O.W.L.s Year 3 TBR

This is my third year of participating in the O.W.L.s and I’m really hoping to do better than last year. For those of you who don’t know, the O.W.L.s Readathon is hosted by Book Roast over on YouTube inspired by Harry Potter!! You can find out more info by going over to her channel and watching this video.

For my career this year I chose to be a Hogwarts Professor, mostly because it gives me the most options in terms of actual challenges! This won’t quite be my whole TBR for this month as I’m also part of a few book clubs but I’m not going to include those in this list.

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MY BOOKS

12024430DEFENSE AGAINST THE DARK ARTS: Book set at the sea/coast — Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz 

This book has been on my radar for a really long time, but it’s one of those times where you mean to read something and then keep forgetting to until you die. Thankfully, I just picked up a copy so I’m ready to dive in, possibly literally.

 

52379179._sx318_sy475_POTIONS: Book Under 150 Pages — Predatory by Brooklyn Ray 

This is exactly 149 pages, which means it just barely counts. It’s also the third book in this series and I figure I may as well catch up before the fourth one comes out. It’s also, obviously, a novella! So I should be able to finish it pretty quickly.

 

18584855._sy475_DIVINATIONS: Assign a number to your TBR — Heartless by Marissa Meyer 

Funny enough, I was already doing this! This would be my second month of letting a random number generator pick a book on my tbr. I made a spread in my bullet journal for this and got number 13!

 

32295486._sy475_CARE OF MAGICAL CREATURES: Creature with a beak on the cover — Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake 

I’ve had this book since early 2018 and I have yet to read it. However, as an Irish person and a history nerd I’m excited to jump into a book with a root in Celtic history, and I’m always on board for books with boats.

43699608._sy475_ARITHMACY: Read something outside your favourite genre — I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi 

I got an ARC of this book mid 2019 and I just, forgot to pick it up. I Hope You Get This Message has now been out for almost 6 months, but I’m still determined to get to it. If you’ve been on my blog before you’re probably away my favourite genre is fantasy, so I figured a sci-fi was a good option for this challenge!

30809786._sy475_CHARMS: White cover — A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir 

The main reason this is on my TBR for this month is because I want to be caught up in time to preorder book 4 and get the super cool preorder gift. As of writing this I’m currently 70% through book 2, and really enjoying it, so I hope book 3 also lives up to my expectations.

18079804HISTORY OF MAGIC: Books featuring witches or wizards — Half Bad by Sally Green

There are practically a million and one books in YA that have witches and/or wizards, but this whole TBR is built of older backlist title so I figured it was finally time to pick this up, after owning it for several years.

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Skeletons in Space Instead of the Closet

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Mui

42036538Adult, Science Fantasy 
Tor, September 10 2019
e-Arc, 448

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

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My Review

5 stars

5 stars

I expected to like this book. Right from the first sentence, nay, the first sentence-long pitch on Twitter, I expected to like this book. However, I did not expect to love it as much as I do.

With a hook like lesbian and necromancy in space, you get a certain type of expectation, and I think Muir does a fantastic job of taking those expectations and throwing them out the door onto their ass.

The most notable example of this is with the protagonist, Gideon herself. She’s everything female main characters aren’t often allowed to be, brash and arrogant and delightfully stabby. Those traits are usually reserved for male hero types, and it was refreshing to see them in a character that wasn’t a straight dude. Her backstory was also unique and fascinating, and it’ll be interesting to see what other information about her is revealed in future installments.

I also think, given the current trend of squad focused books, that the decision to have both a large ensemble cast and still give Gideon a significant amount of time to shine by herself was a choice well rewarded. It really showed her strengths and gave her room to develop both within the relationships she did have and as a character alone. It led to her interactions feeling more organic, and the procession of the plot to feel earned.

Speaking of plot, wowza. Muir somehow managed to pack a space epic, a murder mystery and a puzzle-based thriller into one 450 page book and did so without divesting any of the plots of their finer points. The murder mystery element held me in suspense, whilst the puzzles left me confused and hungry to understand. It doesn’t quite reach space opera status, first and foremost missing the necessary quality of interplanetary battles, but it definitely has many of the other features that define the subgenre.

I really feel the need to comment on the plethora of side characters, all of which are fully fleshed out and absolutely scene-stealing. I don’t know how this book has 18 scene-stealing characters without feeling stuffed full, but Gideon the Ninth manages it without pause.

I was actually somewhat surprised at the lack of romance but in a relieved way. It was refreshing to see a sapphic character that was allowed to exist without being immediately shoehorned into a relationship as if being single negates her sexuality. The brief flashes of potential romance we did see were incredibly ship-worthy, and I’m particularly looking forward to book 2 to see how that relationship develops.

