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10+ Ways to Read More - and a Blog Move

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Hi everyone!

I've moved my blog over to WordPress. I'm excited by the new functions available with WordPress and am looking forward to the change.

I have some new posts up there

I look forward to continuing my reading and blogging journey with y'all over there!

33 Books to Read After The Cruel Prince by Holly Black {While Waiting on Book 2}

Friday, June 15, 2018
After The Cruel Prince left us with that cliffhanger, I about drove myself crazy trying to think of what to read next while waiting for The Wicked King (book 2) to release next year.

So I did the only sane thing for a bookaholic to do and browsed through the past several years of YA books in search of reads to sate my bookish appetite until I can get my hands on a copy of book 2.

(I also added books that came to mind as I browsed, so there are some older reads present as well.)

To read the full list, visit the new blog site at Lost in Storyland.


To celebrate the blog revamp, I will be hosting several giveaways in the months of June and July. To stay updated on the new happenings, sign up for the newsletter on the new blog site and / or follow me on social media @crystalmusing and @lostinstoryland.

I'm really excited to share the new changes on the blog with y'all!


Let's Talk Books: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Saturday, June 9, 2018
I've read Holly Black's White Cat and The Coldest Girl in Cold Town. It was with these books that I fell in love with the magic that is Holly Black's writing, so I knew that I would love The Cruel Prince as well.

And I did.

Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on why I love The Cruel Prince, and I'd love for you to share your thoughts on the book as well—in the comments below, email, or social media (just shout me out - links in sidebar).

Next Friday, June 15th, come back to see my compilation of 33 books to read while waiting for book two. I'm really excited to share this post with you. I know how hard it can be to wait for the next book in a series. I hope to share some new treasures for you and for you to share some of your favorite reads as well!

To read my full review, visit the new blog location at Lost in Storyland!

To receive information about the giveaways that will be taking place there in celebration of the blog revamp, sign up for the newsletter or follow me on social media @crystalmusing and @lostinstoryland.

Monthly Musings: May 2018 ⇉ What Content Would YOU Like to See More on the Blog?

Friday, June 8, 2018
In this first edition of my monthly musings, I share 5 thing I learned, May loves, what I read, and 3 things I'm looking forward to in June. At the end, learn about some changes that are coming to the blog this month!

If you're here to answer the question in the post title and would like to skip all of this, then scroll on down to the comments.

I would love to hear your thoughts on May happenings, however, and to hear what's new with you!

5 Things I Learned

1. Ask before you sign up for an online summer class
I signed up for an online class this summer thinking that I would have ALL summer to do the work at my own leisure. Turns out there are set weekly deadlines. Not to mention that the first week of class was the week immediately after finals!

While the work's not too bad (it's a 2-credit class), I could have benefited by asking friends who have taken the class what the work schedule is like.

2. I'm a hoarder
While spring cleaning in May, I cleared out stacks of books and piles makeup. (Let's not mention the closet, which I have yet to tackle.) I hadn't realized how much I had accumulated over the years!

Have you had the same experiences with spring cleaning?

3. Take a day off regularly
During the semester, I was so busy with classes, work, and other obligations that I rarely took a whole day off to rest. The week after finals, I crashed. Regular rest is important, especially when you feel like you have no name.

4. Quality time is found in small gatherings
It's so very tempting for me to open hangouts to anyone who's available. A couple weeks ago, however, I attended a small potluck. Though I didn't know everyone present, the small gathering created an intimate atmosphere, and the conversation was rich. Everyone had a chance to speak up, and we learned things about each other that wouldn't likely come up in a larger group. I would love to hold more small gatherings in the future!

5. Drink LOTS of water when running a 5k
On Memorial Day, I ran my first 5k race. At 8 a.m. in the morning, in 90-degrees. And there was only one water station. From this experience, I learned that (1) I need to prepare better for the weather and (2) I need to drink more water before and during the race (and of course after).

May Loves

A year ago, my doctor recommended that I get monthly massages, but I didn't start going to a place until this past month. I wish I listened to my doctor sooner. Massages are so relaxing. I've become a fan.

Morning Walks
Now that I'm back home with family, I've been going on morning walks on the neighborhood trail. It's been a great opportunity to get to know some of my neighbors and to enjoy some fresh air before the heat wave comes in.

Essential Oils

The real prize this past month definitely has to be my essential oils premium starter kit from Young Living. I've been in the process of switching over to natural products, and I love the versatility of essential oils. Two of my favorites this past month have been Lavender and PanAway.

I've been using Lavender to help with my acne and also with my diffuser while I sleep. My diffuser has a setting where it diffuses every other minute, which allows it to function for ten hours. It's been really relaxing, and I wake up feeling more refreshed.

