the bookish life

my geeky love for books and bookish things

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Book Review – Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Zentner's The Serpent King absolutely destroyed me. It was fantastic and I completely ugly cried while reading it. That was actually a nice surprise, because the title and summary were kind of underwhelming. I avoided it for months before cracking it open, and I'm so glad I finally did. Seriously – go read it.

And guess what – Zentner has written a second novel! Be prepared for some more heart stomping in Goodbye Days.

Goodbye Days

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts. The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison? – Goodreads

This book is absolutely beautiful – definitely equal to Zentner's first book. I've been trying to pin down exactly what it is that makes his books so damn good. His world building is fantastic and the plots are solid – but that isn't what makes his books great. It's his characters.

Zentner has a talent for creating characters that are deeply flawed and incredibly realistic. I felt Carver's grief for his friends, and his fear for the future. I understood the rage of Mars' father and felt so much sadness for Blake's grandmother. These characters leap off the page and breathe.

I suppose it goes without saying that this book is incredibly emotional. I didn't ugly cry this time, but I felt so drained by the end. I don't regret reading it though. A book or author this good is rare, and I encourage everyone to pick up Zentner's books. Just grab tissues too.

5/5

Book Review – Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters arrived in the May Owlcrate – complete with an exclusive cover! I went into this book totally blind, which I think is always a good thing.

Eliza and her monsters

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. – Goodreads

This book is near perfect. The characters have nuance and depth, and the world Zappia has created is realistic and detailed. The artwork included is beautiful as well. But more than anything else, this book covers mental health amazingly well.

Social anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts – Zappia has covered it all with a level of realism and compassion that I haven’t really seen in YA fiction before. I could see myself in Eliza, and I felt for her on so many levels. I’ll admit, I teared up a bit at times too. I truly believe that this story could help so many teens that are struggling right now – teachers should add this to their classrooms and parents should take a look too. I know I’ll be recommending this book – a lot.

4.5/5

Book Review – RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

RoseBlood came in the January Owlcrate, with the theme Classic Remix. It’s marketed as a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, but I would call it more of a sequel.

RoseBlood

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known. – Goodreads

I saw the stage show of The Phantom of the Opera when I was young, before I really understood what it was. So I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with it through this book. And I will admit that RoseBlood has sparked an interest in the original book, but unfortunately, that’s the only good thing to come out of this.

Although Howard’s world is very descriptive, with a gorgeous setting, the story itself could use a lot of help. Simply put, Rune is a Mary Sue surrounded by flat, stereotypical characters: a bitchy female enemy, an inquisitive best friend and a stalker/broody soulmate. I was able to tolerate this kind of storytelling a decade ago (i.e., Twilight), but I’ve since lost all patience for it. Pacing was also off, with unexpected forward jumps in the story, and Rune giving a quick recap of what happened in between. It was jarring, and took me right out of the narrative at times.

I finished the book feeling like it was mildly entertaining, but not memorable.

2/5

Book Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval has been getting a lot of attention and love on Instagram right now. Some are comparing it to The Night Circus. While I don’t think Caraval is quite up to that caliber, it is still really good. Spoilers ahead!

Caraval

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. – Goodreads

Garber has created a beautifully detailed world that is both dark and magical. It has these layers that are slowly peeled away as Scarlett delves further and further into the mystery of Caraval. And it really is a huge mystery, which left me guessing and questioning right until the very end.

Characterization was a bit weak, but still pretty good. Scarlett is really the only character that is fully explored, while the Caraval players, her sister and father are a bit more 2 dimensional. And quite a few characters were able to cheat death – they literally came back to life at the end of the game. I feel like that lessened the emotional impact and really was my only issue with the book. But it’s a testament to Garber’s story telling skills that it really didn’t bother me that much overall.

Fair warning – this book has a heck of a cliffhanger, and is the start of a series. But it’s an extremely good story to kick it off. In this case, the hype is definitely warranted.

4/5

February Owlcrate – Run Away With The Circus

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an Owlcrate unboxing here – although they have made an appearance on my Instagram account. But this one is special, because it’ll be the last box I get for awhile. I love Owlcrate – as a company and a product – but my wallet needs a break. At least for now. Who knows, I may order future boxes if the theme really catches my eye.

