Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Books I Already Own Challenge... in 2019?

Books I Already Own Challenge

So, it's been a wild, challenging year trying to read the books I already owned, but hadn't yet read.  As a mood reader this was difficult because it felt very restricting at times and I had to give myself ways to cheat so that I could stick with the overall challenge for the full calendar year.  I haven't done horribly, but I didn't stop myself from buying new books along the way either, so nearing the end of 2018 I find I still have 70 unread books to tackle. 

After much thought, I've decided to continue my personal challenge in 2019... in a modified manner.  I will still be reading specific things for work and I joined in with some friends online to do group reads, so I'll be doing those throughout the year.  I also want to give myself more freedom to read additions to my favorite series without guilt as they are published in 2019, so I'll be reading those, too.

BUT... I spent the evening last night putting every unread book on my shelf's title into a TBR jar.  A What?  LOL. It's a jar where in between all of the things I have to or choose to read because I desperately want to, I will randomly pick the title of a book from my shelves and that will be my next read.  I'm only going to allow myself to put a title back into the jar ONCE a month, in case I really, really am not in the mood for a specific book, otherwise whatever comes out is what I read.  If I find that I have put a title back into the jar more than once (not in the same month), it will get taken off my shelves and donated since I obviously didn't really want to read it. 

Let's see if I can read through my bookshelves in 2019!!

Friday, November 30, 2018

November Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
Ah November.  The month that somehow manages to feel super long and super short every year.  As we ramp up to the Holidays, the first part of the month always seems to stretch, then the last two weeks or so FLY by, and suddenly it's December.  EVERY year. 

Though I managed to read a decent amount of books, it was not quite what I'd hoped... As part of a group online, I read A Discovery of Witches, which has been on my TBR long list for ages and while it was EXCELLENT, it also took longer than I expected to read.  It's surprisingly dense. Well worth the read, though! One of my favorite books of this entire year.

So, here's what I actually read in November:

Possession by Jessica Hawkins
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick
Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
A Rogue of Her Own by Grace Burrowes

Physical Books I Own
Renegade by JA Souders

eBooks I Own
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Move the Stars by Jessica Hawkins
Neutral by Jane Washington and Jaymin Eve
Pain by Jane Washington and Jaymin Eve

Nonfiction Title of the Month: FAIL. I did not read one AGAIN.

Required Reading
(work) Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver *technically a re-read*

Group Read: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

DNF (Did Not Finish): Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle Prendergast
I read 25% of this book from my home library and decided that I was not interested enough to finish it.  There are too many other books to read! So, this one has a new home as a prize for a teen at our Library...

I did very little actually sit down with a book reading this month! It was much more audiobook listening and sneaking in books on my kindle or phone between things... probably going to be similar in December, but we'll have to wait and see. How was your November reading?

Friday, November 2, 2018

October Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
Hey, does anyone know what happened to October? I'd like it back! Seriously, this month FLEW by and I feel like Fall's already on it's way out and before we know it, it's going to be winter and I'm going to cry. 

So, realizing I now only have TWO months left in the year and that there is no humanly way possible for me to finish this challenge within the year, I still found myself staring angrily at my bookshelves as if by somehow wishing hard enough more of those books would be simultaneously read... so, instead of just stewing, I went through my collection again and took about fifteen books off my TBR pile and donated them to the Library.  I can't honestly say I was dying to read them anymore, so out they go.

That still leaves me with almost 75 books I haven't read yet, but it looks a little less intimidating and I may be able to get through them before, say April 2019, which isn't too, too bad. With the holidays coming up, which somehow usually gives me both more and less time to read, we'll see what kind of dent I make in what's left...

So, what did I manage to read in this super fast passing October?

Something in the Way by Jessica Hawkins
Escapades by Lilly Atlas
Soul of the Witch by Deanna Chase
Born of Darkness by Lara Adrian

Physical books I own
Somebody Else's Sky by Jessica Hawkins
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

eBook I own
Trial of Three by Alex Lidell
The Hookup by Kristen Ashley
Hour of the Lion by Cherise Sinclair

Nonfiction Title of the Month: None (I sadly did not pick one up this month. Boo)

Official cheat book(s)
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vol. 1 (graphic novel) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa/Robert Hack
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Required Reading
(work) Death Overdue by Allison Brook
(professional review) Johnny by DJ Molles

I started reviewing audiobooks for the awards this month so that took away some from my regular reading.  I can't specify at all what I'm judging, so just trust me when I say it takes a lot of time and it means the rest of 2018 will be split between that and this challenge.  I'm still planning to pick away as much as I can at what I own though!!

How're you all doing with your reading?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

September Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
So, September started out as a pretty great reading month, then sort of petered out... I'm in a bit of a reading slump now. *cries gently*

I think it's sinking in that there's only three months left of 2018 and I have too many unread books to reasonably finish this year.  *sigh* Somehow I'd convinced myself I could do it all in 2018!!

I think, though, that if I could get down to less than say, thirty or thirty-five books sitting there waiting to be read, I wouldn't feel too badly ending the year-long challenge...

So, what did I read in September?

