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Sarah J. Maas
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Georgia Lyn Hunter
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Walking the Nile

Walking the Nile - Levison Wood RTC.
SPOILER ALERT!

Archer's Voice

Archer's Voice - Mia Sheridan ~*Full review here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

Ok, let me make something quite clear: I don’t read romance. Especially modern romance.

However…I saw someone gushing about this book on Twitter and was kind of in a reading slump and thought, “Well, why not…everyone needs a little spicy love story now and then.”

Let me make something else clear: If it wasn’t for that gosh darn stupid cover, I would buy a hard copy of this book for my shelf. But I’m a cover snob and I hate “sexy” covers with a passion. Not because I don’t appreciate a well-muscled male back as well as the next person…but I find them highly embarrassing to read in anything but the deepest privacy – which happens next to never, for me. So I bought the ebook (it was a total impulse buy and read).

Oh, hi there. Yes, this book is VERY hung up on how sexy Archer (the male MC) is. Buuuuut…it’s totally ok. ;)

Archer’s Voice is all about feelings. ALL THE FEELS. I did have a few minor quibbles with the plot and the writing style. For instance, somewhere in the middle of the book, the author repeatedly has Bree use the word “tummy” in descriptions of her sensual feelings and OMG JUST STOP. I actually saw another reviewer mention this before I started the book, and thought that surely they were just overreacting…no, they most absolutely were not. Note to self: when writing sex scenes that word is NEVER A GOOD IDEA. The plot is somewhat predictable…ok, a lot predictable. It’s a romance. It’s a New Adult (NA) romance, so it contains a fan-yourself-go-take-a-cold-shower (or…don’t) quantity of steamy sex. What was supposed to be a big plot twist was…not that shocking, and actually didn’t make a lot of sense but okay whatever. Archer and his arch-nemesis cousin are suddenly revealed to be brothers…which means their father had sex with both his high school sweetheart and another woman two months apart, and let his sweetheart marry his brother because she thought she was pregnant with his baby? Like WTF was even going on there and how are we still supposed to think he was the GOOD GUY? I feel like that was not thought through well AT ALL.

I went into this book skeptical of its ability to give me feels. Romances usually have me rolling my eyes and tossing them into the corner halfway through. I was intrigued by the premise of the male MC in this book though – no voice? I originally thought he must be deaf, but no.

Archer (male MC) and Bree (female MC) are both severely wounded, scarred people. Somewhat physically, but mostly emotionally. I could identify strongly with that. Bree’s wounds are more recent, and she had a mostly happy, healthy childhood to give her a strong foundation to stand on even despite her recent horrors. Archer on the other hand, has never had a normal life with a functional family and a devastating accident when he was 7 years old robbed him of both his parents and his voice. Raised by an eccentric, paranoid (but caring) uncle, he has been almost a complete recluse his entire life. Until Bree, fleeing her life in Ohio after some very traumatic events, stumbles into his little town and almost literally into him.

Aside from his voice, physically Archer is perfection. His life of hard work (and apparently, good genes) have give him a god-like body. Bree is understandably smitten after just a few meetings. But he is an emotional cripple. Almost completely anthropophobic, but highly intelligent, he has spent his 23 years becoming self-sufficient and as well-educated as reading every book he can get his hands on can make him. I really didn’t think an author would be able to sell a recluse as a romantic interest, but Mia Sheridan does it very well. Maybe too well.
Maybe there was no right or wrong, no black or white, only a thousand shades of gray when it came to pain what we each held ourselves responsible for.

