A Few Updates, Bonus Content

I’m Coming Back, I Swear: Blogging Hiatus Update

Hi bookish friends! It’s been awhile, huh? Though I wish I could say that this is my “return” to the blog, I have some more things I need/want to take care of before I make my true comeback – a few of which I am thrilled to be sharing with you today!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my update on my personal/bookish life where I shared that between my three jobs, school, and just the craziness of life these days, I just haven’t had time to create content that I’m proud of. I’m all about quality over quantity, and I want you all to be able to see that in my posts each week, which I knew would not be the case if I kept my current blogging pace in the midst of what I literally had to get done each day.

Though I am not one who often experiences reading slumps, I found myself getting so bogged down with reading and homework for school that I just haven’t wanted to pick up a single “fun read” in MONTHS. Since I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to lately (or at all, really), I’ve lost a lot of my inspiration for my posts. As you can probably surmise, the struggle to write quality reviews is REAL when you’ve basically shunned all reading that wasn’t required for school for a solid four months.

Now that you’ve read my little soap box that I am sure so many of you can relate to, let me get to the fun stuff: what’s to come in the next few months! The biggest news I have to share is that I am currently taking this long break from college to overhaul my website (new design, creating a fabulous new logo, and much more!) to make it both more user friendly and more warm and welcoming for you guys. I have also been brainstorming and writing brand new content that I am so looking forward to sharing in the new year. Not sure if any of you are into giveaways, but if you are, keep your eyes open 🙂

Lastly, I wanted to thank those of you who have been following this blog since day one and those that have recently discovered this “passion project” of mine. I absolutely adore being a part of this wonderfully bookish community, and I hope that you all will be willing to stick around for this next adventure.

May the rest of your year be filled with some fabulous reads that make the end of such a wild year merry and bright! See you soon, friends!

–Sarah

New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Haze by Rebecca Crunden

Pages: 265

Publisher: Independent

Release Date: August 6, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary with Paranormal Elements

Format: PDF Copy from Author

*** I received a copy of Haze from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts/opinions in the review below are all my own and have not been influenced by this exchange in any way.***

Goodreads Synopsis

“When Eliza Owens gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a girl she’s never met, she doesn’t know what to think. The girl introduces herself as Paige, and says she used to date Erik Stern, Eliza’s fiancĂ©. What’s more, she has something important to discuss.

The only problem? Paige has been dead for years.

Believing it to be a sick prank, Eliza tries to force it from her mind until Sam, Eliza’s older sister, tells her she met Paige only a few weeks before. And, according to Sam, Paige has nothing nice to say about Erik.

The fight which follows shatters the lives of everyone involved, and Erik disappears without a trace.

Five years later, Erik returns to town after his father’s death. Old wounds quickly resurface, and with them several burning questions. None the least of which is: Who spoke to Eliza and Sam if it wasn’t Paige? And why?” 

What Did I Think?

To describe this book in a few words …. dark, mysterious, and downright spooky!

The overall concept of Haze fascinated me from the get-go. The vibe is probably split 50/50 between contemporary and paranormal, which I found really intriguing, given that I haven’t encountered other books with such an even mix of both before. Though the narration isn’t truly alternating between our main protagonists, I found myself really enjoying learning about what Erik and Eliza were doing separately just as much as I liked the moments when the story was being told with them in the same location. I’m a total sucker for anything in books that breaks from the normal text, so seeing those journal entries pieced into Haze was so cool to see. Though the main plotline of the book is pretty intense and serious, I think the humor in the dialogue between characters kept me engaged and from getting too sad about the events that sparked our characters’ adventures. While Haze isn’t something I likely would have picked up on my own due to it being on the darker side of things, I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace and exploring a novel with an overall concept so different from anything I’ve read before.

Though I’ve never experienced half of what Eliza, our main protagonist, has gone through in her life, I found myself so sympathetic to her cause, even when she turned to not-so-great habits to cope with these hardships. After the death of someone very close to her and another just up and leaving, it seemed perfectly reasonable for Eliza to crack and sink to her lowest point. I appreciated the realness we got to see from her character during this time even though it totally did break my heart to read about. However, Eliza’s fiery personality we see at the very beginning of the book is never fully smothered. I lived for the moments when she would put her foot down and stand her ground, even when I thought she was totally crazy for doing whatever it was she insisted on — it’s the effort and drive that counts, right? My favorite moments from Eliza were those where she used her inner strength to help pull others out from under the control of their own personal demons (though it was a little hypocritical in some instances). It didn’t happen often, but I couldn’t help but appreciate this compassionate yet insistent side to Eliza that I also think helped her move past her anger and bitterness for life. As a whole, I liked Eliza’s character okay, though I did find it difficult to connect with her in any real way outside of just being sympathetic to the struggles she has been going through since tragedy struck.