Before I close out what has become an essay on why Gideon the Ninth is awesome, I would be remiss not to talk about the world-building. Necromancy in and of itself isn’t inherently a unique type of ability, it’s been featured in literature for so long it was in The Odyssey, but the way Muir used it was absolutely unparalleled. The different houses having different uses and types of necromancy was so interesting, and I’d love to know more about the different cultures.

All in all, if you like science fiction and sword-wielding lesbians you should absolutely read this book. It’s a captivating story that left me hungry for more, and I am going to absolutely devour the second book.

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Chat With Me

Have you read Gideon the Ninth? What books do you think have done a great job of taking standard wold-building and made it exciting? What is your favorite book featuring necromancy?

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Standalone Fantasy Recs

If you go into the fantasy section at your local bookstore you’ll see shelves upon shelves of fantasy series. Some will be incomplete with years since the last book was out, some with over a dozen books in the series and it can be intimidated. So today I’m recommending some fantasy standalones, for when you don’t want to have to commit your soul to a decade of servitude just to get a satisfying conclusion

42201395Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Margaret Rogerson’s other book An Enchantment of Ravens could also fit on this list but, well, I liked Sorcery of Thorns more. It’s set in a dark and complex world, where books literally have a life of their own and sometimes they turn into monsters. All the characters in this book are fantastic, even if you hate them they’re still fun to read about, and the conclusion leaves you sad but satisfied.

girls made of snow and glassGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Usually quiet and slow books aren’t my thing, but something about Girls Made of Snow and Glass made me completely forget that. Fairy tale retellings often go heavy on the action, too busy blasting through the plot and introducing new characters to look at the heart of the story, and while I honestly enjoy those stories, I am obsessed with the way Bashardoust did a deep dive into the relationship between the two protagonists. It’s unique and enthralling.

belle revolteBelle Revolte by Linsey Miller

French fantasy is having its heyday in young adult, and nothing encapsulates the trend like Belle Revolte. It twists French culture into a world full of magic, and smashes the multitude of gender expectations imbedded into the world-building. This book is decadent and heart wrench in equal measure, like a crepe of bitterness.

to kill a kingdomTo Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Another fairy tale retelling, To Kill a Kingdom is significantly more plot driven than Girls Made of Snow and Glass. This was one of my favourite books of 2018, and it remains so by grace of its enemies-to-lovers romance and the fresh take on merfolk. The way the two main characters clash in this book is just as exciting as when they work together.

descendant of the craneDescendant of the Crane by Joan He

This is another 2019 release that is well deserving of its hype. Joan He put together a masterful story, where betrayal is a currency that everyone carries around with them. The worldbuilding in Descendant of the Crane is spectacular, interspersed with Chinese culture and He’s own unique imagination.

25068467._sx318_Uprooted by Naomi Novik 

Uprooted is, simply put, a masterpiece of world-building and character development. It’s intricate, with a plot that keeps you guessing along with the characters. The magic system is incredibly loose, but in a way that allows for different interpretations rather than an excuse to let magic solve plot holes. It feels like a fairy tale in the best way possible.

40275288._sy475_The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Epic fantasy is usually on the longer side of series. Two notable examples include Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive (projected 10 books) and Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (projected 7 books), but Shannon easily manages to not only accomplish a solid plotline, but weaves in the kind of historical based world-building that makes me drool. All the main characters in The Priory of the Orange Tree are so well fleshed out they could be real people, and they’re all just stabby enough for you to be glad they aren’t.

the beast playerThe Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi

If you like Studio Ghibli movies then there is absolutely no excuse for not picking this book up. I genuinely had no idea what to expect going into this, and I really do think that’s the best way to experience this book. Every twist and turn felt like a piece of a puzzle clicking into place, but you don’t get to see the whole picture until the very end.

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If You like This YA Fantasy You Might like This Adult Fantasy

I’m a big fan of fantasy in every age category, but whenever I talk about an adult fantasy I’m reading I invariably get a chorus of “I want to read adult but I don’t know where to start!” To combat this, and help folks that want to get into adult fantasy, I’ve assembled a list of adult SFF that’s comparable to YA titles!

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16096824._sy475_40275288._sy475_A Court of Thorns and Roses The Priory of the Orange Tree

This is the comparison that launched the idea for this post, so I obviously had to put it first. SJM has a lot of problems, but the A Court of Thorns and Roses series has some very interesting (and largely unexplored) world-building tidbits, that Samantha Shannon used a lot more successfully and relevantly in The Priory of the Orange Tree.

