5 Simple Ways To Read More Books (And Hit That Reading Challenge)

As an avid bookworm as well as an all-around busy person, it’s near impossible to find time to sit down and read. Even so, it’s not even halfway through the year, and I’ve somehow (even I’m surprised) managed to read over fifty books so far in 2018. This is a massive step up from where I was three years ago, barely managing twenty or so a year!

Many of us make new years promises we can’t keep when it comes to books. Trying to hit a mystical number of ‘read’ ones so that we can impress ourselves, our friends, and feel better about how we spend our time. But reaching that goal can certainly feel like an uphill battle, especially now when some of us are entering June with none of that glorious progress made.

The biggest secret (which isn’t so secret) is that you have to make time for reading in order to actually make it through that tower of books that are threatening to tumble on you when you add another one to the reading list. I’ve assembled a short list of tips that helped me find more time to read, and I’m sure can help breeze through your pile of books.

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  1. Social Media Blackout 

The biggest book distractor is that little brick in your pocket with access to the entire known universe. Your phone, your computer, your tablet… they’re so useful and yet so addictive!

Want more time to read? Turn the phone on silent for 30 minutes. Put it in a separate room.  Let it charge in quiet. Resist the urge/habit to check it for those 30 minutes: this is your time to enjoy your book.

For some, this is going to hurt. It’s going to feel like a punishment: anyone who’s grown up with the fear of having their phone taken away knows that feeling. But remind yourself this is your time for you. Not only will it give you more time to read, but you can focus this time on being more mindful as well.

Enjoy the freedom of being disconnected, and soon 30 minutes won’t feel like enough. See if you can extend this amount every day. And you don’t have to limit this to your phone or your computer: do you watch a lot of shows on Netflix or TV? Tell yourself to watch one episode less every day.

2. Figure out your reader type

What kind of bookworm are you? An early bird? Night owl?

When it comes to reading, everyone is different. Here I am stating the obvious again! Test out how you like reading at different times of the day to see how it feels. Personally, if I read for an hour right after waking up, I feel refreshed: but if I read before going to bed, no matter how good the book is, I can barely keep my eyes open.

Find out what time you get the most out of reading and stick to it. Some people like reading over their lunch breaks, riding the food-coma and using books to put them back in the ‘zone’ to work. Or you might like reading right after dinner, maybe taking a long bath.

Trust me: if you read at the wrong time of day, it’s going to feel like a chore and it’s going to take forever. And that’s exactly what we don’t want.

3. Squeezing in every second

I would spend my days reading if I could, but dangit, there are chores. There’s work. There’s food to be made. If you’re like me, you know that life gets in the way of a good book.

But it doesn’t have to. I’ll put food in the oven, and pick up a book, reading until it’s time to take it out. Reading while waiting on a washing machine to finish its job. Reading while on hold on the phone.

And if you have a long commute (or even a short one) books are your best friend. I read most of the Game of Thrones series while riding buses to work! And if you drive, consider audiobooks: many libraries allow you to borrow them, and it’s a great way to get your reading done while keeping your eyes on the road.

Reading is a great way to turn a chore into a minor inconvenience. Heck, it’s rather nice to take a break from your daily life and explore another world in between two loads of laundry.

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

4. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Want to read more books? Read faster! Wow, it sounds really condescending when I say it like that. But it’s true: like any activity, you get better with practice. The more you read, the faster you read, and the more books you’ll consume. So how to read more books? Read more books!

if you want to speed up the process, there are many apps that can help you become a speed reader. The first one I ever used was Spreeder: you can customize the speed at which test flashes on the screen, and it teaches your mind to process more text, faster. It’s a great skill to learn and there are so many apps out there to help you.

The trick is to realize you don’t need that voice in your head reading the words to you aloud. Think about it: you started reading by sounding out sounds when you were a kid. Then you learned to read inside your head by imagining those sounds internally. Isn’t the natural next step to do without the sounds completely?

Once you learn how to do that, you suddenly read entire lines at once. You’ll have entire novels read in a single day! This is even better for textbooks, which are dense in information and not (usually) full of fun and joy.

5. Ditch the Doldrums

Now I’m going to tell you the exact opposite of what I said above: you can read more by reading less.

What I mean by this is that some books are not worth your time. Seriously. If you can’t make it through the first few chapters, then why force yourself to make it all the way through the book? Learn to accept that not every book needs to be finished, and move on.

Seriously. You’ll find more time for reading and enjoy it more if you read the books you want to read. Ditch dull books. Toss out the poorly edited. You don’t have to read anything.

But what if it’s a classic? So what, it’s not working for you. You gave it a good try, move on.

But what if everyone says it’s amazing? Not every book works for everyone. If they did, we’d all be the same person, and that would be dull as heck.