I was…well, I can’t say that I think Bree’s attraction to Archer is wrong. Or even unhealthy. But I think it could very quickly have gone that way, had he not been as willing to fight his fear of people and his limitations as he was. And as in love with him as she was, I’m not sure she would have had the backbone to leave an unhealthy situation. Because Bree is a healer. She is a caregiver. She wants to fix things. She wants to make Archer feel cared for and loved (besides the intense physical attraction). Multiple times though, she mentions that Archer reminds her of a little boy or a small child needing reassurance or love and…feeling like your significant other is a child in need of care is not really a good thing, in my opinion. As someone who was married to an extremely insecure person who eventually became vindictive and bitter in his insecurity, and knowing that I often felt a constant, exhausting need to reassure him of my love/respect/admiration/dedication – that is NOT a good thing. Now in this case, Archer was growing and learning and slowly coming out of his shell, and he was inherently sweet and gentle-hearted (qualities my ex most definitely lacked). He slowly accepts Bree’s love and compassion, but he also gives her his own and takes care of her. He melted my heart.
He looked like a little boy in that moment, and I realized how much he needed me to tell him that I wouldn’t go away like everyone else.

I ached along with Bree to ease some of the pain of all those years of mistreatment and neglect he had suffered. Even while alarm bells rang in my head about his intense emotional neediness…which, thankfully, his willingness to give as well as get and to push himself out of his comfort zone, more for Bree’s sake than his own, eliminated.
Complete honesty was the only thing I would give him. I would never purposefully hurt this beautiful, sensitive, wounded man more than he had already been hurt.

Archer’s biggest appeal is in the disconnect in his physical appearance and his attitude. He is, as Bree notes, a quick study and good at anything he has been taught or taught himself. He is completely unpretentious and unconscious of his physical appeal. If anything, he sees himself as broken, flawed, and undesirable due to his one “defect.”

Bree’s physical appearance is given less attention. She seems to be your typical girl-next-door type of cute, but Archer becomes completely smitten with her and she attracts attention from a few other guys as well – mostly due to her being new to the small town, it would seem. I was slightly worried by what seemed like her apparent willingness to just give up EVERYTHING to be with Archer, but she was already running from her past life and in need of someone to restore her faith in humanity. Archer, for all his issues, turned out to be that person. I loved how closely he paid attention to her likes and dislikes, even down to what chips out of a bag she liked (folded over tortilla chips, hehehe).
“Think of the strength of spirit you have to have to come through what he did and not be as mad as a hatter, to still retain a gentle heart.”

The strength of the human spirit is the real backbone of the story. The plot mostly centers on Bree and Archer overcoming their various personal demons, and for the most part doing it together. Near the end of the book, there is a point at which Archer deals with his demons ALONE…which is a huge turning point in his personal development and was so very important to his character. Without his strength of will and willingness to face his fears, he would have indeed been an emotional cripple for the rest of his life.There is a side plot going on with what happened to Bree and the death of her father, as well as the small-town drama around Archer, but they are truly secondary and stay mostly in the background. There is some tension created by Bree’s conversations and relationships with Travis, Archer’s cousin, town police officer and local heartbreaker. They never truly have a relationship but Travis’ ego becomes a sticking point and his childhood tormenting of Archer resumes, creating a good deal of conflict and pain on all sides.

This was a HEA I could believe in. Shocking, yes, for someone as jaded and anti-love-at-first-sight as myself. But Bree and Archer are not perfect, and their relationship is not perfect. They are so human, but so in love and SO RIGHT for each other. I would definitely recommend this book, and that’s not something I can say about many straight-up romance novels. I might even try another of Mia Sheridan’s NA novels.

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The Bone Witch

The Bone Witch - Rin Chupeco The writing is beautiful. The world building is superb. And that alone is why I'm not rating this (usually a DNF gets a 1-star from me). I think I just am not in the mood for a slow-paced novel right now. I've been reading it for over a MONTH. This is unheard of. I whiz through books. I would pick it up, read a few pages, think about how I felt like I was walking down the road with Tea, or seeing the bezoars right in front of me...and put it down, with no real compulsion felt to pick it up again.

Sadness. Because it is BEAUTIFUL. I will return one day to finish and write a full review.
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Welp. My ARC expired before I finished this...which, considering I started it more than a month before the release date...says something.

