Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey


I've had The Girl at Midnight sitting in my TBR pile for quite some time. I can't even remember why I ever bought it or how it caught my attention in the first place, but I do remember being incredibly excited, buying it, and then letting it sit on my shelves for years. 
But I finally read it and really, really enjoyed it.

The Girl at Midnight follows Echo, a human girl who has been adopted by The Ala, a bird-like creature and the Avicen's seer. The Avicen are an ancient race of creatures who've been forced to live under the Earth, specifically under New York City. Echo's human parents mistreated her, and the Ala found her in the New York City Library and took her in.
Counter to the Avicen is the Drakharin. The two species have been at war for many, many years. Enough that the children from each species grow up with myths about how the war started and why. (Each species are immortal, their aging stops once they reach maturity.) There's also a myth of the firebird: no one knows what it is, but what they do know is that it has the power to stop the war.
Echo, though she is human, is able to travel between cities with the help of Avicen magic. With a natural talent for stealing things, she uses the attainable magic to her advantage, going between cities stealing things, and running errands. At the beginning of the novel, we get to read about these shenanigans, but we also see Echo struggle to find a place with the Avicen and reflect on never fitting in with humans. When talk of the firebird becomes a serious topic, Echo independently sets herself up to find it so Ala and her friends aren't at risk.
Then chaos ensues and it's absolutely fantastic!
I love Echo as a main character. She's got flaws just like the rest of us, and she goes through real human emotions - not human experiences, but emotional human experiences. She felt super relatable even though she's in an urban fantasy setting. I think part of that has to do with the fact that she's the only human character but mostly to do with good writing and character development.
The way the world is built is really easy to take in - not too much all at once, but not dwelling enough that you become bored and skip through the narration. The dialogue felt really natural, too. Each character has a certain amount of depth that makes you question the good side vs. the bad side, and none of it is super clear. I also found myself comparing the political and social systems with that of North America's - particularly the US. I live in Canada, so I'm sort of watching the events in the States take place from afar, and reading this book is kind of like that. Though it was published in 2015, I think it had a lot of connections to our current events. There's a lot to be said for a narrative that can do that. 
We get to go between a third person point of view of Echo as well as Caius, the Drakharin Prince. This provided some awesome juxtaposition to their very different lives. No spoilers, but they eventually collide... in the best way... no spoilers! Caius is looking for the firebird too, and his sister, Tanith is standing in his way. His chapters were a great surprise. At first, I was a little confused because is story line is mentioned in absolutely no descriptions of this book. I thought it might be a flashback or something, but I ended up loving his character and how complex he is!
He's a Prince, and he struggles a lot in distancing his personal life from his royal life. He struggles a lot with morality, as well. What he really wants is to end the war, and he wants the firebird to do it. His sister consistently tries to get in his way, as she believes it's just a myth.

I'm so excited to continue reading this trilogy, although I'm a bit nervous. Nervous as in like going from The Darkest Minds to Never Fade nervous, not bad-nervous. (If you've read TDM you know exactly what I'm talking about.)
I feel like I can recommend this book to so many people so here's a list of books, that if you've liked, you'll like The Girl At Midnight: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (cause of the hidden world), Six of Crows (cause stealing), The Crown's Game (cause royalty).
This was a 5/5 stars for me, and you can now find it on my goodreads shelf, "the favourites."

Monday, July 31, 2017

What I Read During Booktube-a-Thon | #BTAT17


My 3rd favourtie time of the year has come to an end: the booktube-a-thon! (Christmas is the 1st and fall is the 2nd.) Every year I've looked forward to the week in the summer where I can dedicate my time to reading, and every year I've succeed in doing just that. I didn't read as much this year as I thought I would, but I'd still consider this week successful.
Since I posted about my TBR for this week, I figured a wrap up was needed to let y'all know how it went.

