Owlcrate-a-thon 2020 and The Social Distancing Readathon

I’m back, and ready to participate in some readathons! Owlcrate-a-thon 2020 runs from March 14-27 this year, and The Social Distancing readathon (hosted by 24 in 48) is March 21-22.

I am a lover of book-ish boxes and unfortunately a lot of the books I receive in them go unread for years. I still have a few Owlcrate books that have been floating around since 2017! The prompts for this years Owlcrate-a-thon are:

  • Read the book you’ve had the longest
  • Read the longest book you haven’t read
  • Read at least two books

I have a quite a few books to pick from, but tentatively these are the books I’m hoping to read over the next two weeks!

  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (book I’ve had the longest, and the longest book I haven’t read)
  • Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
  • All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Next weekend is the Social Distancing Readathon, hosted by the lovely ladies at 24 in 48. One of the suggestions for limiting the spread of the infamous COVID-19 is social distancing, or basically staying away from others and crowded places. What better activity to complete while following these guidelines than reading 24 hours out of 48 over the course of a weekend?!

Over the course of this readathon, I will hopefully be finishing up some the picks above for Owlcrateathon, and possible starting or finishing up the following:

  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune
  • Anna K by Jenny Lee
  • Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Are you planning on participating in any readathons coming up? What are some books you’re hoping to pick up?

Book Review: Bittersweet by Sabrina Bowen

Bittersweet by Sabrina Bowen

Series: True North #1

Published: June 14, 2016

Rating: 3/5

Romanceopoly 2020: Farmers Market

Goodreads

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

I first came upon Sabrina Bowen last year when I fell in love with the Him series she cowrote with Elle Kennedy. Because Farmer romances aren’t my normal reading fare and I needed to meet the requirement for my romanceopoly pick, I felt that Bittersweet was the perfect introduction into her other works.

While there were aspects about this book that I really liked, the main character wasn’t one of them. Audrey seemed very out there (who goes to a farm dressed in heels and a mini skirt multiple times before trying to get more suited clothing?!?!) I appreciated that she was driven and wanted to achieve her goals of one day being a chef/owner of her own restaurant. However, we never get to see those goals come to fruition in this installment (it is a series, so perhaps there are glimpses later on when exploring the other characters). While Griff seemed very willing to support her and compromise on traveling etc. to see her, she didn’t seem as willing to compromise for him – but maybe I’m reading too far into it, because Griff isn’t a perfect decision maker either.

Griffin is definitely a hotty though, and one that is willing to do anything to put his family first, even put his own happiness on the line. He was the one that I felt the most for emotionally throughout the whole book, and was one hot farmer hero.

When reading the synopsis of the book, it can be assumed that a large part of the tension going into this relationship is a “love lost” kind of story, with the characters previously knowing each other from college. I felt that this was kind of underdeveloped as its only mentioned a handful of times, plus how can there be loads of tension when you only know a person in the biblical sense?

While most of the conflict was resolved by the end of the book, I still felt there was something lacking from giving me a satisfying ending. I’m not sure if I would like to continue the series, but I suppose that time will tell if I pick up the next one, following a side character in this novel.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeanine Frost

Halfway to the Grave by Jeanine Frost

Series: Night Huntress #1

Published: October 30, 2007

Rating: 3/5

Romanceopoly: Burger Joint

Goodreads

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother’s life. Then she’s captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership.

In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She’s amazed she doesn’t end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side … and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat

In my search for a new PNR series to gobble down, I came across the work of Jeanine Frost (who came highly recommended by Ilona Andrews) and decided to give her first series a try.

This book was first published in the mid 2000’s, and it did show its age a little. Published in the midst of the Twilight vampire phase, the heroine seems to be a “Mary Sue” – a hard-headed and sometimes foolish girl who ultimately ends up winning out in the end. Admittedly, Cat is relatively young in this book and has a lot to explore in the world outside the sphere of her overbearing and vengeance-driven mother.

Bones (the vampire hero) was the best part of this book. Who doesn’t love a sexy, snarky, vampire boyfriend? For someone who was a few hundred years old, he was very much with the times with platinum died hair and lingo to keep up with all the college-aged kids. While I can understand his initial attraction to the heroine (she is, after all, a bad ass vampire hunter), the continuation of their relationship got a little stale throughout the book because she continues to act in childish ways. I find it hard to believe a vampire of multiple centuries would find such silly actions attractive – but I guess I’m not really in Bones’ head so I can’t say what his motivations are.

