The Boy Who Steals Houses on her blog and even share snippets with her followers. the concept of someone breaking into houses while others are away intrigued me even back then and only makes me even more excited now when I know that I can read this book in just a few months on April 4th! Unfortunately, because of the publishing deal, The Boy Who Steals Houses and C. G. Drews's other books won't be available outside of the UK and Australia unless you order it for yourself online from a site like amazon or book depository

And last but not least, Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

I'm not gonna lie; I'm a big sucker for middle school adventure stories. So when I first heard about this book, a story about a girl who has to outrun a shape-shifter to saver herself and her family, I immediately put it on my TBR list. Even better, Race to the Sun is part of Rick Riordan Presents, which is a small branch of Disney-Hyperion Publishing that makes books for fans of the Percy Jackson series. This book won't be out until October 15th, but you can pre-order now on amazon and barnes and noble

That's all for today I'm afraid. I know 2019 has only barely begun, but i can already feel that it's going to be a great year for books! this is Katie C., signing off!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book Review: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Happy Wednesday readers! I hope everyone's weeks are going well. For this week I read Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, and I'm excited to talk to you about it!

TESS OF THE ROAD_FINAL 08.17.17[1] (1)In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Returning to the fascinating world she created in the award-winning and New York Times bestselling Seraphina, Rachel Hartman introduces readers to a new character and a new quest, pushing the boundaries of genre once again in this wholly original fantasy.

This book is one that I've been itching to read, and itching to blog about, since it's announcement last year. I initially read Seraphina and Shadow Scale a little while back, Rachel Hartman's first series set in Goredd, and I really enjoyed the world and its characters. I was really excited to revisit Rachel Hartman's world, this time in the shoes of Tess, Seraphina's younger half sister. Through Tess' eyes we're able to see everything through a new perspective. We come to understand Tess as not the troublemaker and a drunk as her whole family believes her to be, but as someone deeply wounded from scars from her past. We also find that there's much more to the world of Goredd than we were able to glean from Seraphina. Tess' childhood friend Pathka, a quigutl, became our unconventional and surprisingly wise guide along the road.

Over the course of our journey with Tess I found myself enjoying the change of pace from the Seraphina books. While Goredd is a land full of dragons and adventure, Tess of the Road is an adventure about healing old wounds, resolving old grief, and "walking on," all while finding a giant magical world serpent along the way. I definitely recommend this book to any fan of fantasy or even anyone who likes a good and uplifting emotional journey. While Tess of the Road is set in Goredd and references people and places familiar to the Seraphina books, that does not mean that you have to read those first, so no worries, if it sounds interesting to you, go read!


Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday Fun Post: Top Five Most Anticipated Books of 2019

