Feel-Good Fiction: Books to Read in Difficult Times

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You’d have to be living under a rock to not be at least a little stressed-out lately. With everything that’s going on, I’ve been thinking of the books I read when things are difficult. I tend to reread books I like (I wrote a post about it, which you can find here). Here are a few that I go to when I need a little literary cheering up:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: There’s something so calming about following a hobbit on his journey. Smaug is fantastic, of course, and those dwarfs are a delight to read.

The Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters: I know that “cadaver” and “comfort” aren’t usually associated with each other, but these mysteries are so much fun! Amelia Peabody is a spunky, indomitable heroine, and the setting (Egypt in the late 1800s – early 1900s) allows for some incredibly entertaining mysteries.

Redwall by Brian Jaques: This book is charming. I love reading about little mice and squirrel warriors fighting against an evil army full of stoats and rats.

The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman: This trilogy was my jumping-off point into adult fantasy. I credit my ongoing love of fantasy, my dragon collection, and my enjoyment of D&D to these.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich: Another mystery (weird), this series follows an accidental bounty-hunter (she just needed a job) named Stephanie Plum. She is such a disaster, it’s like watching a train wreck: you can’t look away. All the characters in this series are quirky and funny. This series always succeeds in distracting me from stress.

Have you read any of these? What books are your go-to comfort reads?

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan- ARC Review

Amazon.com: The Age of Witches: A Novel (9780316419512): Morgan ...

In Gilded Age New York, a centuries-long clash between two magical families ignites when a young witch must choose between love and loyalty, power and ambition, in this magical novel by Louisa Morgan.
In 1692, Bridget Bishop was hanged as a witch. Two hundred years later, her legacy lives on in the scions of two very different lines: one dedicated to using their powers to heal and help women in need; the other, determined to grasp power for themselves by whatever means necessary.
This clash will play out in the fate of Annis, a young woman in Gilded Age New York who finds herself a pawn in the family struggle for supremacy. She’ll need to claim her own power to save herself-and resist succumbing to the darkness that threatens to overcome them all. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on April seventh, 2020.

Reading this book, I found myself in a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. It was well written, but I just really didn’t care for it. Possibly, it was because the book didn’t seem to match its blurb. When I read the description, I expected a lot more action than there is in the book. I guess I failed to take into account the time in which this book takes place.

Annis comes from a long line of witches, but she is unaware of it. Her stepmother, Frances, is also imbued with powers. She decides to use them selfishly, in an attempt to gain herself notoriety. Here’s the first thing in the book that I wasn’t a huge fan of: the whole “evil plot” consists of making Annis marry someone with station so that Frances can be a part of the upper class. That’s a reason that just isn’t all that interesting to me, personally.

I also didn’t really connect with the characters at all. Annis only cared about her horses and, when she thought about marrying rich, it was with an eye toward the horses she’d own and be able to breed. James, the other part of the duo, was a prude who didn’t think women capable of anything. It made it difficult for me to care about either of them. The slow-building possible-romance just didn’t work for me.

The world was well-realized, however, and the writing was top-notch. Louisa Morgan wrote with an eye to detail that made it incredibly easy to visualize the settings. She told the story using four different points of view, but the switch-off was smooth and easy to follow.

Despite the author’s obvious skill, this book just didn’t butter my biscuit.

Books That I Think Will Be Future Classics

I saw this post on both Fictionophile’s and Orang-Utan Librarian’s fantastic blogs and I just had to take part. Credit for this fun post goes to Orangutan Librarian.

I like thinking about the books that will be considered ‘classics’ for future generations, and the reasons why. Here are a few that I think will fill that role in the coming years:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up. (taken from Amazon)

Aside from the fact that this is an incredibly moving book (it’s one of my top five favorites of all time), it’s an important book. Written solely through letters, this book covers subjects that are often considered taboo in the YA genre and it does it realistically and with grace. The simplicity of the writing makes it hit home all the more. I definitely see this one being considered a “classic” in the future.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. (taken from Amazon)

Admission: I haven’t read this book. However, it think it fits the criteria: it discusses an important subject, is relevant to the time (sadly), and -from what I’ve heard- it’s well-written.

