Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books We Can't Believe We Read

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

CJ's Selections

As with my dear coblogger, I'm going to try and interpret this prompt the best I can? Here goes. Oh, and fair warning: I decided I'm going to allow myself to be my snarky darkhearted self, so here's to pulling no punches in 2018. 
1.27 Hours / Tristina Wright - More like I can't believe I finished this. I still haven't written a review because I hate writing negative reviews, especially of books that are really strong in the diversity camp. The characters were definitely the strongest bit--a whole cast of queer-identifying teens with spark and vitality. And then there was the plot. It just dragged. Or made no sense. And somehow this crazy sci-fi world hopping where racism is gone IS SET IN 2075!? It was hard to get past that part. Also, why did the pretty trans girl not get a POV? I'm glad other people loved it, but reading it was like banging my head against a brick wall. (see also ROAR by Cora Cormack)

2.Prisoner of Ice and Snow / Ruth Lauren - So I guess I read this. Tooootally forgot about it until just now. It was middle grade so I should probably be nicer, but I can't heeelp it. It was just so predictable and blah. Gimme THE GAUNTLET or THE IRON TRIAL any day. I can't even remember it well enough to be snarky about it. This is really more "I don't believe it!" in the sense that if you handed me this book and told me I'd read it, I'm not sure I'd believe you.

3.Poison's Kiss / Breeana Shields - Strike that down for another one I can't believe I finished. It's like someone was watching Aladdin and was like, "Hey, I could write about a vaguely Arabic (Indic?) world with sand and snake charmers and shit. And then I could take a really cool concept of poison maidens and surround it with a super thin plot, unbelievable instalove, and the dumbest twist known to man." You know how sometimes you read on, hoping it'll get better? It didn't get better.

4.Wolf by Wolf / Ryan Graudin - I don't know what I expected. I thought Graudin's Wall (what was the name of it!?) book was mediocre. So naturally I'm like, "Hm, well, here's one about an alternative universe in which an escaped Jewish girl competes in an international motorcycle race to get a chance to kill Hitler. That sounds like a good idea." Spoiler alert: It wasn't. I didn't actually finish it, and there are people who adored it, but clearly I was not meant for that life.

5.Dumplin' / Julie Murphy - I somehow read this book despite already knowing it was about beauty pageants and Texas, two things that are diametrically opposed to my personal aesthetic. But it was fat positive and ALL THE COOL KIDS WERE DOING IT, so I did it. It wasn't bad. There was a lot of Dolly Parton. I didn't love it. But it was damn solid, and I'd read Julie Murphy again. Although maybe not if there are beauty pageants...

Whitley's Selections

Admittedly, this prompt confused me a little, so...I kind of took various interpretations with it. *shrug*

1.Revealing Eden - Yeah, that 'famously' racist bad book that had 15 minutes of fame for being just so very bad right from the premise. But you cannot imagine how bad the execution was without reading it. (Not that I would suggest doing so, there's really no benefit to knowing.)

I can't believe I made it to the end of this one...without breaking it.

2.Lord of the Rings Trilogy - I have never really been a lover of huge epics, although I had a bit more tolerance for them when I was younger. Still, even though I read this one years ago...it's so HUGE? How on earth did I sit still long enough to finish it? How did I manage to retain basically anything that happened?

I can't believe I made it to the end of this one...at all.

3.A Game of Thrones - I have this one marked as being read. So I must have read it, right? At some point? ...but I have absolutely no memory of this book or any subsequent ones. What little I know from this series comes from HBO gifs.

I CAN believe I read this book...but I'd also believe that I haven't and just made a mistake.

4.When a Scot Ties the Knot - Although it's not free from some of the less savory romance cliches, I found this book so charming and it resonated so well with me that it officially became the FIRST romance book that I've ever REREAD. And I've reread it multiple times (most recently being last week, even). I reread books in general so rarely, and romance especially becomes less enjoyable on repeats, and I'm honestly surprised at myself for picking this one up again and again. (Any Duchess Will Do, by the same author, also gets reread semi-regularly.)