Hey there TBF fans,
As you well know by now, we are in the second month of this new year-- 2019.
While for some that might mean New Years’ Resolutions still in progress... or the bitter cold of winter, for us book nerds the start of another year means that the amount of days between us and our TBR wishlists are ticking down--slowly, yes, but surely. And while--let’s face it, there are a lot of awesome books coming out in 2019-- everyone’s got a couple of special picks that are close to their heart. I’m no exception-- so here are five of the books I’ll be keeping my eye on this year.
  1. Dig by A.S. King. Release date: March 26th
First off-- if you a.) haven’t read anything by A. S. King yet and b.) don’t mind accepting an unsolicited book recommendation now and then, then I highly advise you dust off your library card and pick up one of her books as soon as possible. Trust me. The best way I think that I can describe them is as mindbenders. The stories take you in weird directions, show you things that don’t seem entirely real... but like any good labyrinth they take you where you need to go. Dig, itself, centers around five teenagers-- The Shoveler, The Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress and First-Class Malcolm (like I said-- the books are mindbenders). Though each has their own problems, their own expectations, they are all connected by one thing-- their relation of Marla and Gottfried Hemmings who, aside from being the descendents of potato farmers, are worth millions. But none of this wealth will ever be passed down to their grandchildren, as Marla paradoxically summarizes “Because we want them to thrive.” Whatever that “thriving” seems to look like. As the darker secrets behind the Hemmings reputation and fortune, finally begin to see the light, the five teens must decide whether price they’re willing to pay for the family name.
Sounds pretty good, right?
  1. I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi. Release Date: October 22nd
Is it weird to admit that I’ve always really enjoyed a good apocalypse story? There’s nothing like the world ending to really see who a character is-- and what they hold dear. And Jesse, Cate and Adeem, the protagonists of I Hope You Get This Message, seem as though they’ve got a lot to do before the final curtain. Cate wants to figure out who her father-- a man known only through the stories of her schizophrenic mother-- really is. Jesse, on the other hand, thinks he’s ready for the end. But as the death date-- when aliens from a far off world threaten to end earth-- looms, he finds he isn’t quite so sure. And Adeem must venture beyond the world he’s comfortable with-- code and computers-- to come to forgiveness.
It’s a lot to ask in eight days. Personally, I can’t wait to see whether these three are up to it.
  1. A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo. Release Date: November 5th
Though I’ll admit that I haven’t yet gotten the chance to read Miranda Asebedo’s debut novel The Deepest Roots, the more I hear about her sophomore work, A Constellation of Roses, the more the novel seems to draw me in. Almost like ...magic-- which is exactly what the book is about.
Our protagonist, Trix McCabe is determined to survive in a world that does not particularly seem to care whether she does. Her mother left her. Her ability to steal almost anything a stranger fails when she needs it most. And now she’s faced with the choice between time in jail or a visit to her estranged relatives in Rocksaw, Kansas.
Needless to say, Trix isn’t particularly interested in putting down roots. But the more she learns about the unusual women of her family, each with their own special--magical, even--gift, the more she finds herself wondering if she can really find a place in Rocksaw, Kansas.
Featuring some of my favorite tropes-- a hardened protagonist, strong female characters and a world where something magical mixes with reality-- A Constellation of Roses will certainly be on my TBR list.
  1. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Release Date: February 5th
Though this might be cheating considering February 5th has come and gone, for Angie Thomas I’m willing to make an exception. Chances are, if you’ve been paying attention to the world of YA this past year, you already know this incredible author. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was not only number one on the New York Times bestseller list but also was adapted into a film just last year! And this sophomore novel looks like it has the potential to be just as big.
The story centers around Bri Jackson, an aspiring rapper who’s had her dreams written off time and time again. But she’s got too much riding on them-- a chance at living up to her hip-hop legend father’s legacy, not to mention saving her family’s home-- to give up.
When one of her songs finally goes viral--though not even remotely in the way Bri had hoped or planned-- and she’s labelled as danger not an up and coming talent, Bri is forced to face the truth of what her identity as a young black woman means for her freedom to express herself.
As usual, Angie Thomas does not pick an easy topic to address in her new novel. But if anyone can tell the truth and make a beautiful story at the same time, it’s her.
  1. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia Relase Date: February 26th
Apocalyptic Handmaid’s Tale-esque setting, queer girl romance and Latinx representation? Yes, please!
In the world of Medio, the most a girl can aspire to be is an aid to her husband-- either to run the household or raise children. And Daniela Vargas is nothing if not ambitious.
But her perfect grades hide a dangerous secret-- a past that can never be known and a love for a girl who’s supposed to be her rival.
As Daniela takes the plunge to begin spying for the rebellion in Medio, she’s forced to ask herself-- are these risks worth it? Should she take her place quietly in the background or set the world aflame?
Needless to say, I’ll be counting down the days until February 26th.
And that’s only the beginning of my TBR list-- but since only have finite space, I’ll digress. For now.
But what about you? What books are you looking forward to this year? Feel free to comment with your own top five (or even top ten) list below.
Happy reading,

Kate Giugno

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

Hey everyone! I am so excited to be back blogging again for TBF, and I started the year off with a pretty great read. I hadn't heard that much about Pulp by Robin Talley besides that it involved the 50s, storytelling, and lesbians, but I was not disappointed at all when I picked it up. Here's a little about it:

Image result for pulp robin talleyIn 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It's not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she struggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself - and Marie - to a danger all too real. 