I found that I had a stronger connection with our second main protagonist, Erik. While I couldn’t connect with the tragedy he’s had to face and the people of Riverside’s general wariness of him due to his father’s past sins, I think his reserved yet sincere personality is similar to mine, making it easier for me to understand his motives (even if I didn’t always agree with how he approached things). I appreciated the fact that while Erik has made some pretty terrible choices in life, he does his absolute best to atone for his actions and make it up to the people he’s hurt. I also loved the fact that he didn’t hide what he was feeling or mince words — he’s always quick to tell Eliza how he feels about things, even though she did her best to avoid any emotional topics (to her own detriment, I think!). Overall, Erik’s charismatic nature was kind of hard to resist, and I couldn’t help but respect him all the more for how hard he tries to make up for time lost in Riverside with those he cares about.

I’ll be the first to admit that if there had been no Miles in this book, there’s a good chance it would have been way too dark for my psyche to handle. This dude brought all the humor, laughter, and a good time to all the situations he was put through and did so with a great attitude. I loved the banter he carries on with both Eliza and Erik, as well as how he wasn’t afraid to give them a piece of his mind when they needed it. I think everyone needs a friend like Miles in their life — funny, loyal, and ready to face whatever comes his people’s way right along side them!

While I very much enjoyed Haze, there were some things I wasn’t super keen on. One of the main issues I had dealt with the lack of development from the main characters. I thought there were so many times where a moment would help one of our protagonist start to change course but never did. While not all characters have to have a huge amount of development, it just seemed like all of them stayed relatively stagnant throughout the course of the novel — I just expected so much more from them, in the end. I also had some issues with pacing. I’m a huge fan of fast-paced plots, but this one almost moved TOO fast, leaving some plot holes and the storyline feeling rather incomplete in the end. I think slowing down the action and spending some additional time on transitions (i.e. making it clear when a character left one place to go to another, as one example) would have made the plot a little more clear and easier to follow. The only other component of Haze I just wasn’t sold on was the ending bit. No spoilers, but it just went too far into the paranormal. Did I enjoy it? Totally, but it didn’t work for me in terms of consistency with the rest of the book.

Haze is a quick read sure to satisfy any reader’s paranormal contemporary romance craving! It was spooky, funny, and a whole barrel of mystery I had a blast uncovering alongside our crew of characters. If you’re looking for a dark, ghostly read to get you in the mood for the fall season/Halloween, Haze would be the perfect choice!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

***NOTE: While nothing is necessarily explicit, there are certainly mature themes mentioned on more than one occasion (drug usage, some components of romance, and violence) that you should be aware of before giving Haze a read!***

If you are a fan of the New Adult/Adult paranormal/paranormal romance genres and don’t mind a substantially dark read, Haze is the perfect choice for you!

I’d also recommend Haze to fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Don’t Look Back and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series.

Monthly Reading Recaps

Monthly Reading Recap: August 2020

Hi, bookish friends! I’m back at it again with another Reading Recap for you guys, and I decided to try something new. Since my college classes just started back and I am doing a lot of reading of traditional texts, I thought I’d include these in my reading recaps each month. So, you’ll get to see what I’m reading for fun and those I’m reading in my LITS seminar class — cool, huh? Let’s get going on this thing then, what do ya say?

What I Read This Month

Let’s Break It Down

New Books Read: 3

New Novellas Read: 0

Book Re-Reads: 1

Novella Re-Reads: 0

Monthly Total: 4

Average Rating of this Month’s Reading: 3.66 stars

Favorite Read of the Month: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Most Surprising Impressive Read of the Month: The Odyssey (Emily Wilson Translation)

Least Favorite Read of the Month: The Mahabharata

Ratings

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)

If you read last month’s recap, you know that I was super upset to have had to list one of JLA’s books as the most disappointing read of the month. Well this month, my JLander heart overfloweth with joy because From Blood and Ash was FANTASTIC!!!! This is Jennifer L. Armentrout’s first adult high fantasy book, and it had just about everything I could have ever wanted in a book in this genre: a kick butt female protagonist, a very mysterious love interest, a truckload of romance, plot twists at every turn, stunning world building, and an ending that shocked the living crap out of me! My full thoughts on this bad boy will be share in a review in the very near future, so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!

The Odyssey

I’ve read numerous versions of The Odyssey, but Emily Wilson’s translation by far takes the cake as my favorite! While this text is LONG, it just reads so smoothly and so much like an adventurous bedtime story that I found myself unable to put it down. I’m also a sucker for Greek mythology, so anytime the gods and their shenanigans were mentioned, I was all for it! Overall, big fan, and if you’ve never read this version, you totally should!

The Mahabharata

While I loved the fact that I learned so much about early Indian culture, I had a lot of trouble following the storyline of The Mahabharata. A lot of this was because a great many of the names of the characters were very similar to each other, which made it hard for me to distinguish between who belonged to which of the warring families. I have actually read the Ramayana (another ancient text from India) and prefer it to The Mahabharata, but I did find the emphasis on religion and morality fascinating in this book. Overall, not a huge fan at all, but enjoyed learning about the culture in which it was written.

The Recognition of Sakuntala

I was completely shocked by how much I enjoyed reading this play. It is based on a section from the Mahabharata, so going into it I just hoped I liked it more than I did that text … and I totally did! This play was super funny, but also gives the reader some great insight into early Indian culture. This was my last read of the month (literally finished it this morning!), and I have to say: it was a great one!

Another monthly reading recap in the books (pun intended, as always!). Though I again didn’t have much time for recreational reading, I always enjoy reading texts I wouldn’t have picked up ordinarily in my college classes. What do you guys think of me including my thoughts on these texts on the blog in addition to my “fun reads?” Let me know below, along with all the book you had the opportunity to devour this month.

May your September be filled with lots of fun reading — I sure hope mine is! 🙂

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 625

Series: Blood and Ash #1

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.”

What Did I Think?

Y’all, I am SHOOK. A little backstory for you all: JLA announced the title and cover of this book on THE DAY IT FREAKING RELEASED (yes, seriously — not even exaggerating!) AND it was her very first time releasing an adult high fantasy novel. As if that didn’t shock me enough, I am completely flabbergasted to say that now that I’ve read it, From Blood and Ash just might have made my top three favorite books of hers of all time!

Now that you understand why I am completely SHOOKETH, let’s discuss the overall concept of this total gem! From Blood and Ash had just about everything I could ever want in an adult high fantasy novel: multi-dimensional characters, stunning descriptions of the very complex world of Masadonia, all the political intrigue, and an action-packed plot that kept me on my toes from beginning to end. I thought the religious tie-ins were fascinating to read about, and I thoroughly enjoyed them in conjunction with the mythical creatures and themes that were also woven into the story. From Blood and Ash has so many moving parts, and I thought all of them worked together beautifully — like a well-oiled machine!

Poppy, our main protagonist, is a force to be reckoned with. Given the role of ensuring the Ascensions of the people of Masadonia, Poppy is forced to live her life in solitude, following the explicate orders of the Duke, Duchess, and priestesses. However, the reader learns quickly that Poppy often secretly breaks away from what is expected of her in order to try and maintain some control over her life. From the very first chapter, we see that she’s not too keen on following direct orders from the people who are supposed to “rule over her” and that she is more than capable of protecting herself when need be. Throughout the course of the book, we continue to see her question everything she previously thought was true, and the more she manages to discover, the more she begins to fight for what she feels is right and what she wants, rather than what those around her expect her to do for the “good of humanity.” I loved that the reader sees the fire in her from the first page and that we hardly ever see it go out, even as she struggles through some very tough moments. I found myself rooting for Poppy over the course of the entire book, and I am so excited to see how the events of this book have shaped her character in the next one!

As always, JLA gives us a totally swoon-worthy supporting lead, and this go-round, it’s Hawke Flynn: handsome, crazy clever, and one of the wittiest JLA characters of all time, if you ask me! Though he comes across as this very mysterious tough guy, he also has a softer side to him that had me saying “awhh!!!” in my head like a million times over. One of my favorite components of Hawke’s character is the fact that instead of trying to protect Poppy from every little thing as her royal guard, he understands her need to take control of her own life and fight for herself. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the whole “tough guy constantly save the damsel in distress” trope, so I was happy to see that Hawke helped when needed, but wasn’t the overbearing, brood-y male lead we often times see in similar novels. To say that Hawke never got on my nerves/made me really angry is a total lie (no spoilers, friend! Just give this book a read and you’ll totally get what I mean!), but a part of my soul still loves him to pieces. Hawke’s character has so many secret layers, and I cannot wait to see more of them unravel in Book #2!