I can't believe I read this book...again!

5.Public Relations - Okay, this isn't the first book that gave me this reaction, but the phenomenon keeps surprising me regardless and this example was easiest to find. Because I identified a little too hard with this book. Not in a bad way, just in a way that made me repeatedly stop and put it down and go SOMEONE ELSE THINKS THIS WAY, OMG. I love it when books put words to a feeling or a thought process that I didn't even realize I couldn't verbalize.

I can't believe I read this book...about me!

Your turn! What books can you not believe you read. (And did we even get the prompt right?)


Review: Whitley: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Book Cover
title: Girls Made of Snow and Glass
author: Melissa Bashardoust
pages: 384
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4.5/5
At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.


Top (Five) Tuesday: Ten books we really loved but can't remember anything about

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

CJ's Selections

The way my memory has been since grad school, basically all the books I've read could go on here. But I'll pick some of the ones that just really slipped out of a hole in the back of my skull even though I could swear I loved them. 
1.A Line in the Dark / Malindo Lo - I really hope I already wrote the review for this one, because for some reason it's a black hole in my brain. Someone died, I think? There was a really good toxic friendship? There were girls in love? I remember being SO entrance by the writing and racing through the plot because I wanted to know everything! Maybe that's why I'm blanking.

2.The Reader / Traci Chee - Literally this book is one of my favorites of last year and yet I can barely remember the main plot. I know there was a boy who couldn't speak and a girl who could read, and a flashback to something dastardly happening at a library. And the boy was kidnapped? There were pirates involved. I definitely remember the side story of the famous pirate guy. And the cool mini story told at the bottom of the page! Maybe I was just in a daze of joy when I read this cause I'm foggy.

3.Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda - I probably shouldn't admit this, but there it is. I read this book as an ARC, aka forever ago. And I thought it was brilliant. And yet people keep mentioning stuff because of the movie coming out and I'm like huh? What happened, now? I guess that means the movie will just be a fabulous surprise and I'll be like OH YEAH RIGHT through the whole thing. It's good, because then I won't nitpick.

4.Lair of Dreams / Libba Bray - This happens to be one of my favorite series I've read and yet book two is basically a gaping void. I do remember being super annoyed that Evie and Sam (?) ...well, with their whole flirtation thing, I won't spoil it. And there was obviously something supernatural. And a museum. I really need to read book 3 but basically everyone could have died and I'd be like OH okay that happened.

5.The Darkest Part of the Forest / Holly Black - I absolutely adored this book, but I realized recently that I don't remember it as well as I thought. Because there was a cheeky reference in THE CRUEL PRINCE and Melissa Lee was like DID YOU SEE and I was like UH WHAT. On the plus side, it makes me really want to go back and reread it, so yay?


Top Ten Tuesday: Our top book and book-adjacent resolutions for 2018

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

CJ's Selections

So, I almost wrote 2017. Also my main resolution is...to actually read again? (Yes, these covers are all representative of the things, just in twisty ways cause my brain is a labyrinth.)
1.Catch up on the backlist - I even made a Goodreads shelf for this one, at the gentle insistence of @rtthebookowl who is wise in all things. Because there are SO many books on my TBR that I've had on there for approximately an eon (you'll get to see more specifics in a couple weeks for TTT) and it's just kind of embarrassing. Even though I deleted about 600 books off my TBR recently, it's still...way too long. So 2018 is going to be the year of playing catch-up!

2.Finish those series I've left twisting in the wind - Remember Brodi Ashton's trilogy, starting with Everneath? What about Victoria Schwab's The Archived? And I'm sure you all know Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. What else do they have in common? These are all series I started years ago...and never got around to finishing. I think it's part OMG NEW BOOKS MUST KEEP UP -itis and part IF I FINISH THEM THEY'LL BE OVER. Whatever the cause, this year I'm actually going to warp up some of those abandoned babies!

