Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Characters on the Naughty List

Top 5 Wednesday is a Goodreads group hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers post on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.  

This week’s topic is:
Characters on the Naughty List
These are not villains necessarily, but characters that like to make mischief and cause chaos.

Ian from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost
Ian is a Master vampire who is self-absorbed but oddly loyal. He fixates on fascinating and rare objects and people like Cat in the series. He's kind of a pervy man-whore who likes to raise hell and we can't help rolling our eyes at him. We're intrigued to see his romance and backstory when we get his book next Fall.

Phineas from the Abby Sinclair series by Allison Pang
Phin's a miniature unicorn who helps Abby navigate the Fae world. He also digs through her underwear drawer and generally acts pervy, but he’s just so cute.

Bob the Skull from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Bob's actually the spirit of an ancient wizard who's bound to the skull. When it suits him, he helps Harry understand archaic magic. But he spends most of his time reading romance novels and generally acting pervy. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

Coyote from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
Ah, Coyote. The original hellraiser and our favorite trickster god. Things tend to get a little crazy when Coyote makes an appearance but we can't help but love him and the chaos he brings. 

Saiman from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
Saiman is that character that everyone dislikes and who has his fingers in all the pies. He's rich, openly selfish, and a dealer of information. He doesn't do anything for free and uses his polymorph ability to gather information and to cause trouble. He is one person where you can't decide whether you want and don't want him on your side. And like most characters on this list, he can be a bit pervy.


Monday, December 11, 2017

November Subscription Box Reviews

Today I'm unboxing and reviewing both the Owlcrate and Whimsify boxes from November. 

The November Owlcrate Theme was:
 Castles, Courts and Kingdoms

I was pretty excited about this theme and it didn't disappoint.

The first thing I saw when I opened the box was this Harry Potter hat. There may have been an audible gasp. I love this item - it's nice and thick and goes with the black scarf I already have. Because I'm picky about that kind of thing.

Also in this pic is the Grisha-inspired brooch (though I keep wanting to call it a badge because of the shape) from Juniper and Ivy Designs. There were three different designs and mine is Heartrenders.

I love getting notebooks and notepads in these boxes because I know I will actually use them. And this one is so pretty. The notebook design by Stella Bookish Art features a quote from A Court of Mist and Fury.

One of the other items I know I'll use are lip balms. I love the one from Geekfire Labs that came in the Caraval box earlier this year. They also made this one inspired by Game of Thrones. It smells like blackberry and mint.

The elven bread soap from Fizzy Fairy Apothecary is so pretty. I love the bright green color! (The one you can order from her shop has a slightly different color and scent.)


The book this month is The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano. I haven't heard that much buzz about this book, but it has such a cool premise. The heroine has the power to turn people into gems. It came with a signed bookplate, gem tattoos and has an exclusive cover.

The Whimsify theme was
 Secrets and Spies

I love the concept but a lot of the box just didn't work for me.

This month's candle is from Novel Heartbeat. It's called Steal Your Soul and was inspired by This Savage Song. The box insert doesn't say what the fragrance is but I'm getting sandalwood or amber plus a floral note. Mine has a big dent in the lid - you can see it in the picture - which is a little bit frustrating but at least it still closes.

The superhero stickers from Studio Adorkable are super cute. They made the Stranger Things bookmark from last month's box too. It bugs me a little bit to see vendors repeated so soon, but the cuteness mostly makes up for it.

This print designed by Whimsify features a quote from Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson. I like the quote but I'm kind of meh about the design.

I feel the same way about the A Court of Thorns and Roses bookmark actually. Though I might be more excited if I were a fan of the series. It's designed by Dreamy and Co, which is another vendor that has been in the box before (twice, I think.)

Like I said, I'm a fan of lip balms. This one's strawberry. It comes from Literary Apothecary Shop and was inspired by Pretty Little Liars - I love the A on the label.

And here's the item that really disappointed me: the Flame in the Mist pouch features a design by Evie Bookish, who I love. But instead of being printed on the bag, it's a vinyl transfer. It looks like you can peel it right off because the edges are lifted off the bag. When I first unpacked it I thought it was a separate item, like a sticker sitting on top of the pouch. The fact that the design has a white background and the pouch is kind of a gray-cream just makes it more obvious. If this were done with printed canvas it would have been gorgeous.