PanAway is a blend of essential oils with a soothing and stimulating aroma. I add 5-7 drops to a tablespoon of coconut oil (which acts as a carrier oil). I rub this ointment on sore muscles. It's soothing, and I like the aroma.  (Note: coconut oil has a strong smell, but a little ointment goes a long way, and the only scent left after rubbing it in is that of the PanAway essential oil.)

Do you use essential oils? What're your favorites? 

Or if you're new to essential oils and interested in learning more, I'd love to chat with you! Just send me an email or message me on Instagram!

What I Read

I read seven books in May. Three of them before summer break started for me!
  1. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
  2. Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist
  3. The Bible among the Myths by John N. Oswalt
  4. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
  5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  7. Cress by Marissa Meyer

3 Things I'm Looking Forward to June 2018

My gym buddy is getting married ♡
My friend Joy is getting married this month. She's been a blessing as my gym accountability partner, and I've enjoyed getting to know her this past year. I'm happy for her and look forward to attending her wedding!

Jumping on the audiobook bandwagon
Because my copy of Cress didn't arrive in the mail by the time I finished rereading Scarlet and the only copy available at the library was an audiobook, I gave the audiobook a try and fell in love. The audiobook narration brought the characters to life in a new way. Plus, it made doing chores a lot more fun because my brain had something to digest while my hands were at work.

I've requested a few more audiobooks from the library and look forward to integrating audiobooks more into my day-to-day life.

Merging my book and lifestyle blogs (right here at Imaginary Reads!)
Lastly, I made the decision to merge this book blog with my lifestyle blog. Right now, I'm the only regular blogger here at Imaginary Reads, and for the past couple of years, I've been doing a poor job of juggling the two blogs and their associated social media accounts.

Many of my upcoming lifestyle posts will be relatable to readers. For example, I'll be sharing some posts on time management and productivity. All for the purpose of making more time for reading in our lives, of course ;)

And, of course, there will be posts directly related to reading, such as how to make intentional time for reading on a daily basis and collection posts.

I'm excited for these changes and hope that you'll enjoy them too!

Question of the Month

What kind of blog content would you like to see more on the blog?

I'd also love to hear your musings on how May has been for you! :)

 (aka. Crystal)

A Thrilling, High Stakes Conclusion ⇉ Review of Winter by Marissa Meyer

Tuesday, June 5, 2018
The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite YA Fantasy series. (The other big one being Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.)

I'd like to say it's a bit of a mystery why it took me until now to finish the series, but after looking at Winter's pub date, I realized that it fell right smack into my first year of teaching. On the bright side, I got to spend the last couple of weeks rereading the series, so I got to pick up Winter as soon as I finished Cress :)

The final verdict: I love the Lunar Chronicles world. There are some little details that I didn't like as much, but for the most part, this is a great high-stakes sci-fi/fantasy/fairytale-retelling/romance series that I recommend to fans of these genres.


A Wide, Endearing Cast of Characters
Each of the Lunar Chronicles books introduces the subplot of a new heroine and her prince. There are also other fun side characters like Iko (but really, Iko). I like how the presence of the diverse cast members opens doors to expanding the world and furthering the plot from different physical locations in the Lunar world.

The Stakes Keep Rising
With the characters fighting for different reasons and finding themselves in various dilemmas, not to mention the moves made by enemy forces, the stakes keep rising. While there are moments of respite in the novel, these are few. For the most part, the stakes and resulting action keep the plot moving forward. This may be a large novel (at over 800 pages), but it's hard to put down.

Spending Time on Luna
After all the talk about Luna, it was exciting to finally explore the moon and the culture that has developed there over time.

Cinder Steps into Her Own
All this time, Cinder has been struggling with her identity—from being a cyborg, to being a cyborg AND a Lunar, to being the missing Lunar princess. In Winter, she finally accepts who she is and finds her voice. She's grown so much over the course of the series.


A Case of Too Many POVs
I love how much can be done with such a large cast of characters, and Marissa Meyer does a wonderful job interweaving the different POVs to flesh out the world and keep the plot moving forward. The problem with so many POVs, however, is that the story doesn't feel as consistent as it could be. Just as I got invested in one POV, I would be thrown into a completely different POV.

Lack of Girl (Friend) Time
The amount of time that the girls spend together is a fraction of the time that they are shown spending with their princes. Part of the reason is that events keep moving so quickly, and they rarely have down time, but I would have liked to see more scenes where the girls are together and need to work together to carry out their plans. Oftentimes, when the team splits, willingly or not, a girl and a guy end up together. I would have liked to see the girls' relationships developed more.