3.Crosspost all those reviews I have hanging out there - So 2017 was not my best year for blogging. I kind of went on an unexpected hiatus, and I'm just now getting around to posting again. Gently. But I also feel choked up with guilt every time I think of how much longer it's been since I've properly crossposted my reviews to Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads. This year, it's time to slay the anxiety monster and get to copying and pasting!

4.Chill out more about blogging and reviewing - Besides depression and all that jazz, one of the biggest things that burnt me out on blogging was this crushing perfectionism that made it nearly impossible for me to even START a post. Because what if it wasn't long enough or pretty enough!? Well, screw that. This year, I'm going to embrace the frenetic word vomiter that is my brain and just WRITE. Because blogging is supposed to be FUN.

5.Chat more with other people about books - Yeah, I'm on twitter a lot (more than I should be considering how many anxiety spirals it's caused) but sometimes I feel like I'm just talking to myself. The whole point of getting on there in the first place was to engage with other readers about BOOKS. So I'm going to do that more this year, and worry less about my "image" and "popularity" and "shut up everyone thinks you're weird."

Whitley's Selections

I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions. I tend to make all of them at once and then, of course, fail at all of them at once. Trying to pick managebale resolutions is something I'm inching towards... Oh, hey, I guess that's another resolution: get better at resolutions! Hah.

 Also I couldn't decide on appropriate pictures, so enjoy my top five picks from 2017 instead.

1.Read more books than twitter - I spend way too much time on twitter, it's really become a dangerous time sink for me. And while I don't want to disconnect from that community, I do want to allocate my time better. I can easily spend hours on twitter and then realize it's the end of the day and I've run out of time to read. Those should be reversed...

I, er, have not been keeping to this so far. But I have been better, at least.

2.Keep track of my books -I've been using this spreadsheet by Crini to track books that I've obtained and read. I tried to use it as well last year, but, well, I'm me. I love this spreadsheet though, it's got an option for almost everything. It's only two weeks into the year, but I haven't fallen off the wagon yet!

3.Use the library more - I used the library so little last year that they actually deleted my account and I didn't notice. (They...weren't supposed to, I don't think. It's okay, I got a new one.) I chalk that up to the fact that I had a steady, well-paying job for the first time in...a decade? (Sorry, I just realized that as I was typing, what is my life.) So I went a little overboard, and now I have entire series of books that I own but haven't yet cracked a spine on. I like having the spare cash to support authors, but it turns out...um, a decade of not having extra money makes me bad at spending it and maybe I should have made sure I liked those hardcovers before I dropped much money on them.

But the library is awesome and even lets me make lists on my account, which for some reason satisfies my hoarding impulse without having to give up money OR space. Who knew.

4.Attend ALA MW - Well, this'll be an easy one to meet, I already have my ticket and room lined up. Can't wait to get to Denver!

5.Booksta...blog? - I didn't get very far into my instagram before, erm, well, I'm me. *shrug* But I really want to get back into photography, and including book photography. I don't know what I want to do with it, because instagram annoys me, but I do know I want to get better.

Your turn! Any resolutions, bookish or otherwise, in 2018?


ARC Review: C.J. This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

review         book

Book Covertitle: This Mortal Coil
author: Emily Suvada
pages: 425
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of the show Dark Angel, cyberpunk stuff like The Matrix and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, and other really clever techy sci-fi. Or probably Resident Evil. 
Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

in depth

  • If you didn't catch my slew of Twitter gushing, then I'll summarize for you: this book is astounding. Suvada combines a brutal Walking Dead-style dystopia with the cyber-glam of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies and the sci-fi ruthlessness of Dark Angel (old TV show, extra points if you've seen it). In short? Breathtaking. 

  • I have very little to complain about it, so I'll get it out of the way. It'd be too spoilery to go into detail, but suffice to say there's a plot twist regarding the romance that I think didn't get enough emotional impact. It's like . . . okay, we're just cool with this now? Suvada brought it back nicely, but I wavered for a minute there. 

