Top Ten Tuesday | Bookish Discoveries I Made in 2019

Oh hey, how’s it going? I haven’t done a TTT in a long while, but I thought, hey, I want to pick up blogging again, so why not do a TTT post once in a while?

If you don’t know what Top Ten Tuesday is, it’s a weekly event across book blogs, vlogs, etc., where we discuss our top ten of the topic picked for that week. It was originally started on The Broke and the Bookish, but has since moved to That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week’s topic is all about bookish discoveries that I made in 2019, from authors to blogs, books to bookish merch. Here’s my top ten from last year.

10. Reading Planner

I had set up a reading planner for a few months and found it to be really fun, but hard to keep up with (I love the idea of planners, but using them? That’s a whole other story lol). So actually, for this year, I ordered the reading planner from Owlcrate and I can’t wait to use it! (Not sponsored!)

9. Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars Book Signing

I did a whole post on this book signing event, but it was so much fun! I always love going into Boston and exploring, especially when I go to my favorite independent bookstore, Brookline Booksmith. There’s such a calming yet fun atmosphere there. For the event there were several activities to do while waiting for Leigh to talk, and when she did she was so super funny! It was a great time despite the weather.

8. The Way of Kings by Brandson Sanderson audiobook is amazing

2019 was the year I finally finished listening to this audiobook. I had started it YEARS ago, but never got very far in it until I was driving a half hour to and from work every day and realized that sometimes I just didn’t want to listen to music for my commute. Solution? A 45 hour long audiobook filled with amazing characters, great narrators, fantastic and vivid world building, and, of course, a unique magic system that Sanderson is so good at exploring. I can’t wait to continue on to Words of Radiance in audiobook!

7. Libby and My Local Library

Okay, so my local library is really dinky and doesn’t have a huge selection of books that I would personally check out, BUT what’s cool is that I can go to any library in the county and check out books from any of those locations with my card! So cool!

Oh, and as for Libby, which is an app where you enter your location information, as well as your library card information, and you’re able to rent out e-books and audiobooks from your library, I found it to be super useful! I’m going to definitely be using it for my reading challenge this year in case I read some books not already on my shelf that I might not want to purchase just yet.

6. Not Being on Twitter

Okay, this might be a controversial one, but oh well because over the last six months I’ve deactivated Facebook as well as just stopped going onto Twitter, and let me tell you, it’s been doing wonders for my mental health. Twitter (not just book twitter, but the website as a whole) is just full of way too much negativity and I ain’t got time for that when I’m trying to heal from years of numbness and pain, you know? So as much as I miss the connectivity between people sometimes, I also don’t miss the drama and all of the other crap that came along with it.

If you’re finding that there’s too much negativity on any social media space, including around books, I hope you take the time to rest and step back from it for your own mental health.

5. I was featured on Novels & Waffles Bibliosmile Project

Image by Kat @ Novels and Waffles

Kat at Novels and Waffles asked on Twitter (before I left lol) if anyone would be interested in joining in this project, and I talked of my interest and so I was a guest on her blog! In this blog post I talked about five books that have impacted me over the years for one reason or another, so it’s a very sentimental post I wrote.

4. There’s Both Power and Longing in NOT Buying Books

So my husband and I moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina over the summer for a new job for him (which he likes!), and I didn’t have a job lined up. In fact, I only had a seasonal job recently and I still don’t have anything lined up. We’re doing okay, kind of – taking care of the important stuff, of course – and as a result we had to cut out a lot of stuff from our lives. One of them, for me, was book buying. Now, I didn’t stop completely, but I did slow down A LOT. It’s actually been nice to know that my TBR pile didn’t grow for a long time (until I worked this past season at a book store, haha…ha…).

Part of me misses buying books because I’m excited in that moment, but the other part is like, “Girl, you want to unhaul a lot already on your shelves, so how about you focus on that first, yeah?”