I am pretty excited about this book though. It's Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne and the heroine is a healer. It came with a signed bookplate as well. This is another title I haven't heard much about. One of the things I've enjoyed about getting subscription boxes this year is discovering new books. Now I just have to find time to read them all!

I'm seriously thinking about cutting down to one box next year, but which one should I choose? One of these or should I try something new? What's your favorite book box?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower
(The Winternight Trilogy #2)
Katherine Arden
Release: December 5, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale.

Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch.

Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.

But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.

One of my favorite books of this year was The Bear and the Nightingale so I was so excited to get my hands on an ARC of the second book. Everything I loved about the first book was in this one. The folklore and the adventure and the family dynamics were glorious! What I love about this trilogy is that not everything is black and white but grayscale and messy.

Vasya has left her village behind with her beloved Solovey and is continuing with her quest to figure out who she is. She knows that she isn’t meant to be just a lord’s wife or left in a convent. She fights against these ideas by dressing as a boy. Vasya is a hero and that heroism brings with it a lot of complications. The world she lives in isn’t ready for someone like her and she sticks out.

One of the things I loved about this book was Vasya's interactions with her siblings because her family plays a key role in this book. Her brother, Sasha, left as a teenager to become a monk but he has become more of a warrior than a religious man. He is involved in politics and with the Grand Prince. I will admit that I missed him! But as much as I loved her interactions with Sasha, Olga was my favorite. Olga has grown up a lot since the last book. While I wish we could have seen more of her with her children, I loved the scenes between her and Vasya. Things weren't easy but their interactions were filled with sisterly love. I loved seeing Vasya with her niece, who is just like her in personality and spirit. She had more people she could rely on in this book and it made things more tense but also so much better!

Morozko and Vasya’s relationship develops more in this book and it was intriguing to watch. They embodied the classic trope of an impossibly old and supernatural being falling in love with a young woman. There is a definite power imbalance between Morozko and Vasya and Arden doesn't shy away from it and the complications it brings. Even though they're each developing feelings for each other, those feelings are messy and complicated. And while we learn more about him and who he really is, we're not quite sure what his existence really means. I actually liked him a lot more in this book than the last. He felt more real and mortal. Things are changing and I can't help but ship it.

The Girl in the Tower totally lived up to the expectations I had for it! If you loved The Bear and the Nightingale, you're going to love this one! I can't wait to get my hands on the third book! I want to know how everything wraps up.

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

  4.5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish

The Remaking of Corbin Wale
Roan Parrish
Release: November 27, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
Last month, Alex Barrow’s whole life imploded—partner, home, job, all gone in forty-eight hours. But sometimes when everything falls apart, better things appear almost like magic. Now, he’s back in his Michigan hometown, finally opening the bakery he’s always dreamed of. But the pleasure of opening day is nothing compared to the lonely and beautiful man who bewitches Alex before he even orders.

Corbin Wale is a weirdo. At least, that’s what he’s heard his whole life. He knows he’s often in a fantasy world, but the things he feels are very real. And so is the reason why he can never, ever be with Alex Barrow. Even if Alex is everything he’s always fantasized about. Even if maybe, just maybe, Corbin is Alex’s fantasy too.

When Corbin begins working at the bakery, he and Alex can’t deny their connection any longer. As the holiday season works its magic, Alex yearns for the man who seems out of reach. But to be with Alex, Corbin will have to challenge every truth he’s ever known. If his holiday risk pays off, two men from different worlds will get the love they’ve always longed for.

I'm not sure I can articulate how much I loved this story in actual words that aren't "GO BUY THIS BOOK NOW! YOU CAN THANK ME LATER!" repeated over and over again. This book is weird and magical and adorable. It's what I've always imagined a romance novel that was written by Maggie Stiefvater would be like but also not. It's sweet, quirky, and a bit strange in parts and I fell in love with Roan Parrish's writing style from the first. It's a perfect read for the holiday season!