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23395680._sy475_IlluminaeThe Collapsing Empire

I know the title says fantasy, but this list would not be complete without this inclusion. Illuminae and The Collapsing Empire have quite a few things in common. Starting with wisecracking female protagonists (Kady and Kiva) and ending with being a high octane space opera that outshines even some of the most notorious in the genre.

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Six of Crows The Lies of Locke Lamora

Have you ever sat down and thought “Kaz should be allowed to say fuck”? Look no further than The Lies of Locke Lamora. Just like Six of Crows, The Lies of Locke Lamora features a crew and a heist with a smartass mastermind at the forefront. However, the latter is much more intricately plotted and significantly grittier.

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42201395Sorcery of Thorns Uprooted

The biggest reason I’m including these is the vibe. Never have I ever felt such a similar vibe from two different books before. Another fun and key factor in both of these is the use of books in the magic system, but i think the thing that really solidified this comparison is the way both author’s weaving politics into the story just as much as the magic itself.214144397235533

Truthwitch The Way of Kings

Truthwitch is the closest to epic fantasy young adult has ever gotten, and it shares quite a few similarities with The Way of Kings. They both feature characters with rare magic, set in a world on the brink of a massive change. They also both do an excellent job of weaving together a plot from a pile of scraps and making world-building feel real.

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Chat With Me

Have you read any of these? Do you agree with me? What’s your favourite fantasy book?

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French Fantasy and Blood Rituals

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

serpentYoung Adult, Fantasy
HarperTeen, September 3 2019
e-ARC, 513 pages

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

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My Review

2019 was a really good year for young adult fantasy, and I personally consider Serpent & Dove one of the standout gems. It’s set in a richly built world, filled with characters that are equal parts enigmatic and charismatic, and a magic system with layers like an onion.

I have to preface this with a note that I’d never considered myself a fan of forced marriage/marriage of convenience stories. They weren’t really something I sought out previously, but I really enjoyed that aspect of this plot. It’s still not a trope I would consider a favourite, but I do think it’s something I’d be open to reading more of in the future.

The rest of the plot was the sort of formulaic YA that is well-loved. The twists and turns were comfortably predictable, offering a deeper look at the characters and their motivations while moving events along in an entertaining fashion. I found very few of the reveals actually startling, but I enjoyed the way Mahurin revelled in the revealing itself. 

Serpent & Dove had a fairly small cast, a rarity nowadays in young adult, where squad books are becoming more and more popular, but I think it suited this book well. A majority of the book was Lou and Reid, or Lou and Coco, with the occasional smattering of Ansel thrown in, and I think it added to the atmosphere.

Speaking of, I adored the atmosphere weaved into this book. The world was clearly influenced by 17th century France, but I think Mahurin did a good job of still making it her own. 

A lot of people compare the romance between Lou and Reid to Nina and Matthias from Six of Crows, and aside from comments on the fact that we, as a community, need to stop comparing everything to SoC, I truly disagree. I see where people are coming from, they have the same basic elements, but what truly distinguishes them, in my opinion, is the circumstances. Lou and Reid are enemies, yes, but they haven’t actively tried to kill each other, and their development doesn’t entirely hinge on one character conceding that the other is also a person. 

The aforementioned small cast leads to a good amount of development for the characters that were featured, but I think the one I’m presently most interested in is Coco. She reminds me a bit of Iseult from Truthwitch, and I’m excited to see how her backstory furthers the plot in book 2.

I have a relatively small list of issues for this book, the main one being that Lou sometimes felt very immature. Not compared to how I would expect a teenager to behave, but compared to how she was in other scenes. It was a bit like whiplash, and I think it sometimes pulled me out of the story a little.

The other one is not something I specifically noticed but is worth mentioning. The magic in Serpent & Dove is gender-based, as in, only women can be witches. This is usually something that I just roll my eyes at but doesn’t usually detract from the story for me. However, it leads to some, questionable comments in the book that specifically excludes the possibility of trans and non-binary people. 

Overall, I think this book was well-written and enjoyable, but not without flaws. If you’re looking for a decadent YA fantasy to sink your teeth into, I think this is worth picking up.

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Chat With Me

Have you read Serpent & Dove? If so, what did you think? Are you a fan of gender-based magic systems?

 

Avatarathon Announcement

Themed readathons are my jam. I join practically every single one I come across because I just can’t help myself. I also fairly recently watched Avatar: The Last Airbender for the first time and absolutely loved it, so I thought it would be fun to combine the two and host an Avatar-themed readathon!