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The Harry Potter series

Okay, hear me out: I’m not adding this series because it’s immensely popular. I’m adding it because of the changes it inspired in children’s literature, the first being that this series crosses from being kid lit., to being middle grade about halfway through the series. This is the first series that I can think of that was written with the goal of having the audience get older in conjunction with the characters. It also spawned a change in children’s literature: the discussion of difficult subjects without shying away or “dumbing it down” to meet the reader. Plus, there are the numerous books that have been quite obviously inspired by the changes Harry Potter affected in literature.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years. (taken from Amazon)

While it’s never actually confirmed in the book, most people agree that Christopher is on the spectrum. The way the author explored this is astounding. While it changes how Christopher handles things, it in no way shows him as being incapable or “lesser than.” It’s amazing how well-written this book is. It really made me think and I would be very surprised if this isn’t considered a classic in the future.

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Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

This seems like one of those books that intimidates a lot of people. I highly recommend giving it a go. I believe that- aside from the themes explored in the book- its odd writing style ( the endnotes! Endless endnotes!) will both fascinate and confuse for many generations to come.

If some of these are already considered classics, then yay and my bad. It’s been longer than I care to admit since I’ve had required reading of “classics.”

What do you think? What would you add?

Parasites by Matthew Samuels

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At the end of the universe, the very fabric of reality is beginning to contract, winding up to the Big Crunch. Alone and isolated on the planet Lyra, humans evolved late on a resource-poor world. Doomed to die out as food and minerals dwindle, a scientist makes a chance discovery allowing people and vehicles to travel through ‘thinnings’ – patches of space linking universes.Kael and Alessia are explorers charting where the thinnings go and more importantly, bringing back valuable resources to Lyra, trying desperately to extend the lifespan of their home world. Alessia’s father, Ben, set out two years ago to uncover another species’ reference to a ‘solution’ to the big crunch problem – but never returned. A chance discovery leads Kael and Alessia to a clue, prompting another expedition to see if they can avoid the mistakes of the past and help to unravel the mystery.Kael, Alessia and their gruff bodyguard Basteel retrace Ben’s steps, seeking closure for Alessia, a solution for Lyra and together begin a voyage through wild, weird and wonderful planets. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

When it comes to sci-fi writing, I’m pretty picky. It’s very easy for me to lose interest, or just give up because I get confused by the “sciencey stuff” (don’t mind me, I’m just over here making up new phrases). There was never any danger of that with Parasites, however. It was a unique book and kept me entertained from beginning to end.

I think the biggest strength the author displayed in this book was the world (worlds) building. It was excellent. He managed to somehow make things utterly alien, while keeping it believable and with enough of a grounding in reality that it made sense. I was never bored by overly-complicated scientific mumbo-jumbo: even the explanations were easy to understand, without speaking down to the reader.

All of the characters were enjoyable, although Basteel (the bodyguard/father figure) was by far my favorite. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I can’t stand overly dramatic love stories, and this book didn’t have any. It was fabulous. The relationships were important, but they were never over the top, or melodramatic. The interactions between the characters was based more on friendship and respect, than on the gushy stuff (ha!).

Matthew Samuels wrote with confidence and skill. Parasites is an excellent addition to the science fiction genre, and one I suggest picking up.

 

 

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

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Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.

This hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted. It is here that she learns about love, identity and how to accept being that little bit different. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Ebery Publishing for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on July thirtieth.

This is a rare book. It’s the kind of quiet beautiful that reminds me why I like to read so very much. I was blown away by how a story with only a few characters could manage to feel so big. I loved every moment of it.

This book is about Marea, a girl born with feathers. She spends much of her young life watching the birds out her window and wondering if she’s more girl or more bird. As she gets older, she decides to leave the safety of her childhood and venture to the City of Murmurs, in search of her father and of answers.

One of the things I loved about this book is that, while ostensibly looking for her father, what Marea is really searching for is herself. At its core, this lovely book is about discovering who we are, embracing our uniqueness, and being courageous enough to share our differences with the world.

Marea herself was a wonderful main character. She was very unsure of herself, but also very believable. She was also extremely easy to relate to. I think all of us have our insecurities. The side characters were also fantastic: there was Sybel, who ultimately became like a mother to Marea; Leo, who offered to help Marea find her father; the Keeper of the Hours (oh my goodness, I loved that idea!); and Elver, who I refuse to spoil by saying anything about.

The City of Murmurs itself is really a character. I love books where the setting comes to life and Beth Cartwright crafted such a creative and beautiful world that I was immediately engrossed.

This is not a book with action scenes. You won’t find daring fights, or dastardly villains. What you will find, however, is an unassuming masterpiece, a book that will stay with you. I know I’ll find myself returning to the City of Murmurs again before too long.

I recommend this book very highly.