Most of all, when I think of the girls, my first thought is their personal identity. My second is the identity of their "prince." Other than Cinder, who has Iko, I don't think about their relationships in terms of other girls.

Where's Book Five?
Just Kidding. Almost.

I love The Lunar Chronicles and would have loved to spend more time in this world. (In a way, I do through Fairest, Stars Above, and Wires & Nerves.) That said, all good things must come to an end, and I look forward to seeing what else Marissa Meyer brings to us.


Overall, Winter provides a thrilling, high stakes conclusion to the series. I love The Lunar Chronicles and look forward to reading more from Marissa Meyers.


Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mark her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?


Who is your favorite Lunar Chronicles character?

Publication Info
  • Wires & Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Douglas Holgate
  • Published by Fiewel & Friends
  • On Jaan. 31, 2017
  • Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
  • Pages: 238 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
  1. Cinder
  2. Scarlet
  3. Cress
  4. Winter
  • Language (Swearing)
  • Violence

Boyhood Dreams + Love + Adventure + Fantasy World ⇉ Review of Magician by Ramond E. Feist

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Long long ago, I read Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist. Years later, I finally bought Magician: Apprentice and read the two books back to back. The Magician books are truly, as Feist explains in the foreword, a fantasy adventure that was written for the author's pleasure, and it is best enjoyed as a fantasy that fulfills boyhood dreams of love and adventure in a fantasy world.


A Fantasy That Fulfills Boyhood Dreams
The Magician books are best read as a story that fulfills the boyhood dreams of the protagonists Pug and Thomas and, in the process, the reader's dreams of love and adventure. While the two boys go through hardships, events seem to work out for them in incredible ways. To enjoy this book, it's best to put skepticism on hold and enjoy this book for the fantasy romance that it is.

Likable Characters
The protagonists and the primary supporting characters are likable and come from all walks of life.

A Tale of Two Worlds
I like how the story shows events that take place on both worlds. This gives insight into the culture and beliefs of both sides and, as a result, allows the reader to emphasize with both sides. War is complex; both sides have their reasons to fight. Magician shows this complexity.

Furthermore, despite the hopes of the characters, there is no simple resolution to the war in the end. Some of the aftermath is shown at the end of Magician: Master. I hope that later books show more of the consequences of the war.

Strong Female Characters
The female characters are more than a pretty face. To name a few of their traits, they can speak their minds, have attitudes, love fiercely, and survive trials. They fight alongside of the ones they love, and a few even take a turn at narrating events. I appreciate how we're given insight into their thoughts and struggles.


Under-portrayed Character Development
The characters are almost too likable and, as a result, can come off as bland and lacking in complexities. Their personalities don't entirely come off the page. While growth can be seen, in Pug and Thomas in particular, insufficient time is spent to fully portray the character development that takes place. This is in part due to the time skips and alternating POVs.

Too Many Trails to Follow

The war is fought on multiple fronts. For containing it in two books (long as they are), Feist does a good job giving the reader an idea of what is going on. That said, it also means the reader doesn't get the full picture, only glimpses into each front. It also means that the character development isn't shown to its full potential.

In the End, Who Wins the War?
Though the protagonists do their best to protect the ones they love, greater powers are at play. In the end, the outcome of the war is debatable. Despite the happy ending, things feel unresolved, and I expect to see some of these trails continued in later books of the Riftwar Cycle.


Overall, Magician is best enjoyed as a (for the most part) straightforward fantasy romance. It provided light, easy reading for me during a time of sickness, when my brain couldn't process complex thoughts. I recommend it to readers who enjoy fantasy novels that spend more time developing the characters, their relationships, and the socio-political climate of the world.


To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. His courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, but he was ill at ease with normal wizardry. Yet his strange magic may save two worlds from dark beings who opened spacetime to renew the age-old battle between Order and Chaos.


If you were to become an apprentice in a fantasy world, what occupation would you pursue?

Publication Info
  • Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
  • Published by Bantam Spectra
  • On January 1, 1993
  • Original pub date: October 1, 1982
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 485 Pages
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
Series: The Riftwar Saga
  1. Magician: Apprentice
  2. Magician: Master
  3. Silverthorn
  4. A Darkness at Sethanon
  5. [Note: there are other books in the Riftwar Cycle, but these four books complete the first saga set in the Riftwar Cycle.]
  • Alcohol
  • Kissing
  • Some sexual scenes / thoughts (not explicit)
  • Violence (not explicit)

Character Theme Songs for The Boy, The Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Happy book birthday to The Boy, The Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods!

Today, I'm delighted to share a playlist of character theme songs for this middle-grade novel. Alice, a former regular on the blog, helped me out with the content since I got sick over finals week and am still recovering. Alice is going through some health issues herself having had a bad fall recently, so I'm really grateful for her help.