Audiobooks I own
The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye
Strength by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington
Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter

Physical books I own
To Bear an Iron Key by Jackie Morse Kessler
Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas
Illegal by Eoin Colfer *graphic novel*

eBook I own
Witch's Reign by Shannon Mayer

Nonfiction Title of the Month: The Atlas Obscura Explorer's Guide for the World's Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco

Official cheat book: Lethal Licorice by Amanda Flower

Required Reading
(work) Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay
(professional review) The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer
(professional review) The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

So, I also got a third of the way through Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas, but it's so big, and we're so close to the end of the series that my brain is just like, "Noooooooo..." and it doesn't want me to read any more of it.  I'm working on my current book club book for work trying to take a mini-break, but then my next group discussion for EOS is on the 17th so I have to get it done before then.  Do you ever have that happen where a book is almost too good and you just don't want to finish it because then it'll be DONE?

I'm also starting my annual audiobook judging this month, so that's going to affect my reading.  I can't really tell you more than that, but it'll mean books I can't record here and time away from my own collection. *Sigh*

How're you all doing with your reading?

Friday, August 31, 2018

August Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
Well, August was both a good and bad month for reading. It was busy and HOT so I didn't sit and read quite as many print books as I wanted to, but I snuck in a few extra audiobooks so that wasn't too bad!

All links below take you to the title's entry on So, here's what I read in August:

Audiobooks I Own
Trickery by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington
Persuasion by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington
Seduction by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington
Unqualified by Anna Farris

Physical Books I Own
The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Untamed by A.G. Howard

eBooks I Own
Slaying It by Chloe Neill
Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Official Cheat Book: Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill
Incidental Cheat Book: My Lady's Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Required Reading
(Work) The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams
(Professional Review) Side Life by Steve Toutonghi
(Professional Review) Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

CHOSE NOT TO FINISH: Subscribed by Tien Tzuo

I find in the summer I love to dive into "easy" books.  Paranormal romances, series books, etc.  My audiobooks were perfect for the weather and speed of my life in August.  I was able to squeeze them in wherever and they were highly entertaining if not highly intellectual.  Just pure escapism. 

I was also able to finish up a couple of series this month.  I read the bridge novella between the Chicagoland Vampires series and Neill's new spin-off Heirs of Chicagoland series, which starts with Wild Hunger which was my official cheat book for August. I also read Untamed which is the compiled novellas for the Splintered series and Ruin and Rising which is the final book in the Grisha trilogy.  Though I didn't love all of Untamed it was enjoyable.  I was disappointed in Ruin and Rising, but I'm looking forward to reading Six of Crows which kicks off a duology set in the same world.

My Library received its copy of My Lady's Choosing and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to choose my own romance path (SUCH A COOL CONCEPT) so that became an incidental second cheat book for me.   Whoops!

Lastly, my best and worst books of the month. 
I LOVED LOVED LOVED Maas's Heir of Fire. I cannot wait to start Queen of Shadows tomorrow.
I tried desperately to read Subscribed, which was going to be my nonfiction book of the month, but I couldn't get myself to focus and so I skimmed bits then DNF'd it.  I ended up listening to Unqualified which counts as a nonfiction and LOVED hearing Anna Farris tell tales.  Such a funny book.

I'm excited to head into September.  How's your reading going?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen
A Royal Spyness Mystery, book twelve
Berkley, 2018
Finished copy received from publisher in exchange for honest review

It's always hard to write a review for a book this far into a series without giving too much away! I'm going to attempt it anyway. 

Georgie is a relative of the British Royal family.  Not directly in line to the throne, but close enough to fall into many of the trappings of the highest level of society.  Needless to say, when this somewhat shy young lady has finally gotten permission to marry her dashing, but somewhat less-than-desirable (in the eyes of the crown) fiance, she feels trapped... the Queen wants to invite half the royals in Europe, she's going to have two young princesses as bridesmaids, and the fact that they are going to get married in a Catholic Church...the horror! All Georgie wants to do is finally marry Darcy, in a quiet little ceremony, and set up a small household all her own. 

Aside from the tribulations of being too close to the crown for comfort, Georgie realizes she and her future husband do not have the means to afford a comfortable house in any decent part of London! Though she doesn't need all the pomp and circumstance, it's hard for Georgie to admit, she does need some creature comforts.  She thinks her problems are solved when her ex-stepfather gifts her the house she would one day inherit early, letting her move in prior to the wedding to prepare for the wedded couple to live their after the ceremony.

However, the gift of the house is too good to be true.  Things are just not right.  All of the staff is new... and seemingly largely untrained. Not up to snuff by any means.  There are rumors of wrong-doing, a death that might not have been accidental, and an attempt on Georgie's life!

Full of the charm of the previous books in the series, the delightful contrast of the "upstairs" and "belowstairs" characters with Georgie bridging the divide, and scenes that made me snort with laughter, I could not put this one down.  This is a light-hearted, but clever series that entrances me each time I read a new addition to the series.  Highly recommended.  I will be curious to see how this series changes as Georgie moves into her new position as a married woman, perhaps even eventually a mother herself!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

July Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
So, after May and June both turned out to be cheat months, I got back in the saddle for July, so to speak! It was a pretty good reading month, though work was at its peak time and so I probably read a little less than I could have if I'd really tried.