Anyway, onwards with the bookish goodies! This month’s box is circus themed, which is awesome in so many ways. The circus has so much potential for themed goodies. While not my favourite, I do think this box is up there as one of Owlcrate’s best.

Circus Owlcrate

This month’s box included a gorgeous tote bag, designed by Evie Bookish. A black version was also available, but I’m really happy with the red. And it’s Night Circus themed, which is one of my favourite books.

Next up, a mini candle by Frostbeard Studio, called Le Cirque de Rêves – also Night Circus themed. The scent is a blend of caramel popcorn, roasted chestnuts and bonfire. It smells amazing, and now I’m dying for a full sized version!

Geek Fire Labs created a lip balm that smells like mini doughnuts – and it really does smell like fried pastries. I think I’ll use this sparingly, as the scent is a bit too sweet for me. The label is very cute though!

The playing card notebook was created by Attic Journals, out of recycled casino cards. I love the upcycling, and it’s really small and cute – I’ll probably toss this one into my purse for notes on the go.

The cute, circusy page flags are by Girl of All Work. I’m not the type to flag my books as I read them, but I could definitely put these to good use at work!

And then there’s the book. Guys, THIS BOOK! I have had Caraval on my Indigo wishlist for months, and as soon as Owlcrate announced the theme I knew it was coming. I’m beyond thrilled. Just check out the synopsis, it’s awesome.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. – Goodreads

I am itching to start reading this, and the reviews I’ve seen so far have all been positive. If any of you have read it, let me know what you think!

The Owlcrate theme for March is Sailors, Ships & Seas, which sounds like a lot of fun. It’ll include an item from Boy Girl Party, who makes really cute animal themed products. I’ll admit, I’m sad I’m not getting this box! As always, if you would like to sign up for Owlcrate, feel free to click here and use my referral.

 

Book Review – Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Of Fire and Stars was the book included in the December Owlcrate – and I was really excited when I received it. It’s an LGBT fantasy, set in a fictional kingdom. There’s magic, princesses, and political intrigue – fun stuff!

Of Fire and Stars

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire – a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine – called Mare – the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more. – Goodreads

For the most part, this book was a quick and enjoyable read. The plot was interesting, although I had figured out who the villain was early on, which put a damper on things. The two teen protagonists were well developed, but the rest all seemed to fall under the ‘clueless adult’ stereotype. But the romance was cute, and the story ended on a sweet note. I don’t know if this will develop into a series, but I think it has the potential to. Thankfully though, it did wrap up nicely enough that this could also be a stand alone.

I don’t sound enthused, but I am! Characterization was a bit rough, but the story itself was great. And I have high hopes for Coulthurst’s future novels (this was her debut).

3.5/5

November Owlcrate – Wonderland

End of the month – time for Owlcrate! This month’s theme was Wonderland. As soon as the theme had been announced, I knew what the book was going to be. And I’m thrilled!

Wonderland Owlcrate

Every item is obviously Alice in Wonderland themed:

  • Wonderland Elixir tea, created by Riddle’s Tea Shoppe and Adagio. It’s an Owlcrate exclusive and smells lovely. The tin is really cute too!
  • A metal bookmark by Authored Adornments. It’s handmade, and includes a bit of a book passage in it. I love bookmarks, so I know I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of it.
  • An Alice in Wonderland magnet by Evie Bookish. It’s beautiful and already stuck to my fridge!
  • Official Owlcrate pin. It features the same artwork as the item card that came with the box. I need to figure out how to display these pins, because they are all really pretty.
  • This month’s box has two books! Owlcrate has once again teamed up with Rock Paper Books (I love them), and come up with an exclusive cover for this paperback of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It also came with a bookmark with matching artwork. Love love love it.
  • And the main book: Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I am so excited to read this. I loved The Lunar Chronicles and have been eagerly anticipating the release of this book. And as an added bonus, the cover is an Owlcrate exclusive. So happy!

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. – Goodreads

This is definitely the next book on my TBR list. Next month’s theme is Epic, and it’s supposed to include an item from Harry Potter. Should be a good one. As always, if you are interested in signing up, feel free to use my referral link.