The House of Hades (Rick Riordan)
Finished reading on day 2. 583 pages read. Rated 4.5/5 stars.
I loved seeing each character's journey in this novel. I've loved this series so much and this was no disappointment. No spoilers, but Percy and Annabeth's journey was incredibly unique, and I think Riordan did an amazing job creating practically a whole other world around them. The environment they found the
mselves in not only tested their development as characters, but also their relationship. I felt like this novel was really vital to Leo and Frank, as well. Their character development sky rocketed, and my feelings towards them went from neutral to love.
Challenges completed:
- read a hyped book
- read a book with a person on the cover
The Eleventh Doctor: After Life (Al Ewing, Rob Williams, Simon Fraser, & Gary Caldwell)
Finished reading on day 2. 128 pages read. 3/5 stars.
I really enjoyed this graphic novel in being in the Eleventh Doctor's world again. He holds a special place in my heart. This gave me mega Bad Wolf vibes, too. However, the art style wasn't my favourite, and it just sort of lacked something for me and fell flat. I'm not sure if I'll continue reading these yet.
Challenges completed:
- read a book in one day
- read a book completely outdoors
The Blood of Olympus (Rick Riordan)
Finished reading on day 3. 502 pages read. 5/5 stars.
I absolutely loved this conclusion to the series. It wasn't perfectly wrapped up in a bow, it had a rocky-ness to it - and I like that. To me, that's what makes a good conclusion. I liked not having Percy and Annabeth's point of views because at this point, we've been following them for so long, it was time to really see the other characters shine. And that set up for the Trials of Apollo series makes me want to read it so bad! I don't want to say too much, though - spoilers!
Challenges completed:
- read a book about someone completely different from you (they're half-human half-god! That aside, though, there's a lot of diverse characters, here.)
No More Heroes (Michelle Kan)
DNFed at 30%. About 83 pages in.
The premise of this novel really intrigues me. I love books about teenagers with powers getting themselves in trouble. But this didn't grab me the way I wanted it to; especially when I'm in the middle of a read-a-thon. The writing threw me off a bit - it told a lot of story and jumped between characters when it felt like the scene wasn't over yet. Too much was being hidden and I didn't get to know the characters as much as I want to 30% into a book. I would like to revisit it at some point to see how it plays out.
The Girl at Midnight (Melissa Grey)
Finished reading day 5. 357 pages. 5/5 stars.
This is one of my new favourite books. I loved the story, I loved the writing, I loved the world, I loved the characters. Everything felt so well thought out. I thought Echo was an awesome main character; she felt real and relatable. She had real emotions but was still a bad-ass. I feel like just this little wrap up post won't do it justice, so you may see it's own review post soon. If you liked Six of Crows or Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you're going to want to read this one. The trilogy is complete as well, so you can binge read it if you want. (Which I plan to do very soon.)
Challenges completed:
- read a book you bought because of the cover
All The Crooked Saints (Maggie Stiefvater)
Still reading, 158 pages read during booktube-a-thon (out of 311 pages).
This book comes out in October, but I got an ARC of it and knew I wanted to read it ASAP. I'm enjoying so far, but the only words that can explain this novel are: weird, interesting, magical realism. Like serious magical realism. It even follows Latin American characters (see Merriam-Webster). But this is not a read-a-thon appropriate book. It's so complicated that you have to read it slowly. It's a lot of narration too, so not a quick, nor a light read. But I am looking forward to continuing reading it!

That leaves just one challenge not completed: read seven books. Even if I had been able to finish No More Heroes and All The Crooked Saints, I wouldn't have completed this challenge. I did, however, read 1,840 pages this week. Which is the most I've read in a week all year. And now I'm only 2 books behind on my goodreads goal. So this week was a success for me.

If you want to see my past years doing booktube-a-thon, they're on my youtube channel:
2014 - playlist of daily videos
2015 - TBR - Wrap-Up
2016  - TBR - Wrap-Up

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Booktube-a-thon TBR! #BTAT17