Giveaway- The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs

The Rome of Fall by [Gibbs, Chad Alan]
              After leaving mysteriously two decades ago, financial ruin and his dying mother have brought Marcus Brinks back to his hometown of Rome, Alabama. Brinks, the former lead singer of ’90s indie-rock band Dear Brutus, takes a job teaching at his old school, where years ago, he and his friend Jackson conspired to get Deacon, the starting quarterback, and resident school jerk, kicked off the football team. Now it’s Jackson, head coach of Rome, who rules the school like Caesar, while Deacon plots his demise. This time Brinks refuses to get involved, opting instead for a quiet life with his high school crush, Becca. But will dreams of domestic bliss go up in flames when repercussions from the past meet the lying, cheating, and blackmail of the present? (taken from Amazon)

I’m so excited to announce my first giveaway on my blog: The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs ( find my review here). As I remarked to a fellow blogger, at this point Chad Alan Gibbs could write a book about the color beige, and I’d be excited to read it. The Rome of Fall is an incredibly enjoyable nostalgia-filled book, and is easily one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while.

Chad Alan Gibbs has generously offered five physical copies as prizes! However, if you aren’t one of the lucky winners, you can pick up your own copy on March 17th.

So, now to the rules:
1. U.S. residents only for this particular giveaway
2. Comment below so I can add you to the drawing. Something as simple as “Yo” or “Wazzup!”  works great, but I’d love to hear a memory/song/etc that makes you nostalgic for the 90’s.
3. The contest ends Friday, March 20th. I’ll list winners here, as well as on a separate post, so keep your eyes out.

That’s it. You’re in. While I’ve got you here, I also highly recommend Chad Alan Gibbs’ debut novel, Two Like Me and You.

Cover Reveal- Prophecy: Eve of Darkness by D. Ellis Overttun




There’s something very exciting happening this March. What is it, you ask ?(Well, maybe you’re asking ‘What’s for dinner’, but I can’t hear you, so I’m making assumptions). I’ll tell you: the third installment of the Tera Nova series is releasing! Mark your calendars for March 16th. In the meantime, I get to show you the amazing cover. Here ’tis:



20191212 Prophecy Cover (300 x 480 72 DPI) (2)

That’s epic! Book one and two are already out, and I recommend you give them a read. They’re fantastic! (You can find my review of book 1, titled Universe Awakening (Redux Edition) here). 



Auberon and Natasha, now two of the most wanted criminals on Arkos, have fled to the Westside. They have taken temporary refuge in Edenoud with Dion, son of Heron, as they contemplate their future. However, a dream has prompted them to return to the Eastside to warn First Minister Odessa. What could be so disturbing that would cause them to jeopardize their own safety? Will the First Minister listen or sound the alarm?
The investigation of the incident that took place in the Chamber of Prayers is reaching its conclusion. Tendai Theodor has a sense the report will cast blame on him. Can the power of his office protect him? To balance the forces he feels are aligned against him, he journeys to the underearth to seek out an ancient and, some say, mythical enemy, the Nephilim. Are they real or just the stuff of legend?
Meanwhile, First Minister Odessa has not lost sight of the inexorable destruction of the universe. While she has continued to support efforts to locate a new home, she has genetically engineered a new servile class and a method to seed them on a planet in advance of the Celesti arrival. But where is this place? The answer lies in a curious conversation that Director Jo’el has with a surrogate for his longmissing brother, Davin. It leads to a series of star maps recorded hundreds of thousands of years ago on clay tablets.
The Celesti face another problem. They are dying. However, something is happening to Auberon and Natasha that holds promise for the continuation of their species. If it is successful, can it be replicated, or is it an isolated incident?
Prophecy: Eve of Darkness weaves a compelling tale that is a blend of human nature, science, theology and philosophy. It spans the vastness of space from one universe to another and the underground world of Arkos to a distant planet called “Terra Nova”. It holds up a mirror to the human soul, but it will require thought and contemplation to decipher what lies below the surface.

The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer- ARC Review

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New York 1905―The Vanderbilts. The Astors. The Morgans. They are the cream of society―and they own the nation on the cusp of a new century.

Thalia Cutler doesn’t have any of those family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away.

That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful.

But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast. (taken from Amazon)

                    Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on April 7th.

In The Glass Magician, there are three types of castes: Solitaires, Sylvestri, and the top-rung, Traders. Thalia, the stage magician, is a Solitaire, meaning she has no special abilities- until the day she discovers that she is a Trader, part of the caste that can change into animals. That knowledge changes everything for her.