As soon as I've had a chance to finish reading Matilda's novel, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the blog. If you enjoy lighthearted fantasies or magical realism for younger readers, you'll want to check this one out!

~ Kris


The Boy (Tito)

1. "O-O-H CHILD" by The Five Stairsteps
This song speaks to Tito's situation before he ran away. It provides the assurance that things are hard now but there are better times ahead.

2. "Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield
This song represents Tito's hope for a better life and his desire for a safe place to escape.

The Coffin Maker (Alberto)

1. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day
This song shares Alberto's loneliness after losing his family.

2. "Skyscraper" by Demi Levato
This song speaks to strength in forging a new life for himself after having everything taken away from him.


Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora's people.

Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto's kitchen, a door in the old man's heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too--but he's also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?


Do you make playlists for characters? How do they add to your reading experience?

Publication Info
  • The Boy, The Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods
  • Published by Philomel Books
  • On May 15, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 544 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
  • N/A
  • Age appropriate

This post was made as a part of the book tour of the novel by Matilda Woods.

Epic World Building + Intriguing Story = I Need Book Two Last Week ⇉ Review of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I found The Name of the Wind when I was looking up good (fairly) recent fantasy books to read. Kvothe's introduction to his life reeled me in with the promise of an epic story. (See synopsis below.) Rothfuss didn't disappoint.


Poetic Language
The Name of the Wind is filled with poetic phrases. While they bring images to life, they are also beautiful to read and give me something to anticipate in future rereads.

Compelling World
In reading this book, I can tell that Rothfuss is familiar with his world and its rules. (I read in an interview that he even did the calculations for use of sympathy, which is akin to magic but scientific in its processes.) There is much potential for future exploration of this world, not to mention that a big conflict seems to be brewing.

Complex MC
Kvothe is both endearing and frustrating. I like his curiosity and desire to learn, and he has a natural flair for entertaining crowds. However, he is also very aware of his intellect and giftings. He is arrogant and prideful, and he picks fights that he cannot win. He also has a vice in his attraction for something unreachable.

Unexpected Plot Twists
I love how Rothfuss takes the legends about Kvothe and reveals how they actually came to be. It's so much fun to see them play out.

An Epic in the Making
As I mentioned in my comments on the world building, it looks like something big is brewing. I read somewhere that Rothfuss has said that he has tricked readers into reading a prologue, and it's reassuring to hear that. Given how little of Kvothe's life is covered in book one alone, I'm guessing that this trilogy will be solely about the building of Kvothe's legend. Yet, the happenings in the present suggest that there is more going on than what has happened in Kvothe's life alone. I hope to see more of this world soon.


Thinks-He-Knows-It-All Teen (Belief in His) Invincibility
There were many things that Kvothe did that made me question his intellect. I list this under what I dislike because these actions were frustrating and had me mentally headbanging. That said, I appreciate his know-it-all attitude because it portrays the dark side of his giftedness. As a gifted child, Kvothe would be arrogant and do stupid things thinking that he'll go ahead and take the consequences later.

What's the Main Plot?
The Name of the Wind felt like a chronicle of Kvothe's early life. (Well, the series is called The Kingkiller Chronicle.) Nevertheless, I do expect to see some kind of plot.

Kvothe's story of his life doesn't have immediate tie in's to his present circumstances or the present-day conflicts, and it takes a while for an enemy to be introduced to us. Even then, many of his misadventures don't connect with the conflict, at least not immediately. I get that Kvothe has been through a lot in his short life, but I would have liked to see a more coherent plot, one that sets the stage for what's to come.

Where's Book Three?
This is more of a personal complaint and has no bearing on my actual rating of the book. I've seen a lot on the Internet on the lack of visible progress on the third book of this trilogy, which promises to be the start to a larger series. I can understand that Rothfuss wants to take his time to write a good book without the weight of the guilt and burden to finish for the audience. At the same time, the wait time isn't encouraging me to pick up book two. Nor am I eager to think of picking up book three because I'll likely have to reread the first books first.


Overall, the complexity of the world building, the depth of Kvothe's character, and the promise of an epic in the making easily makes this one of the top fantasy reads on my list. I sincerely hope to see book three released within the next several years so that I can see what Rothfuss has planned with The Kingkiller Chronicle. I wish him all the best in his writing and that he finds what he needs to complete the third book.



I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature--the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.


What are some of your favorite favorite reads / series?