While the main focus (for me at least) is the romance, there is plenty of action and a decent plot to carry on the clear air between the steamy scenes. Having a vampire that is also a vampire bounty hunter is a somewhat unique trope to me which makes up for the vampire/vampire hunter relationship which has become a bit more common.

The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I did immediately have to pick up the next one in the series and that review will be coming soon! Overall this was an interesting start to a series, one that I am interested in continuing. However, I think that I will have to take this one book at a time because the heroine is one that could get on my nerves quite easily.

TTT: Bookish Discoveries I Made In 2019

Top ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader. The prompt this week is perfect for the last day of the year: Bookish Discoveries I Made In 2019. I’ll admit, I struggled making this list a bit so today I only have four discoveries! Let me know what some of your bookish discoveries in 2019 were!

1. The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews (see my mini series review HERE) – Ilona Andrews is an author whose name I’ve heard bandied about it the past, but this past year I finally picked up the Kate Daniels series after seeing the final book released. I’m so glad I did! I ended up reading all 10 books in less than four months and even met the Ilona Andrews writing duo to get some books signed!

2. Book Beau Traveler – I’ve known about Book Beau for a while, but I didn’t realize until 2019 that they had products other than book sleeves (which I never bought, because why buy it when you can make it yourself?!). I splurged and purchased a Traveler – which is basically a large pouch with two zipper pockets – and it has changed my every day carry life. I am able to fit my kindle and planner or small paperback in the larger pocket, and all my assorted charging cables and such in the smaller one. It makes it TONS easier to just grab and go! I also did buy standard Book Beaus this year because they have added zippers to all their sizes – and I hate sewing zippers.

3. Audiobooks – Okay, so I didn’t really discover audiobooks this past year, but I now listen to audiobooks A TON more than I have in the past. I listened to maybe four audiobooks total before 2019, but since joining my online library (Libby) I’ve been picking up audiobooks and LOVING them. I now listen to an audiobook during my commute, during slow times at work, or even just while doing chores around the house. It’s become a way to keep my reading up while also staying busy.

4. Yearly Reading Challenges (Beat the Backlist) – I’ve done short readathons hosted on Instagram before, but never engaged in full-on community reading yearly reading challenge until last year. I really enjoyed the Beat the Backlist challenge, and will be participating in it as well as Romanceopoly this year to continue doing yearly reading challenges!

Book Review: Trickery by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington

Trickery by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington

Series: Curse of the Gods #1

Published: Febraury 28, 2017

Rating: 3/5

Willa Knight: Dweller. Slave. Non-magical being.

In Minatsol, being a dweller means that you are literally no better than dirt. In fact, dirt might actually be more useful than Willa. Her life will be one of servitude to the sols, the magic-blessed beings who could one day be chosen to become gods.

At least her outer village is far removed from the cities of the sols, and she won’t ever be forced to present herself to them… Until one small mistake changes everything, and Willa is awarded a position to serve at Blesswood, the top sol academy in the world—a position that she definitely did not earn.

Under the sudden, watchful eye of the gods, she will be tasked to serve the Abcurse brothers, five sols built of arrogance, perfection and power. They are almost gods themselves, and under their service she is either going to end up sentenced to death, or else they are going to ruin her so badly that she will wish for it.

Either way, she is in trouble.

My first thought upon finishing this book was: what the hell did I just read? It’s been a while since I had this feeling – probably not since I read a more copious amount of 0.99 kindle romances in high school, which makes sense considering this book was free with kindle unlimited. (Not that I am disparaging the quality of kindle unlimited books because some of them are NYT worthy in my opinion.)

I read this book because it popped up on my goodreads suggested and I was intrigued by the idea of a reverse harem. I feel like this is a bit mismarketed for that reason because while there is hints of the romance that may come in later books, it reads mainly like a young adult novel with a really ditzy heroine who is experiencing sexual urges.

The world of sols and gods and dwellers is something straight out of any fantasy novel I’d love to read, but the heroine kind of took away some of my interest in the world and in my novel.

Willa is a bit of a Mary Sue, constantly getting into strange predicaments and being obscenely “clumsy” (you know, the trip-over-a-flat surface type). Somehow, despite putting herself in constant danger she is able to draw the attention of the hottest brothers around who decide she is under their protection. This seems like the perfect romantic setup, but…nothing really happens in this book. Willa constantly finds herself in “naked situations” where she somehow ends up undressed and oh god she wants to kiss them, but nothing ever comes of it. In fact, in reading the reviews and synopses for the other books in the series, it seems nothing really begins to happen romantically until book 3.

