If It’s Not A Rant, It’s A Rave: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Title:
The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Published by: Del Rey Books
Publication date: January 10, 2017
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult

Synopsis:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble  /  Book Depository


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“I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die.
I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure,
or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold,
silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself,
if it were a path of my own choosing.”–The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale was the first book I read in 2018 and it has taken me a few weeks to finally gather all my thoughts together. I really enjoyed this novel and I don’t think my review will do it justice. This enchanting story is beautifully written, and the language, along with the characters, were truly engaging. I loved that the story has the flow and entrancing details of a fairy tale, but it also reflects the whimsical oddity of blurring the lines between reality and magic.

The Bear and the Nightingale provides many moments of awe, and it inspire scenes that stress the commonalities of life with a hint of the extraordinary and fantasy. While the main character, Vasilisa, and her family face the adversities of living in the country, her family also has some prestigious advantages over their neighbors. She is not from a family in poverty but they do face the chill of the winter and the hardships that come along with staying warm, fed, and healthy. 

In The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasilisa is bombarded with patriarchal norms to find a husband, take care of a household, and have children. However, she often goes against the grain. Her heart is warm with tenderness to take care of her family, friends, and even animals, but she also wants so much more for herself. I adored Vasilisa’s spirit to be wild, fierce, and selfless. Even though her gift of magic goes against the norm, and even the Christian faith, I loved that Vasilisa challenges the traditional ways of thinking, believing, and acting. 

Overall, while focusing on Russian folklore and history, The Bear and the Nightingale is filled with magic, a girl that can communicate with demons, and a direct fist punch into the traditional patriarchy ways of thinking. I really enjoyed how captivating, magical, and empowering the story unfolded. I cannot wait to pick up book 2.

4 star rating

NOTE:  I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

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If It’s Not A Rant, It’s A Rave: Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

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Title: Here We Are Now
Author: Jasmine Warga
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: November 7, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Synopsis:

Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.

Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.

With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble  /  Book Depository


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“I think with some people you can just tell you’re going to have a
history with them. Even if that history hasn’t happened yet.”–Here We Are Now

Wow, Pamplemousse! I think this book found me at the right time in my life. Here We Are Now is short and expands over a few days, but I also enjoyed that flashbacks of the main character’s parents falling in and out love is littered throughout the pages. I really connected with the main character Taliah, who is definitely a hard shell to crack. But I loved that although she is sarcastic, smart, and funny, she also holds a tight rope around her emotions. She is cautious with letting people in, but I liked that her journey to meet her father and his family for the very first time, opens up her world to new challenges and emotional breakthroughs. 

I don’t want to give too much away in regards to the plot, because it is very straight forward and well-focused on Taliah, a teenager, meeting her father, a well-known rock star, for the very first time. And throughout the pages, Taliah pushes herself to open up to her dad, discover unknown information about her mom, and meet her long lost family. And importantly she matures and discovers things about herself. 

Here We Are Now is very straight-forward and focuses a lot on modern day scenarios, such as familial conflicts, diversity, biracial relationships, and tough love. I found myself laughing a lot during this book, because these characters are so witty and heartwarming. But there are also some parts that are heartbreaking, and these moments are so raw and gritty and realistic. In the end, I liked that the conclusion of this book leaves the characters wide open for new possibilities and room to grow, instead of a simple “happily ever after” ending. 

 

4 star rating

NOTE:  I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

If It’s Not A Rant, It’s A Rave: Review of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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Title: 
The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: January 2, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy 

Synopsis:

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble  /  Book Depository


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You guys this book broke me in the best ways possible. At first, The Cruel Prince shocked me with its grim and gruesome first chapter. But then I was slowly dangled into the cruel politics of the fairy world. At first, I liked the story, but I felt like something was missing. My stubborn self craved so much more than family history and fae politics. Plus I was not a big fan of the sister dynamics that were wearing down on my last nerve.

BUT…BAM!

Once I got to the 150ish page mark, I could not put this book down. I was engrossed with the storyline’s darkness, the espionage, the secrets, the twists, and OHMYGOD that ending! 

The Cruel Prince is a gorgeous and gritty read. It’s simply a stunner from the beautiful cover to the unique characters and all the unexpected plot twists. This book has everything from mouth-dropping scenes,  several punch in the gut romances, and the most unforeseen betrayal that had me gasping for more pages.