  • Alright, complaints over. The rest of this book is sheer breakneck explosiveness (no pun intended). Catarina Agatta lives in a world where you can change virtually anything about yourself with a panel on your wrist, and where a digital virus has left millions of people flesh-hungry time bombs ready to explode into blood clouds. Suvada renders this post-apocalyptic landscape with a loving brutality that will chill you. 

  • I almost wish there were more encounters with the virus zombies, but this is no World War Z. The plot that really packs a punch surrounds a quasi-governmental organization that stole Cat's dad--and the antidote for the deadliest virus the world has ever seen. Enter adorable super-soldier Cole and we're in business. Cat and Cole are pretty archetypal--brilliant cold girl genius and secretly softie hardcore fighter boy--but with enough dimension to feel real anyway.  

  • I can't really prepare you for the mindf*ck that is this plot. First off, Suvada has a command of the science that makes the near-future world utterly believable; and I know enough about genetics to find the technobabble fascinating but not enough to find accuracy holes, so it was a happy medium. 

  • Second off, forget what you think you know. Suvada lures you into trap after trap with her storytelling, and pulls the rug out from under you again and again and again. The more Cat learns about the virus, the more she realizes the dark underbelly of the government, her own father, and even herself. The series of reveals towards the end is an explosive daisy chain of OMGs that sets up what I know will be a mind-blowing sequel. 

  • If you're looking for a book you'll have to white-knuckle it through, that packs an emotional punch and is also just damn thrilling, that's just realistic enough to chill, then get this book. It's an under-hyped gem that blows better-known dystopians like Divergent out of the freaking ocean. 

in a sentence

This Mortal Coil is a brutal masterpiece of storytelling; its characters have emotional staying power and its plot will keep you guessing until the last period. 


will i read this author again?  Yes! I would read the sequel today. 
will i continue the series?  I might go catatonic from suspense. 

Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books we were totally going to read in 2017 ... and didn't

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish

CJ's Selections

The second half of 2017 was like book desert for me... 
1.The Belles / Dhonielle Clayton - I've been really psyched for this book and wanted to read it ages ago, but obviously that never happened. The current plan is to read it before February. I'm at least reading, which is a contrast to most of the second half of 2017, where I was dealing with way too much head crap to actually focus on a book. But I definitely don't want to miss out on this lush fantasy by one of the coolest diversity advocates in the biz. I was also fortunate to meet her this year, and she's insanely cool and sweet. If her book is half as charming, it'll be a smash.

2.Saints and Misfits / S.K. Ali - Another book that got swallowed in the black hole of June to December. When I'm having a lot of anxiety and crap, I become even more of a mood reader than I already am. And for some reason, contemporary just wasn't my jam for the last bit of last year. I basically only read fantasy. But I literally preordered this book because I was so excited for a happy, vibrant Muslim girl story, so it's getting read this year!

3.The Speaker / Traci Chee - I didn't have an ARC this time, so I had to wait to get a finished copy like the rest of the peasantry. (Totally kidding, loves.) Unfortunately, by the time it came out, I was so buried in books that I felt guilty spending money if I wasn't going to read it right away. I'm trying to be less anal about my reading this year, so even if my TBR is cray, I'll still be putting this high on my list. THE READER was one of my favorites (so underrated! read it!) of the last couple years, so I'm kinda dying to know what happens next.

4.City of Brass / S.A. Chakraborty - As soon as I'm ready to dive into a dense fantasy, this one is my top choice. Even though my friend is totally going to kill me for still not reading NAME OF THE WIND. I swear I'll get to it! But this was another preorder, because everything about the non-Western-inspired high fantasy world screamed something I'll love. Plus it's been a long time since I've read a truly adult fantasy (not counting highly crossover stuff like A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC), so I'd like to get back into the genre. It's such a different feel than YA.