3. Donating Books Feels Good

Seriously. There’s something freeing about freeing up space on your shelves. Now, this isn’t a new concept for me that I discovered in 2019 (I think I’ve been doing it since 2017/18), but I wanted to mention it because before we moved I donated another fifty books to my local library – including signed copies that I had gotten from book boxes. I just wasn’t interested in them, and frankly, I’d rather a library have it so others can read them if they want to.

I plan on continuing to donate this year as the need arises, which it probably will. I have some books on my shelves that have been there for years and I know that at this point in time in my life I’m either a) never going to read them, or b) read them and don’t want them on my shelf anymore.

2. My Reading Tastes Are Changing

That’s right! I’m both surprised and not surprised at all, honestly. As I’ve been getting older I’ve been noticing that my reading tastes are starting to gravitate towards older content – aka, not YA or middle grade. Actually, strike the middle grade one because, well, spoilers, I love it so far (thank you Rick Riordan), but as I’m now 28 I want to read more content about characters in my age group (which, for me, is college age to about 35).

This is in no way me dissing YA, by the way. I will absolutely still be reading YA because I still enjoy the genre, but I also find myself wanting to consume more adult and new adult books. This discovery, in particular, felt right to me, and even though I was a little nervous to talk about it, I’m not so much anymore. Anyone else feel this way?

1 . Middle Grade Books are SO FUN

Okay, so I’ve really only read the Percy Jackson series in 2019 (for the first time and I LOVE IT!), but as a way to dip my toes into middle grade? FANTASTIC! I want to spread myself as much as possible in my reading life, and so reading books for younger kids is a great way to do so.

Of all of the bookish discoveries I made in 2019, I think this one is my favorite just because there’s so much to discover in middle grade and to see these books through the eyes of the younger generation. That’s how I see it, at least.

Let’s chat!

What bookish discoveries did you make in 2019? What is your most memorable one? Let me know!

The Sea of Monsters | Book Review

Title: The Sea of Monsters
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publish Date: April 1, 2006
Genre: Young Reader – Fantasy/Adventure, Mythology
Pages: 288
Format: Kindle Books

After a year spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson–a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any “normal” friends.

But things don’t stay quiet for long. Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: The magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters–the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millenia–only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name…the Bermuda Triangle.

Now Percy and his friends–Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson–must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family–one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

This book picks up a full school year after the first. In fact, it’s Percy’s last day at his new school when everything kind of goes to crap and hits the fan and he, you know, almost dies. It’s fine. And he and another kid at the school – a homeless boy named Tyson who the school took on as a community service project, of sorts – are whisked away and helped by Annabeth to go back to Camp Half-Blood.

But, of course, there’s something wrong at Camp Half-Blood. The tree that protects the camp is dying, and they don’t know who could have poisoned the tree, but Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson set off to save the tree and the camp. And Grover. Because Grover is currently being held by a cyclops to become his bride and… yeah, he’s a mess.

I thought this second installment was just as fun as the last, and we’re learning a lot more about Percy and the gods around him, as well as who is for him and against him. I love seeing how mythology comes into play in these novels and how the world just continues to expand. It plays on a lot of legends and myths that don’t just center around the Greek gods (such as the Bermuda Triangle), and I think that it ties in well with what’s happening to Percy and his friends.

I also found it interesting when the reveal of his family happened to also learn more about Poseidon and to see how Percy reacts and grows from it. He learns a lot in this adventure about family and how you can’t necessarily choose who is your family – at least not by blood, anyway. And I think that that lesson is a great one for a young teenage boy to learn.

The action and adventure that he and his friends take is a long one, and it was nice to see him working alongside someone who he (still) doesn’t get along with to get through some trials that he and the others might not have been able to win on their own. I liked seeing how different monsters came into play, how different islands in the Bermuda Triangle attacked or affected them, and how they were able to overcome those trials.

I thought that Percy and Annabeth did really well planning together on how to take down the cyclops – at least temporarily – so that they could escape. And there were several moments where I was cheering because of events that happened on the island with the cyclops. Like I was literally sitting there and going, “YAY!” Probably clapping my hands, too. It’s fine.

Overall, this next installment was a fun one, and I can definitely see some growth in Percy and Annabeth as they’re slowly getting older. The lessons that they’re learning are also expanding, too.