I love booktube-a-thon, it's the time of year where I actually hunker down and read books. My past experiences in booktube-a-thon have been extremely successful and I think it's due to literally everyone in the bookternet community participating. I find it's easier to get reading done when I log onto twitter and seeing how well everyone is doing, or participating in reading sprints. It's just a fun time. This year, I work almost every day during booktube-a-thon, so I plan on getting zero sleep if only it helps my goodreads goal for the year. *flashback to the post I wrote about not caring about my goodreads goal???*
I've never blogged during booktube-a-thon before, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. I'm definitely going to post daily on my instagram. I find it's easiest to update my progress there because it's quick and easy and I can do it right at midnight for more accurate daily stats. I may do a mid-week update here, and then a wrap up, but we'll see.
[[If you want to see the videos on my youtube channel from past years I've participated here's the 2014 playlist, my 2015 TBR and Wrap-Up, and my 2016 TBR and Wrap-Up.]]
Anyway, every year there's a list of challenges for the booktube-a-thon to help build a tbr. I sort of use to to help myself but really I just pick books I want to read and hope it fits in with the challenges. The challenges this year are:
1. Read a book with a person on the cover.
2. Read a hyped book.
3. Finish a book in one day.
4. Read about a character different from you.
5. Finish a book completely outdoors.
6. Read a book you bought because of the cover.
7. Read seven books.
I recently went and watched my book hauls from 2014 and 2015 in an attempt to pair down my TBR pile BooksandLala style and discovered books from way back then that I still haven't read. So some of those I've worked into this TBR and others are just here cause I want to read them. A small disclaimer: I'm always picking a crap ton of books for this read-a-thon mostly because I'm a very indecisive person and every year I'm like, 'there's no way I'm going to read all of these.' I'm right, I don't read them all, because I usually end up reading books that were never supposed to be on the TBR in the first place. 
Anyways, here's my TBR for booktube-a-thon:
1. The Girl at  Midnight, Melissa Grey - I've had this book in my TBR pile since May 2015, so I think it's time. Also, I bought it cause I liked the cover! It's supposed to be a lot like Six of Crows, so i'm down.
2. Vicious, V.E. Schwab - I've had this one in my TBR pile since December 2014! That is absolutely insane. Also, it's not too long, and I think I might be able to read it in one day. This is about two arch nemesis who were once college roommates.
3. The Eleventh Doctor Vol. 1: After Life - I got this graphic novel trade last year for Christmas. I read the first issue of the series when it first came out, but didn't have the time to continue getting the issues. I'm excited to read the others, now! I'm hoping to read this on a nice day so I can read it all outside, completing another challenge.
4. The House of Hades and 5. The Blood of Olympus, Rick Riordan - I've read the first three books in this series, but I'd really love to finish the rest while it's still fresh in my mind and before I go back to school. They both have people on the cover and I would consider the series hyped so these two books complete two challenges!
6. No More Heroes, Michelle Kan - If you find this on goodreads, you'll notice it only has 13 ratings and 8 reviews. I heard about this book through twitter and I pretty sure it's self-published? Though I could be wrong. But the people I've seen talk about it on Twitter seem to really have enjoyed it and it's diverse characters. I liked the concept so I picked it up on my e-reader. This covers the 'read about a character different from you' challenge!
So that leaves room for one more book if I can manage it. But I'm going to leave it open so I can mood-read if I need to. I like having the opportunity to choose a book on the fly.
I'm not reading the booktube-a-thon buddy read, mainly because I don't want to be adding more books to my tbr. I've really been trying to actually read the books I already have, and I want this read-a-thon to help me do that. I actually plan on doing a big unhaul both on my tbr at home, and the ones I've left at my school-home very soon. It's just gotten ridiculous and I'd like less clutter in my life.
It feels sort of weird participating in booktube-a-thon but not actually being on booktube anymore 0 it makes me have an urge to vlog or something. Alas, not this year. Don't forget to follow my instagram to get nightly updates, and add me on goodreads to see how the books are going! 





