Strange the Cupcakes

In honor of finishing and LOVING Laini Taylor’s  Strange the Dreamer, I present to you: STRANGE THE CUPCAKES:

 

New Feature: 67 Questions with @b00kstorebabe

She’s one of Twitter and Tumblr’s most popular book bloggers, and she happens to be a very close friend of mine!

Check out the video of Team Midsummer interviewing Shauna while she finishes up her work day.

Things you’ll learn:

  1. Apparently Shauna can beast anyone in Scrabble (can you teach me? I’ve never understood the strategy of the double word scores, etc!)
  2. Roshani Chokshi’s fictional creations are some of Shauna’s favorites
  3. It’s possible to forget that you have a tattoo until you are explaining them (and also forget one completely)

For more, watch the interview with one of my favorite people:

 

Book Review: Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline.

But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.

This book is a television show waiting to happen.  I swear, the writing was so lyrical, but cinematic at the same time that I vividly imagined the entire story as I read.  Now, I know that sounds kind of like the definition of reading in general, being able to picture the story.  But this was something beyond picturing it, Done Dirt Cheap was to the point of me already having cast actors and actresses and it was playing out on the page, dancing around the words.

As a woman who was born and raised in the South, it was such a wonderful and brilliant story of two girls overcoming their circumstances and not only owning them, but bending them to their will.  By no means are Tourmaline and Virginia weak willed, they are by far two of the most fully realized characters I’ve read in a long time.  I find myself torn to try and decide which character I identify with more on a personality level.  I think every reader will find a little of themselves in both T and V, and this is such a compliment to Lemon and her narrative capabilities.

I think that their friendship is almost like those slow burn romances that come on in in books where the characters almost hate one another at first, only to realize they have more in common than they thought. That’s how I view Virginia and Tourmaline, two souls who reluctantly came together but ended up becoming friends against all odds. I love a book that celebrates female friendship in that way, and readers, this has it.

Speaking of slow burn romances, I’m here to tell you that *spoiler alert* Virginia and Jason equate to Deadpool’s Vanessa and Wade.  To not give any MORE spoilers from Done Dirt Cheap, here’s an exchange from Deadpool that can pretty much sum up this pairing (in a good way):

Wade: Well, your crazy matches my crazy, big time. And, uh, we’re like two jigsaw pieces, you know, and we have curvy edges.

Vanessa: But you fit them together and you see the picture on top.

Along more obvious romance lines, I loved the way Lemon kept readers on their toes concerning Cash and Tourmaline and how she made the reader feel the turmoil that Tourmaline did while trying to figure out her feelings and what exactly she was going to do in such an interesting situation.

Overall, I found this book to be really easy to read in that it kept my focus and it is one I wish I could have read in one sitting.  I blame the real world for getting in the way of my reading time, but nonetheless my reading experience was amazing.

 

4.5 Bards for Done Dirt Cheap!

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Now, I realize that when I first read The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi that I never actually wrote a review for it!  So, upon my receipt of an Advanced Reading Copy of the companion novel, Crown of Wishes, I decided to re-read TSTQ in order to prepare myself for more the feels that are going to come along with revisiting Guari and Bharata.

Finally, here is my review of TSTQ!

One of my favorite parts of Chokshi’s novel is the noted difference between the treatment of women in the kingdom of Bharata and how Amar promised to treat her within Akaran while she ruled alongside him.  It was interesting to see through the eyes of a daughter kept within the harem inside her kingdom, and while that wasn’t the focus of the novel, it was so great to see this kind of diversity in a young adult book.  I was a little bothered by the slut-shaming comment upon my re-read, when Maya throws “spreading legs” at one of the meaner harem wives.  But it wasn’t something that was a deal-breaker in this story for me.

Maya has a ton of fire in her personality and I love that she has that spunk and the urge to be as much as an individual as her society allows, and I love that.  She’s quick witted and stronger than she appears.  Now, with these traits, comes negative things: Maya is impulsive and more gullible than I remember from my first read.  I love that Chokshi has created a whole character full of strengths and flaws.  If there’s anything I can’t stand in young adult literature is when a main character is not well rounded and Maya is so well written as a frustrating and lovely character. Such a great character creation by Chokshi.