I’m definitely interested to see how Luke’s role plays out in this and how the possibility of releasing Kronos might happen. It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to continue and see what happens next at Camp Half-Blood!

★★★★☆

Cover Reveal: Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword

Hey peeps! Today I wanted to share with you a cover reveal from author Keira Gillett, whom I held a blog tour post for about her first book in this middle grade series. This is the second book and as such, here’s what you can look forward to below!

***

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland SwordAbout the Book:

Title: Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword

Release Date: November 6, 2015 (11/06/2015)

Author: Keira Gillett

Illustrator: Eoghan Kerrigan

Narrator: Michele Carpenter

Series: Zaria Fierce Trilogy, Book 2

Summary in a Nut-Shell: Zaria Fierce must undo the damage she and her friends caused when they accidentally aided Olaf in his quest to release the dragon, Koll.

Full Summary: If Zaria Fierce had her say, being a princess would mean you’d never have to wait for news. In the eight months since Olaf tricked her, Zaria has felt a near constant mixture of restlessness, listlessness, and hopelessness. When the time comes to fix past mistakes, she is more than ready to climb aboard the ship sailing towards the giants. Summertime in Norway promises many more adventures, but also many more perils… something sinister lurks beneath the surface following her every move, haunting her, disturbing her dreams, and stealing her peace. Can Zaria figure out what it is and stop it before it’s too late?

goodreads-badge-add-plus-fad3b68d35050280ea55d50f17c654b5

Pre-order on Amazon: E-book

Praise for Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest (Book 1):

“Are you in the mood for an old fashioned magical jaunt? Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett is a classic “perilous adventure” book for middle grade readers.” Jennifer Bardsley, The YA Gal

“A captivating blending of fantasy storytelling with today’s technology. At the base of this tale is deep, abiding friendship that stands the tests of time, adventure and even danger.” Kathy Haw, Goodreads Review

“A great book with a lovely story and amazing characters. It’s a fantasy and adventure book that will be the delight of Narnia fans and those looking for a bit of Norwegian folklore thrown into it.” Ner, A Cup of Coffee and a Book

“If you’re looking for an action-packed adventure dipped in fantasy, look no further. This book kept me on my toes with its many cliffhangers and plot twists; it was quite hard to put down at times.” Meredith, All ‘Bout Them Books and Stuff

“I love when a story jumps right in and hooks me like this one did. I highly recommend you look into it if you are in the mood for a fun adventure. I also recommend that you get it for any book loving middle schooler you know.” Emily, Midwestern Book Nerd

Illustrations by Eoghan Kerrigan:

zaria2chapter2

zaria2chapter5

Excerpt:

Filip slung his window open and tossed out his backpack. It landed in a thump in the hedgerow. Aleks pulled it out and slung it over his shoulder with his own bag.

“How’re you getting down?”

“Hopefully with your stargazer.”

“Then why toss down your bag?” Aleks asked, exasperated.

“Just in case,” Filip said with a wink at Zaria.

She suppressed a smile. She looked to the others, “Does anybody have rope?”

Aleks and Geirr both nodded. Then Geirr unzipped his bag and pulled out a neat coil from on top. He tossed it to Filip, who snatched it up as it sailed by the window. He disappeared into his bedroom and reappeared moments later slinging the coil out the window. It unraveled to the ground.

“Good,” Filip said briskly. “It’s long enough. Now let’s see if it holds.”

Filip quickly scaled the side of the house and they gathered their belongings preparing to dash. Without warning, Mrs. Storstrand stuck her head out of a bottom window and shrieked at the sight of them.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

“Run!” Filip shouted, grabbing his friends’ sleeves and rushing for the street.

Aleks cursed and threw Filip his backpack while slinging his own around to the front and unzipping a pocket. He looked frazzled as he dug inside the opening. Mrs. Storstrand was quick. She was already out of the house and chasing after them. She threatened life and limb and the most terrible of all – letting Filip’s father know what he was about.

At last Aleks found the stargazer – a shiny purplish egg-shaped object perforated with stars – and almost dropped it in his haste. After a brief fumble, Aleks located the largest star, and hastily jabbed his finger into the hole. Just like that, Mrs. Storstrand froze mid-run. But so too did Christoffer, Filip, and Geirr.

Aleks looked at Zaria and to the others. “Damn,” he hissed. “Wait! How are you not frozen too?”

goodreads-badge-add-plus-fad3b68d35050280ea55d50f17c654b5

Pre-order on Amazon: E-book

Keira Gillett author pictureAuthor Bio: Keira Gillett is a technical publications librarian, book blogger, world traveler, artist, and now author. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Painting. From an early age her mother instilled a love of the written word, as such she has always been a big reader. Her first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, is about a young girl who must complete a quest to save her friend from a nasty river-troll.

Website: http://keiragillett.com

Social Media: Twitter (keiragillett), Facebook (zariafiercetrilogy), Pinterest (zariafierce)

Eoghan Kerrigan IllustratorIllustrator Bio: Eoghan Kerrigan is an illustrator from Kildare, Ireland who draws primarily fantasy characters and creatures. He studied illustration in Ballyfermot College of Further Education and has produced work for various independent projects. He has two cats and a soft spot for trolls.

Website: http://eoghankerrigan.blogspot.ie/

Social Media: Twitter (eoghankerrigan), Facebook (eoghankart)

Michele CarpenterNarrator Bio: Michele Carpenter is an artist at heart, with a passion for acting. She and her husband (also a voice actor) often work on projects together and help one another through the journey. Together, they have three kids. Michele’s children love to hear her read stories and beg her to edit her narrations in the same room with them so they can listen too. It’s partially for this reason that Michele has come to feel a personal responsibility to only record books that aren’t inappropriate for children or young adults–at their respective age levels and according to the maturity levels of the books they’re able to read. “We never know how long we have on this earth and I’d rather leave behind a legacy of books that I’m not ashamed to have my friends, family and even future grandchildren, listen to forever.”

Website: http://www.michele-carpenter.com/

Social Media: Twitter (michelecvoice), Facebook (michelecarpentervoice), YouTube (micheleyoutube)

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Finished Series I Have YET to Finish

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday as hosted by the lovely peeps at The Broke & the Bookish. Today’s topic is about completed series that I have yet to finish. And let me tell you, I am ashamed I haven’t finished these yet.

  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I’m still working on my first read through of this series, and I know it’s shocking to have not read this series at this point, but I am enjoying it so far and I hope to finish it in the upcoming year or so.
  2. Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor – I want to finish this trilogy sooooo bad, and I’ve been reading the second one for a week or so now, but other books have been getting in my way. I will read it! Soon!
  3. The Mortal Instruments series and Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare – I AM SO ASHAMED I HAVEN’T FINISHED THESE YET. Sad face. I’m working on it, though, and I hope to finish all of them either by the end of this year or sometime early next year.
  4. The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – I am loving the first book of this trilogy so far and I really hope to finish it by the end of the year, but these books are kind of chunky and there’s a lot to process so I hope to finish them by early next year.
  5. The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – Now that I have all three in paperback I can marathon them, which is what I’ve been planning to do. SO! Expect reviews… EVENTUALLY! This is a pretty popular/well known and loved trilogy so I really want to see what it’s all about.
  6. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I started the first book around the time the first movie came out and haven’t finished it. BUT I plan on marathoning this trilogy before the last movie so they WILL be read this year. I can do it! *fist pump*
  7. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead – I debated for a while on just giving this series away, but many people told me to just give it another try, that it does get better, so I’m going to try reading it again probably next year. I loved it when I started it years and YEARS ago, but after time it just didn’t impress me. So we’ll see what happens upon rereading it.
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – I’ve read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was ten years old… that was fourteen years ago, so I need a refresher for this epic series. I started it a while ago and never got through it because, frankly, they’re hefty books and I have them in a bind up so it makes it harder… Anyway, they will be read eventually!
  9. The Lord of the Rings trilogy + The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Yes, I know, it’s a travesty, really. But I started it and got about four chapters in and nothing really happened… Or barely began to happen, so I’ll have to keep going along. I know it’ll get better it’s just those first few chapters were kind of eh.
  10. The Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis – I bought these books for husband and was intrigued in them, myself, but I never actually picked them up to read them. I must remedy this! Sci-fi, romance, cool things? Yes please!

So there you have it, some series and trilogies that are complete that I haven’t finished yet. But I will eventually! I swear it!

What are some series you’ve started that you haven’t finished yet? Do you plan on finishing them? Let me know!

Rayna Recommends: High Fantasy

Welcome to another recommendation post! I figured I haven’t done one in a while and I really wanted to post something for the weekend (even if it’s a bit late in the day) so here it is!

Today I’m going to be recommending high fantasy books/movies/etc. What is high fantasy? It’s fantasy not set in modern times or in a modern setting with some sort of magical or out-of-this-world element. You’ll see below exactly what I mean.

Books

I can go on for days with books as fantasy is my favorite genre, but here are a few I highly recommend:

  • Falling Kingdoms” by Morgan Rhodes. This series is all high fantasy in that it follows four main characters – one of which has the ability to control the four elements – and is set in a world unlike our own. There is magic, Watchers (people that can turn into hawks and have powers), romance, blood, politics. It’s got a lot of elements that make for a good high fantasy story.
  • Throne of Glass” by Sarah J Maas. This series includes magic, as well, but with a twist: there is something in the land that is preventing magic from flowing on one continent. But among that there are kickass assassin’s, charming princes, loyal guards, sword fights, beings coming to life, witches, demons, faeries, and more. It’s set in a world apart from ours, making it a perfect setting for the story.
  • The Final Empire” by Brandon Sanderson. I’m not even finished with the first book yet, but I’m already recommending it. This book is phenomenal so far, featuring an interesting cast of characters, a magic system unique in its own way, and a world that is so sad compared to ours. It has enough to keep wanting to draw you in and wanting to read more and more and more. Highly recommend this one.

Movies

  • Nausicaa: Of the Valley of the Wind: This movie is beautiful and so under appreciated. This is an earlier film of Studio Ghibli’s but it still holds so much magic and wonder in it, with hints of politics, adventure, and more. This movie tells the story of a princess who is desperately trying to save her planet by stopping two warring parties from destroying each other and the planet they live on. It’s a deep and moving story, but it has its fun parts.
  • Avatar. Okay, this movie is phenomenal. I hadn’t seen it in years, but when I watched it recently I loved it just the same, if not more, than when I first saw it. It has beautiful imagery and lands, and it tells a great story about how humans are trying to steal from this planet, but the native people aren’t having it, even if some of the humans “disguise” themselves as natives: the Na’vi.  I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for something with romance, adventure, politics, and cool blue peeps.

Video Games

Hey, this is a new category! But I love games, so here we are.

  • Any Final Fantasy game ever. I love, love, LOVE this franchise so much: the stories are always amazing, the worlds are gorgeous beyond belief, and the characters are always unique and different from one another. I highly recommend any of the FF games to anyone. If you’re wondering, I’m currently replaying through FFXIII (I never actually finished it the first time around, but that’s a different story). Mind you, these games are extremely time consuming, so just be prepared for that.
  • Kingdom Hearts. I LOVE THIS GAME SO MUCH. I’m a major Disney fan, so when I first played these games years ago, I fell in love. It has fun, it has Disney, it has awesome characters, unique monsters, cool stuff. Just go play it. Right now. Go.
  • Ni no Kuni. This is a cute middle grade type game where it has so much adventure, a neat magic system, boss battles, and so much more. Yes, this may be tailored toward the tween/young teen age group, but I think anyone that enjoys RPG games will enjoy this one.

So there you have it! I could think of a crap ton of fantasy titles, but thinking of high fantasy specifically was a lot harder to do, but I managed to narrow it down! So yes, I recommend these cool things to you peeps; really, any age group can enjoy these as long as you have the desire to. Definitely give them a try if you haven’t yet!