 

September Owlcrate – Darkness

My September Owlcrate actually arrived earlier in the week, but I’ve been too sick to take pretty pictures of the goodies. So finally, here it is! The September theme was Darkness.

September Owlcrate

This is Owlcrate’s Halloween box for the year, and it’s pretty nice – there was a lot in it.

  • Throne of Glass inspired candle by The Melting Library. It smells like a dessert, and I can’t wait to light it.
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children pouch by Out of Print. It’s gorgeous, but I’m still trying to figure out what to put in it!
  • Bath bomb from Da Bomb. I’m definitely not the type to sit in a bathtub, but I have a couple people in mind who would like this.
  • Crooked Kingdom bookmark by Evie Bookish. I haven’t read the series yet, but it’s on my TBR. And I love bookmarks! The art on it is beautiful.
  • Owlcrate Darkness pin. I love the pins that have been in the last few boxes – I’m a sucker for pins.
  • The first book/episode of a new serial called ReMade. I believe the first four episodes are already available wherever you buy ebooks. It looks really good.
  • And finally, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. It’s a bit dark, supernatural and apparently frightening. Looking forward to reading this one. And of course it came with a letter from Blake.

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown. – Goodreads

So that’s it. October’s theme will be Once Upon a Dream, and is going to feature something inspired by The Wizard of Oz. I love love love The Wizard of Oz – I can’t wait! If you’re interested in signing up, feel free to use my referral link.

 

August Owlcrate – Fast Times at YA High

It’s finally here! My August box was stuck in Customs for 2 weeks this time – I really hope Canada Post gets it together soon, because the last 3 months have been ridiculous. Anyways, even though they totally didn’t have to, Owlcrate gave the Canadians affected a discount on the upcoming September box. Thank you so much Korrina and Robert!

Back to the box. The theme for August was Fast Times at YA High. Not my favourite theme, but Owlcrate has never let me down – so I wasn’t worried.

August Owlcrate

Guys, the Hogwarts print by Susanne Draws is stunning – I love all the little details. I’ve thrown it up on my fridge, but I’m seriously considering buying a frame for it. The Hogwarts button, Chapter Raptor button and Rainbow Rowell necklace are really cute, and I’ll definitely be putting the Decomposition Notebook to good use. I’ve avoided the adult colouring craze up till now – the busy patterns actually make me anxious. But I think I’ll be able to find a good home for the colouring book and the crayons.

The August book is P.S. I Like You by Kasie West. Owlcrate describes it as the perfect summer read, and it does sound pretty fun and light hearted.

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? – Goodreads

The letter included from West is really sweet – it’s one of my favourite author letters that have come in the boxes. And the signed bookplate was a nice touch. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this box.

Next month’s theme is Darkness, and will feature an item from Out of Print! I am thrilled about that – I love their products. Interested in signing up for Owlcrate? Feel free to use my referral link here!

July Owlcrate – Good vs Evil

This month’s Owlcrate is a bit different. The theme is Good vs. Evil – and no one knows what side they’re going to get until mail day. Well… I got Good!

I really like the swag in the Good box, and am kinda glad I didn’t get Evil. First up is a full-sized Funko. The Good box came with either Dobby or Luna Lovegood – and I got Dobby! That was really lucky, as I already have Luna sitting on my bookshelf. And now she has a buddy.

Next up is an engraved wooden necklace by Vector Engraving. They’ve been featured by Owlcrate before – I have a TARDIS magnetic brooch from them that I love. The necklace this month is the Millennium Falcon. It’s beautiful.

Also included is an Alice in Wonderland magnetic bookmark by Jane’s Tiny Things, and an Illuminae sticker from Drop And Give Me Nerdy. I’ve added the bookmark to my growing collection, and the sticker is already on the lid of my laptop.

Owlcrate Good Box

Last, but never least is the book: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. The summary on Goodreads sounds a bit dark, but really, what should I expect from a box with this theme?!

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 Schwaba 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. – Goodreads

I’m looking forward to reading it. I can honestly say, that this is one of my favourite Owlcrate boxes yet.

Next month’s theme is Fast Times at YA High, which should be a nice blast from the past. Apparently the box will contain some Eleanor & Park themed jewellery. Rainbow Rowell? Yes please! I’m predicting something involving headphones.

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