I am floored that this book did a 180 on me and I cannot wait for book two. If there is one book that I highly recommend that you TREAT YO SHELF to at the beginning of 2018, please for the love of all fairies pick up The Cruel Prince. You will not regret it. 

star rating

NOTE:  I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review. I received an advance reader’s copy through a blogger book trade and reviewed it at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine.

Blog Tour: Raves & Craves of Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

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Welcome fellow book-ravers, and thank you for joining me today for my stop on Fierce Reads’ Foolish Hearts Blog Tour. Today I will be raving about my love for Emma Mills’ Foolish Hearts and pairing it with a snack recommendation. Enjoy!

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Title: Foolish Hearts
Author: Emma Mills 

Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co./Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary 

Synopsis:

A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn’t know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they’re both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia’s ever seen. As Claudia’s world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

LINKS:   Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  The Book Depository


raves for foolish hearts

Oh, Foolish Hearts, how do I love you? Let me count the ways. First, this book has everything from great family dynamics, amazing friendships, and a sprinkle of quirky characters. I am a sucker for sarcastic characters–the wittier, the better–and of course, Emma Mills does not disappoint with her main character Claudia.

I adored Claudia throughout the story. She’s smart, creative, snarky, and gives herself room to mope but also grow. And when it comes to friendships in Foolish Hearts, I love that it is Claudia’s truthful and witty personality that attracts Gideon to befriend her. Gideon and Claudia belong on two different sides of the introvert v. extrovert spectrum, but I love that they are always on the same wavelength. Their chemistry and banter are perfect, which allows this book to be the epitome of constant smile with the cutest dimples that will make you swoon. 

I adored this book, the characters, and all the crazy shenanigans that come with it. Add in video game quests, boy band obsession, amazing friendships, broken hearts, mending hearts, and a Shakespeare comedy, and you get one of the swooniest, funniest, and heartwarming stories called Foolish Hearts

craves for foolish hearts

In Foolish Hearts, Claudia is introduced to Gideon’s random quirks and “strange things Gideon says or does,” which are documented by his friends on an online account: JustGideonPrewittThings. One of Gideon’s strange preferences is that he likes to eat his cereal soggy. So today, I thought I would “taste test” Gideon’s soggy cereal preference with Froot Loops.

ingredients
Ingredients:
Cereal of your choice and milk. Don’t forget a bowl and a spoon.

Swirl break

CONTROL GROUP

control cereal
Eat the cereal with no added milk.

Swirl break

SOGGY CEREAL

soggy cereal
For “Soggy” Cereal, Gideon pours milk into a bowl of cereal and lets the concoction “marinate” for about ten minutes.

Swirl break

CRUNCHY CEREAL

cruncy cereal
Pour cereal and milk into a bowl, and start eating it for that perfect crunch.

Swirl break

THE WINNER!

I am a texture eater, so soggy cereal is out for me. CRUNCHY CEREAL WITH MILK, ALL THE WAY! Sorry not sorry, Gideon. 

Which way do you prefer eating a bowl of cereal? Comment below, if you like crunchy or soggy, or no milk at all. I would love to hear your thoughts and how you compare to Gideon. 

about emma mills

Emma   Mills

Emma Mills is an author better known to her subscribers as vlogger Elmify. She is also cocreator and cohost of the “life skills” channel How to Adult, which ended in 2016.

Website • Twitter • Goodreads

tour schedule foolish hearts

December 5
Fire and Ice Reads – Author Guest Post

December 6
Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile – Raves & Craves

December 7
Ex Libris – Playlist

December 8
Fiction Fares – Mood Board

December 9
Mary Had a Little Book Blog – Shakespeare Theme

December 10
Brittany’s Book Rambles – Author Interview

December 11
The Fox’s Hideaway – Shakespeare Theme

December 12
Alexa Loves Books – Gift Guides for Gideon and Claudia

December 13
Lisa Lost In Lit – Bookish Inspiration Post

If It’s Not A Rant, It’s A Rave: Review of Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

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Title: 
Love, Life, and the List
Author: Kasie West 

Publication Date: December 26, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Synopsis:

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart. 

Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.

Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with. 

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

LINKS:   Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  The Book Depository


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You guys, Kasie West has done it again. I think Love, Life, and the List might be one of my top three favorites out of all her bajillion books. This book is such a quick, funny, and sweet read. I laughed, swooned, and smiled so much while reading it, that now my cheeks hurt, hahaha. 