The world that Chokshi has created in The Star-Touched Queen is complex and wonderful.  The different worlds that the reader discovers alongside Maya, specifically the Night Bazaar (to quote Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”), has been beautifully created through flowery and expressive language.  I normally don’t like excessively descriptive narrative (a la Charles Dickens), but Chokshi’s writing is so enthralling that I found myself growing to love it.

As for the love story, I’m looking forward to Amar and Maya’s relationship in the novella Death and Night, because for me The Star-Touched Queen was so much more about Maya’s journey to remembering her past lives and becoming the strong woman she needed to be to restore balance to her world.

Also, is anyone else super interested in their horoscopes after reading this?

Overall, I’m so glad I went to re-read and spent more time with Maya and it makes me look forward to Crown of Wishes so much more! If you haven’t had a chance to read this beautiful book, then order a copy as soon as you can.

4 Bards.

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

25036310Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself. 

Team Midsummer had the amazing chance to interview Caleb Roehrig and we love him. Check out our interview here.

I read this book in a matter of hours.  The only reason I put it down for a few minutes was to run from one airport terminal to the other so I could make sure to catch my flight home.  Even then, I held the book in my hands, unwilling to let it go or lose my place for too long.

When Caleb said he set out to write a thriller, I’d say he succeeded in spades.

First things first, let’s talk about characterization.

Flynn, oh, Flynn, my sweet snowflake.  He is so well rounded as a character, he has his flaws, he has his snarky sarcasm that made me laugh out loud (to the chagrin of my neighbor on the flight), last-seen-leaving-aestheticand he has a struggle of accepting himself for who he is.  He is brash, he is ridiculously self confident in that he will find clues and information that the cops can’t find about his missing girlfriend, and I assume he must have an extremely trustworthy face, because a lot of people he doesn’t really know open right up to him.  Although, I think my main concern here is that those people’s parents didn’t teach them to not talk to strangers.  But again, I could always talk to a wall, so I’m not the best judge!

January is somehow able to be likable despite all of her flaws and her incessant lying.  For instance, even waaaaaaaaaay before the events in Last Seen Leaving, she was consistently portraying her boyfriend, and so-called best friend, Flynn is a very negative light to those around her.  Not only to some of the kids at her new private school, but also to her coworker, who she also pitted against Flynn to make him jealous.  She’s definitely a master manipulator, and I credit Roehrig for still creating a character that I was rooting for, even though I kind of hated her too.  She reminded me of one of those girls in high school who definitely thought she was better than anyone and everyone, therefore isolating herself from everyone.

The mystery/thriller aspect.

This story kept me on my toes the entire time. While I do have my reservations about girls just giving up a lot of random information about January to a guy they’d never really met before, I loved that Flynn had this whole Nancy Drew thing going on (Side note: Nancy Drew was way better than The Hardy Boys).  He’s definitely a bolder person than I’d ever be.  I’d be persuaded to let the cops handle it and then wallow in my own misery, but not Flynn.  Which I love.  I found it so amazing that he was kind of bad at investigating, and the killer was definitely not someone who I immediately suspected, so I credit Roehrig for laying plenty of false leads throughout the narrative that were pretty convincing.

Romance.

I just fangirl flail about Kaz and Flynn. Just, go read this.

4.5 Bards!

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Keep up with the rest of our LGBT Month Celebration!

midsummer-lgbtq-history-month

Reading Empire of Storms: A Timelapse

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

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Release Date: October 4, 2016

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

 

 

Vlog 1: Introduction & a Cocktail

The vlog does have a brief cameo from Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles…as their faces are on my shirt and their eyes peak over the table fairly frequently…which is amusing.

Book Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Note: I “read” this novel via Audiobook on Audible (Pssshhhttt, I did it this way: Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks)

I think that it should be something of note that this is the first audiobook that I’ve ever finished that I haven’t previously read in print.  I had trouble focusing on audiobooks in the past that I hadn’t already read, as my mind would wander and I’d lose minutes of narration that would be important to the story.  Side note: I do workout while I listen to audiobooks, so sometimes I get distracted looking around at other things.

So it is definitely saying something when I say that I not only finished Stolen Songbird, but that I actually paid attention and didn’t lose interest.  In fact, it was to the point that I ended up doing an 8 mile green way walk while listening to this novel and didn’t realize it until I was already two hours in because I was so engrossed in the story.

stolen songbird

I made this after ALL THE FEELS. Tristan x Cecile

Things that were fascinating about Stolen Songbird:

The use of Trolls (or what are seemingly Trolls–it is alluded to that they might not be *actual* Trolls, but I suppose that is something that will be addressed in the sequels) as some of the main characters, and the trolls are not stupid, or ugly, or brutish…they are calculating, beautiful, and brutal in ways. But it’s definitely a race of fantasy creatures that get relegated to the background in the majority of narratives, so it was quite refreshing to have them in the forefront.

Other than Tristan and one or two others, a lot of the main characters were women.  Despite the use of alternating point of views with Tristan, Cecile’s POV dominates the text and her friends, Elise, Zoe, Victoria, and even Anais are more present in the text than any of the other male characters bar Tristan and possibly the King.

The narrative picks up really quickly and what could possibly be considered a major climax of the story takes place within the first few chapters: Cecile is kidnapped, taken to a city that she thought was a myth, and then forced to marry a handsome prince.  ALL IN THE MATTER OF A NIGHT.  Talk about a tumultuous evening.

Other than the wonderful blossoming of friendship and love between Cecile and these creatures she always regarded as monsters, I think the class struggles were a wonderful addition to the story that I wish we could have seen more of.

Sure, there’s a lot of time spent discussing the half-bloods (troll/human) and their plight under the mountain, relegated to servant duties and other physical labor that is deigned too base for a full-blooded troll.  It is a very literal interpretation of a proletariat/bourgeoisie society, and the proletariat has their bourgeois sympathizers that help them to gain some power within Trollus.  Marx describes the proletariat’s plight as one where they “live to work and work to live,” which is exactly how I’d describe the miners in the bowels of Forsaken mountain.  I could go on and on about that, and it’s a different post!

I’ve already downloaded the audiobook of Hidden Huntress and can’t wait to get back to Cecile and Tristan’s world, because that ending broke me.

4 Bards

fourbards

 

 

 

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

There are a lot of things that we study in US and World History about World War II, but the plight of German, Prussian, Polish, and Lithuanian refugees is not something that is touched on much, and the Wilhelm Gustloff even less so. In fact, I’m sad to say that prior to the publication of Sepetys’ novel I hadn’t even heard about the Gustloff or the nine thousand people that lost their lives in the icy sea that night in 1945.

Sepetys’ story actually doesn’t focus as much on the Wilhelm Gustloff’s sinking so much as it does the journey of each of these teenagers as their stories begin to intertwine and finally converge on the ill fated last trip of the Gustloff.

This being my first Ruta Sepetys novel, despite owning both of her other novels (I know, I really need to get on top of this and read the others!), I was impressed by the utter beauty of her character development.  For the most part, these characters are orphans of war, either not knowing where their parents are, their parents have passed, or they were cast out or forced to join the war efforts.  Sepetys does an amazing job of revealing these small truths about these characters over the course of the narrative, and despite my skepticism about multiple narrators (especially when such short chapters are involved), I found the voices to be distinct enough that it added to the story.

One character is a medically trained nurse, one a mysterious boy with a secret, one an overzealous Nazi, and one a Polish girl with no one.

By all means, this is an absolutely brutal story.

Readers will encounter stories of pillage and rape, war fatalities, hypothermia, frostbite, and a lot of death.  It is a story not for the faint of heart.

Half the narrators do not survive.

In a lot of ways this novel reminds me of Margaret Haddix’s Uprising, as the story builds around very different characters caught up in each other’s fates, and it plays so well while telling the story of those forgotten by history.

For those forgotten by time, the disaster has been given more attention following the publication of Salt to the Sea, but unfortunately the majority of these poor souls’ stories will never be told.  So we have to remember them and the disaster.

The refugee tale is not one that is unimportant by any means in today’s political climate, and it is vital to remember that their plights are not just a tale out of time.

5 Bards for this heartbreaking story that still manages to provide hope

fivebards

 

 

 

 

 

 

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