Publication Info
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Published by DAW
  • On April 7, 2009
  • Original pub date: March 27, 2007
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 662 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle
  1. The Name of the Wind
  2. The Wise Man's Fear
  3. Door's of Stone
  • Alcohol
  • Language
  • Some sexual scenes / thoughts
  • Violence

Another Romance Novel . . . With an Oxford Setting and Frequent English Lit References ⇉ Review and GIVEAWAY of My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Oxford + Studies + Life Changes = a formula for a story. Having studied at Oxford before, the title caught my eyes. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on the novel along with a giveaway for a copy of The Oxford Year.


Oxford Setting
As the MC Ella shares, Oxford is considered by some to be a magical place where dreams come true. Having spent some time there as a student, I was intrigued to see how the author Julia Whelan portrays it.

Characters Who Know Their English Lit
Much of the banter between different characters involves references to and quotes from literary works, both poetry and prose. English lit fans will enjoy seeing these references.

Character Dilemmas
Though there is a strong romance focus, romance is not the only issue they're dealing with. For example, as the synopsis says, Ella has to choose between her political dreams and being there for the man with whom she's falling in love.

Moral Questions are Raised
Various things from political issues to relationship issues raise moral questions for consideration. These questions will get the readers thinking about their their beliefs on these issues.

Note of caution: controversial political issues are raised, and the author takes a clear stance on them through Ella's responses to them.


Flat Characters
The characters fit easily into stereotyped roles. Though the MCs do find themselves taking a different path than they initially envisioned, I wasn't made to feel for the characters and the changes they go through. Their stories are fairly straightforward; the characters lacked a real sense of complexity.

Predictable Plot
I felt like I was reading another soap opera romance. The plot was predictable; it never made me feel like the characters were in any real problem.

Heavy on the "Romance"

In the end, it felt like the book was all about the romance or, rather, the physical relationship and ensuing problems it causes when things get serious (in various ways). The situation in which the characters find themselves seems only to be like the backdrop to the romance.


The Oxford Year felt like a Harlequin romance novel reworked to target a younger audience with an interest in political issues, particularly those on the topics of education and women. This wasn't what I was expecting going into the novel and didn't end up being for me. However, readers who enjoy romance novels with a foreign setting and a goodly sized dose of politics may want to pick up a copy of this novel. If you're interested, scroll down to enter for a chance to win a copy!


American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.


Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master.

Connect with Julia
Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram


My Oxford Year
Open to the United States

a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you were to spend a year abroad, where would you go?

Publication Info
  • My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
  • Published by William Morrow
  • On April 24, 2019
  • Genres: Romance
  • Pages: 352 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
  • N/A
Mature Content 
(Highlight to See)
  • Language
  • Alcohol
  • (Premarital) Sex (frequent)
  • Terminal Illness
  • Political content

I received a copy for review from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Blood, War Horrors, and a Ruthless Protagonist ⇉ Review of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Tuesday, May 1, 2018
I'm always on the lookout for books with Asian protagonists, especially Asian-inspired fantasies. I love reading books with characters who look like me, and I love Asian mythologies.

I also read the author's "review" of her book on Goodreads and was intrigued by her comments on her work. (Though after reading the novel, I would caution against reading her comments until after you finish the series . . . since on hindsight her comments seem to cover the whole of the work and may potentially spoil the books for you or have you anticipating something that won't happen in the first novel or two.)


Asian-Inspired World
The Poppy War draws inspiration from Chinese history (the Second Sino-Japanese war). I like how the story incorporate elements of Chinese culture in a fantasy world. Because the inhabitants of this world look like me, and that rarely happens in the American book industry.

Intricate Worldbuilding
The world building is not at the scale of great books like Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but there is a fair amount lore in this book. I like that this is included because the lore of a people group tells you quite a bit about their history and culture.

That said, I do wish that more was shown about the people and culture of the different provinces along with the intricacies of their relationships. It feels like so much of the world building is focused on the mythologies. (Which is understandable given the nature of the "magic" in this novel.) Hopefully, we'll see more focus on the present day and culture in future installments!

Detailed Imagery
Besides the lore, this novel is heavy on the imagery. Of particular note to me, the imagery brings the setting and the horrors of war to life, the beauty of the world and the ugliness that may be wrought by the hands of humans (and gods).

An Intelligent, Inquisitive Protagonist
Rin is a bright, hardworking young woman. This aspect of her nature reminds me of some of my favorite books growing up, and I appreciate a protagonist that doesn't act on emotion alone.


Power-Hungry, Inconsistent Protagonist
Rin's ideologies have been twisted by the environment in which she grows up, and later they'll be influenced on the battlefield. Because of this, I can understand the reasoning behind some of her ideas and actions, if I cannot entirely embrace them. That said, she isn't entirely incapable of compassion. The problem is that her moments of compassion/regret/human-ness feel out of place because the context has not been set for them. These moments are too rare with little apparent motivation, especially when her thoughts contradict prior thoughts that she had.