Alex Barrow has hit a rough spot in his life. He's returned to his hometown after being dumped and losing his job in a 48 hour period. Alex isn't moping about his bad luck though. He takes over his parents' coffee shop and turns it into his own bakery. He thinks things can't get any better until one of his parents' regulars pops in and he literally loses his breath over the man.

Corbin Wale is a little weird. Everyone treats him like he's a freak because he tends to lose himself inside his own head sometimes. Corbin has lead such a solitary life up till the start of this book and it broke my heart. He's believed that he'll always be alone and he's okay with that until he meets Alex.

There was so much about this story that just burrowed deep in my being and stayed there. While the story really didn't strike me as paranormal or fantasy, it had a magical and otherworldly feel to it. The way Corbin sees the world is unique and I am in awe of him. But no one, until Alex, saw Corbin at all. Not really.

Alex and Corbin are absolutely adorable. The characters in this book have a magical air to them. The romance is sweet and slow burning and if you're anything like me you'll be yelling at them to kiss already not even half way through the book. I loved their interactions and how respectful and kind Alex is to Corbin. I shipped them from their first meeting.

I think that the story is open for a sequel. Okay. I'm just really hoping for one and that it'll be about Alex's best friend, Gareth. I just want to know more about him and about what happened on his camping trip. Especially since his interactions with a certain character after the fact are a bit shifty. I'll be honest, I ship it already. I just really want Gareth to find his own happy ending, okay? Also, I need more Gareth and Corbin interactions in my life.

Overall, this book was absolutely delightful! It was sweet and cute and I couldn’t put it down once I started it. It definitely made a spot for itself on my best books of 2017 list! I'll warn you now though. Do not read this book on an empty stomach! The descriptions of food will make you want to eat every baked good you have in your house and then some. I have the biggest craving for challah right now and nowhere to buy any where I live now.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Bookish Things We're a Grinch About

Top 5 Wednesday is a Goodreads group hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers post on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.  

This Week's Topic Is:
Bookish Things You're a Grinch About
This is like the holiday version of pet peeves, rather than serious social issues. Though number one may include a hill we're willing to die on.

5. When series books don't match 
Like when they change the cover style in the middle of the series like Black Knights Inc. or
go to hardcover after book 6 like Iron Druid and Kate Daniels. The latter also messes up my reading schedule because I don't like to buy ebooks at hardcover prices.

4. Name change in the middle of a series
Like Tales of the Black Lily which is now called Vampire Blood (which is a stupid name) and which became Bite Night (also kind of a stupid name). Also, the whole naming the series after the first book is dumb. It can't be that hard to find a unique series name, can it?

3.Titles that say nothing about the story
Like Paige Tyler's X Ops series. I've mentioned this in the reviews before so I won't rant now.

2. Covers that say nothing about the story
I'm generally not a fan of covers that show nothing but some guy's abs, but it's even worse when they cut off the top of his head. And then sometimes they show the cover model but he obviously doesn't match the character. Like he has the wrong skin or hair color or is shirtless and missing a bunch of tattoos. It just gives the haters more ammunition to hate on romance when the covers all look the same.

1.Things that deface a book
Like writing in or highlighting anything that's not a textbook, dog-eared pages, or worst of all
those origami-like flowers and stars made from the pages on bookstagram. They hurt me physically. (Though I do think painting the edges is pretty cool.) Or those stupid stickers that aren't really stickers that some publishers print on the covers of books really irritate us. Why would you do that to a book? They're worse than the stickers that you have to get adhesive remover to take off. Can we just not put stickers on books?

Honorable Mentions:
Series that aren't clearly numbered
I will never understand why authors/publishers won't put the number of each book on the spine. I can't tell you how irritated I get when I have to look up a series on Goodreads just to shelve them in order on my bookshelves. Trad publishing need to take pointers from the manga industry on this.

Reading a series out of order
I really don't get this. I'm a firm believer in reading a series in order. Why would you read book three before book one? I don't care if the books in the series are companion novels. Reading things out of order are going to spoil things from the previous books. I hate spoilers with a passion. Why would I intentionally spoil myself? 