Herbs for Men's Health: How to Make and Use Herbal Remedies for Energy, Potency, and Strength

Herbs for Men's Health: How to Make and Use Herbal Remedies for Energy, Potency, and Strength - Rosemary Gladstar Review to come.

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman Review to come.

Iron Cast

Iron Cast - Destiny Soria ~*Full review here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

Feels:
“America is the land of liberty, Danny dearest,” Corinne said. “She won’t stand for Prohibition, mark my words.”

This book feels like a gangster movie with a few twists. Also not everyone dies, like in most gangster movies I’ve seen. I felt like I was sucker-punched in the gut a few times. Also I love how the author has chosen a relatively unexplored (in YA, at least) period of time (the weeks right before Prohibition took effect in 1919) for her setting. It was an awesome experience!

Characters:
"No one likes a know-it-all, Ada."
"Yes, I've been trying to tell you that for years."

Ada and Corinne are amazing. Their chemistry just leaps off the page and it's beautiful. It made me miss my best friend so much. The back-and-forth banter had me laughing out loud, but their fierce loyalty to each other was what really made this story. The romantic interests - sure, they're there, but they are a background to the girls' friendship.

Plot:

Destiny Soria has taken the year 1919 and turned it on its head with one change of facts: there is a small percentage of the population that are born as hemopaths, who have the ability to manipulate other people and sometimes time itself through some form of art. When I first started reading I thought that the hemopath ability was inspired by sickle cell anemia due to the influence put on the hemopaths' aversion to iron (an iron deficiency being one of the side effects or symptoms of sickle cell anemia), but after I finished I wasn't sure. It's an interesting thought, though. If it WAS so inspired, the author definitely gave it a new look by making it a strength and also making it just as widespread in people of every race.

At this time in history, hemopaths are feared and even hunted in Boston. Once considered artists, they are now looked at as freaks that are sub-human. Ada and Corinne find the noose of the law closing on them as they struggle to survive in their underground nightclub home, seemingly able to trust almost no one. Hemopaths start disappearing - people they know. Unsure where to turn, they spend a lot of time wandering from place to place. At times this was kind of a drag...it created atmosphere but left me wondering what was the point of a particular scene or chapter. However, the characters and a lot of the places they visited were interesting enough to keep me reading. I really wanted to find out WHO was behind all the horrible things that kept happening!

Worldbuilding/Description:

Reading this was like walking down a dark, foggy street. Or sitting in the darkened, smoky club surrounded by toughs and exquisitely dressed women. OR being kidnapped and dragged to a sterotypical "insane" asylum! There is a definite 1920s vibe to it that I loved. It's so different and feels so glamorous compared to most places and even books (maybe I haven't read the right ones?) today.

Final Rating:

4/5 stars. As I mentioned, the plot did drag a bit sometimes. Also I wish that Charlie and even Gabriel had been a little more fleshed out, but maybe that would have taken away from the strong thread of female friendship that holds the story together. I also really enjoyed the diversity aspect, as Ada's family was not white but neither were her parents from the same country, and there is a LGBT couple as well. I loved that Destiny Soria didn't gloss over how any of these characters would have been treated at this point in history but manages to (to me, at least) portray them without the slightest hint of bias. I'm not marginalized myself, so I can't authoritatively speak to how accurate the characters are, but they felt very real and relate-able.

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Black Beauty

Black Beauty - Anna Sewell ~*Full review here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

“Good luck is rather particular who she rides with, and mostly prefers those who have got common sense and a good heart.”

Black Beauty is a book of anthropomorphic animals. Highly intelligent animals. While told in the language of its time (roughly the 1870s-1880s), it still has an appeal to anyone with a love of animals and an even slight interest in history. The details included are absolutely fascinating and paint a exquisite picture of England and London at that time. I love books that give such perfect, clear pictures of their time – without it feeling like an info dump. Of course, we can only hope that the author gave accurate descriptions, but even today the world Black Beauty lives in feels very real.
“Do you know why this world is as bad as it is? Because people won’t trouble to stand up for the oppressed.”