Avatarathon is a month-long readathon running from March 1st to 31st 2020. Sign-ups open today and you can find the link for that below! Book tracking will open on March 1st and you will find the link for that on the Twitter account here. You can also find all relevant information and images in this Google folder.

New Project (23)

There are 4 teams based on the 4 nations, each with its own group book and specific set of challenges. One book can count for one challenge, and each challenge is worth 10 points, with the group book being worth 20 points.

There is also a readathon wide group book! If you read The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee with us you get an extra 10 points!

Teams & Challenges

air nomads

Air Nomads

APPA: Read a book with an animal sidekick
MOMO: Read a short book or a book of short stories
MONK GYATSO: Read a book in a genre you usually don’t
AANG: Read the group book (Air Awakens by Elise Kova)

earth kingdom

Earth Kingdom

TOPH: Read a book with a disabled character
SUKI: Read a book with a weapon on the cover
LONG FENG: Read a book with politics
KYOSHI: Read the group book (The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi)

fire nation

Fire Nation

ZUKO: Read a book with a redemption arc
AZULA: Read a book with a female lead
UNCLE IROH: Read a book with a mentor figure
ROKU: Read the group book (An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir)

water tribe

Water Tribe

SOKKA: Read a book with a romance
KATARA: Read a book with a found family
PRINCESS YUE: Read a book with royalty
KURUK: Read the group book (Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly)

❤️💛💚💙 SIGN UP HERE! 💙💚💛❤️

Top 20 to Read in 2020

     I’ve never made a post or list like this before, not for any serious reason but just because I’d never thought of it. This year however, I have lots of books I want to get to before sequels come out, or just books that I was really excited to read in 2019 but didn’t get to thanks to my slump! I’m hoping that by making this list I’m more likely to actually get around to reading these books, if for no other reason than just so I can say I did. 

     Because there’s 20 books on this list, and I don’t want this post to be several miles long, I’m only going to be talking about some of them, mostly the ones I actually have something specific to say about them. This means most of the ones I’m reading to try and get ready for the sequel to come out will be included in my list down below!

     Without further ado, let’s talk about some books!

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38769727._sy475_Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky

I first heard about Mammoth on a podcast shortly before its’ release, and I was instantly into the concept. At the time I was really weird about the concept of reading contemporary for reasons we won’t get into at this time, but now that I’m not being a dingdong I really want to get to it. I wanted to be a palaeontologist when I was younger, so it’ll be interesting to see how close this book compares to what 5-year-old Sage imagined it would be like on a dig site.

31944679In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

This is one of my boyfriend’s all-time favourite books, so, of course, I have to read it. I’ve also heard great things from other people as well, but it’s not really a huge hit in the book community which can be fun. Also, of course, it’s gay as fuck and I’ll read anything with a bisexual protagonist

8694389Deathless by Catherine Valente

I’ve wanted to read Deathless for quite a while, but it’s hard to get your hands on a hardcover copy and I prefer hardcover over everything. I did read Space Opera just after it came out in 2018 and absolutely loved it, which just made me want to read this one more since the premise of it sounds amazing to me.

35271238A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

This will be my first foray into adult romance, a genre I’ve not so much avoided as not had much interest in until now. I’m can’t remember how I learned about Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, but all the books sound like they’re exactly up my alley. Diverse rom-coms for the win!

17332218Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

The fourth book in The Stormlight Archive comes out this November, and I really want to be caught up by the time this happens. That means I need to read both book 2 (Words of Radiance) and book 3 (Oathbringer) by then, which is a combined total of 2335 pages. It’s a tall order, but I think i’ve given myself plenty of time to get there.

36952596Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

I really want this year to be the year I catch up with Anna-Marie McLemore releases (I’m currently 3 behind) and I’m starting with Blanca & Roja because it’s the one I’m currently most excited for. Swan Lake retellings are some of my favourites, and I’m down for any retelling that’s queer, so this book seems like the perfect combination of those 2 things!

29904219Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

I started reading the audiobook of Not Your Sidekick, and I was immensely enjoying it! Then I faded out of listening to audiobooks. So I’ve decided I’m going to get myself a physical copy and actually finish it this year! You can’t go wrong with queer superheros.

30653843._sy475_Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

This is a classic young adult contemporary, and since I’m trying to read more of that this year I figure I can’t go wrong with this one. I’m a tad weary about Oseman ever since the Loveless debacle last year, but from what I know this story doesn’t feature any aromantic characters, only asexual ones so it should be okay!

 

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Other Books I Want to Get to

New Project

New Project (1)