HOWEVER, I did finally finish weeding my bookshelves in July, so now all that's on them are books I either intend to truly keep or books I really intend to read!! That was a huge step for me, as over the last few years, I just kept picking up books and shoving them in there, even knowing I most likely wouldn't make the time to get to them.  I had to let go, you know? Now, I'm just trying to decide if I can let go even more and do my bookshelves in rainbow order instead of the OCD library version they are now... *Giggles*

All links below take you to the title's entry on goodreads.comSo, here's what I read in July:

Audiobooks I Own
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Physical Books I Own
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas *group read
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas *group read
Midnight Marked by Chloe Neill
Blade Bound by Chloe Neill
No Ego by Cy Wakeman (nonfic read)

eBooks I Own
Winter Princess by Skye MacKinnon
Winter Heiress by Skye MacKinnon
Scottish Werebear: Books 1-3 by Lorelei Moone

Official Cheat Book: The Wicked King by Holly Black *2018 Book Expo

Required Reading
(Work) Death on Tap by Ellie Alexander
(Professional Review) Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

All in all I felt pretty great about my reading in July! I got to read a book I was dying to get to since I picked it up at the Book Expo, I finished out a series I'd been meaning to for years, I restarted a series I've been collecting but never read AND I finished the nonfiction book I meant to read in June.  Not too shabby.  I've been loving all the audiobooks I've been listening to this summer, so I hope that continues and I feel pretty good going into August.  I'm refueled for my personal challenge!! How was your reading in July?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Mid Year Challenge Stats Update

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
All right, so since we've finished the first half of the year, I thought I'd check in stats-wise to see how I was doing with my challenge versus overall reading...

My Challenge Status in Stats:
Total books read to date - 85

Books read for work/review - 23
Percent of total books exempt from challenge because they were for work/review - 27%

New total of books to consider for challenge - 62

Books read from my personal collections (physical, ebook, audiobook) - 44
Percent of total books applicable for my challenge - 71%

Books read as "cheats" that I then bought and added to my home collections - 10
Percent of total books "cheat to own" - 16%

Books read as complete "cheat" books - 8
Percent of total books are "cheat" books - 13%

So, overall, not counting the books I was required to read for either work or professional reviewing, I didn't do too badly so far! I read 44 books purely for the challenge from my collections at home.  I read another 10 books as "cheats" that I then decided to add to my own collections... and lastly, I've read 8 books purely as "cheats." Not too bad for the first half of the year, especially with a month and a half as pure "cheat" time!

Here's the list of titles that meet the full parameters of my challenge (AKA I owned them before the challenge began): 
Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
Blood Rose by Andrea Cremer
Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Princess and the Stableboy by Rebecca Rynecki (reread)
Dark Descendant by Jenna Black
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Darker Days by Jus Accardo
Defiance by C.J. Redwine
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray
Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
Talon by Julie Kagawa
Rogue by Julie Kagawa
Rebel Heart by Moira Young
Raging Star by Moira Young
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Prudence by Gail Carriger
Imprudence by Gail Carriger
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Claimed by the Gods by Eva Chase
Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Power of Five by Alex Lidell
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Mistake of Magic by Alex Lidell
Aquicorn Cove by Katie O'Neill
Furyborn by Claire Legrand
My Wish for You by Kathryn Hahn
Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop
The Plastic Magician by Charlie Holmberg

Monday, July 2, 2018

June Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
So, here we are at the beginning of July, and though I had the best intentions of diving back into my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge in the month of June, it kind of got away from me and became a second cheat month.  I'm a little disappointed in myself honestly.

But on to the recap. All links below take you to the title's entry on Here's what I read in June:

Audio Books I Own
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Physical Books I Own
The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop *Book Expo 2018
Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco *Book Expo 2018
My Wish for You by Kathryn Hahn *Book Expo 2018

eBooks I Own
Power of Five by Alex Lidell
Mistake of Magic by Alex Lidell
Claimed by the Gods by Eva Chase

Books borrowed from the Library
War Storm by Victoria Aveyard
Riverdale Vol. 1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas *several of the individual stories already owned in ebook version

Official Cheat Book: Competence by Gail Carriger

Required Reading
(Work) Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott
(Professional Review) Son of the Dawn by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan
(Professional Review) Twice Bitten by Lynsay Sands
(Professional Review) Language of the Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
(Professional Review) Grigori by Lauren Smith

So, other than not getting back on track with my challenge, I found June to be a frustrating month in general reading-wise.  I did not get through the one nonfiction book I wanted to for the month (No Ego by Cy Wakeman) so I'll be working on finishing that in July.  I blasted through a bunch of great audiobooks, but was so frustrated after finishing War Storm that it took me a little bit to get back into the rhythm of physical reading.  Thus the easy ebook choices... short, romance fantasies... and the shorter books like the graphic novel and the two childrens' books from the Book Expo.  I need a palate cleanser, I guess.

I seemed to hit my stride again towards the end of the month, so I'm hoping now with a fresh month's start to leap back into my challenge and keep progressing through the books I own at home.  I'm planning to do a post in the next few days just giving a half-year progress update on my challenge reading and where that leaves me with my collection at home... 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Furyborn by Claire Legrand
The Empirium Trilogy, book one 
Sourcebooks Fire, 2018 - ARC received from PLA 2018, Signed, Finished copy now owned in my personal collection

Oh, do I love Claire Legrand's writing.  She is a stellar talent that pulls me into her dark, imaginative worlds in the same ways as Neil Gaiman and Laini Taylor.  I already highlighted her book Winterspell (see my review here) this year as one of my favorites that I've read as part of my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge.

This book is a behemoth, but it flew by like I was reading a contemporary two-hundred page book.  I fell deep into the worlds of Reille and Eliana, exploring how each worked and how different they were, though you know from the beginning that somehow they are connected.  Connected, but with 1,000 years, a tragedy, and a takeover separating them.