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Release Day Review: Wolf Hunger by Paige Tyler


Wolf Hunger
(SWAT #7)
Paige Tyler
Release: December 5, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
She’s all the wolf he’ll ever need

When SWAT Officer Max Lowry meets Lana Mason, he falls fast and hard. He’s positive she’s The One. And Max’s favorite part? Lana’s a wolf shifter too, so they can skip the awkward reveal and head straight to the happily ever after. There’s just one problem: Lana doesn’t know that she’s a werewolf. 

To make matters worse, hunters with intent to kill have tracked Lana to Dallas. Max has to figure out how to keep Lana safe, show her who and what she really is—and just how much she means to him.


Wolf Hunger just might be the best SWAT book yet! As much as I've enjoyed the rest of the series, there's usually at least one plot point that bugs me enough to lower my rating. Wolf Hunger didn't have that. It does have two compelling story lines and the great action scenes I've come to expect from Tyler.

Max is the youngest member of the team and I haven't seen as much of him as some of the other members so I was excited to learn more about him. And when he finds his match, he goes big by falling for the boss's daughter. I liked that Lana was smart and independent. She even got her own action scene to show off her werewolf skills and didn't just wait for her boyfriend to save her from the hunters.

Those werewolf hunters have been looming on the horizon over the last few books and they make their presence known in a big way here. The team learns enough about them to realize the threat is much bigger than they realized and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out in the next book. Tyler also introduces some more beta wolves to the ever-growing Dallas pack and hints at some relationships developing outside the SWAT team. *steeples fingers and does very bad Bond-villain voice* Very interesting.

I should warn you that the story could trigger some readers: both Max's past and the current case involve domestic violence. I felt like it was handled well though.

For me, Paige Tyler's books are like junk food: great for binging and guaranteed to cheer you up. If you haven't tried SWAT or her spy series X-Ops, you're missing out.


My reviews of other books in this series:
Wolf Hunt

Monday, December 4, 2017

Gretl's Gift Guide Part 2: Fandom Edition

We've made it through Cyber Week. Is all of your holiday shopping done? If you still need some help deciding what to get for your favorite geeks, here are some suggestions. You can't go anywhere without tripping over tons of Star Wars merchandise, so that could probably take up its own post. But I tried to include things you can get in brick and mortar stores since it's getting close to the wire for ordering from small businesses like Etsy stores.

Harry Potter

I know I did the Potterheads' gifts in Part 1 of the gift guide, but I saw this in Barnes and Noble on Black Friday and I loved it so much I had to share. I wish I'd taken a picture in the store though. The photo from the website doesn't really do justice to the Monster Book of Monsters Plushie/Pillow.

I've seen lots of Harry Potter jewelry on Etsy but I was surprised to find a collection at Kohl's. It's understated and really well-priced. As I'm writing this, you can get the Always bracelet for $11.99. They also have a collection of HP apparel from Her Universe.

Stranger Things

Did you see the super cute Stranger Things bookmark from last month's Whimsify box? Studoadorkable also has matching stickers and planner clips, plus other fandoms like Star Wars and Harry Potter.
Geekfire Labs has wax melts inspired by the Upsidedown and Eleven's waffles lip balms. I have one of their lip balms from a recent Owlcrate and like how moisturizing it is.

Target has tees and sweatshirts in both men's and women's sizes, plus a whole section in the collectible area (where they keep the Funko Pops at the back of  the books and movies.) The plush demogorgons kind of creep me out, but maybe someone you know will love them. And if you have a relative without Netflix you can get them season 1 on DVD.


I need more makeup like I need more books, but I so want these Firefly-inspired shadows that come with their own little Jane hat from Espionage Cosmetics.


Rose Red recommends TheGeekStudio for jewelry and pins. They have a great selection of Supernatural items like this necklace to protect you against possession, plus Star Wars and other fandoms.

You might have seen my bookmarks from Nerdygrl Designs in like all of my bookstagram pics. She's recently added Supernatural designs. This one's my new favorite bookmark.

What's on your holiday shopping list?

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