Wednesday, July 19, 2017

YOU SHOULD BE READING... The Crown's Game

Alright alright alright! *Outkast Hey Ya plays in background*
I don't know if you've heard of this little duology called The Crown's Game... but you should be reading it. I'm currently reading The Crown's Fate, and I forgot how much I really enjoyed the first one. The Crown's Game really builds an intricate world, and The Crown's Fate really dives into it to build on it. Also, because of the building in the first, the characters feel more comfortable and grounded so the scenes play out really well and vividly.
The Crown's Game follow Pasha, heir to the throne; Nikolai, an orphaned enchanter being mentored by hard woman; and Vika, another enchanter being raised and mentored by her loving father. The Crown's Game (literally, a game) is about to begin to determine the new Imperial Enchanter. The Imperial Enchanter will serve the Crown and have more access to the world's magic - or rather, all of it, because the loser of the Crown's Game will also loose their life. And things get tricky because Nikolai and Pasha are best friends, and Vika starts to have feelings for the both of them, as they do for her... it's complicated. Usually I stay far, far, away from love triangles, but this one isn't horrible. It's more of like the love triangle in The Infernal Devices than Twilight, ya know?
Anyways, I'm running into the reasons here, so let's get on with it - here's why you should be reading The Crown's Game duology:

It takes place in 1825 Russia!
Look, Evelyn Skye has a degree in Russian literature and history, so she knows what she's doing. The descriptions are incredibly vivid, and the geography is so well laid out. But Emily, you're probably thinking, I thought this was a fantasy duology. To that, I say, yes. Yes it is. But it's an urban-type fantasy. It takes place in 1825 Magic-filled Russia. How could you say no to that?

Vika is a strong, independent woman who don't need no man!
Sorta. I mean, she's really in The Crown's Game for herself and her father. She's not anticipating to love Pasha and Nikolai the way she does. When she does develop feelings for them, she doesn't let it get in the way of herself. Vika is an awesome representation that you can care and love people and still be independent and a badass enchanter. We need more unselfish but badass, nevertheless, girls in YA. Put that on record.

A good love triangle? Is that possible?
Yes, yes it is. As I said above, this love triangle is more like the one Cassandra Clare builds in The Infernal Devices series. It's more of, I would say, a true love triangle, where each person in the love triangle as feelings towards the other two. Pasha and Nikolai have been friends their whole life and both form a friendship with Vika during the Crown's Game that turns into something more (for mostly one of them, no spoilers, though).These kind of love triangles are really powerful and really affective. Your emotions run so high when your reading and you don't want anyone to be disappointed, now that's the love triangle I love. 

Friends that don't let their love interest get in the way or their friendship! 
That's right, y'all! Pasha and Nikolai both have feelings for Vika and never let it get in the way of their friendship. They're vulnerable and honest with each other, and they have their own healthy friendship. I feel like intimacy with two male characters in a platonic relationship is rare, and I love seeing that with Pasha and Nikolai. Healthy female friendships are obviously important, and this book has them, but doesn't exactly showcase them. However, if you read this, you'll see in The Crown's Fate that Skye is extremely aware of friendships and Vika forms a friendship with another girl character that's healthy despite a conflict of interest.

A magic system that works! 
With all the fantasy books that are coming out, this one has a really well-thought-out magic system. It really builds in the second book, but the first provides a great base to build on top of. Everything is connected. There's a source and it makes sense the way magic can become stronger or weaker, and how much it's being used. That's the thing when you decide to use magic in your world, your characters may not fully understand how it works, but it's obvious if the other doesn't know how it works either, but this one was so well done *insert ok hand sign emoji here*.

So you're not going to know for sure until you actually read it, but that's why you should be reading this duology. I actually read The Crown's Game initially because I was co-running a teen book club at the store I work at. That was about a year ago and we're not doing it anymore, but I'm glad I got to find an awesome duology out of it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mid-Year Book Freakout TAG!