As the chapters progressed, I found myself desperately turning the pages.  Legrand is an EXPERT at these alternating chapters.  Each would end with just enough of a cliffhanger that I would want to skip the next chapter to jump to the continuation of that particular character's story, but I also recognized how exquisitely she unfolded both stories in a way that tied them together and if you read one girl's story without the other, you would miss so much.  This book was like the best kind of runaway train that I was sprinting to catch! And when it ended?  Let's just say I CANNOT wait for book two.

Highly recommended to readers who like high fantasy, dark kingdoms, strong female characters, and plot lines that intertwine (eventually... LOL).

Claire Legrand is now officially one of my all-time favorite authors.  This is her second book to make it onto my top books read in 2018 list.  I was super excited to get to meet her at this year's Book Expo, and though I already had a signed ARC (thanks Miss Kim!!!), I stood in line to get a signed, finished copy of this book, essentially so I could meet her and gush about how much I loved the book. I was so excited, I forgot to take a picture of HER, just this one of her signature on the title page.  LOL. 

Claire was asking everyone if they were a Sun Queen or a Blood Queen (based on the prophecy in the book) and then signing in the corresponding gold or red sharpie.  When she asked me, knowing I'd already read the book, I told her I couldn't decide as both were created from great tragedy, only for one it became her downfall, and for the other it was her origin... Claire and the woman from Sourcebooks Fire decided I was a Sun Queen... and I think I'm okay with that.  I won't tell you why, but if you read Furyborn, you can let me know if you agree!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Very Belated May Wrap-Up

So, it's been a while since I posted... I realized I only posted once in May, because I was both reading desperately to finish all the cheat books I wanted to try to hit in my cheat month, and also because life just got busy!

If you remember, I took the entire month of May off from my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge to just read whatever I wanted because so many new books I was anxious to read released in May, and because I was going to the Book Expo in New York City right at the end of the month. (IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!! Check my Instagram account - ireadtorelax - for photos, etc. from the Expo

Anyway, though I didn't get to everything I wanted to read in May, it felt great to relieve some pressure and just read whatever I wanted for the month.  Now, even though it's June 12th, I'm trying STILL to finish War Storm by Victoria Aveyard, the last book in the Red Queen series, which I started before I left for the Book Expo on May 29th! It's extremely slow going, unusual for me, but I really want to finish it, just because I NEED to know how the series ends!

*sigh* Then, I got four really stellar ARCs at Book Expo that I'm dying to read, so I may be cheating a little bit this month, too. I haven't decided if I can hold out or not.  I'll see how I'm feeling when I finish War Storm...

So, what did I read in May?  
(All titles link to their entries on Goodreads)

Audio Books I Own
In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
High Voltage by Karen Marie Moning
The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Physical Books I Own
You are a Badass by Jen Sincero
Legendary by Stephanie Garber (ARC)
Furyborn by Claire Legrand (ARC) (review post)

eBook I Own
Fic Against Humanity vol. 1 by B.B. Richard

Library Books I Borrowed
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
At the Drop of a Hat by Jenn McKinlay
Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
Murder, She Knit by Peggy Ehrhart
Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Required Reading:
(Work) Dog Dish of Doom by E.J. Copperman
(Professional Review) The Pisces by Melissa Broder
(Professional Review) Gaslight by Dannika Dark 

All in all not a bad month. Sixteen titles. A lot of which I'd been dying to read!
I've also decided to try to read one non-fiction book a month for the rest of the year after my success reading You are a Badass.  Now, to finish my behemoth of a series ender and figure out what I'm doing for the rest of June... 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
NYLA, 2014 - audio book owned in personal collection
The Innkeeper Chronicles, book one

Over the course of March and April, I listened to the first three books in the Innkeeper Chronicles series.  Ilona Andrews has been recommended to me over and over and I'd read two books from her Kate Daniels series and two from the Hidden Legacy trilogy and enjoyed them all, so since I had these in my Audible collection, I decided to give them a shot as part of my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge.

This series is now among my favorites, as well, and I will definitely be devouring whatever else Ilona Andrews does in this universe.  Dina DeMille is a fabulous main character and her growth, plus the world building, over the three books is great.  I was wholly invested in the romance, the danger, and the emotions of the characters as they attempted to thwart one disaster after another.

I devoured the first book then dove straight into the second, Sweep in Peace (NYLA, 2015). Characters that seem to be one-offs turn up again and often in very important ways. It was stellar how Andrews managed to take the events of one book and tie them into new important events in the second and even third books! (One Fell Sweep, NYLA, 2017) The alliances created between Dina, her Inn, and the guests become important ties that influence galactic events.  Strength and friendships are steadily built over time.  Heartaches are revealed and (at least partially) healed.

I'm extremely excited to see where Andrews takes these characters as the series continues!  Recommended to readers who enjoy urban fantasy, high fantasy, strong female characters, and science fiction.

Monday, April 30, 2018

April Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
Hello fellow readers! Though April felt like an extremely short month and I found the weather wholly depressing, it was actually a pretty successful reading month for me! Giving myself a little more leeway in my books choices definitely felt more natural so I think in June I will use this method again to help me work through my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge.