Information Overload: Too Much Summarizing
It felt like most of this book was a summary of what was taking (or had taken) place. There were also a couple chapters that summarized what Rin was learning from her books and teachers. While some is needed in an academy setting, and in a fantasy world where the reader needs to learn about how the world functions, there was so much information being summarized (and in large quantities!) that it was dry and tedious to read.

As it is, it wasn't until I was over 40% into the novel that I felt like some action was taking place, but even then, large chunks of the novel still felt a summary of events. There were only a few scenes that felt like I was actually there with Rin on her journey and not being told what happened.

Sparse Dialogue and Little Side-Character Development
While the novel was strong in its imagery, it was weak in dialogue. There aren't many interactions between Rin and other characters, at least that we're shown, and when they do talk, conversations are short and not very revealing of the other character's personality or relationship with Rin.

In fact, the side characters aren't well developed. The most interesting character was her fellow Sinegardian student with whom she spends time on guard duty once the war starts. (I still think this student has something waiting for us to discover in a future installment.) For the most part, however, the side characters fit into tidy boxes and don't seem to contribute much to the story outside of these boxes.

Over-Revealing Synopsis
Most disappointing of all has to be the synopsis. While I understand that everything presented in it is important to the plot in some way, it gives away too much about the book and leaves little to be uncovered by the reader. In fact, it pretty much gives away the whole story, excepting the war's outcome, which is won't be resolved until a later book. (Which I don't consider a spoiler given that this novel is the first in a series.)


Much is left wanting with this book. There are quite a few inconsistencies with some elements being well done and others lacking. Few scenes drew me into the story, and for the most part, these were imagery-heavy scenes. All that said, the world presented to us in The Poppy War is creative and intriguing. While I wouldn't say that this is a great novel, it has presented a compelling villain. I am interested in learning more about this world and seeing what happens next.


When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.


For who or what cause would you be willing to kill?

Publication Info
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  • Published by Harper Voyager
  • On May 15, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 544 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series: The Numair Chronicles
  1. The Poppy War
  2. TBD
  3. TBD
Mature Content 
(highlight to see)
  • Language (fairly frequent cussing, including one that involves a part of the female body)
  • Death, Various forms of torture, rape, and other atrocities of war described in detail
  • Violence (explicity)
  • Vulgarity

From Brokenness to Abundance, a 60-Day Journey ⇉ Review of The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp

Saturday, April 28, 2018
The Way of Abundance is a sixty-day devotional. Each day features a bible verse, a personal anecdote, and questions for reflection. Ann Voskamp's poetic language brings to life the mess of emotions and the wholeness to be found in the midst of our brokenness. Her story gives hope that our brokenness will lead us to Christ on our journey to abundant life.


Inspiring Message that Conveys Biblical Truth
When we're breaking inside, it's easy to feel alone, to feel like nothing can make us whole again. Voskamp speaks to the broken ones where they are. She does this by sharing her own experiences with brokenness and by professing the hope that is to be found through Christ, who also understands our pain and suffering.

Captivating Use of Poetic Language
Voskamp's language is poetic and beautiful to read. They not only paint a picture for the reader but the emotions brought about by the moments she describes. I enjoy reading the words over and over again to appreciate the beauty captured by her words.

Short and Sweet Devotionals
The devotions are short, no more than a few pages long each, and there are only two questions at the end for reflection. It's encouraging for the busy individual or the one who has a hard time sitting down for long periods of time to journal. The questions can spark reflection at various levels; you can get as much as you want out of this depending on how much time you want to invest in answering the questions.


Purpose of Bible Verses Not Clear
At the beginning of each chapter, Voskamp includes a bible verse. However, they aren't referenced in the actual devotional, so the reader is left to guess why that particular bible verse was included. This purpose isn't always clear.

"Stream Of Consciousness" Style of Writing
Voskamp's poetic use of language beautiful and heart stirring, but it does take its time reaching the message for the day. I confess that there were times when I wanted something more concrete and to the point.


Overall, I enjoyed Voskamp's devotional and would recommend it to individuals struggling to find purpose in their brokenness or hardships and to individuals searching for abundant, joyful living. A beautiful hardcover book with a ribbon bookmark, this would make a good gift.


What do you do when you wake up and feel like you're not enough for your life? Or when you look out the kitchen window as dusk falls and wonder how do you live when life keeps breaking your heart?

In sixty vulnerably soulful stories, The Way of Abundance moves from self-weary brokenness to Christ-focused givenness. Drawing from the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestseller The Broken Way and Ann's online essays, this devotional dares us to embrace brokenness as a gift that moves us to givenness as a way to draw closer to the heart of God. Christ Himself broke like bread, giving Himself to us so we might have a lifelong communion with Him. Could it be that our brokenness is also a gift to the world?