But what if I have an essay due on it? Exception: if you’re a student reading for an assignment, ignore this advice and push yourself through it. Use the other 4 tips. Some books do actually have to be read.

Reading is supposed to be a joy. Something you do for fun, to spend a good time hallucinating wildly while staring at dead trees. So don’t be afraid of abandoning a book just because you don’t like it: think of the time you’ll save for books you’re going to love!

What do you think? Do you have any advice to give? Leave them in the comments below!

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Alienation Blog Tour + Exclusive Excerpt

Readcommendations

Welcome to the Alienation BLOG HOP TOUR!

Please take your seat and strap yourself in, as we take you on an intergalactic tour. You will be amazed, entertained, and educated. Manoeuvre through the cosmos and be astounded at all you see. Hunt down the hidden words that will get you to your final destination where a one-of-a-kind award awaits one lucky traveller.

We’re here to celebrate the release of Alienation, book two of the humorous Sci-Fi series, Starstruck!

Alienation Large

Sally Webber’s dream is coming true: Zander is back and taking her out for a night on the town–on a planet hundreds of light years away from Earth. 

But when an accident separates her from her alien tour guide, she’s thrown into the seedy underbelly of an insane city where nothing is as it seems. Suddenly lost and desperate to get back home, Sally is willing to do anything to get out, even if it means accepting spontaneous marriage proposals, crashing some fancy parties, or joining what appears to be the space mob. 

All she wanted was some decent interstellar pizza, but now it might be the end of the world as evil nanobots and an out of control AI try to take the universe by force, and the only one who can stop them is missing in action. Sally has no choice but to try to stop them herself–if she can stay alive that long.

Pre-order your copy now!

Alienation is the fantastic sequel to the hit sci-fi comedy, Starstruck by S.E.Anderson.

Today’s word is: Undercity.

In the Dark


And now – the Exclusive Excerpt!

Da-Duhui.

This alien place now had a name: a word I could throw into my mind to classify everything I saw. To make sense of it. Da-Duhui. A city, light years away from my home.

Blayde decided this was the best time to close the window. Instantly, the air in the room shuddered and took a breath, as if a filter had been turned on. I breathed easier, relishing in the freshness.

She jumped down to the floor in a classy superhero landing, then looked up to check her handiwork. Five pairs of feet raced past the window, shouting muffled words.

“Are we… are we safe, here?” I asked.

Blayde shrugged. “Sure, so long as we don’t touch anything else.”

“And where are we?”

“Da-Duhui,” she said, cocking her head sideways. “Are you in shock? You realize we just had this conversation?”

“I got that bit,” I said, glancing around, “but what’s this place?”

“Museum? Art gallery? Could go either way,” said Blayde. “Try not to touch anything. There’s probably more alarms here than there were in that last place.”

“So, you have been here before?”

“M’yeah,” Blayde muttered. She pulled a tattered book from her inside pocket: her journal. She flipped through the pages, a look of intense concentration on her face. Her lips turned to form into a small frown. It was a look I was beginning to think was permanently baked into her features.

“I’m pretty sure we have,” said Zander, forcing concentration, as if that would help him stare back in time and bring up the memories locked in his mind. “I have no idea when, but recently enough that I recognize it. I know it was a good trip, though.”

“I’ve got two lines in the journal,” Blayde said, jamming her finger at the page as if to squash a bug. “Visited Da-Duhui. Avoid for a while. Don’t eat the pizza. And that’s it, so not much to go on.”

Zander rubbed his temples, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Hopefully some memory will surface,” he said, suddenly back to his usual cheerful self, “How long ago was it?”

“Before Ja’karon. Now, that was a good time. We should have taken Sally there.”

“You were almost eaten by a swamp-beast, and you tried to sell me into marriage with the earth king. Yeah, that was fun.”

“Don’t be so dramatic.” She grinned, slamming her journal shut. “He obviously liked you. And I didn’t get any complaints from you. Anyway, it was much more interesting than Da-Duhui, where the only thing I cared enough to write about is their bad food.”

“This place is plenty interesting,” said Zander, “and most of all, it’s safe. There’s no drama: just a good, classic alien city to show Sally. Harmless.”

Blayde let out a snort, making me wonder just how harmless this place was. If her idea of fun was narrowly avoiding death, I wanted to stay away from the places she gave five stars to on Yelp.

“We just escaped deadly fumes and a gun squad, Zander,” she said.

“But the upper levels are really nice.”

“If we can get Sally there in one piece, yes.”

“Which we will.”

“All this for dinner away from earth?” Blayde looked at me now, squinting in doubt. “You get much better food on her planet. I think. Honestly I wasn’t around long enough to check.”