Here's what I read in April 2018:
Audio books I Own
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (review post)
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Physical books I Own 
Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (review post)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

CHEAT BOOK: Everless by Sara Holland

Required Reading:
(Work) Dead and Breakfast by Kate Kingsbury
(Professional Review) #Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid
(Professional Review) The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delaney
(received from author for review) Guns, Rations, Rigs & the Undead by K.E. Radke
(received from author for review) How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger

I have two more books, one a nonfiction physical book and one fiction audiobook that I'm almost finished with, but not quite, so those will be finished in May.  I tried to squeeze them in today, but there just isn't enough time! LOL.  Oh well...

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to May, as I decided to give myself an entire CHEAT MONTH.  So many new books from series I love are coming out this month that I couldn't figure out how to resist so I'm just gonna go for it and get back down to challenge business in June.  I'll post my list of expected reads in the next few days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Folk of the Air, book one
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018
ARC owned in personal collection from BEA 2017

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Oh, how do I love my dark faeries. And no one does dark faeries quite as well as Holly Black.

For about six months this book was lost in a pile of books I'd gotten at the Book Expo. Just lingering on the floor in my "library room" forgotten. I cannot believe it took until the book was actually published for me to remember exactly how excited I was that Holly Black was going back to writing the dark fae that I LOVED so much in her earliest books!! (If you haven't read her Modern Faerie Tales series, start with Tithe)

After so much hype online in the last few months as bookstagrammers have been absolutely lauding this book I finally convinced myself that since I owned the ARC I was not stepping outside of my reading challenge parameters and allowed myself to dive in. *happy sigh*

Jude is the type of strong/fragile female character I love the most. She is weak, technically, in the land of the Fae. She recognizes her weakness and works to overcome it in whatever ways she possibly can, using all of the tools - smarts, manipulations, physical strength - that she can pull into her arsenal. AND SHE LARGELY SUCCEEDS. Seeing a character who has tremendous odds to overcome gain even the smallest victories just makes my heart sing. And Holly Black is a master at weaving from a scene where she is bullied and made small right into one where she outmaneuvers whatever foe she faces just then.

I cannot wait for the second book, The Wicked King, due out in 2019.
Recommended for readers who like dark fantasy and especially dark fae.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Wayward Children, book one, 2016 - audio book owned in personal collection

What a stellar concept for a book! McGuire asks the question - what would it be like to be a child who journeys to another world then has to return and try to reintegrate into our society? When your entire worldview has changed, can you just go back to pretending it never happened?

The answer for Nancy and the other Wayward Children in her "boarding school" is a resounding no.  They want nothing more than to return to the otherworlds they visited. The ones that accepted them as they truly were in their hearts. Others (think similar to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz) are more than happy to forget and move on, but Nancy simply can't.  She finds both comfort and friendship with the only people who can understand, even partially, what has happened to tear her life apart.  Not going to a foreign world... but having to COME BACK. 

This novel is short, but absolutely stellar.  Dark, mysterious, heart-wrenching, and lyrical. I cannot wait to delve back into this world with the next book in the series. Definitely a recommended read for fans of dark fantasies.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

April Challenge Reading "Plan"

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
So, it's April 10th.  And it's snowing. I feel like Mother Nature has abandoned us, and the prolonged winter is making me a little depressed.  It's sapping all my energy... and all my nicely made plans and goals have sort of fallen to the wayside. *sigh*

Well, not completely.  So, as everyone knows by now, I have been working fairly diligently at reading books off of my own overstuffed bookshelves.  Books that have been sitting unread for years.  I have been good and set up a reading plan each month, and stacked the books by my bed, and tried not to deviate (too much) from those very strict plans.

And I'm about to pull my own hair out and abandon the whole project. WHICH I REFUSE TO DO.  Even if it seems winter will never end and I will never see a nice sunny day again and oh, god, I think I have seasonal affective disorder... Okay, refocusing.

Sorry about that.  Anyway, so... after much thought towards the end of March and then the first few days of April, I decided to change things up a little. I have always been a mood reader and I'm feeling severely stifled by how strict a TBR pile I've been trying to stick to each month.  So, for April my plan is to actually NOT make a written plan.  I have a loose idea of what books I might read from my shelves, but I'm not going to pull them ahead of time.  I am going to give myself the freedom to walk among my shelves and just pull something that I haven't read before that seems like what I'm in the mood for, and hopefully enjoy it!

I'm hoping that by loosening the reins, but still maintaining the focus of books I already own, I can stay within the bounds of my challenge... Keep your fingers crossed for me! I'll let you all know how I made out at the end of the month.  😊

Thursday, April 5, 2018

March Challenge Wrap Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
Well this is certainly a belated post! LOL. The end of March and the beginning of April have sort of been all over the place for me, so this was the first real chance I've had to sit down and collect my thoughts and record what I'd done for the 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge.

Here goes. The link back to my March Challenge Reading Plan can be found here.

Here's what I read in March 2018:
Audio books I Own
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Physical Books I Own 
Prudence by Gail Carriger (review post)
Imprudence by Gail Carriger (review post)
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier

eBooks I Own
Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

CHEAT BOOK: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (review post)

Required Reading: 
(Work)  Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao
(Professional Review) Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst (audio book)
(Professional Review) Cadaver & Queen by Alisa Kwitney (audio book) (review post)

Thoughts from March?
One, I finally was able to say, 'No, I didn't enjoy that and so I do not feel obliged to finish this series.' I had loved Ruby Red so much I was excited way back when to read both Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green, but when I read book two this past month, I hated it.  I would have pushed myself in the past to finish the trilogy out of a sense of obligation to find out how it ended, but now I really know that there are just FAR too many books out there to waste my time if I truly don't care. So, another series got donated to the Library book sale... Secondly, I realized I kept feeling more and more stifled by the way I'd structured my challenge.  I had built a list of books I wanted to read in March, and I'd been trying to stick solely to that, but I am a mood reader by nature, so I realized I have to loosen the reigns a little. I'm going to try something less structured in April...