I'm freaking out so much that half the year is already gone and I haven't read as many books as I'd like that I've just about given up on doing NaNoWriMo this month. I've only read 18 books this year so far... 18 books! I'm hoping BookTube-a-Thon will help me catch up on that, but once school starts up in September again, I won't be reading much anymore. That's just the reality of it, I guess.
Anyways, I'm gonna do the mid-year book freakout tag to wrap up the... 18 books I've read so far.
Here we go!
1. Best book so far this year.
I really, really enjoyed Crown of Wishes. Not a lot of books have been 5/5 stars for me this year. So I'd have to say that, or Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. I read it for class back in March and enjoyed it a lot
more than I thought I would.
2. Best sequel so far this year.
Lord of Shadows was fantastic! I felt iffy about The Dark Artifices after Lady Midnight but Lord of Shadows felt really well put together. I enjoyed it a lot.
3. New release I haven't read, but want to. 
Too many - Difficult Women & Hunger by Roxane Gay, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and many, many others.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year. 
Either Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (a collection of fairytales and myths in the Grishaverse, which is a world I absolutely love) or Warcross by Marie Lu (all I know is this is about a hacker, so I'm sold. Also it's Marie Lu, who's an auto-buy author at this point.).
5. Biggest disappointment.
I haven't DNFed anything yet. But Empress of a Thousand Skies continues to sit on my currently-reading shelf half-read. It's just not as interesting as I had hoped. As for something I've read, Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kennelly was extremely mediocre.
6.  Biggest surprise. 
Public Relations by Katie Heaney and Arianna Rebolini [review] - I was expecting a typical drama-filled romance, but this had a lot more depth to it than I thought!
7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you.) 
After reading The Crown's Fate, I have to go with Evelyn Skye. Even though I read her stuff for the first time last year, this novel really has me excited for what she's going to put out next!
8. Newest fictional crush. 
Jason. Freaking. Grace.
9. Newest favourite character.
Mark Blackthorn really grew on me in Lord of Shadows.
10. Book that made me cry. 
I want to say A Court of Wings and Ruin, but oh lord, What to Say Next by Julie Baxbaum [review] so unexpectedly make me ugly cry. Oh! Also The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz... maybe I cry too much... moving on!
11. Book that made me happy. 
Again, What to Say Next - are you paying attention?
12. Favourite book to movie adaptation.
Not book-to-movie, but I started watching the second season of Shadowhunters and it's... dare I say, good?
13. Favourite review I've written. 
I really loved putting together my YOU SHOULD BE READING Heroes of Olympus post! I'm working on another right now!
14. Most beautiful book cover I've bought this year. 
The Inexplicable Logic of my Life - I haven't bought it yet, but I got an ARC and damn, that's a beautiful cover.
15. Books I want to read before the end of the year. 
It's quite a list, I must say, so here's just a few:

  • The House of Hades and The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  • A Darker Shade of Magic Trilogy by V.E. Schwab
  • The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thein
To keep up with all my reading, add me as a friend on goodreads and let me know my blog sent you! Remember, reading is supposed to be fun, it shouldn't stress us out, and we shouldn't be freaking out... even though we do anyway.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

This novel was a very pleasant surprise. A co-worker recommended it me, thinking I would like it, and initially I was like 'oh yeah, sounds okay'. But after reading, I can see why she recommended it, and now I want to recommend it to all my friend who might like it, too.
What To Say Next is a duel POV novel following Kit, who's father died a month ago in a car accident, and David, who's still figuring high school out. Kit wants to get away from her friend's pitying stares and decides to sit at the table David sits at by himself everyday at lunch. It doesn't seem too complicated, accept there's a lot more going on in Kit's life then anyone realizes, and David was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as a kid (though it's not a current term for the way his brain works, Buxbaum works in that now David would be placed on the Austim Spectrum). So it's a lot more than you think it is.
Kit is also Indian-American, (like David points in the novel, India-Indian, not Indigenous) which puts some awesome diversity into the mix.
After reading about Tiberius in Cassandra Clare's The Dark Artifices series, I loved reading from the POV of another character on the Autism Spectrum. It's not something we've really talked about in teen novels until very recently, and it's interesting to see the perspective of the world from someone like David and Ty.
Despite the heavy stuff going on, it's actually a pretty light-hearted novel. Yes, there were a few tears at the climax of the plot, but other than that, it touches on serious topics in an incredibly easy way to digest.
I respect this novel a lot. The writing was very well done, and though I get very weary about duel (or multiple) POVs in novels, this felt very smooth. It wasn't choppy between the POVs, the voices were distinct, and you weren't left waiting between the POVs if something dramatic was revealed. There were a few cliche moments, though I'm still waiting to find a teen novel that doesn't. But I really enjoyed the ending. The characters are incredibly well-rounded, as well.
Something else I really appreciated about this novel was the family dynamics. A lot of teen books try to avoid parents and families as much as possible because it takes away from the teen-adventuring. The parents that do show up tend to be incredibly relaxed and borderline non-existent. But in this novel, the parents genuinely care and support their kids, and there's an actual parent-child relationship with both authority and friendship. David's parents continually support him while he tries to figure out how to socialize and high school. His sister got on my nerves a little bit, but she obviously supports him whole-heartedly. Kit's mom also supports her unconditionally, and they have a really open relationship, and are pretty open about their feelings surrounding her Dad's death.
All in all, I'm giving this one a 4.5 stars. I don't think it'll necessarily be an all-time favourite, but I'm going to be recommending this to as many people as I can.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pride Month Recs!