“This isn’t about the food, Blayde!”

“Then again,” I said, “if you mentioned to stay away for a while, that’s probably for a reason, right? Should I ask…?”

“Ask all you want, but I don’t have an answer,” Blayde said as she stuffed her journal into the inside pocket of her red leather jacket. “You can’t expect me to remember everything. My mind has much more interesting things to focus on.”

“But it is safe, right?” I asked. My eyes glanced at the window the security guards had run past. Had they seen our faces? Would they come looking for us?

The siblings exchanged long looks. Blayde communicated with her eyebrows alone, raising and dropping them as she shifted through a wide range of expressions. Zander seemed to understand her, sort of; after a minute of watching her emote a variety of eyebrow poses, he let out a sigh and broke eye contact.

“As safe as it possibly could be,” he answered. “Crime rate is null on the higher levels. But you don’t have to worry about that: We’ll make sure nothing happens to you. I promise.”

“What Zander means to say,” Blayde interjected, “Is that this is a fun trip, and definitely not business. So, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Remind me, what would a business trip for you two involve?” I asked. Blayde rolled her eyes. Typical. Well, I hadn’t known her all that long, certainly not enough to know what typical was. But it seemed typical enough.

“Let’s find something fun to do,” Zander said, rubbing his hands together with that smug grin on his face that meant something exciting was about to happen. The kind of grin that stretched too wide for his face. He looked like a kid in a candy store.

“First of all, let’s stop standing around this place, okay?” said Blayde, “it gives me the creeps.”

“Something gives you the creeps?” I asked, trotting after her as she walked towards the room’s only exit. “You? The immortal intergalactic space… what are you exactly? Travel blogger? A cop? An assassin?”

She shot me a glare. “I have a bad vibe, that’s all. Give me a break, will you?”

“Sorry, I just…”

Run run run run run!” shouted Zander, snapping my sentence in half, flashing past us in a whirl of black leather. His hand caught mine and tugged, and suddenly I was running after him, an alarm ringing in my ears.


 

Exciting, right? And only 10 days left until the release!

Follow this blog tour starting at your first stop UrbanHype101 and if you get lost in cyber space, come back to UrbanHype101 for the tour map.
There’s something new to read see or hear on each of these stops.

Don’t forget to hunt for that special word and if you find ALL of them, send them to scavengerhunt@bolidepublishing.com and you could win a signed copy of Alienation and a gift pack of unique swag. This contest is open internationally.

16h October Buried In Bookland

Starstruck and Alienation Add

The Masked City

By Genevieve Cogman

Well this is embarrassing! I read this book on the plane a few months back and completely forgot to review it, even though I loved it. So I reread it yesterday to give it the attention it deserves, right before I read the third book and share it with you. Oops!

Librarian Spies. Alternate realities. Dragons, Fae, and high technology. Heck yes, I absolutely love the universe Cogman has created in the Invisible Library series. We reviewed the first one not too long ago and I admit, I could not shut up about it (and still can’t!).  So, needless to say, I was excited to return to it as fast as I could. She did not disappoint: The Masked City – a direct sequel to The Invisible Library – was fun and exciting, a fast read I could not put down.

Summary28186364

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the fae. With this act of aggression, the fae are determined to trigger a war between their people – and the forces of order and chaos themselves.

Irene’s mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it’s always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or face death.

Musings

We return to the beloved characters of Irene and Kai, as they continue their work in the slightly Chaotic London. Irene, as Librarian in residence, has a lot of responsibility, but has begun making friends, and continues to train Kai as her apprentice, keeping his Dragon heritage a secret. I was afraid we would be ‘stuck’ in this universe, since Irene was assigned to it, and wondered how the author could make it exciting, but trust me, we do not stay there long. That London has already told its story, and we’re going on a thrill ride threw new and exciting alternates, ramping up the excitement from the last book.

Kai’s been kidnapped, and it’s up to Irene to find him before the Dragons declare war on the chaotic worlds, or the Fae declare war on the dragons – whichever comes first. With the balance of the universe at stake, Irene has very little time, and very little help. While she continues with the support of both Kai’s uncle, Ao Shun, a powerful noble dragon, and of the library, she’s still alone and running head first into a chaotic universe. There’s going to be danger.

It’s so evident this novel was written by a book lover. While in the first novel we were introduced to the Library, an institution that collects and stores the most important works across all alternate universes, the sequel delves into the world of Fae, who feed off the drama they create amongst humans. Their lives revolve around story: how exciting is theirs? Irene is dragged in and out of the stories of so many Fae, making it near impossible to save Kai, though exciting to say the least. The care and importance Cogman gives to the love of Narrative really shows in her own work as well as the lives of the characters she creates. It’s a clever way of putting stories within stories.

And I just adore the locations. The Venice Irene visits is a perfect version of the place, like the stories you hear from friends: it’s always carnival, everyone’s in beautiful masks and riding gondolas around the city from expensive palace to cozy taverns. The High tech home of Kai, and the sudden trip to Marseille (mah home!) made me giddy and excited. And the Train… oh my gosh, the Train deserves its own book.

One thing I still don’t really like (same as in the first book) is just how much talk there is. Just in the sense that Irene has to talk out all of her ideas with others, going through every possible question and answering them. “Why did you do this?” “Why wouldn’t you do that?” etc gets tedious, and you wonder why she won’t just get on with it. As a reader, I can determine a lot for myself, and sometimes, it’s just better to move on. It’s just a stylistic choice I don’t really like, but it doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable.

But gosh, this is a fun series. The ending is a sharp cliffhanger and I’m so excited to read the next one ASAP. I love this universe, and I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about it!

Angel Eclipsed

by C.L Coffey

Sorry folks that I haven’t been reviewing as frequently as I’d like to! Midterms have been popping up left and right and it’s all I can do to keep up. Luckily, the amazing C.L. Coffey sent me the sequels to Angel in Training (which I reviewed not too long ago, here) and they offered a well needed break from my insanity here. Angel Eclipsed is a fantastic sequel to a fantastic book, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

26088931Summary

Six weeks ago, Angel earned her wings. Six weeks ago, Angel killed an innocent person. Six weeks ago, Angel set Lucifer free.

Michael doesn’t accept that Lucifer is alive, let alone free, and he should know – he was the one to kill him. Thankfully, Veronica and the cherubim are on her side, only they seem more interested in proving Michael wrong than helping put Lucifer back in hell.

Then there’s Joshua. Angel is convinced that the best way for her charge to stay alive is for her to stay away. The problem is that Michael is adamant she remain his guardian angel.

Can Angel keep her charge and New Orleans safe from the evil that is lurking, or will her own demons be their downfall?

Musings

It’s been six weeks since the events of book 1, and Angel is spiraling out of control. Depressed and mentally stuck in the moment she killed Lilah, she hasn’t eaten or slept, or even left her room for that matter. But when Joshua radio flares up, she forces herself up out of the house and back to save her charge. Step one was getting out of her room: step two is coming to terms with what she did.

The author didn’t skimp on the pain that accompanies guilt. Angel is truly suffering, with PTSD on top of her angelic guilt. So it’s not that easy, with all that on your shoulders, to try and convince the people around you that Lucifer has risen. Michael refuses to believe her, which just makes everything worse. Angel might have earned her wings, but she has yet to earn his trust – and him, hers.

Angel is now leading her own investigation into the unsettling club, “Bee’s,” that had taken up so much of her focus in the first book. But she’s not entirely alone: Veronica the cherub might be the only one who believes her about Lucifer rising, and she’s determined to prove it. With Joshua by her side, and a few new allies, the stakeout begins.

The novel focuses more on Angel’s growing relationship with her charge, Joshua. They both have definite feelings for each other, but everything is banned by Michael. A bit of “will they, won’t they” spices up the novel, as Angel tries to balance her work life and potential love life.

The only fault I could give this novel was that the pacing was off. The novel was pretty slow for the most part, without anything really happening until the last fifty or so pages: but dang, what an ending! I was so excited as the pieces fell into place, and I can’t wait for more. THAT ENDING! Luckily I have the third book to look forward to!

Also – I love the little jokes about Supernatural! fun little easter eggs for the reader. If you like the show, then you’d definitely love the Lousiangel series.

Happy Birthday to us! + GIVEAWAY

Hello Bookworms! Sarah here, announcing some pretty big news. Our Reacommendations Booklr has just hit 3,000 followers! Huzzah!

We’re also coming up on the second birthday of our blog. On November 27th, we want to do something special for each and every one of you who supported us.

As promised, as a way to celebrate our second anniversary and all the new followers, We’re having a giveaway! Whoopee! I will be buying two lucky winners the books of their choice!

giveaway

Logistics and things:

  • You must be following me on tumblr. It is a giveaway to thank our followers, after all!
  • One winner will be picked via a random number generator. Likes and reblogs of this post count! Just be nice and don’t spam your followers.
  • The winners each get to pick any book under $15 on book depository.
  • You have within 48 hours to respond back to me with the book you want, your name and address. So you have to be alright with giving me your info – no worries, I’ll keep it 100% confidential. Make sure you ask box is open so I can let you know that you have won.
  • I will be sending the books for the book depository, so this giveaway is open to every country it ships to.
  • For extra entries (and all my love) come follow our little baby bookstagram and our twitter!
  • The giveaway will end November 27th, the second anniversary of this blog.
  • If you do not have a tumblr, no fear. Comment on this post for an entry, and we’ll add you to the drawing.

And if we hit 4,000 followers before the anniversary, we’re adding a winner to the mix. Three winners!

Alrighty Bookworms, good luck! And Happy Reading!

A Study in Scarlet Women

by Sherry Thomas
Reviewed by SA

I absolutely love the character of Sherlock Holmes. I grew up reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, watching the shows and movies that were inspired by the character, ever pretending I could solve a mystery like him, too. So when I got a hold of this new series, I was skeptical: I have read many ‘female Sherlock’ stories, and almost all of them disappointed me. But this time, I think we have a winner: because this Charlotte Holmes manages to take the Sherlock trope and somehow make it entirely new again. I loved the book, and I loved her.

Summary28588390

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.
 
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Let me dismiss a few expectations right now: no, this is NOT a rehash of Study in Scarlet. Watson is not looking for a roommate and stumbling upon a genius detective and a case that needs cracking. This story is completely different, and completely new. The similarities are in some parts in name only, or incredibly subtle. In fact, if this book wasn’t being advertised as being Lady Sherlock, you wouldn’t see it all at once.  Right then, let’s move on!

The story opens with Charlotte Holmes being publicly humiliated, caught in the bed of a married man. Hello! She only intended to make herself ineligible for marriage, to force her family to pay for an education she could not be able to afford otherwise. But with the public shame, she’s now an outcast and a social pariah. If she wants to make her way as in independent woman in victorian London, she’s going to have to find herself a source of income, and fast. But with her genius mind, that shouldn’t be too difficult, right?

There seemed to be many stories going on here at once: the murders, which have left the inspectors baffled, and the story of Charlotte, a young woman trying to make her way in a world where women must know their place. I was fascinated by the steps she had to take, first to distance herself from the institution of marriage, and then just to get a job. It made me very glad to be living in the 21st century, where I can go to university to study physics and entirely fund my own education. And wear pants.

The mystery itself was a little slow paced, but I loved Charlotte’s insight as Sherlock. With the help Mrs. Watson, they establish a little scheme to allow Charlotte to take on cases while pretending her ‘brother’ Sherlock was ill. Every little deduction is incredibly clever, though required thinking as a victorian. In the end, the resolution of the crime came tumbling all at once, but it all made incredible sense, and tied in neatly with the ‘original’ Study in Scarlet. It was so clever!

While I loved Charlotte, I had to say that at times her character was a little inconsistent. She’s a genius, and yet doesn’t always see very far ahead. She’s a little stubborn and headstrong, rushing into some actions without thinking them through. And yet, she’s so relatable. Her love of food echoed my own.

So if you want historical fiction that will have you feeling like you’ve been plunged into the period, and a fantastic lady protagonist with genius intelligence, while at the same time a tribute to Sherlock Holmes? Then you’re going to want to read this book.

Only downside: we’re going to have to wait quite a while for the sequel to come out! Curses!

I received an Advance copy of this novel from Berkley Publishing. Thank you, BerkleyPub! 

Side Note: Charlotte’s story made me think a lot about The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Fowles), only with Sarah had been a little more proactive. 

Iron Cast

by Destiny Soria
Reviewed by SA

One look. That’s all it took. One look at the cover, and it was love at first sight. I picked up this book and devoured it excitedly. Oh, my gosh. It’s so good. Not only is it diverse, but it has an iron tight female friendship, beautiful prose, and it combines all the best genres. It’s at the same time YA, Historical Fiction, and Fantasy, with mad scientists, secret clubs, gangs, and superpowers. All of that on the eve of prohibition. What’s not to love?

Summary28818313

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

Ada and Corinne are hemopaths, able to manipulate people with their dangerous abilities. Ada charms your emotions to her will through her violin. Corinne can weave illusions with poetry. Together, they work for the Cast Iron, a nightclub which secretly holds illegal hemopath performances… and is the front for Jonny Dervish to run his hemopath cons from. After one con gets too big and goes bad, Ada is imprisoned in Haversham Asylum, a place designed to ‘rehabilitate’ hemopaths, and it’s up to Corinne to get her out.

I feel like the summary doesn’t do this book justice, because that’s where we actually start the novel: with a daring escape in the dead of night. Ada and Corinne make it back to the Cast Iron, their safe haven, only to learn that everything is now falling apart. More heists going wrong, fears of a mole, and now Jonny’s missing  and Ada’s still a wanted prisoner. And, to make matters worse, Corinne’s rich brother is marrying the daughter of the man who owns the hemopath institution she just broke Ada out of.

I absolutely loves Ada and Corinne. Their friendship was #ladygoals. They’re so close, able to tell each other everything and push each other to be better. They love each other in a way that makes you love them even more. And it’s not just them: all the secondary characters, the hemopaths and bodyguards working in the Cast Iron, all seem to form their own little family. They support each other through thick and thin, and it’s cool to see these complex characters working together.

Not only that, but the description of their abilities in use is just… lyrical. It’s beautiful. The author weaves together beautiful prose to tell just how the two women grip their audience. And they grip us, too, in the process. At the same time, we feel their fear of Iron. Hemopaths basically are allergic to it, repulsed by it: it burns their skin, and just being near it can make them feel ill. As a reader, we get both ends of hemopathy: the beautiful illusions and the awful pain.

The pacing of the novel is a little off. It starts out strong, with the break out, but then is a lot more easy going for a while. There’s a lot of mystery going on: there’s this feeling of cold, as everyone is trying to keep on running their own lives as things go south around them. But I almost, almost put this book down halfway through. I’m so glad I stuck through, because that’s when things really hit the fan and it’s gets crazy fast and exciting. So if you’re thinking of putting this book down, don’t! It has one of the most brilliant endings I have ever read!

You’re definitely going to want to read this book, when it comes out on October 11th. Thank you NetGalley and Amulet books for letting me read this amazing novel.

Looking for some Urban Fantasy? My novel Inside Out is available for free – no signup or anything required – for a limited time only. If you like the X-files, you’re going to like this! While supplies last. 

Dream Stalker

by Amy Hopkins
Reviewed by SA

It’s Saturday! Which means I’m going to share with you a fantastic self published book and give you your next favorite binge read. This week, we all need a little more magic in out lives, so I’m going to tell you about a series I adore: Talented, by Amy Hopkins. The first installment, Dream Stalker, perfectly blends a murder mystery with a divided magical world.

Summarydreamstalkernewblack

All Emma wanted was to sell her enchanted teas in peace; instead, she’s caught up in the chase for a killer who’s stalking the streets of London. He’s targeting half-bloods, people with limited magical ability. People just like Emma. The police are baffled by the long string of deaths, but they’re not willing to put in the legwork to make an arrest. After all, magic users can take care of themselves, right? Except, those with real power don’t give a damn about half-bloods. So, when Emma wakes from a strange dream that nearly gets her killed in the waking world, she knows she has to deal with it herself. With only her boggart shop-assistant and the two strange men who have offered to help, can she thwart the killer and make the city safe again?

In universe of Talented is just like ours, only with one small change: some people have magic. Oh, and there are the Fae. There are those with magic – the eponymous Talented – those without – mere mortals like us – and finally, the half-bloods, or half talents. With one magical parent, they have enough magic in their system to be considered above the mortals, but are shunned by the elitist Talented society. Caught in the middle, it’s hard to make do.

Emma is a fantastic character who captures this divide in society. She integrates herself in the community by fashioning magical teas, which she sells to mortals, fae, and talented alike. She’s got her trusty dog by her side, as well as Gibble, a boggart indentured to her family. So when she’s almost murdered in her sleep, she takes it upon herself to find who’s been trying to kill half-bloods before it’s too late.

What I love about her is just how darn relatable she is. At moments I felt like I was looking in a mirror. She’s kind, but a bit of a badass when she has to be brave. She loves her dog more than anything and is ruthless when it comes to finding the truth. Even when the secrets she needs to uncover have something to do with her…

The mystery is really fascinating and gripping. You really get pulled along for a wild ride, spanning across the city and another universe as well! Like a good Sherlock Holmes mystery, you can put the pieces together yourself if you’re paying close attention, and yet the ending and the reveal still manage to surprise you.

Hopkins has really managed to create a universe which feels real and plausible while at the same time capturing that little sense of wonder that made Harry Potter so much fun to read as a kid (and even now). A world in which Magic and Mortals walk side by side, but maybe not always with such enthusiasm. A world in which people born into both belong in none.

This is a strong start to what I feel is going to be a fantastic series. A lot of questions are answered but many are not, relationships are formed and may grow stronger, secrets are revealed that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next.

All books are available online, starting with the first one, right here!

 

Spontaneous

by Aaron Starmer
Reviewed by SA

When I started this book, I was laughing every five seconds. When I finished it, I was in tears. There’s just so much to say about Spontaneous, so much that makes me want to shove it at friends and tell them to read it now. It’s a brilliant, touching book which I can’t believe affected me so much.

Summary

23587115Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc.

Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation. As the seniors continue to pop like balloons and the national eye turns to Mara’s suburban New Jersey hometown, the FBI rolls in and the search for a reason is on.

Whip-smart and blunt, Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it while trying to make it to graduation in one piece. It’s an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard from the President of the United States.

When seniors at Covington high start spontaneously combusting – more like, spontaneously exploding – life starts falling apart. No one knows what’s setting people off, what’s safe and who’s next. It’s a little hard to keep things together when you could be a pile of goop one second later.

Mara takes it all in stride. A witty, intelligent young woman, her perspective on the disaster is incredibly refreshing. She’s not a moper, instead she tells the story as it is, infusing the horror with funny moments and sharing a memory worth having of the person who just departed. She’s incredibly relatable, one of the most human YA women I have ever read, and I found myself reading thoughts of hers and wondering if the author somehow saw into my brain. So many of my fears and anxieties ring true through Mara’s point of view.

She’s not perfect, she’s incredibly human, and I think that’s why she’s so much fun to read. She’s also snarky and crass. She swears a lot and lives a very healthy sex life. She deals with this dark subject in her own way, mourns without tears, and suddenly you’re wondering why it’s so funny. How can it be so entertaining?

You begin to really care about the people in the novel. Mara and Tess have such a fantastic friendship, and I’m a sucker for well written girl friendships. Dylan, the romantic interest, is such a fascinating and complex character. Their relationship is far from perfect, and I think we need more imperfect couples in our lit.

But here’s the thing: two thirds of the way into the book, there’s a twist that made me actually scream out in anger. And then everything just falls apart. I was going to talk about great adults for the seniors to look up to and trust, but no, they’re all assholes. I was going to talk about growth, but growing up also means growing apart. The author is constantly reminding us that life can change spontaneously, and that it doesn’t care at all.

Spoiler alert: you won’t get any catharsis from this novel.

The blurb says: Aaron Starmer rewrites the rulebook with Spontaneous. But beneath the outrageous is a ridiculously funny, super honest, and truly moving exemplar of the absurd and raw truths of being a teenager in the 21st century . . . and the heartache of saying goodbye. I Think it’s also the heartache of not being able to say goodbye. Of not being able to do what you think you’re supposed to. One of the hardest parts of growing up is learned that you can do everything right and still fail: that life owes you nothing. This book is a powerful reminded of that.

Spontaneous is the most human novel I’ve read in a long time. A book where I have so many questions left unanswered, and I’m going to have to live with that. A book that broke my heart and has me constantly looking over my shoulder in fear of the unexpected happening and taking everything away.

It’s also a book with characters that don’t fall into single categories. A book where everything is unpredictable. A book where you’re laughing out loud at moments that are grim and morose because Mara’s reaction scares even herself.

Yes, I absolutely loved it.

Thank you Penguin Teen for sending me a copy to review. You’re the best.

IRIS – Interview with ANDREW GATES

by Andrew Gates
Reviewed by SA

I have a special treat for you today! There’s a new book about to hit the shelves, and I just can’t wait to tell you about it. Iris is the science fiction novel you’ve been waiting for without knowing it: with the scope of Game of Thrones, and the feel of Asimov, it’s destined to become your new SciFi addiction.

irisebookSummary

The Surface was just ancient history…

Year 200, Atlantic Federation Calendar. It has been two full centuries since the surface of the Earth was destroyed and humanity retreated to the bottom of the ocean. No one is old enough to remember the world outside the station they now call home. Life is peaceful in this artificial world. There is no war. Crime is low. But questions are raised once an experimental submarine is attacked during a routine test mission. The enemy is unknown. There are no leads. For the first time in generations, a long isolated city will have to confront what may lurk above the surface.

This multiple POV novel is the perfect simmering science fiction thriller. Its character driven plot is brilliantly executed: the novel reads differently depending on who you follow, and who you want to believe. For some, the Atlantic station is corrupt and full of government cover-ups. For others, it’s just home. Good and evil depends entirely on who’s talking.

The worldbuilding here is remarkable. You begin to really imagine what life is like in this secluded base on the bottom of the ocean floor. At moments, it was claustrophobic, while at others it is a world of endless possibilities. The author fantastically shows us different lives down in the station, and through them we live this new, odd life.

But what if no-one knew the truth? A mystery simmers below the surface. What has attacked the sub? Is the Atlantic Federation good or corrupt? And where are the other stations that are supposedly down here with them?

I have to say, I love a good mystery. This novel is a killer thriller and the ending had me begging for more. So many questions left unanswered!

Luckily, some questions we might get answers for: I had the great privilege of interviewing author Andrew Gates about his upcoming release, and his plans for the sequels.

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An Interview with Andrew Gates

Readcommendations: Let’s start at the very beginning. Your novel is incredibly unique, combining some great SciFi concepts with exciting new ideas. Where did the concept for IRIS come from?

author-photoAndrew Gates: Great question! I haven’t actually gone into this yet with anyone.