Some words are as true today as over 100 years ago. This book is 20 times better than the last anthropomorphic animal book I tried ([book:Smoky the Cowhorse|2705881]…which earned a BIG FAT NO). The animals are all different, with their own experiences and personalities – and so are the humans! Of course the reader’s first loyalties lie with Black Beauty and his friends, but he has some genuinely kind, good owners that are good characters in their own right. Ginger, another horse with whom he becomes friends early on, truly stole my heart.

There are some beautiful quotes, even if the prose occasionally descends to a bit of a preachy tone when it comes to how we treat animals and our fellow man. That is my only real complaint about this lovely story, which, despite having a few notes of sadness (as any good story ought, in my opinion), is a completely worthy addition to any reading program or library.

“Don’t you know that [ignorance] is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?”


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You Grow Girl

You Grow Girl - Gayla Trail, Gayla Sanders Full review to come!

The Speaker

The Speaker - Traci Chee EEEEEK!! A title, a title!! But why is this listed as an audio CD first? :(

The Miserable Mill

The Miserable Mill - Lemony Snicket ~*Full series overview here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

Whoo-boy, here we go – The Miserable Mill picks up where The Wide Window left off, with the Baudelaires going off to yet ANOTHER guardian, this one the most mysterious and incomprehensible yet. Things are getting extremely repetitive at this point, so much so that I was tempted to not read this one. But the books are so easy to get through and so FAST to get through that I persevered.

This book gives a new spin to the Baudelaires mistreatment – they actually ARE slaves in this one, for the most part! Thrown into a sweatshop/poorhouse type sawmill, they are used and abused and try to hold each other together. Hope seems to be slipping away from them as they are too exhausted to do anything at the end of the day. But then Klaus breaks his glasses and has to go see the “optometrist.” And all is not as it seems…because nothing ever is, for these kids. Of course no one believes them when they say they are being stalked. Of course no one sees anything wrong with 3 children working in a sawmill – actually, someone does, but has no guts to do anything about it, typical of the “good” adults in these stories. In the end, they of course barely escape per the usual. However, this time, the ending doesn’t have them going off to another relative, it has them going somewhere else entirely, so maybe the next book will have a change in plot. I very much hope so because I really think even most children would be bored with these by now.

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The Wide Window

The Wide Window - Lemony Snicket ~*Full series overview here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

The Wide Window takes place far and away from the first two books, in a reclusive town and even more reclusive house with, you guessed it, yet another unstable distant relative as guardian for the Baudelaire children. This time their guardian, Aunt Josephine, isn’t even actually related to them, but is their “second cousin’s sister-in-law.” Who just happens to be terrified of everything. The dock. The lake. The oven. She never eats anything hot for fear of getting burned by either the oven or the food. However! She has an intense passion for grammar.
“Grammar is the greatest joy in life, don’t you find?”

Being something of a grammar freak myself, I found her constant corrections and horror at bad grammar to be quite entertaining and that in itself is the reason this book received a slightly higher rating (3.5/5 stars) than books 1 and 2. It really was hysterical at times, and plays an interesting part in the story.

Of course this wouldn’t be an A Series of Unfortunate Events book without, well, you know. Horrible bad luck. Of course these kids can’t catch a break and when a “Captain Sham” (hahaha ok, Lemony Snicket, you must have had such fun naming characters) shows up with an unhealthy interest in the children and all kinds of sweet words for Aunt Josephine, the terror begins. Once again (I since a recurring plot) the kids are forced to fend for themselves due to the incompetence of their adult guardians, and once again after a great deal of running around and close calls and horrible things happening to certain people, they manage to escape.

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The Reptile Room

The Reptile Room - Lemony Snicket ~*Full series overview here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

The Reptile Room starts off (after the necessary doom-and-gloom letter from the narrator, of course) on a much better note for the Baudelaires. At last it seems they may be going to live with someone who genuinely cares for them and has their best interests at heart. BUT WAIT. Let’s not get too carried away. This is, after all, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and indeed they do seem to be the MOST unfortunate of children.