All in all not a bad reading month, though I certainly read less than I did in both January and February. How did you all do?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cadaver & Queen by Alisa Kwitney

Cadaver & Queen by Alisa Kwitney
Harlequin Teen, 2018
Audio book received from Audiofile Magazine for review

Alisa Kwitney describes her book as a "feminist Frankenstein meets Grey's Anatomy tale" and I think that suits it to a 'T.'

When main character, Lizzie, becomes a first year student at the top medical school in England during Queen Victoria's reign, it is quite the unexpected feat.  Though she meets plenty of resistance, Lizzie perseveres through sheer determination, smarts, and only the slightest reliance on her Doctor father's reputation when absolutely necessary.  She is quite the independent woman! And not just in certain respects, but throughout the novel... and throughout different types of situations. 

Personally I can get very frustrated when a "feminist" character is only feminist about certain things... especially if the second they see an attractive man, they lose all sense and ambition. I'm not a hardcore feminist by any means, but c'mon ladies, stick to your guns!! The right man should respect you and want to promote you, not ever hold you back.  Ugh.  Sorry, I'll get down off my soap box now.... Anyway, as I said, Lizzie is feminist in both the realms of education AND romance, which was very refreshing. 

I also found the concept of the bio-mechanicals at their school and in this British Empire to be fascinating! Very much like "Frankenstein's monster," these were reanimated corpses were being utilized for a variety of tasks while they attempted to build the ultimate super soldier.  When Lizzie discovers the secret that got her new friend and love interest killed, it's a doozy with major political impact. There was an excellent sense of impending danger and potential disasters throughout, and I LOVED how in the end it is Lizzie who gets herself (and several others) out of severe harm's way and makes an interesting choice for her own future. 

Lizzie Lavenza actually reminded me quite a bit of Audrey Rose Wadsworth from the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, who was another female scientist ahead of her time that I love as a character. In fact, if you enjoyed that series, you would probably greatly enjoy this book, as well.  Recommended for readers who like historical fiction with a twist and strong female characters.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March's "Cheat" Book - The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Disney-Hyperion, 2018

As you know by now, I'm loosely allowing myself one brand-new "cheat" book each month to keep me going during my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge.  I could not resist the gorgeous cover and description of The Belles and knew it would have to be my cheat book this month.

I haven't been copying the descriptions of the books I've been reviewing this year as I've been less interested in formally reviewing them, but check this description out:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of OrlĂ©ans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of OrlĂ©ans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.
(description taken from goodreads entry)

This book sounded amazing. I love when authors examine our concepts of beauty and the regard we hold for them in American society. To have Beauty be equated with true Power.... irresistible. Plus, we all know I love a good dystopian and boy, did this sound like a doozy.

Let's just say I was not at ALL disappointed in this book. Clayton sucked me in right from the first chapter and it was all I could do to put the book down to go to sleep that night. I almost wanted to pull my first all-nighter in years, and I am NOT one to give up sleep willingly. Instead, I happily hunkered down on my snow day yesterday, picked it up and read straight through to the end.

The characters, the descriptions, the world-building, the plot; I found very little fault with any of them. Character introspection occurs, betrayals abound, and morality is questioned throughout. This is one of the best books I have read yet this year and I am now waiting ANXIOUSLY for the next book.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Selection by Kiera Cass. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Prudence and Imprudence by Gail Carriger

Prudence by Gail Carriger 
Orbit, 2015 - owned in personal collection
The Custard Protocol, book one

Okay, if it's one thing that my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge is truly teaching me, is that I NEED to stop auto-buying books, even from the authors that I love the most (such as Gail Carriger or Tamora Pierce)! I am much better off buying the books as I am ready to read them.  It's so tempting to pick up new, shiny books as they first come out, but like these two - books I was dying to read as I knew they were coming out - somehow once I physically owned them, it was much easier to let them fall by the wayside.  There was a comfort that I could read them whenever I wanted as they were nestled safely in my bookshelves, but as you can see I DIDN'T actually take the time to read them until now!

Anyway, unsurprisingly, I enjoyed diving back into the humorous, adventurous steampunk supernatural world Carriger created.  Though Prudence was a little slower to start for me, after I passed the first third of the book, and I trundled along to India with the Spotted Custard's crew, I was inordinately pleased to follow Alexia's precocious daughter into all types of danger. I really enjoyed getting to see Carriger's archaeological background come into play with the historical research necessary to delve into the ancient cultures that her imagined immortal creatures occupied in foreign countries.  While her love of British culture and humor is always evident, it was so interesting to delve into the time period when the Brits colonized India and to see their cultural stories come to live in this book.

Foreign cultures are further explored as we return to Egypt and their world of mythology in the second book, Imprudence (Orbit, 2016). The Drifters we met at the end of the Parasol Protectorate series also returned in this book and we got to learn some more intriguing tidbits about Rue's extended family and their role with the Italian Templars.  Rue's relationship to the supernatural and the way that her parents and now she fit into the supernatural world are explored in this second volume, though I feel we'll learn even more as we move forward into the third, Competence.