5.Scythe / Neil Shusterman - Dark comedy about death? Um, it's like it was yanked out of my brain. Of course, again, I didn't have an ARC, so this one got pushed aside in favor of review books that I was supposed to be reading on time. Not that it happened a lot last year because YAY PERSONAL LIFE FALLING APART, but the intent was there. Oh well. I'm running out of ARCs for this year, so it's time to catch up on backlist titles. Including ones that aren't even really backlist yet because they literally came out a year ago.

Whitley's Selections

Honestly, I feel bad that a lot of the books on my best of list haven't had full reviews by me. It's been A Year. -_-

1.Forest of a Thousand Lanterns / Julie C. Dao - Xifeng grew up poor but with great beauty and a prophesy that she would one day become empress.

2.Want / Cindy Pon -Zhao lives in a futuristic society where pollution is so bad that the wealthy have taken to using full-body suits when they go out to avoid the death and illness that plagues everyone else. After a kidnapping scheme nets him and his group a large payout, they use the money to buy Zhao his own suit and fancy apartment so he can masquerade as an elite himself, all while plotting on how to take out Jin Corporation, the company that makes the suits. The summary is a bit misleading by implying that Jin causes all the pollution, but that doesn't actually feature much in the book. I loved the setting for this one, and how disturbingly believable the dystopian aspects were. Zhao's band of revolutionary/criminal friends were a great ensemble, and their plan to take out Jin was smart and something I thought pretty workable. (vs so many books which give complicated issues one punch-able bad guy to beat.)

3.The Epic Crush of Genie Lo / F.C. Lee - A high school student named Genie Lo thinks the only thing she has to worry about is dealing with her school woes, until she runs into a boy named Quinten who insists that he knows her. Turns out he's the Monkey King, and she's a reincarnation of a party from his past. (Spoilers for which one.) Together both of them have to track down demons that are terrorizing San Francisco and deal with the disinterested gods of heaven. The story is excellent, full of both action and humor, and I loved the character of Genie. Hot-headed girls are my jam. Her relationships with her mother and father, both so different and so complicated, were wonderful, too. The author says he's currently working on a sequel, and I can't wait!

4.Mask of Shadows / Linsey Miller - Sal is a thief who accidentally lands on a way to try out of the Right Hand, a group of assassins and general-doers-of-things that serve the queen of their realm. Sal, being one of the few survivors of a country wiped out in a recent war, sees it as an opportunity for revenge on those who let their people burn. Most of the book follows a deadly contest between the competitors, who have to be the last one surviving in order to win. Sal takes 'side quests' to try and find those responsible for their country's death while also trying to survive the competition. I loved Sal in this book, and their bouts of introspection, their ingenuity when it came to the competition, and (even though it played a small part) their almost worship-like relationship with the Queen. There was a lot of set up for a larger-scope plot in later books, which I very much look forward to.

5.The Marrow Thieves / Cherie Dimaline - In a dystopian future where most people have lost the ability to dream (among other ecological disasters), the Native people of North America are the only ones left with that ability. And they're being murdered and their bodies harvested for the dreams in their marrow. The story follows Frenchie, a teen who took to the woods at a young age to avoid recruiters and found a family there among others on the run. Most of the book details their attempts to survive in the wild while avoiding capture. The language in this book is beautiful and evocative, and the exploration of the relationships between Frenchie and his found-family is excellent. There's a lot of direct correlations between the 'current' dystopia and the generational trauma of the characters that makes the whole thing uncomfortably believable. The plot is a bit slow, but at the same time, it's not a plot-centric book and doesn't try to be.

#.Honorable Mention: The City of Brass / S.A. Chakraborty - This one misses the 'official' list only because I'm less than halfway through it as of the writing of this post. (Hey, it's 19 hours long on audiobook.) And that's kind of a downer on 'best lists' when you're still reading right up until NYE. But so far this is a great fantasy, rich with political machinations (my favorite kind!) and detailed worldbuilding.