Soon after they arrive at their new home – another relative, this one a eccentric but lovable scientist, disaster strikes and they find themselves being hunted by the horrible Count Olaf once more. Only of course, since they are children and have been greatly traumatized, no one believes them. Because why would you? Naturally, things go from bad to worse and the children find themselves in a desperate fight to avoid being kidnapped right under the nose of the law. Sunny, the little rascal, plays a very important part in this one – eliciting a few eyerolls as somehow she manages to have the mental compact of about a 7-year-old in the body of a 15-month-old, but you know. Realism isn’t the point here. In the end, they narrowly avoid Count Olaf once more.

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The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket ~*Full series overview here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

The Bad Beginning as a title does not exaggerate. These poor kids, let me tell you. It starts off with introducing us to the Baudelaire siblings – Violet, Klaus, and Sunny – just as they’ve lost their parents. Their solicitor, Mr. Poe, is a well-meaning but incredibly thick man who has no idea how to care for children and truly seems unable to see past the end of his constantly dripping nose. The siblings go to live with the evil Count Olaf, who is somehow VERY distantly related to them (how is it their parents have SUCH weird distant relatives and no near ones?) and cares nothing for them except how to get his hands on their money, as their deceased parents were quite wealthy. They move into his horrid house, where there are treated as little better than slaves. There is some comic relief, and also a consistent ray of sunshine in the form of Count Olaf’s neighbor (who, despite being well-meaning, is just as dense as every other “good” adult in this book).

The siblings are far from being normal children. They are all extremely gifted in some form, even Sunny – who is still a baby but is able to both communicate and act on a much older level. Violet is an inventor, and Klaus is a devourer of books and therefore just a general compendium of knowledge. Are they believable? Hardly. But neither are the adults.

The dark, twisted tone of this book really surprised me. This is for children!?! There are elements of abuse of the Baudelaire kids on all kinds of levels, twisting of the law in the worst possible way…and yet, the siblings refuse to be put down and refuse to give up. They stick together and eventually overcome the evil…but the evil is still lurking…and Mr. Poe is just as dense as ever.

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Competence

Competence - Gail Carriger *squee* I can't waaaaait!!

Waterless Mountain

Waterless Mountain - Laura Adams Armer ~*Full review notes on The Bent Bookworm!*~

My first issue: I feel like that description or blurb is very misleading. “A living record of the Navajo way of life before the influence of the white man.” Um…I don’t see how that is accurate at ALL, when several of the main incidents of the story involve a slightly condescending but kind white man who runs a general store near the Navajo family. So what exactly is that blurb about? Hmmmm? Anyway.

This book was first published in 1931. The style of writing reflects the time, as it’s very slow-paced and nothing at all like the fast moving, action packed chapter books and MG novels of today. It’s thoughtful. There isn’t very much dialogue. I think that most middle grade readers today would lose interest, sadly. The subject matter is fascinating, but it’s not really presented in the most fascinating way. :-/ There’s a brief conflict that doesn’t even begin until the book is more than halfway over, and even that is resolved almost immediately and when it is, it just happens off somewhere else and Younger Brother (the main character) isn’t even involved!

The characters are not really fleshed out very well at all. I liked Younger Brother’s way of looking at the world, of his respect for all nature, of his desire to communicate with it, but I felt like the rest of the characters were very two dimensional and rather stereotypical.

Supposedly the view on Navajo culture presented in this book is pretty accurate – according to some white scholars in the 1930s. The book is written by a white woman. Which is all fine – you don’t have to be a member of a nationality to write about it – but I think the #ownvoices movement has sensitized me somewhat to people outside a culture writing about it, and I really object to the covert racism here. For instance, when the Navajo family makes a trip with the white store owner, to another store, the narrator says that “his father was curious but dared not go outside the door.”