Competence, book three
Orbit, coming July 2018
My favorite thing about these two volumes, though, was definitely the humor and romance set amidst the danger and adventure of exploring unknown regions.  Seeing Rue realize that she was actually in love and what she was willing to do to preserve that relationship was fondly reminiscent of experiencing her parents' meeting in the earlier series.  Gail Carriger is a dab hand at writing romantic tension and the way she handled both this relationship and the burgeoning one that Prim is desperately trying to avoid were both laugh out loud funny and sweetly romantic at alternate times.  I look forward to seeing both relationships progress as the series moves forward.  I am hoping that we may even get to see our hopelessly anti-social Professor find his own love...

Recommended for lovers of humor, the supernatural, and steampunk adventures.  Though in order to get the full scope of character relationships and world-building readers should start with book one of the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless, it is not completely necessary to have read that series to enjoy this one.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

March Challenge Reading Plan

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
It's the first day of March and here in CT it feels like Spring! I'm trying not to embrace it too wholeheartedly, as tomorrow it may very well snow... ah, New England.  BUT... Spring is actually on its way and that makes me a very happy girl. 

I can't believe that we've gotten through two months of the 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge already! Some days it's a breeze, and others it's a struggle, but I'm still feeling ambitious and so here is my March challenge reading plan.

 What I plan to read in March:
(Audio book)
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

(Print books)
Prudence by Gail Carriger
Imprudence by Gail Carriger
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Endlessly by Kiersten White

The audio book is one that I own through Audible, but have not listened to yet, and the print books are all ones that I own physical copies of in my home library but have not read. My goal this month is to try to finish up some series that I have at home, and have read all but the final book... All links above go to descriptions on Goodreads.

My planned "cheat book" for March is The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. Again, I just could NOT resist buying this title. It's got a GORGEOUS cover and a very intriguing premise. I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

I also already know that I'll be reading a copy of Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao for the cozy mystery book club that I lead at my Library. I also have two audio book titles, Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst and Cadaver & Queen by Alisa Kwitney that I will be reviewing for Audiofile Magazine. Books that I read specifically for work, or ones I am assigned to review for Audiofile Magazine will not be counting towards (or against) my challenge.

I learned in February that while I'm doing pretty well on this challenge - and stacking my intended reads right next to my bed so I'm not tempted to pick anything else up has really helped - I still struggle with complete commitment.  There are so many great new books coming out at any given time! It's hard to turn them down.  So, I had built in my one official cheat book for each month, but I'm also not going to punish myself too harshly if I slip up again, as long as I come back to the challenge.  Hopefully this way I'll get further into the year before I abandon it completely!! LOL. 

As always, if you'd like in on the challenge, just let me know! We have a private group on both Facebook and Goodreads to give us a place to share, motivate each other, and bemoan having to pass up the shiny new books of 2018... at least for as long as each of us last!!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February Challenge Wrap-Up Post

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
Well, today is the last day of February and while I fell off the wagon once, I still feel proud that primarily I have stuck to my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge.

I didn't quite get to everything on my reading plan for February (you can check back on that here), BUT I didn't do too terribly. I'll be posting my March reading plan either later today or tomorrow and you'll see some repeat books, as I really am trying to finish up some of the series that I've owned forever!!

Here's what I read in February 2018:
Audio Books I Own
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Physical Books I Own
Talon by Julie Kagawa (review post)
Rebel Heart by Moira Young
Raging Star by Moira Young (review post)

eBooks I Own
Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal (review post)
Rogue by Julie Kagawa

CHEAT BOOK(s): Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh...and Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody (review post

Required Reading: (Work) Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower
(For Professional Review) Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds (audio book)
(For Professional Review) Lost Legio IX by Marc Alan Edelheit (audio book)

February Feels? 
So, as much as I am working to stick to my's, well, challenging! LOL. Especially now that I'm getting involved with #bookstagram on social media, it is HARD not to covet all the new and shiny books coming out.  However, I really, truly am striving to explore my own bookshelves. 

You may have noticed, and even read my post, that I "fell off the wagon" and read a second (mostly) cheat book in February. It was one that I technically used to own, but if I was being really honest, I'd gotten rid of it and so it was no longer on my bookshelves and shouldn't have counted, thus being cheat book #2.  However, by allowing myself to have this second book, I was then able to dive back in and read three more off of my own bookshelves, so I am feeling like if the hankering hits me and I can't ignore it, it's perhaps better to get it out of my system and get back to my challenge than to get frustrated and then scrap the whole thing for the rest of the year... 

So. I'm still aiming to maintain my challenge next month. Let's all keep our fingers crossed for more success in March! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

How an Author's Writing Style Can Affect a Reader's Experience

I know that at least for myself as a reader, the author's writing style can be just as important to my reading experience as the story itself.  I'm sure it has to be the same for other readers out there. 

Sometimes an author's writing is lush and technically beautiful, but the story just can't pull you in. For me, an example of this was Kendare Blake's Antigoddess. While I've loved her Anna duology and the first book in the Three Dark Crowns series, I just could not get into Antigoddess and ended up DNFing (Did Not Finish) it, which is rare for me. 

Another book that I DNFed was Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, the first book in the Witchlands series. While the concept of this book sounded amazing and I wanted desperately to love it, and the story itself was pulling me in, I struggled so hard with her actual writing that I couldn't finish it.  Now as I see other readers online raving over the newest book in the series coming out, I find myself tempted to go back and try Truthwitch again, but I don't really have the time right now.