While I did rate this book 3 stars – mainly for the Abcurse brothers who made this story actually interesting – I do need to note that I had to DNF the second book in this series because it is just. so. freaking. stupid. Willa makes some really, really idiotic decisions and has such a whiney voice I just could not force myself to continue. It was a shame because the world that the authors built was really interesting and had a lot of promise.

Normally this is where I’d add an addendum of “if I was younger I’d like this,” but I honestly don’t think I would have then either. The tone of the book is just such a strange mix of explicit sexuality and young foolishness. If you’re looking for a quick and addicting ya-feeling-(is it even a) romance read that is free with kindle unlimited, you may enjoy this, but I can’t say I recommend anyone spends money on this series.

TTT: Favorite Books of 2019

Top ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader. The prompt this week is perfect for the last day of the year: Favorite Books I Read In 2019. So without further ado, here are my top 10 reads of 2019 (in no particular order):

  1. Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  2. Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
  3. Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
  4. Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
  5. Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
  6. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
  7. The Burning Shadow by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  8. Him by Sabrina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
  9. Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs
  10. Dreams Made Flesh by Anne Bishop

Reading Goals for the New Year

A new year, a new set of goals (its largely the same me though). Last year, I tried to focus my TBR for the 2019 Beat the Backlist challenge. Of the books that I put on my “official” TBR, I finished a resounding one – the second book in the Fallen Kingdoms series to be exact. However, I’m not sure I would count that one as a win considering I had the entire series on my TBR. In 2018, I tried to read a classic a month which was a challenge that I truly enjoyed. So the question is, what should I focus on in 2020?

I’ve thought up some goals for myself and some challenges that I’m interested in trying (although I’m not sure how many I will stick to throughout the year) and wanted to share my findings here! Those that are external challenges contain links back to the page. By the way I have no official affiliation other than as an eager participant!

1. Mountain Reads of 2020 (personal goal) – I have a lot of super long books resting on my TBR that just seem too intimidating to start. One of the goals I want to work towards is knocking some of these books off my list. I’m aiming for 6 for the year, which will give me about 2 months to finish each of them. Some of these picks might include: War and Peace, The Priory of the Orange Tree, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

2. Beat the Backlist 2020NovelKnight does such a wonderful job providing resources and a fun challenge for the year. I’ll be participating in this one again because I feel that it helped me attempt to focus on some of the hundreds (unfortunately not an exaggeration) of books sitting on my shelves unread. There are also some #bookstagram prompts each month!

3. #Romanceopoly – This is a challenge that I haven’t participated in before, but I found out about it from instagram posts and it sounds super fun. Romanceopoly is hosted by Under the Covers Book Blog and Peace Love Books and has lots of events and ways to keep romance readers interested. Who wouldn’t want to combine your TBR with a boardgame?! There are readathons, mystery challenges, and more! The 2020 info is now out so check out the link for awesome printables and other fun things!

4. 2020 Classics Challenge (personal goal) – I really enjoyed focusing on reading classics two years ago, so I figure I will bring this mini challenge back for 2020 while making it a bit more lax. I’m hoping to read 6 “classic” books this year on top of all the romance, and mountain reads, and backlist books! Some of these may overlap with my mountain reads, and some may not. Some I’m hoping to get to are: The Count of Monte Christo, Crime and Punishment and 1984.

5. Goodreads Challenge – The ever present challenge that is just a number of books to read in a year. Because I’m hoping to tackle so many big books and I don’t want to put any undue stress on myself, I’m bumping my yearly total down to 50 books. Two years ago I was able to read 100 because of all my free time while wrapping up college, but times a change and unfortunately my reading has decreased along with my free time.

What challenges are you setting for yourself and/or participating in the new year?

Book Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

Published: June 7, 2012

Rating: 4/5

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

This book first came on my radar because of a post on bookstagram. Admittedly, its not one that I would typically pick up for myself as I’m not a huge fan of reading age gap romances, but I am glad I did. I felt that this romance was very well done, with a lot of the emphasis on survival at first and a romance that develops naturally.

I believed the development of both characters was believable, and that both of them were likeable and made understandable decisions. This may sound like I’m setting the bar pretty low, but I’ve had some…interesting last couple of reads.

The romance is sweet and takes time to develop, and the sex scenes aren’t overwhelming or over-the-top. The only thing that really had me raising my eyebrows in this book was the fact that they were able to survive so long on a tiny island with limited resources. The protagonists were a little more than lucky more than a few times, so if you’re looking for realistic survival tips mixed in with your romance look elsewhere.

