I was in the mood for a murder mystery – so I turned to Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious, a YA mystery about a true crime enthusiast and wannabe detective named Stevie who dreams of solving a famous kidnapping. But there are strange things afoot in the present day – a fellow student is murdered.
I read Truly Devious a few years ago, but picked it up again recently so I could read the trilogy all the way through. And I read all 3 books in a matter of days (book 3, in just one day!). In some ways, this is a review for the trilogy as a whole – but no spoilers, I promise! Any details I’ve shared pertain only to Book 1. 😉
There were so many things to love about these books:
The YallWest virtual book festival took place this past weekend! Typically held each spring in Santa Monica, California, things looked a little different this year (#Covid-19), and the YallWest team decided to move the festivities and panels online. The event was dubbed “Yall Stay Home” (clever, right?!).
I’m incredibly impressed with the way the YallWest team was able to turn things around at such short notice. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, the team pulled out all the stops to maintain the spirit of the event and provide a virtual platform for authors and readers to connect, with “giveaways, contests, signed book deliveries, and two full days of panels with more than 70 bestselling and award-winning authors.”
This was especially exciting for me, as I would not have been able to attend had the event not been virtual (I live on the east coast!). Of course, I understand why the change in plans may have been disappointing for the people who were looking forward to gathering together in-person and meeting authors and fellow book-lovers face-to-face. But it’s really inspiring to me how so many industries – publishing & the reading community included – have stepped up to adapt.
So, thank you YallWest! Well done. Each of the panels I attended were awesome. Today I’m sharing my notes and takeaways from the panels I joined. Hope it’s helpful to you! *I believe the panels were recorded, and will be made available at a later date if you missed one or would like to rewatch. 😉
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on all that I learned and accomplished in 2016, and about my approach for continued growth in 2017. New Year, new resolutions, etc. I love the idea of taking time to look back on the successes / challenges of the previous year in order to move forward.
So today, I thought I’d write about goal setting for the new year, and, more specifically, how to challenge yourself to be better in a variety of ways.
In 2016, I really pushed myself outside my comfort zone – moving overseas to study abroad in London for 4 months, taking on my first summer internship at a magazine, taking an adult ballet class with a friend. And I’m really proud of myself for doing all those things. Best of all, I loved each of those experiences. 2016 was an awesome year.
I’m the type of person that’s always striving to be better – to continue learning and growing in all things. I’m very driven. But at the same time, I appreciate routine and will sometimes only do the things that make me feel comfortable.
I think it’s probably safe to assume that nobody enjoys – much less seeks out – situations that make them uncomfortable.
But, looking back, I’ve realized that it was precisely those uncomfortable situations that caused me to grow as a person. And I’m currently really happy with where I am today.
Something else you might be able to relate to is that feeling of pressure to “top” your previous successes. It’s difficult for me to think about where I was this time last year – in London! How could anything I do in 2017 be more exciting than that?!
It’s true – my study abroad experience was a pretty big deal, but largely because it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And just because I may not have another “once-in-a-lifetime” experience in 2017, doesn’t mean I can’t continue to learn and grow. I can absolutely continue to move forward, but I’ll be moving in new directions, and that’s exciting in and of itself.
So I’ve asked myself recently, What can I do in 2017 to push myself outside of my comfort zone?
I couldn’t believe it when I realized it’s been over a year and a half since I last posted on the blog. What?! Where have I been? Did I drop off the face of the earth? I think it’s only fair to give you a very, very condensed / simplified recap of my life since last Aug, and attempt to explain why I neglected the blog during that time period. Also, discuss the direction of the blog moving forward and all my fabulous new plans. (I hope it’s fabulous…? It is only Jan 4 – the New Year high of optimism and motivation is through the roof.)
First things first… when I left you in August of 2015, I was beginning my sophomore year of college. And, more importantly, I was preparing for a trip across the pond. Because in spring of 2016 (exactly one year ago! ah! craziness!), I studied abroad in London, England for the semester.
At that time, I thought I’d be starting a new blog to chronicle my study abroad adventures and to write how-to posts about travel and all-things college related. I’ll give you a hint – the new site didn’t get off the ground. I registered a domain name and picked a WordPress theme and designed a logo, and then I ran out of steam, probably because I realized it’s pretty difficult starting from scratch and I had a whole lot of other things on my mind.
Anyway, I journaled in London every single day and took lots and lots of pictures and put together a scrapbook. So I kept a really thorough record of memories for myself, but unfortunately not for the blogosphere. And when I came home in May 2016, I struggled to decide whether or not to jump back into Brooke Reviews or attempt to work on the new blog, and I did neither. BUT I’ve done loads of other stuff, so I’ll share some of that with you now…
I can’t even believe summer vacation is drawing to a close. I go back to school on the 24th – I’d like to take the next week and a half to prepare for classes and to think about the focus/direction of the blog.
Although I won’t be posting during this hiatus, feel free to reach out to me via email or social media!
This review is going to be quite a pleasure to write – Seraphina is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’m excited to share my thoughts. And then, of course, to persuade you to read the book. 😉
First of all, I’d like to admire the beautiful prose of Rachel Hartman. She’s a wordsmith. My reading experience was enjoyable largely thanks to Hartman’s lyrical writing style. And maybe the lyrical style is due in part to Seraphina’s musical talent and the impact of music upon the story? Anyhow, the book flows seamlessly – one scene into the next. I couldn’t put it down because it was so fluid.
Seraphina is a very distinctive narrator and I loved her unique voice. She’s very literal and dry but also hilarious. She’s very relatable, and I know that’s a cliche thing to say, but I think it’s true. She’s struggling because she doesn’t fit in, and this is something many readers will understand and also sympathize with. But Seraphina isn’t whiny or self-pitying, and that’s what I loved best about her. She does what needs doing and nothing will stand in her way.
Enter Princess Glisselda and Prince Lucian Kiggs, who have also found places in my heart. At first glance, Selda seems to be the spoiled, stereotypical princess. I’ll give you a hint: she’s not. And Kiggs is absolutely endearing and adorable. The sparks between Seraphina and Kiggs gave my stomach butterflies. Also, Orma, who shares a special bond with Seraphina. I couldn’t be happier with the development of that bond.
Hartman has created an incredibly intricate story world. It practically leaps off the page. The history and the relationship between the humans and the dragons is rife with tension. The humans fear the dragons, and the dragons condescend to the humans. The dragons look down on the humans for succumbing to their emotions. So there’s the underlying theme of love – something the dragons adamantly avoid but are seeking to understand.
And as far as plot goes, it’s intriguing. There’s a murder and a mystery. Seraphina and Kiggs are detectives hot on the trail. So there’s the whole whodunnit? element, but also a good bit of politics. And it wasn’t predictable.
I’m super excited to get my hands on book 2. I’m totally invested in Seraphina’s story and her story world. Read it, read it, read it! Dragons, mystery, romance, humor, what more do I need to say?!
AH, retellings! My new obsession. 😉 And I’m loving how diverse retellings are becoming – diverse characters, diverse genres. It’s no longer the same-old same-old (modern-day Cinderella, Snow White, etc.) It’s exciting. So I’ve listed five fairytale retellings I’ve read, and five retellings I’ve added to my TBR. Enjoy!
*Can we take a moment to admire how fantastic these covers look side by side?
1. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – retelling of A Thousand and One Nights
2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas – retelling of Beauty and the Beast
3. Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis – sci-fi retelling of Snow White
4. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – retelling of Beauty and the Beast
5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer – sci-fi retelling of Cinderella (followed by sci-fi retellings of Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel)
WANT TO READ
6. Winter by Marissa Meyer – sci-fi retelling of Snow White
7. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston – retelling of A Thousand and One Nights
8. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – retelling of Red Riding Hood
9. Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas – retelling of Cinderella
10. Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis – retelling of The Wild Swans
DID YOU ADD ANY OF THESE BOOKS TO YOUR TTT? YOU TELL ME – WHAT HAVE I MISSED?? I’M ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT FOR INTRIGUING RETELLINGS! BRING ON THE RECOMMENDATIONS! BE SURE TO LINK TO YOUR TOP TEN TUESDAY POST SO I CAN CHECK IT OUT. 🙂
This was a highly anticipated read for me, because I’d heard so many good things and the response to this book was breaking all my social media. I was so excited to see what all the fuss was about. Immediate reaction upon finishing the book: That was great. Also extraordinarily frustrating. (And now I’ll attempt to explain…)
The premise is intriguing. I liked the whole spy thing and the reluctant soldier thing. It’s a bit slow in the beginning – the book opens with the murder of Laia’s grandparents and Laia’s subsequent separation from her brother. Laia is a sympathetic character – I felt for her not only because her family has been ripped apart but also because she’s struggling with the guilt of leaving her brother behind to save herself. She wishes she were more brave, more courageous. She’s disappointed with herself, but rather than wallowing in self-pity she seeks out the rebels, who may be the only people who can help rescue her brother.
