July Wrap-Up 2016: Monsters, Mystery & Mayhem!

Hey everybody!!
This month I have read some pretty epic reads, but consequently have had writer's block, as I want to do these books justice, but feel that their almighty epic-ness won't be given the respect and admiration that they truly deserve. Also,  I think that a pretty good book may have suffered by being surrounded by all the amazing-ness. So I'm just going to grab a book at random, give'r, and hopefully you will want to reach EACH ONE because they're all pretty awesome.   

Also, I will be entering almost all of these reads in my Backlist Books Reading Challenge, hosted by Bekka at Pretty Deadly Reviews.

[Just spit it out!!]


July 2016

July 31, 2016

Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Knopf
Published: January 2007
Genre(s):YA, fantasy, romance, fairy tale retelling
Synopsis (via goodreads.com):
High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.
But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena's sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom--an impossible union it's up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love.

This is such a lovely read. Juliet Marillier has such a poetic way of writing that I think another book suffered by comparison! I would have read this 10 times as a young reader, and would read it again as an older one! Marillier definitely raises the bar for fairy tale retellings! Daughter of the Forest will take your breath away, as does Wildwood Dancing. Huzzah!

July 25, 2016 [Does not count twds Backlist Challenge as it's a new release!]

Author: Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Published: June 2016  
Genre(s): YA, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, supernatural
Synopsis: (via goodreads.com)  

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
[Not for me.]

July 21, 2016


Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publisher: Razorbill

Published: April 2015

Genre(s): YA, fantasy, dystopian, thriller

Synopsis (via goodreads.com):  

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
I'm going to finally review this so that my sister can read this amazing loveliness....

Sabaa Tahir has an amazing writing voice.

July 15, 2016

Author: Judy Blume
Publisher: Vintage
Published: June 2015
Genre(s): historical fiction, American 1950's
Synopsis (via goodreads.com):
In this brilliant new novel—her first for adults since Summer Sisters—Judy Blume takes us back to the 1950s and introduces us to the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she herself grew up. Here she imagines and weaves together a vivid portrait of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed during one winter. At the center of an extraordinary cast of characters are fifteen-year-old Miri Ammerman and her spirited single mother, Rusty. Their warm and resonant stories are set against the backdrop of a real-life tragedy that struck the town when a series of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving the community reeling. Gripping, authentic, and unforgettable, In the Unlikely Event has all the hallmarks of this renowned author’s deft narrative magic.
Because I work in a bookstore, I was aware that Blume had published another adult novel (but otherwise wasn't even really aware that she wrote for adults at ALL or that she had published anything in the last 20 years or so).

Most of Blume's YA and children's books got me through my 'tween's in the '80's. (Although Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret talks about having to learn how to wear a belt (!) for your sanitation needs and I was agog and slightly terrified at that prospect. Apparently I'm Next Gen for period stuff, but it was still good to read about all the upcoming awkwardness, and was even banned for doing so. The anti-Christian, amoral profanity! Honestly!)  

In the Unlikely Event is the amazingly true story of multiple plane crashes in Blume's hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950's. Her main character is about the same age that Blume was when three separate instances brought planes crashing into this poor town! I'm surprised it took her this long to write about it, but maybe, like the MC, she was still traumatized all these years later!

There's a list of Principle Characters at the beginning. MARK THIS PAGE. If you indulge in a reading frenzy and read, say, 100 pages at once, you most likely will remember who is related to whom, but even frenzied readers probably had to put the book down at one time, and that list is VERY helpful to get back into the swing of things!

The best part of Unlikely is how vividly Blume paints life, especially for women, in the 1950's.While some get the general gist, precise examples such as Gaby, the new stewardess, make you shake your head in wonder at how long ago (and how NOT so long ago) this was:
A quick look in the full-length mirror proved her uniform was smooth over her posterior. You never knew when the chief stewardess might show up to run a checklist, observing the dress and work habits of the girls... Gaby could have done without the required girdle but understood it was part of the whole package, and it served her well whenever some passenger in the aisle seat, usually a smoker ordering a drink, let his hand, accidentally on purpose, run over her backside as she was serving him (p. 276)
I will let you discover the requirements to even apply to be a stewardess back then. Hilarious and bat-shit crazy, all at the same time!!

One other thing to point out, are the weird-yet-timely coincidental political tactics employed by then Republican Senator John McCarthy and now Republican Delegate Donald Trump. McCarthy's tactics even coined the phrase "McCarthyism" which is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without evidence, or "the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism." Where McCarthy feared Communists, Trump fears Muslims; just this week he accused Obama of LITERALLY STARTING ISIS. (I wonder what history will coin TRUMPISM for? Too scary to even contemplate at the moment!!!)

On the whole, this is a great book. I feel it falls apart at the end when the MC meets up with her first boyfriend in present-day Elizabeth. Not quite sure why Blume felt the need to wrap the story up in such an odd, implausible (?) way, but there it is. Blume mostly balances the romanticized '50's with realism so effectively that you're not sure whether you wished you had lived during that "simpler time" or not! I mean, girdles. GIRDLES. I can't even wear Spanks. No thank you!



July 10, 2016


Author: Justin Cronin

Publisher: Balantine Books

Published: January 2012

Genre(s): sci-fi, horror, dystopian

Synopsis (via goodreads.com): 

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation...unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.



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