I adored the main character Abby. She does not come off angsty. Instead she is sarcastic as hell (AHHH…WHICH I LOVED), she’s persistent regarding her future and perfecting her craft, and most of all, I liked that she creates lists to help her reach her goals. She is basically Rory Gilmore without all the drama and making stupid choices. 

One of my favorite aspects of this novel that I would like to highlight is Abby’s family. Her mom has a hard time being in public or around people and her grandpa is the sarcasm king. And even though her dad is deployed, Abby’s family is really close knit and they are always communicating. YES, I love that they are always talking and never leaving someone out of the loop, even when it comes to Abby’s love life or lack thereof. 

Overall, Love, Life, and the List is one of those cute and swoony books that I can see myself rereading when I am in a reading slump. Banter and witty sarcasm always make me smile, and the repartee that occurs in this book is worth the deepest belly laughs. If you love a main character filled with passion and a good heart, and a cute boy best friend that never fails to make you smile, definitely treat yo shelf and self to this book. 

4 star rating

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: Review of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Published by: Scholastic Press
Publication date: October 18, 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Synopsis:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Goodreads Amazon / Barnes & Noble Book Depository


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How did I go six years without reading this book? HOW?! You guys, I loved every page of The Scorpio Races. I love the story. I love the family dynamics. I love the conflicts. And most of all, I love Puck and Sean. 

To me, The Scorpio Races was mainly focused on the importance of family and sacrifice. Puck, the main character, is not trying prove a feminist stance that girls should be allowed to compete in her island’s highly praised and traditional, dangerous water horse race. Yes, it does help that she is a woman defying the odds in her misogynist  community, but she is racing to keep her and her brothers under one roof. I won’t give too much away about the plot, but Puck is one of the fiercest female characters I have read, and she had me rooting for her cause throughout the novel. 

And, ohhh, do not get me started on the swoony chemistry that develops between Puck and one of her fellow competitors, Sean. Sean’s situation made my heart ache throughout the novel. I loved every page that allowed a friendship to develop between him and Puck. Both of these characters have a heartbreaking past; however, they are both bold and willing to do anything to change their future. And one of my favorite aspects of each of these characters is their understanding that nature is not something to be reckoned with. They respect their horses and only want the best for them. 

Will I ever read The Scorpio Races again? You bet I will. I don’t know if I will wait until next autumn to read it again (the book takes place in October/November), but you better believe I want to gallop back into this book so I can be captivated once again with the slow burn romance and heartfelt story about sacrifice and love. I cannot rave enough about this book, and if you have not read The Scorpio Races yet, stop what you are doing and pick up this book now. 

star rating

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NOTE:  I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds and reviewed it at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine.

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: Review of The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

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Title:
The Goblins of Bellwater
Author: Molly Ringle
Published by: Central Avenue Publishing
Publication date: October 1, 2017
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, Romance

A contemporary romance inspired by Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market.” Four neighbors encounter sinister enchantments and a magical path to love in a small, modern-day Puget Sound town, where a fae realm hides in the woods and waters…

Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out. 

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


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I love Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” and whenever I see a retelling that reflects the original poem and its themes of sisterhood and female empowerment, I want to read it right away. So of course, when I came across The Goblins of Bellwater being a new adult, modern-day retelling of “Goblin Market,” I knew I had to read it. And you guys, this book did not disappoint. 

The Goblins of Bellwater has the perfect amount of romance and fantastical elements, with a innovative contemporary storyline that parallels Rossetti’s poem. I love that the author, Molly Ringle, does not romanticize the goblins. Instead, she provides them a heartbreaking backstory, but they are still ruthless creatures with greedy and uncaring intentions. 

In The Goblins of Bellwater, the four main characters all have their own well-developed personalities. Each of them are ingrained with aspirations, but these dreams are halted by goblin mayhem. I don’t want to give too much away in regards to the characters and plot, but the goblins are only appeased when they are given gold or other valuable treasures. If this routine of appeasement is stopped then the goblins retaliate in the most bizarre and evil ways. Temptation is tested in this story, but I love that sisterhood and love are the empowering forces that drive these characters to go against the goblins. 

Overall, I highly recommend everyone to get tangled in this goblin-infested but love-conquers-all book. The overall story is well paced, I loved the characters, and there is a good mix of sensual romance. If you like your contemporary novels meshed with a fantasy twist, The Goblins of Bellwater is the right book for you. 

4 star rating

NOTE: Thank you to Netgalley and Central Avenue Publishing for providing me an e-galley/e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.