I enjoyed the idea of the three classes and how they interacted. The author obviously put a lot of thought into how things would work in her world. I do wish that the Sylvestri had been explained a little more- I’ve kind of inferred their function, but they weren’t mentioned quite as much as the other two.

I have to be honest, I spent the first third of the book incredibly bored. I kept waiting for something to happen, but not much did for quite a while. Thalia was an uninteresting character, so I struggled to keep my mind from wandering while I read. Thalia both hated and envied the money that others had, which was an understandable juxtaposition.  It was honestly the most interesting character trait she had.

Right when I was ready to give up, the book picked up a little. Thalia found herself swept up in a mystery which added a sense of fun that the first part of the book was missing. It kind of wound down again at the end, though. I really felt that the ending was lacking something.

Altogether, this book wasn’t for me. It felt like it was a great idea that just needed to be fleshed out a little more. A teensy bit of work on the pacing would go a long way toward making this book much more enjoyable.

A Girl Called Ari by P.J. Sky- ARC Review

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How would you survive beyond the comfortable walls of your world?

For Starla, a struggle for power becomes a struggle for survival when she finds herself on the wrong side of the wall. Fleeing her abductors and lost in the wasteland, she faces starvation, warring factions, bloodthirsty creatures, and the endless burning sun.

And then there’s Ari… who is she really? And can she really trust this girl from the wasteland to lead her back to the city gates?

One thing’s for sure, Starla’s once privileged life will never be the same… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on March 20th.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book that fits so well into the dystopian genre. The book starts behind the walls of a city. Starla, the mayor’s daughter, is warned that she is in danger. She ignores the warning and finds herself kidnapped and left on the other side of the wall, where there is nothing but wasteland and hardship. There, she meets Ari. Ari is a girl living outside the wall who reluctantly agrees to help Starla get safely back to the city.

It took me a while to get into this book. Starla annoyed the snot out of me. She felt very naive and spoiled. It made sense for her character arc, but it was difficult to read at first. Ari, on the other hand, was a fascinating character. She was tough and self-sufficient, but she also had deep compassion for others, a trait she tried to hide. She brought the story to life.

The journey back to the city covers the majority of the book, although Starla also needs to find out who kidnapped her and why. While there is action, this book focused more on themes of trust, friendship, and having the emotional strength to survive the things life throws at you.

If you enjoy dystopian fiction that focuses more on story development than on non-stop action, you’ll enjoy this book. It was an interesting and unique take on the genre, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for further books written by this author.

The Netflix Book Tag

I saw this great tag on Reader Gal’s blog. Her blog is awesome, so make sure to check it out. Original credit for this tag goes to A Book Lovers Playlist. Since we all sometimes put our books on hold to binge a show on Netflix, I think this makes for a fun tag. Here goes nothing:Recently Finished- the last book you finishedIt was either Venators: Magic Unleashed by Devri Walls or Hollow Men by Todd Sullivan (my review). I actually think I finished them both on the same day. I really need to make more of an effort to mark my books “read” on Goodreads the day I finish them.Top Picks- A book that was recommended to you based on books you have previously readDreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style was suggested to me by Irresponsible Reader (follow his blog!) based on my review of A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age (review here).Recently Added- the last book you boughtI grabbed The Library of the Unwritten, which I’m dying to read. Have I started it yet? Um…Popular on Netflix- Books that everyone knows about (2 you’ve read and 2 you have no interest in )I read and loved both The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Daisy Jones and the Six. I think both of those are ubiquitous at this point. I have absolutely no interest in The Gilded Wolves or Gideon the Ninth.Comedies- a funny bookFowl Language: Winging It had me in stitches. That little duck really understands parenting.Dramas- a character who is a drama king/queenCity of Bones. Both Clary and Jace rate pretty stinking high on the drama-o-meter.Animated- a book with cartoons on the coverI’m not sure if this counts, but I’m going with Thornhill (click on book name to get review).Watch It Again- a book/series you want to rereadI reread both The Night Circus and The Dragonlance Chronicles every year.Documentaries- a non-fiction book you’d recommend to everyoneI loved For the Love of Books: Stories of Literary Lives, Banned Books, Author Feuds, Extraordinary Characters, and More . Okay, the name is a bit much. Actually, it’s way too much. The book is excellent, though.Action and Adventure- and action-packed bookKings of the Wyld is chock-full of action. It also has amazing writing, and a sense of fun that it seems a lot of fantasy has been missing lately. I highly recommend it.Well, there it is. What do you think of my answers? I’m not going to tag anyone here, but I’ll probably bug a few people on Twitter. Ha ha! If you do participate, please tag me,so I can see your answers.