I’m not always a fan of alternating perspectives, but Tahir pulled this off really well. Both Laia and Elias are strong narrators. It becomes especially interesting when their stories intertwine at the military academy. Although honestly, I’d have to say I liked Elias more than I liked Laia. Her emotional struggle endeared me at the beginning, but she became too bold too fast, and this was a little unrealistic.
Things began to go downhill for me a little over halfway. And that had nothing to do with the plot, which was still fast-paced and engaging. It had everything to do with the not-so-subtle hints Tahir was dropping about a possible romance between the narrators. And this bothered me because I realized I might be shipping the wrong ship. Elias and Helene are adorable, OKAY? It’s obvious he deeply cares about her, and then Laia shows up and suddenly he thinks he’s into her. This just didn’t work for me, and it really spoiled the tone of the rest of the book. And maybe the author is doing this purposefully…? Maybe the unpredictability is a good thing…? But I don’t think so because the book was originally supposed to be a standalone. (Does anyone else have trouble believing this??)
Anyhow, it’s difficult for me to get my feelings across because even though I really enjoyed it, there were several things that skewed my satisfaction. A review I read by a fellow blogger also pointed out the lack of world building. I actually hadn’t thought much about this, because I’d been so engaged. But there’s very little backstory/explanation/history provided for the Martial Empire. I walked away with more questions than answers.
I sound a bit negative, but this is just one of those books that gives you equal parts enjoyment and frustration. I’d still highly recommend it simply because it’s an engaging read. But I wanted to be honest with you about the drawbacks.
I have actually just returned home from a three week vacation – it’s good to be back! I thought, naively, that I’d be able to keep up with my posting schedule while I was away, but unfortunately that was not the case. So I apologize for disappearing from the blog without any advance warning or explanation! Anyhow, I’m excited to be jumping back in with this fun TTT. It melts our book nerd hearts when we read about fellow bookworms. We remember these characters because, hello, they are our people. 😉
1. BETSY RAY
“Betsy returned to her chair, took off her coat and hat, opened her book and forget the world again.” – Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace
2. ANNE SHIRLEY
“I love a book that makes me cry.” – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
3. HERMIONE GRANGER
“What are you doing with all those books anyway?” Ron asked.
“Just trying to decide which ones to take with us,” said Hermione. “When we’re looking for the Horcruxes.”
“Oh, of course,” said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. “I forgot we’ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.” – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
4. ELIZABETH BENNETT
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5. LIZ SUTTON
“It’s almost like…”
“The library,” Liz said, and immediately I knew that she was right. It was exactly like the library at the Gallagher Academy, from the position of the fireplace to the tall windows that overlooked the grounds.
“How do you know?” Zach asked.
Liz looked totally insulted. “Because…uh…library.”
“Okay.” Zach threw up his hands. “Point taken.” – Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
6. TESSA GRAY & WILL HERONDALE
“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.” – Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
7. LIESEL MEMINGER
“Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.” – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
8. SYDNEY SAGE
“Sydney had been horrified to discover my home library consisted of a bartending dictionary and an old copy of Esquire, and at her pleading, I’d promised to read something more substantial. I was trying to think deep thoughts as I read Gatsby, but mostly I wanted to throw some parties.” – The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead
9. CELAENA SARDOTHIEN
“Her salary as King’s Champion was considerable, and Celaena spent every last copper of it. Shoes, hats, tunics, dresses, jewelry, weapons, baubles for her hair, and books. Books and books and books. So many books that Philippa had to bring up another bookcase for her room.” – Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas
“In fiction, I searched for my favorite authors, women I have trusted to reassure me that not all teenage guys are total ditwads, that the archetype of the noble cute hero who devotes himself to the girl he loves has not gone the way of the rotary phone.” – Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer
Have you read these books?? Who are your favorite book nerd characters? Share your thoughts! Give me recommendations!