I was originally not going to do Pride Month recommendations. I am a LGBT+ Ally, but I'm not a member of the community, so it felt wrong to put a list together and claim that I had good recommendations. With June coming to a close, it felt wrong to not do anything, though. I've been pretty active on Twitter, retweeting as much as I can to support members of the community throughout the month, and in a last minute decision last night, I decide to put together a giveaway.
So over on Twitter (@emilyxspeaks) you can retweet my pinned tweet and be entered to win an LGBT book your choice! I wanted to give to the community, and give away a book to someone who may not have the best access to them or not know where to start.
So, in lieu of that, this post is going to be a few short list of LGBT books I love. To be specific, they're books that highlight the experience. There of plenty of books with LGBT characters that are fantasy, or they just skim over the fact that a character is gay, and that's awesome. But after reading this thread from Adam Silvera on Twitter, it can be confusing to recommend a book that just has a gay character on a list like this versus recommending a book that actually highlights the experiences people in the community go through. AND I'm going to tell you which letter in the LGBT+ acronym the book falls under, so as not to be confusing. It's a great thread, and you should check it out!
And if you don't want to read about my recs, I've got an on-going list of other's recs at the end of this post!

1. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agendas, Becky Albertalli - G
It would be impossible to create a list like this without including Simon! This book made me laugh, cry, and helped me gain perspective! This novel follows Simon, who hasn't come out to his friends and family yet. He met a boy through a chat room online, and knows they go to the same high school, but they're not revealing their true identities to each other. Not until they're ready. But one of Simon's peers discovers the messages he's been sending back and forth and tries to use them to blackmail Simon into playing matchmaker. It's a great novel that touches on the boundaries of knowing someone who is gay, as well as the importance of diversity in general. 
2. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy - L, B, & P
When the synopsis of this novel was first released into the world, there was a ton of backlash. I think the backlash of this novel says a lot about the biphobia that can occur.* This is about a girl who is certain in her identification as a lesbian, but when she starts having romantic and sexual feelings for her friend, Freddie, she questions her identity. This book highlights the fluidity of sexuality, and the difficulties of trying to define sexuality. Shelly at readsleeprepeat.org wrote a great goodreads review you should read. And recommended it in her own Pride month list
*If you want some great conversations about this, you should follow @TheBreeMae on Twitter and her account @QueerEnough!
3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - G 
This novel talks about so many things, but it mainly follow Aristotle and Dante as they come of age and discover their sexuality through their feelings for each other. If you've read this already, you'll know how much of an understatement that is, because it's so much more than that. If you haven't read this, you just need to. 
4. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde - B 
This novel follows two best friends, one of who is a bisexual internet celebrity. This one is less a coming-of-age novel about her discovering her sexuality and more of a dealing-with-the-world novel about her already being confident with her sexuality. Different, but a good different! This novel, while it touches serious subjects, is also just fun, which doesn't happen enough in teen novels. I read this one after Riley (@rileymarie1196) kept raving about it, and she was right! 

That's where I'm gonna end this list, as those are the novels I can definitely recommend. I have a lot more LGBT reading to do, and I hope next June, my LGBT Goodreads shelf will be much, much longer. Also, I'm incredibly disappointed I have nothing to represent the T on my list. I haven't read them, but George by Alex Gino and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo are novels that have been recommended to me many times. 
So here's other bloggers who've made lists you should check out: