Hello everyone! Haley here and I am so excited to welcome all of you back to another What We’re Reading Wednesday, inspired by a meme of a similar name currently hosted by Taking on a World of Words. Its a feature that takes a deep dive into what we’re reading and how we feel about it.
A quick note: Emily is at a conference this week but she took the time to share some of her thoughts about some of her recent reads so send all your love to Emily during her work travels! ❤️
Without further ado, let’s talk about books!
Recently FinishedThe Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
Published by Feiwel and Friends on February 25, 2020
Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:
1) Woo the Shadow King.2) Marry him.3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.
No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.
But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?
I loved this most recent story from Tricia Levenseller, Lush and romantic, this standalone fantasy features as strong female lead who isn’t afraid to go after what she wants and stand up for what she believes in. I will be sharing a full review later in the month when Tricia joins us for a Q&A, but this might be my favorite novel from her and a must read for any YA fantasy fan.Blood Countess by Lana Popović
Published by Harry N. Abrams on January 28, 2020
A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula
In 16th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.
I just finished this one today and I have a lot of feelings, many of which I am still working through. The good news, I think I liked it. It’s dark and violent and focuses on an abusive, romantic relationship between Elizabeth and Ana. Be prepared for lots of trigger warnings and manipulative, unlikable characters.Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
Published by Simon Pulse on November 3, 2020
“Spellbinding.” —Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series “A delectably immersive, eerie experience.” —Kirkus Reviews
From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic, where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…
Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.
Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.
Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.
For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw shows us why.
Emily: Winterwood was a gorgeously atmospheric novel about being found. It has witches and magic and strong female characters and a really sweet love story. Definitely recommended!
Currently ReadingThe Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner
Published by Flatiron Books on March 3, 2020
In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.
As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róża and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róża tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:
The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.
In this make-believe world, Róża can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róża must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.
Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope—a whispered story, a bird’s song—in even the darkest of times.
I’m only a few chapters into this one but I am definitely intrigued. The book follows a Jewish mother and daughter hiding during WWII in a barn. While that might not sound like a suspenseful premise I am dying to know what is going to happen next. Jennifer Rossner is one of our authors visiting in March so this won’t be the last you hear of this book.The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
Published by Ballantine Books on July 12, 2016
Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.
She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.
It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.
Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.
But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.
Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
I am listening to this thanks to my library and I have so many opinions. It’s described as Survivor meets The Road and the story is definitely true to its comps. Our main female lead Zoo carries a lot more than just what she needs to survive and I find myself sucked into this post-apocalyptic world that Zoo believes is all part of the reality tv show she was participating in when the world went to hell in a handbasket. I have my predictions about what’s really going on but I’ll keep those to myself for now.Havenfall (Havenfall, #1) by Sara Holland
Published by Bloomsbury YA on March 3, 2020
A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it--at any cost.
Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds--each with their own magic--together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.
For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie's brother. It's where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it's where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.
But this summer, the impossible happens--a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She'll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she's letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie--no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .
Emily: I’m definitely enjoying Havenfall so far! The first 25% sucked me in as the magic and world building was explained, though the pacing of the middle is a bit slower. Look for a full review soon!
On My NightstandThe Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Published by Inkyard Press on February 25, 2020
Don’t miss this spectacular debut novel… Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity? This road trip is truly out of this world! A beautiful and thrilling read for fans of Marie Lu and Veronica Roth.
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for the love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
Okay, this book is sitting on my kindle waiting to be read. We just got picked for the blog tour with FFBC and so I will be setting aside my current read to get this one done by February 21st when we post our review. Hooray for blog tours! I started reading it on my commute to school this morning and it seems so fun and interesting so stay tuned!When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on January 28, 2020
A heart-swelling debut for fans of The Silver Linings Playbook and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.
For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:
1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.” 2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect. 3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home. 4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet. 5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.
But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.
When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all...
We are all legends of our own making.
I got a physical copy of this book from my library as well as an audiobook copy. It has been on my radar since it was a January Book of the Month pick and I cannot wait to finally dig into it. The story features a neuro-diverse protagonist who loves vikings which just sounds so interesting. Plus, I am always looking to expand my reading horizons and read out of my comfort zone.
What About You?
What have you read recently? Is there anything you are excited to pick up after your current read(s)? Let us know all about your reading in the comments, we love hearing from you!