Don't hate me, but another author I struggle to actually read is Jane Austen. I *LOVE* adaptations of her work... in film, on television, and retellings by all types of authors because the story is there, but I cannot read her actual words easily.  Some of her novels, like Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey are somewhat easier, but I tried both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and just struggled the entire way through.

I'm actually hoping at some point to try out the books in The Austen Project series, starting with Sense and Sensibility re-envisioned by Joanna Trollope.  Here's how the project is described (from Goodreads): The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Taking these well-loved stories as their base, each author will write their own unique take on Jane Austen’s novels. With some stellar contemporary authors on board, I'm sure I'd enjoy these when I have time to pick them up. 

So what prompted me thinking so hard about writing styles?  Well, last week I read books two and three in the Dustlands trilogy by Moira Young. I had read the first book, Blood Red Road, back in February 2012 not long after it first came out.  As you may or may not know, I love dystopian fiction and this book hit me just right. I absolutely loved it and raved about it, in fact here's an excerpt from my blog reviewI loved the written style of this book. It reads like a movie. The prose is sparse and thus, even more compelling. The author purposely refrains from using quotation marks around the speech, indicating yet a further breakdown of society, but also forcing the reader to truly read every word on the page. The world is well-built, with realistic issues, and a cool futuristic cowboy vibe. I loved it so much that I bought books two and three in hardcover as they each come out. 

Now, six years later (and six years older) I dove back into the Dustlands world, expecting to love it as much as I did originally.  When I cracked open
Rebel Heart I was astounded how much I did not have a problem jumping back into the story, but how jarring I found the writing style to took me at least a third of the book to decide that, yes, I was going to finish it.  What I'd once found stand-out and compelling, was not off-putting and hard to read.  I found myself longing for the quotation marks to signal me into dialogue.  I had to slow my reading down an incredible amount through this second book until I sort of got the hang of recognizing what pieces were action and what was dialogue. 

By the time I read book three (and I'm happy I did so immediately after the second), Raging Star, I had hit a somewhat uneasy stride again, and found myself so compelled to finish Saba's story that I was happy to chug my way through it.  I do not think, though that I would be looking for any books written this way purposely, though.  I remember when the first book came out it was read by the Nutmeg Award nomination committee of which I was a member, and many other readers HATED it because the lack of punctuation was so frustrating.  NOW I absolutely get what they were distressed by and have to at least partially agree. While I'd love to say that this series could have found a wider readership with a different writing style, I also have to go back to the critique I gave the first book and recognize that the style was chosen with a purpose.  It makes the trilogy unique in a sea of YA dystopian fiction and emphasizes both the lack of education of the main character's society and the desperation that they all feel in a broken down society. 

All in all, I'm very glad I read the trilogy and enjoyed the story, but struggled with the way it was written and will most likely be donating these books to my Library, rather than keeping them for myself. I don't think I'll ever reread them. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Harlequin Teen, 2017
*second cheat book for February 2018, received in Once Upon a Book Club YA August 2017 box*

First off a confession - this is technically the SECOND cheat book for me for February. I'm so ashamed. *hangs head* I had an ARC from the 2017 Book Expo, but I got rid of it and never read it while I technically owned it.  So....when I decided I really wanted to try out the Once Upon a Book Club book boxes, one of the ways I justified it was that I had technically already had this book once upon a time, but realistically this is a second cheat book for me....

Now that I've made my confession, let me tell you my thoughts on the book itself! Aside from a super pretty cover - it's purple and rich and dark and twisty (which always appeals to me), it has a wicked premise. I kind of want to jump into Foody's head to see the world from which she plucked this story and its characters.

In this book, when the fabled ancient city of Gomorrah burned, it did not disappear.  Rather through a series of powerful enchantments it turned into a forever burning, moving city, now the most decadent, wicked city festival in the world. The daughter of the city's proprietor, Sorina, is an illusionist who runs the festival's freak show... populated, aside from herself, entirely with entertainers who also happen to be illusions that she has created.  A half-man, half tree, a girl with no bones, a man who is covered with fingernails rather than hair, a hark-girl who soars above the audience, a man who breathes through gills and wears a water helmet when not in his tank, a baby who spits fire, a two-headed boy, and a manager who (sometimes) has the strength of ten men.

When they travel to the contentious Northern mountains region they face hostility from the local government run on religious principles. Shortly after arrival in their first Northern city region, one of Sorina's illusions is murdered; a feat that should have been impossible.  As she and her family grieve, she also begins to investigate and her discoveries illuminate not only a traitor in their midst, but facets of herself that she never knew existed. 

The festival atmosphere coupled with the danger to Sorina and her illusions drew me in from the very start.  It was easy to visualize Gomorrah and its inhabitants, to see the festival workers and what they offered to the public.  Then the idea that Sorina could bring her imaginings to life is so amazing.  I wish I could show others the things I see in my head sometimes!  So often I mourn my lack of true artistic talent because what I see in my mind's eye and what appears on paper are two disappointingly different things.  *sigh*

The story unfolds well and I was on the hook right until the revelation at the very end. I liked how even the illusion characters had their own fully-faceted personalities, just as if they were real family members to Sorina.  I mourned along with her when each murder occurred.  The topics of grief and family dynamics are both well explored here. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more from Amanda Foody!