Publication Info
  • The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp
  • Published by Zondervan
  • On March 13, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 256 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
  • N/A
  • N/A

A copy was provided for review by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own.

A Compelling World with Un-Compelling Plot Execution ⇉ Review of The Summoner trilogy by Taran Matharu

Thursday, April 26, 2018
I saw this book while browsing at Barnes and Noble over the winter holidays. The cover, then the synopsis drew my attention. Then I saw that this book is an overall fan favorite, and I wondered under what rock I've been hiding the past couple of year. (Okay, I was a new teacher, so that's my excuse.)

All that said, while I can see why this is a fan favorite—it has entertainment value—what I found was a series that lacks complexity and originality. Following is the breakdown of what I liked (the entertainment value) and what I disliked (aka. things that could have been done better).


Continually Moving Plot
Taran Matharu is good at keeping a plot moving. The chapters end on cliffhangers that have you wondering what will happen next. This may be a trait from the story's origin on Wattpad, where he first published the novel in a serial format.

Compelling Start to the Series
The beginning of The Novice is fantastic. I like how it establishes Fletcher's origins and helps the reader form a connection with him. Fletcher is a likable hero, if a bit of a Mary Sue, but I didn't know the latter at the time.

A World I Would Have Liked to Explore
The world is compelling. I like the premise of a blacksmith's apprentice summoning a demon (something unexpected in his world). That said, the series only gives us a taste of the world. I would have liked to see more exploration of the intricacies of the world.


Un-Compelling, Un-Complex Characters
There are characters that you like to like and characters that you like to hate. They all fit pretty nicely into boxed stereotypes. As much as I like Fletcher and his friends, I would have liked to see more character complexity. Give me a character I hate to hate, or a likable character with a fatal flaw, or a generally detestable character but with compelling reasons for his or her unlikable. (And so on.)

Unoriginal Plot
Though it has its differences, the Summoner trilogy felt like a poor re-enactment of The Lord of the Rings. It has the humans, elves, dwarves, and orcs. It has the heroes fighting against an orc army. It has the piece needed to rule them all....

I don't mind unoriginal plots. There are only so many stories that can be told. However, such plots need to be worked in a way that makes the story compelling in its own right.

Non-Existant Villain (Well, he may has well not exist.)
We keep hearing about the orcs being a dangerous force that needs to be stopped, but it's a while until we learn why they're such a threat. Even after we learn about the real threat that needs to be defeated, the villain rarely appears and doesn't live up to the hype. He doesn't have character.

Lackluster Conclusion
The series sets up an epic war in which the fate of the known world is at stake. So much time is spent off the battlefield, however, that the hype falls by the time Fletcher actually joins the battlefield. It's over before any suspense can build. The ending feels like a gift-wrapped package to make up for all the bad things that happened to Fletcher since he was born, not a proper resolution to everything that has happened.


While the world of the Summoner trilogy is intriguing, the plot is straightforward and superficial. The characters are stereotypical good or evil with minuscule growth, and the ending falls short of the hype that is built in the beginning. In the end, the Summoner novels fell flat for me.


When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.


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What's a novel that didn't live up to the hype for you?

Publication Info
  • The Novice by Taran Matharu
  • Published by Feiwel and Friends on May 5, 2015
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 355 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series: The Summoner
  1. The Novice
  2. The Inquisition
  3. The Battlemage
  • Violence

Not My Favorite Fantasy, But It Presents a Compelling World ⇉ Review of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Thursday, April 19, 2018
Ever since I first read Song of the Lioness, I've loved magical worlds with magical academy settings. I didn't get into the Shadow and Bone craze. (To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the original covers. They gave off more of a historical or Gothic vibe than a fantasy kingdom vibe.) However, many people have recommended this book, so I decided to give it a try. While it's not my favorite fantasy book, it is an enjoyable read.


Interesting world
While the magical kingdom/academy setting isn't anything unique, depending on how it's done, the world can be an interesting place to explore. The Grishaverse is a compelling world that offers much to explore (though it didn't capitalize on the intrigue in the end).

Characters that make you feel things (both good and bad)
While I had some problems with the characters, their interacts drew me into the novel and had me feeling all sorts of emotions. Especially because of all the plot twists that led to new developments in relationships.

Plot twist after plot twist
For the most part, this is a straightforward story. We know the main enemy (or problem), and we know our MC Alina is going to do something about it. However, twist after twist has us questioning who to trust.