One last comment before I cap this review off: THAT FRICK FRACKIN’ ENDING, YOU GUYS! PREPARE YOUR HEARTS AND SOULS BECAUSE THAT WAS CRAY!

From Blood and Ash was basically what you’d end up with if Throne of Glass and Twilight had a baby. I loved watching Poppy navigate through the uber-controlling world she lives in and how Hawke provided the breadcrumbs she needed to sort the facts from fiction she’s been told her entire life. The romance was legit FIRE, the characters had so many layers that I loved seeing unravel as the story went on, and the plotline was so fast-paced that it was legitimately breathtaking. I am so thankful that the second book, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, releases tomorrow because I seriously cannot wait to dive back into this world!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book is definitely only for mature readers (the romance is STEAMY and there is also quite a bit of graphic violence/murder). I would not recommend this book to readers under the age of 18.*

If you’ve read Jennifer L. Armentrout’s other books (particularly her paranormal romances!), From Blood and Ash may just turn out to be your next great read!

I’d also whole-heartedly recommend From Blood and Ash to fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Stephanie Meyer.

Bonus Content, More Bookish Fun!

Bookish Workout Tips!

Hello, bookish people! Some of you may have come to check this post out just because it literally sounds so bizarre, in which case, welcome and thanks for allowing your curiosity to bring you to this wonderful (yet kind of nutty) post! Given the current pandemic, I know a lot of folks are still skeptical about hitting up their go-to gyms to get their blood pumping. As an alternative to this, I thought I would share some bookish workout tips that not only allow you to keep up a solid fitness regime, but also may let you sneak in a little extra reading while doing it. Let’s jump right into this thing, shall we?

1) No weights? Just use some big ol’ books!

I like big books and I cannot lie! Okay, totally cheesy and unoriginal, but one of the many reasons I love big books is because they have multiple uses besides just being fun to read. If you’re stuck at home and looking for a little extra weight to use during your workout, try using a few of your largest and/or most heavy books on your shelf! While this tip doesn’t necessarily let you get some extra reading in, it does still let you spend some quality time with your literary BFFs.

2) Earn your reading time!

Looking to sneak in a little extra reading during your day, but don’t want to give up your daily workout to do it? This tip is for you! However, there is a small catch: you can only read the number of pages that you can do of a particular exercise. For example, if you can do 10 push-ups in a row, then you can only read 10 pages. This may even be fun to do in a circuit — do some kind of exercise, read the number of pages you earned, do another exercise, then read those pages, and so on. Then your page count keeps growing, and those calories keep burning!

3) Listen to an audiobook while doing your cardio workout

I’ll be the first to say that cardio-related physical activities are NOT my gig (especially running, yuck). But trading in your normal music playlist for an audiobook might just be the trick to redirect your attention from the fact that your legs feel like they’re burning off and the sweat dripping off your face. I’d recommend you pick a book that’s action-packed so that it holds your attention for the entirety of your workout — a good, fast-paced fantasy is my go-to!

4) Bookish yoga!

I’ll admit that reading while doing yoga is kind of cheating because you’re supposed to be clearing your mind of everything except for the task at hand (aka holding various yoga positions and concentrating on not face planting). Nevertheless, if this is the only time you have to read in the day, it won’t kill you to sometimes cheat a little and shift a tad bit of your focus to a good book. On the bright side, if you pick a relaxing, calming book to read, you will be just about as rejuvenated after your bookish yoga workout as you would your normal practice!

5) Read during stationary exercises

There nothing stopping you from reading a page or two while doing wall sits or holding a plank! If you really want to push yourself, I’d recommend that you trying holding whatever position you’re in for the amount of time it takes you to read a whole page, read another whole page while you take a break, then repeat.

6) Don’t forget: Reading is a workout for your brain!

While reading doesn’t necessarily help you burn off last night’s pizza and ice cream feast, it does wonders for your brain! Studies show that taking the time to read on a regular basis increases your vocabulary, reduces stress, improves memory, and helps fight off depression and other mental health conditions. All this being said, don’t forget to take care of both your body and your brain — both are equally important contributors to you living a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life!

Well, there you have it, folks! I hope you find these unique workout tips helpful as we all try to navigate these challenging times. Do you have your own bookish workout routines? Tell me all about them below!

Until next week, bookish friends! I hope you all get to kick back and relax with a good book (or five!) this weekend 🙂