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can't stop thinking about her senior project and its subject - classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby's own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires, and tragedies of the characters she's reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym "Marian Love," and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity. In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we've come, and how much farther we have to go.

I haven't read that many books told in dual perspective but after this book, I want to find more. Watching the two stories interweave and seeing parallels between the two main girls was incredible and I loved the way Robin Talley kept me guessing as to how these two characters would meet until the end. When I heard half this story was set in the 50s, that was what sold it to me. My friends and I often discuss how much we love the aesthetic of and stories from this time, but hate all of the prejudice and sexism, but this book address all of that while still keeping some charm. Janet's job at the Soda Shoppe and the descriptions of the city in this time were all wonderful and helped build the world around her struggles. While the actual love stories weren't as prominent as the arcs of yearning for love as well as learning to love oneself, I did love the love shown. But this time was also incredibly juxtaposed against Abby and her diverse friend group and supportive family.

And that is the main thing that Robin Talley did that I loved, the emphasis she placed on how different the world was. The hidden secrets Janet had and her fear of being found out, put next to Abby and her school's GSA all hanging out openly, was beautiful. These two girls lived very different lives but yet felt the exact same feelings and experienced heartbreak together in a sort of way, which I loved. The book easily weaves these two tales of self-discovery together, the characters seemingly growing together despite being more than fifty years apart.

In the end, I loved this book for its striking and real characters and storylines, and its literary references which showed just how important a book can be. I would recommend this to any and all lovers of historical fiction or contemporaries, as well as anyone who has seen the world change around them and wants to read about characters just like them.

I hope you're staying warm this winter, and have been reading a good book (or two!) Stay tuned for another fun post on Friday, and another book review next Wednesday by some of our other great bloggers.
check the book out here!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday Fun Post: Anticipated Books of 2019

Hello everyone! I hope your year is off to a good start. I can’t believe it’s 2019 already, but that means a lot of exciting books are being released. Some of these were published in January, but overall here's my list of some of my most anticipated books of 2019!
  1. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (Release date: January 29, 2019): First of all, Leigh Bardugo could probably write anything and I would read it. Her Six of Crows duology is one of my favorite series, and her writing style is so rich and full of complex character development and world-building that I know King of Scars is going to be amazing. Furthermore, it follows one of my favorite characters from her Grisha trilogy (Nikolai Lantsov) and includes a point-of-view of one of the characters from Six of Crows? There's no more I could ask for in a book. And don’t worry- you don’t have to have read her other series to read this one. If you're looking for an immersive world, check out King of Scars in the Monroe County Library System, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon
  2. The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (Anticipated release date: October 8, 2019): I loved Renée Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn series (the beautiful imagery!) so while the plot of this book is completely different- 1872 New Orleans with vampires, a glitzy underworld, and a potential serial killer- I know it’s in good hands. I find the late 19th century (or Gilded Age, as my U.S. History class has taught me) fascinating- how the world was rapidly industrializing, becoming something new, yet beneath the glamorous exterior: slums, dire poverty, and darkness. A lot about this time period is romanticized in literature and pop culture, but some of it isn’t at the same time. I’m curious and excited to read the author’s take on it, especially with a city I’m unfamiliar with and a murder mystery afoot (and the undead of course). You can preorder this book at Barnes & Noble and Amazon
  3. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Release date: January 15, 2019): This book is also set in the late 19th century (are we sensing a theme here?)- the city is Paris, and an all-powerful society sends a group led by treasure-hunter Séverin Montagnet-Alarie to find an ancient artifact. The synopsis is giving me a Six-of-Crows vibe with the dark city interior and band of misfits with a mission, while the setting is giving me early art nouveau movement and invention expositions (doing some research, this time period in Europe is known as the Belle Époque- the Beautiful Era). I love reading about heists and mysterious orders and ancient secrets, and knowing how passionate the author was about the story makes me want to read it even more. Find The Gilded Wolves in the Monroe County Library System, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon
  4. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Anticipated Release Date: November 5, 2019): While I have not read anything by this author before, I’ve heard glowing praise about her first novel, The Night Circus. The synopsis for this one just pulled me in- it has an almost dreamlike quality- quietly whimsical and enchanting. I think we can all relate to wanting to find a world not like our own (through a library, no less!) and the promise of “twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores” is right up my alley. Seriously though, this description makes me want to find the nearest ancient library and wander through the shelves. You can preorder this book at Barnes & Noble and Amazon
  5. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare (Anticipated Release Date: November 19, 2019): As background, I loved Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices series (which, you guessed it, takes place in the late 19th century). I loved the humor, the world-building, the long twisting family trees… and of course, the characters. Chain of Gold takes place not too long after (early 20th century), so I’m incredibly excited to see some of my favorite characters back in action, along with the new protagonists. It’ll be interesting to see the Blackthorn-Carstairs-Herondale dynamic, since the same families interact in another series (The Dark Artifices) generations later. I actually wasn’t aware this series was coming out until recently, but now I can’t wait! Check it out at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.  
So there’s five of my most anticipated books of 2019! These five barely scratch the surface of everything that is going to be published this year, but I hope you’ve found something new to be excited for!