Characters lack complexity
The characters fall into boxed stereotypes. While Alina's vague understanding of certain characters has us wondering whether we can really trust certain persons, this lack of understanding also mean that these characters lack sufficient complexity for them to be more than a stereotype without depth.

Simplistic plot (despite the twists)
As I mentioned earlier, this novel is a straightforward story despite all of the twists. While I enjoyed the new revelations being made, they weren't unpredictable revelations. I don't mind a straightforward plot. (Most stories are retellings in one way or another. What makes them unique is how they're told.) However, while it was a solid story, it lacked the familiarity that makes a story great. The familiarity that makes the reader feel like he or she gets the world, and is a part of the world, and is interacting with the world.

A largely unexplored world
There are suggestions of court intrigue, and we learn about the big problem lurking in the kingdom. However, for the most part, the story doesn't capitalize on the intrigue or buildsupon it.


Overall, this is an enjoyable read. I really did feel moved to flip through the pages and find out what will happen to Alina, her loved one(s), and the kingdom. There is a failure to build sufficient intrigue and character complexity to make me feel like the world and characters have come to life, but I do have an interest in reading more of Alina's story. I hope to see more character growth in the books to come.


Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.


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Between love and power, which would you choose?

Publication Info
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Published by Square Fish
  • On June 2017
  • Original Pub: June 5, 2012
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 416 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series: The Grishaverse
  1. Shadow and Bone
  2. Siege and Storm
  3. Ruin and Rising
  • Kissing
  • Making out
  • Violence and death

Blood, Beauty, and Tragedy: Let the Heads Roll ⇉ Review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Thursday, April 12, 2018
1. I love Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. (Even though I have yet to read the fourth book....for no good reason. This will be remedied this summer when I actually have free time!!!)

2. The description of the lemon tarts in the first pages.

For these reasons, I knew that I was going to love this book.

And because the Queen of Hearts is a villain, I knew that my heart would bleed for it.


Compelling Characters
Heartless is filled with quirky, imperfect characters whose personalities and backstories make them characters that I felt something towards. Many I loved to loved and others I despised. Even the one character that seemed too good to be true has his own complexities.

Beautiful Use of Figurative Language
Marissa uses figurative language to bring the world the life. I especially love her description of the lemon tarts in the first pages of Heartless. They sound scrumptious. The use of figurative language and imagery does decline as the novel progresses, but the writing is still beautiful and poetic.

Whimsical (and Interesting) World Building
Yes, we're in Wonderland, where most anything we can imagine comes to life. I love the whimsical world building.

A Star-Crossed Romance I Didn't Dislike
I like how the ones involved in the star-crossed romance are aware of the difficulties of their attraction and how these difficulties contribute to the the trials they face. I'm not always opposed to stories where the characters want to be together despite their differences, but I appreciate how Catherine is conflicted.

Stunning Cover
The cover is beautiful :)


Catherine's Indecisiveness Had Me (Mentally) Headbanging
I know this is a tragedy, and I know that bad things have to happen to good people for a tragedy to occur. And since this is the story about the making of the Queen of Hearts . . . good people need to make bad decisions. What is interesting (and a sign of fantastic character development) is how Catherine's upbringing and her own personality point towards her having the potential to become the Queen of Hearts, and we see her moving in this direction over the course of the novel.

That said, my heart bled many times over because of many of her decisions. And I kept hoping against hope that she wouldn't be the one to become the Queen of Hearts.

Mothers Who Push Their Own Agenda on Their Daughter
I got really angry at Catherine's mother. That said, this is also one of the good elements of the story (because it means Marissa Meyer did a great job bringing this character to life).

That Rushed Ending
In the last quarter of the novel, the plot picks up speed. Events are thrown at us one after the other, and the book ends almost before I realized it was coming. It felt rushed. I was almost okay with it because it reflects the chaos in Catherine's heart, but in the end, it really was too rushed for my liking.

A Tragic End (That I Was Coming) (But, okay, it was well-done for the most part)
"If only" . . . I can't count the number of times I thought these words. Plus, that adventure we almost had, except it got cut short prematurely. Because this is a tragedy, and you need to know this going in.


This is not a book to read if you love happy endings. If you love books that explore character relations and what drives people to make the decisions that they do, however, this novel is thought-provoking. It is poignant in its bitterness and beautiful in its dark poetry. It compels the reader to ask what is underlying the surface of the whimsical nature of Wonderland to reveal the darkness lurking beneath. And it portrays the human heart—showing us that the same forces that can be used for good can also be used for evil depending on circumstances . . . and the decisions that we ourselves make.


Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. 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 an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.


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What is your favorite retelling?

Publication Info
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • Published by Feiwel & Friends
  • On November 8, 2016
  • Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
  • Pages: 453 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
  • N/A
  • Kissing
  • Violence