I think the Newbury Award judges were trying to expand children’s view of the world by even selecting a book that portrayed Navajo culture in a positive light. I really do. However. Most white people at the time weren’t even…aware isn’t the right word. Racism at that time wasn’t looked at as anything particularly wrong, it just WAS. That doesn’t make it any more excusable, but from the point of view of a white intellectual in the 1930s, this book was probably a shining example of equal opportunity. So that said, I wouldn’t really recommend this for modern classes or kids, except as maybe an example of how racism creeps into even well-intentioned (?) writing. With all that going on I found it a little difficult to find things I liked about the writing, even if there was nothing particularly wrong with the style.
“I know this much, Little Singer. There are secrets we cannot name, songs we cannot hear, and words we must not speak.”

I did really enjoy how Younger Brother has such a respectful connection with nature. It’s not just him, but the rest of his family as well. At one point the narration mentions how even the youngest child isn’t afraid of bees, because she has never learned to be afraid of them. This was a real lightbulb for me. How many times are we afraid of something because we have seen someone else express fear?

Overall, 2.5/5 stars. When I initially finished I felt a little more forgiving, but the longer I think about it the more irritated I become by all the issues, especially the racism masquerading as not racism.

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Read for the Newbery Award challenge. It's really bothering me that this is clearly my edition, but mine has a different cover that IS NOT on GoodReads.

Fear the Drowning Deep

Fear the Drowning Deep - Sarah  Marsh ~*Full review notes on The Bent Bookworm!*~

“Nothing from the ocean is meant to survive on land forever.”

Feels:

Satisfaction. I adored the resolution of this book. It’s not a perfect happily-ever-after (HEA) and that makes ME so very, very happy. I’m a disgruntled, hard-hearted porcupine when it comes to love, and while I like endings with hope, only rarely do I completely get behind a tidy little HEA. FtDD has a very hopeful ending, but one that could go several different ways. I loved that.

Characters:

It took me awhile to warm up to Bridey, I’ll be honest. She is so defined by her fear of the sea that at first that is the only quality I saw in her. As the story goes on though, I came to genuinely like her. Lugh and Cat, her best friends, I wish we had seen a little more of. I felt sorry for them as she kind of abandoned them to go work with Morag and then in her absorption with Fynn.

Fynn is something of a mystery for most of the book. A lot of reviews I saw complained about the insta-love between him and Bridey, but to me it was believable BECAUSE from the very beginning, it’s obvious Fynn is not just a normal human boy. Because of that, I feel like the insta-love is understandable and realistic – even though I usually DESPISE it.

Morag was my favorite character. An odd choice, I guess – but I loved her. I love that she was old and crotchety and hurt – both physically and emotionally, yet she was such a wise woman and genuinely cared about people. She was like a gingerbread cookie…crunchy on the outside but soft and delicious on the inside (that IS how you make your gingerbread cookies, right?).

Plot:

FtDD starts off kind of slow, not going to lie. It’s beautiful and haunting, but slow. The pace picks up about a third of the way through, and I was completely drawn into the Isle of Man world Sarah Marsh has created. I already wanted to visit but now I want to go even more!

At first I thought I had misjudged the cover blurb and this was a historical fiction YA with some mythology thrown in…but no. It soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems on the idyllic Isle, regardless of what the villagers want to believe. And of course no one wants to listen to the tales of old women or the vision of the young. No one wants to believe that maybe the faery stories are more than stories.
Worldbuilding/Description:

Beautiful. Idyllic. Almost mystical and definitely slightly creepy. I loved it. It felt so real…next time I’m at the ocean I’m going to be on the lookout for creepy ghosts playing violins. I still want to visit the Isle of Man though.

Rating:

4/5 stars. There were some things I felt were too easily explained away, like some things about Fynn. Some things I felt happened too easily…like once Bridey got over her fear, suddenly she was a grand rescuer…but they were small things, and adrenaline and love do give people almost superhuman strength sometimes.

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