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday Book Review

Hi everyone! Happy February! This is the best time of the year to curl up with a book by the fireplace and I think I have a recommendation that you will all really like! Happy reading!
What to Read if you are looking for a Whole New Fantasy World
Photo from
Wow. I think that that was one of the more prominent words in my head at the conclusion of The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black. The book is an absolutely decadent and delightful journey into the world of the Faerie, a shimmering, gilded, and entirely dangerous place. This book is entirely successful at creating a new fantasy world that is unique from the other books that I have read about Faeries (quite a feat nowadays, considering that Faeries seem to be quite the popular topic). The land is both scintillating and perilous, with Black utilizing vivid and gorgeous imagery to convey the nuances of the world. The plot of this story is also one that I promise will not disappoint. Every page is filled with breathtaking plot twists and whispers of deception: you never know who exactly it is that the main character, Jude, can trust. In fact, at times you are unsure if you can trust Jude herself to do the right thing and have pure intentions.
This brings me to what is undoubtedly my favorite aspect of this book: the way that it requires the reader to think about questions of morality. (I promise this is not a spoiler, it happens in the first chapter) Jude witness a man kill her parents when she was only a child. She remembers the experience and she remembers the man taking her and her sisters away to live with him in the Faerie world. Yet, she still sees this man as her father and loves him in a twisted way. Is this wrong? That is the question whose answer still eludes me, even after finishing the story. The novel is peppered with questions such as these, perfect in their ability to make the reader truly think about what he or she thinks of the morality of the situation. There are characters who appear in this story that are not as good as they seem, characters who are not as bad as they seem, and characters who are unapologetically morally gray. This is what makes the book truly come to life. You won’t be finding a Mary Sue in this story, that’s for sure. Jude is a phenomenal main character, who is clever, motivated by her desire to fit in in a society that she has no place in, and a strange mix of ruthlessness and restraint. She is certainly compassionate, while maintaining a hard edge that was undoubtedly passed on to her through her years at the faery court.

Please read this novel. Read this novel for the breathtaking, twisting, turning, tumbling plot that is really quite a roller coaster ride. Read this novel for the stunningly detailed new world that Holly Black creates out a mishmash of tales that allows her creation to seem familiar and entirely new all at once (as paradoxical as that may sound). But, most of all, read this novel because it will make you think. It will make you question your position on moral stances, it will make you question the actions of characters, it will make you question whether certain emotions can be right or wrong, it will make you question how far it is okay to go in the name of revenge. And read this novel for the cast of characters that are flawed, human (or, in some circumstances faery) and yet you still want to root for as they make mistakes and struggles to do what is right. And when you finish the book, move on to the sequel The Wicked King, which just recently came out. (You guys won’t have to wait many months to read the sequel like I did! You are very lucky people!) Enjoy your reading!
P.S. If you want to buy this book, here is the handy link to amazon: