Five Fantasy Series You Should Read While Staying Home

Hopefully you’re staying home, staying healthy and safe while we figure this pandemic mess out – my library closed yesterday until further notice, so I’m home with some free time and plan to get caught up on my Goodreads reading goal. I’m several books behind (oops) so I believe I can get caught up in the next couple of weeks or however long the quarantine is going to last.

You may be looking to catch up on reading too – I hear so often that people don’t have time because life is so busy. Now is your chance! I’m sharing five fantasy series I love and since we’ll be in for a while, I thought series were the perfect choice because you can binge the whole set at once!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Shelved in young adult, this steamy faerie action/romance series is definitely NOT for the younger crowd. The first book starts off as a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” and the action only ramps up from there.  After ninteen-year-old Feyre kills a wolf in the forest that turns out to be fae, she’s kidnapped and taken to the faerie land of Prythian to pay the price.

In the subsequent books in the series, “A Court of Mist and Fury” and “A Court of Wings and Ruin”, Feyre struggles with the decision to become fae herself, a set of trials set forth by the Queen Amarantha and her own family being put in danger. Of course there’s also a love triangle and if you are looking for something steamy, this trilogy delivers. 

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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Billed as Harry Potter for grownups, this three book series turned television show follows Quentin Coldwater, a young man who discovers a secret college of magic located in New York City called Brakebills.

While attempting an old spell, Quentin unleashes an ancient evil called “The Beast” on the school. Quentin and his friends attempt to defeat the “The Beast” and discover along the way that Fillory, a fictitious land much like Narnia, is actually real. 

This is a fantastic series for adults with a lot of literary elements that make it a joy to read. Some of the characters are downright unlikeable, but it’s still one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read for adults. 

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

If the cover doesn’t draw you in, the story definitely will. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is inspired by West African mythology and revolves around Zélie Adebola who is discovering that magic has not completely left the world even though all the maji have supposedly been killed. In a race against time, Zélie set outs with a rogue princess to bring magic back and launch a revolution against a tyrannical regime hell bent on wiping people like her out for good. Don’t let the size intimidate you – at 544 pages, this is an intense book to dive into, but well worth it for the supreme storytelling and lush world building.

Described as Black Panther but with more magic, this inventive new series is the next big thing in young adult fantasy. Only the first two books are out, so if you don’t mind waiting for book three, this is the perfect series to keep you entertained while hanging out at home for the next couple weeks.

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The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinderella as a cyborg? These reimagined fairy tales follow Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White through a futuristic world where people of earth, cyborgs and people from a lunar colony are experiencing extreme tension. 

An evil queen is trying to wipe out earth’s population with a plague, so Cinder, along with several other classic fairy tale characters team up to try to defeat her and save both Luna and Earth. There are four books in the series (along with a few short novellas) and the entire series is a fun, sci-fi take on the classic stories you know and love. 

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The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I had to throw a classic in here! After Harry Potter, “The Chronicles of Narnia” is my next favorite fantasy series. C.S. Lewis opened my eyes to a whole other level of storytelling as a child and re-reading it as an adult is a unique experience as well because you see the allegories that you missed as a kid.

Narnia is a fictional fantasy land that various children find over the course of the seven books. Most notably are the Pevensie children who first find Narnia by a secret door in the wardrobe. Talking animals, witches and fantasy creatures play important roles in the stories, as does the great lion Aslan, who helps the children overthrow the White Witch’s control over Narnia in the first book.

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Those are just a few of my favorite fantasy series! Got any recommendations for me? Be sure to comment and tell me what you think I should read during all my newly found free time! Happy reading – stay well, safe and practice good social distancing and cleanliness. We’ll all get through this together.

Best Books of 2019

It’s that time of year again! I always have fun blogging my favorite reads of 2019 and this year I set a goal to read 70 books. Toward the end of the year, I struggled to complete it because we moved, my cat died and life got super busy with a new position at work. However, I managed to complete my goal just in the nick of time!

Here are some of my very favorites published in 2019. Have you read any of them? Let me know what you think and tell me about some I may have missed!

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

41weZhY-JLL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Imagine getting a call that your daughter has been kidnapped and the only way for you to get her back is to pay a ransom, then kidnap someone else’s child. You can’t go to the police, target the children of law enforcement or politicians and if you don’t complete your assignment within twenty-four hours, your child is dead.

So begins The Chain, an elaborate kidnapping ring that’s been going on for years.

Twists and turns abound in this thriller and what’s even more terrifying is how realistic the plot can be. The story moves very quickly and you will have a hard time putting this one down!

 


The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

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Every summer, Sadie vacations with her family in the town of  town of Littleport, Maine, spending most of her time with her best friend Avery who lives in the town year round. The girls are inseparable, but one summer, Avery is found dead.

The police rule it a suicide, but Sadie isn’t so sure. And some of the townspeople act like she’s to blame, casting suspicious glaces in her direction whenever she’s in town.

So Sadie sets out to figure out what exactly happened to her friend, to both clear her name and put her friend to rest.

The Last House Guest is another page turner from author Megan Miranda. The ending wasn’t easy to figure out, which is always a plus when it comes to mysteries!

 


Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book is phenomenal. If you love music, especially 70s style rock, you will be in 91yzz1aYgeLheaven when you read Daisy Jones & The Six. The format is written in oral history style, which took a few chapters to get used to, but once you have that down, you’ll be riveted by the story of a band’s rise to fame, then subsequent fall from stardom during the 70s.

Is it based on a true story? Possibly. It definitely feels like maybe Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac are the inspiration behind this fictional account, but who really knows. I’ve also heard the audio is exceptional, so if you enjoy listening to audio books, give it a shot in that format and let me know what you think.

 


Recursion by Blake Crouch
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Helena Smith’s mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s and she wants nothing more than to bring back her mother’s precious memories. So she begins experimenting with a new technology that will preserve special moments in life while also allowing them to relive learning to drive, getting married, the birth of their children or the last few moments with a loved one who is about to pass over into the afterlife.

Blake Crouch remains one of the best science fiction authors out there and this follow up to Dark Matter is stellar. Earlier this year, I wrote a more in depth review of Recursion, so be sure to check it out.


Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
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Take everything you know about the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella and toss it in the trash! This story about Isabelle, the step sister who cut off her toes so the glass slipper would fit, is brilliant.

Her whole life, Isabelle has wanted to be like Cinderella and it’s left her wanting. So she sets out on her own adventure, thwarting evil plans for the kingdom and redeeming herself in this fractured fairy tale.

I couldn’t put Stepsister down and you won’t be able to either.

 


On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

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This was just as good as “The Hate U Give.”

I really enjoyed the plot and plight of the main character, Bri, as she deals with the struggles of the inner city and trying to make it as a teenage rap star. The rap battles reminded me a lot of the movies “8 Mile” or “Patti Cake$,” and I liked the subtle connection to T.H.U.G. It’s pretty awesome that Thomas wrote the rap songs/lyrics herself instead of having someone else do it.

Thomas is a wonderful new voice in YA fiction and I’m really excited to see where she takes us in future novels.

 


The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

During their sixteenth year, the young women of Garner County are banished graceto the wilderness. They’re thought to possess a magic power as they’re coming into adulthood that affects both men and women, so they’re sent out into the woods to overcome the magic and return on their seventeenth birthdays pure and ready for marriage.

Not many make it back home – there are poachers out in the wild, ready to kill them and sell their bodies on the black market. They also turn against each other.

Tierney James wants to change all that, but surviving her grace year and starting a revolution in her society will come with great costs.

The Grace Year is a mix of The Handmaid’s Tale and a female version of Lord of the Flies. At times it can be brutal, but it’s an excellent story that leaves you with an uneasy feeling. Definitely recommended for fans of dystopian with a feminist edge.

 


The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern

starlessZachary Ezra Rawlins stumbles upon an ancient book hidden deep within the library’s stacks and as he’s reading the enchanting story, he discovers he’s a character in the book. Stunned that a story from his childhood exists within the pages of a book, Zachary sets out to find out how and why he became part of the story.

The clues – a bee, a key and a sword, lead him to a secrect society and masquerade party held deep in an underground library and readers are treated to an adventure like no other.

Erin Morganstern, who is best known for her debut novel, The Night Circus, returns in this highly anticipated sophomore novel. It’s masterfully written and honestly, there’s no one else this good out there at the moment. I hope it won’t take her another eight years in between novels, but if all the rest of her books are as good as The Starless Sea and The Night Circus, they will certainly be worth the wait.


Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Book two in the spectacular series that kicked off in 2018 with Children of Blood and Bone. Zélie and Amari struggle to unite the kingdom of Orisha as Amari triesCOV&V_JKT_Trade_032819.indd to assume her spot on the throne. Her mother and brother have other plans though, and with the return of magic to the land, the maji find that the opposing side also has access to those powers and are using it against them.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance is a non-stop thrill ride that leaves you wanting book three immediately. There’s romance, action and fantasy and Adeyemi remains one of the top writers in the young adult fantasy sphere. If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you waiting for??

 

 

 


 

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Holiday Gift Guide for Book Lovers

When it comes to buying gifts around the holidays, think outside the box when buying for the voracious reader in your life. Sure, gift cards to Barnes and Nobel are great, but there’s so many awesome literary themed items out there that you can easily get them something unique to go along with the trusty gift card.

I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites I’ve found out on the web and hope it will be helpful to you when you start your holiday shopping!

Pins are IN!
Enamel pins have made a huge comeback in the last couple years. They add personality and flair to clothing, bags or anything you want to put them on. Here are a few favorites that the reader in your life is sure to love.

Literature Ladies Pin                  The Very Hungry Caterpillar      What Would Hermione Do

Show your Love for the Library
If you have a librarian in your life, or even someone who just loves to wear library themed clothing and accessories, then be sure to check these adorable finds out! The library due date head wrap comes from The Lemondime and there are still a few left. You can use my code RETROREADER for free shipping.

 Library Due Date Head Wrap                      Library Stamp Tee              Due Date Mug

For the Home
Readers love a cozy space! What better gift than making their reading nook feel and smell even better? This pillow is so cute and features some classic titles screen printed on the slipcase.

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Wild Geese Bookshop sells Harry Potter themed candles! I am not sure if they ship, but if you are local to the Indianapolis area, they have several scents to check out.

This library scented candle will have to do if you aren’t able to pop in to Wild Geese!

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Clothing & Jewelry

Alex and Ani have the best Harry Potter Jewelry. Each month there’s a new bangle, but they also have necklaces, rings and other unique items.

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The Book Was Better sweatshirt from Mod Cloth

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Bookshelf skirt, also from Mod Cloth

I hope you were able to find something unique for the reader in your life! If you come across other things you think NEED to be on this list, drop the links in the comments so others can check them out.

Happy Holidays!


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Non-Fiction Round Up

I’ve been reading quite a bit of non-fiction over the past few months, so I thought I’d share some of the more interesting titles along with a short review of each. I try to read both in and out of my comfort zone so I get information from all viewpoints.

Confessions of A Secular Jesus Follower
by Tom Krattenmaker

Tom Krattenmaker is a USA Today columnist on religion whose writings have appeared in many publications. In this book, he shares how one can follow the teachings of Jesus without confessions_jesusprofessing to be a born-again Christian.  I was pretty fascinated by this book. As a life-long conservative Christian, it was hard to wrap my brain around the concept of a secular Jesus follower. The author is very clear that he follows the teachings and examples Jesus set forth in His time on earth but he rejects the notion of salvation or heaven/hell.

While I think it’s commendable that he’s choosing to live his life the way Jesus taught, I feel he misses the point of Christianity all together. We’re saved by grace and have a sin nature so even if we try to lead a perfect life, we can’t. Which is why not everyone will simply do good because they can – without Jesus as our Savior, evil and sin creeps in causing all that is bad in this world.  Still, this was a really interesting read and very thought provoking. It sparks a little bit of a challenge to Christians and non-Christians to live more compassionate lives.

The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving A Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost
by Donna Freitas61gcHkEepOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Social media is meant to connect us to each other, especially when families and friends live hundreds of miles apart and friends. While it’s a great tool for keeping in touch, it’s also turning us in to narcissists, bullies and liars.

In this book, Freitas  interviews over 200 students and it’s mostly essays on how social media is affecting them. While the book was interesting, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Maybe it’s because I’m in the generation that uses Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter constantly but I didn’t find out anything that shocking. I would definitely recommend it as a source for a research paper and others who might be interested in how social media is affection our youth’s culture and perception of the world around them.

Women Who Work
by Ivanka Trump

51kauwY0hJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ A guide for women starting out in their careers with the intention of equipping the reader with the best tools and advice on how to navigate interviews, shifting careers, taking on leadership roles and balancing family and work.

The good: there is some worthwhile advice here for young women starting out in their careers although I doubt most people will get past the Trump name and actually give it an unbiased read.

The bad: Ivanka was born in to privilege. That’s not to say she doesn’t work hard but she definitely has had an advantage over most people. Also, she relies way to heavily on quotes and thoughts from other people to flesh out the content, which I feel is lazy writing.

The verdict: not terrible but there are better reading options out there, like…

#GirlBoss
by Sophia Amoruso

A self-made entrepreneur, Sophia Amoruso went from sketchy teen to successful owner18667945._UY475_SS475_ of the online Vintage shop Nasty Gal. I especially LOVED the fact that right off the bat, she states #GirlBoss is not feminist manifesto and opens with:

“Is 2014 a new era of feminism where we don’t have to talk about it? I don’t know, but I want to pretend it is. I’m not going to lie — it’s insulting to be praised for being a woman with no college degree. But then, I’m aware that this is also to my advantage: I can show up to a meeting and blow people away just by being my street-educated self. I, along with countless other #GIRLBOSSes who are profiled in this book, girls who are reading this book, and the girls who are yet to become a #GIRLBOSS will not do it by whining — but by fighting. You don’t get taken seriously by asking someone to take you seriously. You’ve got to show up and own it. If this is a man’s world, who cares? I’m still really glad to be a girl in it.”

AMEN. I get so tired of today’s whiny feminists. I’ll admit, if it hadn’t been for the Netflix show that I randomly decided to watch, I probably wouldn’t have picked this title up, but I found it to be funny, truthful and pleasantly surprising.

Daring to Drive 

by Manal Al-Sharif

In 2011, Manal Al-Sharif filmed a video of herself driving a car down the streets of Saudi Arabia. Even though there are no laws existing stating women can’t drive, it’s culturally unaccept51DTuKgAgeL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_able for women to do so. Her video went viral, she was arrested for “driving while female” and so began her path to activism.

Al-Sharif’s paints a very real picture of what it’s like for a woman to live in an Islamic country. The book is heartbreaking at times – her parents (and later her husband) beat her and both she and her sister are child victims of genital mutilation.  For a time, she embraces Islamic extremism until 9/11 happens and she begins to question how that strain of her religion could carryout such a horrific act.

An inspiring and eye opening memoir that will challenge and enlighten readers. I highly recommend this title for anyone seeking to understand Islamic culture and Women’s rights abroad.