The idea originally came to me when I was in middle school, if you can believe it. Back then the story was called Atlantis. A lot of it was the same. The main character was named Iris. She was a teacher. She lived in an underwater city in the future. The story only got to be like 8 pages or so. It didn’t really go that far. For years the idea was dormant.

In my senior year of college, I learned an interesting piece of trivia. Apparently, in ancient cultures all across the world, no matter where you are, the last color to get a word was always blue. You could be in ancient Egypt, Aztec, China, wherever. The last color to get a word was always blue. It’s the color that appears the least in nature, and even though it’s in the sky, ancient people would see the sky as nothing. The sky was like the absence of color. In fact, there are studies where they’ve found these isolated tribes in modern day and they’ve shown these tribes the color blue and asked them what it looks like and these isolated people don’t see it as anything different than green. But once these isolated people are told it’s blue, suddenly they can see it as its own color. So essentially, researchers have discovered that cultures can’t seem to identify colors until they have a word for it. I thought this was really interesting.

So I took this piece of trivia and I thought, what if in the future, our technology might move forward, but our general understanding of the world goes backwards? What better way to illustrate that than an advanced underwater city where nobody can identify the color blue? So then I started remembering this old story from middle school that never got off the ground and started to revisit this concept, only with the focus shifting. The color blue isn’t mentioned throughout the book, save for the final chapter. That’s why the series title is The Color of Water and Sky. It’s really all about the color blue, but not overtly so.

R: It’s such a dense novel, with so much going on! Can you describe the book in one sentence?

AG: Oh boy. It’s hard to do that without providing any spoilers. There’s an underwater city in the future and the people who live there think they’re safe, but now they may not be.

R: Coffee, or tea?

AG: Beer.

R: There seems to be an eternal struggle between “Traditional” publishing and then self publishing. How did you decide to self publish?

AG: I did a lot of research on that. My biggest hesitancy with trying to find an agent and publicist was that I would have to make a lot of edits. From what I could tell, it’s easier to keep the story the way I want it if I self-publish. I didn’t want a whole lot of people telling me how to change my story. I wanted it to be mine.

R: With a lot of different perspectives in the novel, there’s bound to be some favorites and least favorites. Who’s your favorite character from Iris, and why?

AG: Either Tracey or Sanja. Tracey is a paranoid anarchist. He’s a drunkard, blue collar guy. Sanja, on the other hand, prides herself on being part of the elite, where she feels in control. And interestingly, even though they’re enemies, they’re so similar. I think that’s the coolest thing about writing these characters. They’re so similar yet they think they’re so different. Anytime someone compares one of them to the other, they get so offended. Tracey is obsessed with anarchy and rebellion and Sanja is obsessed with totalitarianism and order. On paper, they might not seem the same, but they really are. They’re both skeptical of things that they shouldn’t be. They’re both worried about everything. And they can’t stand not being in control of the situation.

R: They were my favorite too. They’re incredibly complex characters, and the chifts in perspective make them such complicated people. But I’m getting off topic! What are your plans for the series?

AG: For a long time, I did not have an answer for this question. It’s only within the last few days actually that I have an answer. Everything I’m about to say is tentative and might completely change, but right now here is my plan: This part is kind of spoilery, so look away and skip to the next question if that’s your thing.

My original plan, back when I was just starting to write Iris, was to have four books. Iris was going to be the series name, not the book name. I was going to do four names that are single-syllable words starting with S. It would have been Iris: Sea, Stone, Sky and Space. But obviously that’s not what I decided to do. I abandoned that idea pretty quickly. I didn’t know how many books it was going to be after that idea, but within the last few days, I think I’ve settled back on four again. The tentative names are Iris, Kholvaria, Veznek and Hive. The scope of the story gets bigger and bigger with each book. It starts off very small and tight. The whole first book is in this small contained city. But as the series goes on, it’s going to get more and more expansive until we have an enormous world to play in.

R: That ending though… The second I put it down, I wanted more. So tell us, what can we expect from the sequel?

AG: You can expect the sequel to be a bit shorter and faster paced. Most of the questions you’re left with at the end of the first book are answered pretty quickly in the second book. Those that aren’t answered early on will be answered in book 3. The scope of the story opens up a lot and we see that there’s a pretty big conflict happening globally that the Atlantic Federation has been wholly unaware of. You can expect a lot of characters to return, even some you may have believed dead. We will also get a brand new perspective character, who I’m guessing might become my new favorite.

R: I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next book?

AG: It took me about two years to write Iris and another several months to do editing, promotional stuff, proofs, art and so forth. I expect the next book will take considerably less time.

Are you excited yet? Check out the official page for ore information, as well as the release date. If you’re a fan of hardcore science fiction, then you’re going to love The Color of Water and Sky!