This book was actually going to be my first read for #Romanceopoly 2020 (and still is going to be, I guess I just started a bit early lol). I picked it up to read the first few pages and see if its something I would actually enjoy, and ended up finishing it in one afternoon. So I would say it is definitely un-putdownable and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick read!

Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Series: All Souls Trilogy #2

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads

***Spoilers ahead for Book 1, A Discovery of Witches ***

Diana and Matthew time-travel to Elizabethan London and are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana searches for a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

This book, above all other things, reads as the author’s love letter to Elizabethean Europe.

While it was truly interesting learning about a lot of these places in this time period, I’m the type of person that has to stop and google any names that seem significant to find out why they’re important. I will say this contributed to my learning a lot more about Elizabethean figures and politics than I knew before, but it also probably tripled the amount of time it took to read the book. For this reason, I often found my attention drifting when sitting down to read and I had to take a break after getting about 1/3 of the way in because I just had no desire to continue. Ultimately, I am glad that I picked it back up.

This book is more…steamy than book 1, but a lot of the sex scenes have some hella awkward dialogue in them that had my snapchatting my buddy-reader to share secondhand embarrassment. There were some touching moments as well which gave a glimpse of what the future holds for Diana and Matthew. Matthew’s controlling tendencies are in full blast during the events of this novel. I’m more inclined to go along with the fantasy setting and fantasy man (cause Lord knows I would never put up with this type of behavior in real life), but it does get on some peoples nerves i.e. my aforementioned buddy reader.

Despite the length of this book (nearly 600 pages) I feel like nothing SIGNIFICANT really happened. Yes, there were some big lifestyle changes for the main characters, but no major revelations with Ashmole 782 or the origin of supernatural species occurred that justified the length to me.

I’m still holding out hope that the conclusion of the series will draw me in like A Discovery of Witches, but some of the review I’ve read are making me a little hesitant to start it.

Holly Black at the Christiana Mall

As expected for a event featuring the Queen of the Faeries, there was a huge crowd – probably the largest I’ve seen at the Christiana Mall Barnes and Noble. With the event being held on a Sunday (before the holidays no less), people came from all over. I showed up about 20 minutes after the store opened to get my wristband for a place in line (I had bought the book and saved the receipt earlier in the week), and was the last person to get a ticket for the first group!

I ended up camping out in the second row and reading four the next four hours – because lets all be honest, if I had gone home I would have just ended up reading anyways. The night before I had stayed up until 1 AM finishing The Wicked King because I had wanted to wait to read it until closer to Queen of Nothing‘s release date and ended up waiting too long.

The Holly Black book talk and signing was a bit atypical compared to other that I have attended because there was no structured Q/A with a moderator before she dove into crowd questions.

A lot of the crowd questions had to do with writing personal projects – story building and publishing. Some tidbits that stood out to me:

  • If you aren’t in love with your main character, then the story probably isn’t working. Your main character and the stresses they go through is the driving point of a book.
  • A book has multiple plots – the main “contention” (such as a dragon needs to be slayed), and the emotional journey of the character (the king that needs to leave to fight the dragon to win back the heart of his wife, who is in love with his brother etc.) Figuring out how these work together is one of the main building blocks of any book.
  • When looking to publish, research agents on publisher websites and check out the new agents as well as the established ones. New agents are trying to build a name for themselves (and they may be willing to try and do that with your book!) Check out the acknowledgements section of authors books to see if they thank their agent. If they do, that probably means they’re awesome, if not… you may want to avoid.

Some other things discussed during the Q/A: Holly is working on a new darker YA series currently, although of course she would love to return to the Fae world of The Folk of the Air (I personally would love a Grima Mog backstory).

One of Black’s pleasures is watching “trash” reality TV shows. A large part of the inspiration for her book The Coldest Girl in Coldtown came from these shows and how we as humans enjoy watching the angst and suffering of others for entertainment.

When working with Cassandra Clare on their shared book series, Black and Clare would each alternate writing a few hundred words. The person would backtrack and “write over” the last hundred or so words of the last person to write so that the novel could achieve a more uniform voice. Holly would love to collaborate with Clare again if either of them are able to find free time and the right story.

Even after her all of her success, Black still feels “impostor syndrome” when she finds herself in positions like author panels with other well-known colleagues.

I’m so glad to have been given the chance to meet this wonderful author! Now that I have all my books signed, I need to catch up on reading them all. To date, I’ve only read the Folk of the Air trilogy and I need to read all of the backlog so I can understand the character references!