Favorite Autumnal Reads

Favorite Autumnal Reads

When I think autumnal reads, I think of books I can curl up and get lost in. Maybe sit by a window with a giant cup of coffee and my coziest blankets and escape the world for a while. Sometimes I want to reread books in the fall because they are comfortable and I can reminisce about all of the warm feelings these books bring me. Other times I want something witchy or creepy. But I also enjoy long books, where I can binge read. Maybe lose a few hours (or days) entranced by a great story.


Here are 10 books/series that I think would be great for fall:

1) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

  • Of course I have to start here, because I’m part of the Harry Potter generation. But what you don’t know is that I start every September with a reread of a book in the series. This year, I chose The Chamber of Secretsbecause this is one of my least favorites. I always want to skip over this book. I suspect it has to do with my disdain of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. But every time I reread this one, I’m glad I have. This would be the perfect place to start if you want to rekindle your love of fall reading with an old favorite.

2) Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

  • I recently finished this book and you can find my full review here. But I adored this book. It’s a cute take on how far a person is willing to go to solve their best friend’s potential murder. If you like tales of witchy craft and creepy incidents, this is a great book to pick up this fall. Plus, you’ll walk away from this one delighted, despite the twists and turns.

3) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

  • This is a book that I initially read in the fall. I remember this book dominating an entire weekend. I didn’t get out of bed unless I had to. But this is also a book I frequently come back to. There are so many minute details that you won’t think are important, but will come back to mean the world. Especially once you read the second book in this series. I am constantly recommending this book to people, because it is one of my all-time-favorites. The Name of the Windis a perfect book to read in the fall, because it’s a book you’ll want to binge read.

4) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

  • I am a little late to the Neil Gaiman train, but I am so glad I’m finally on board. This book is massive and a little dense at times, but well worth the read. I definitely lost almost an entire day to this book; I could not put it down. Gaiman’s take on mythology and Gods of the old world is astounding. This is a great fall read because you’ll be transported to different places with new stories of each important God. Plus, there’s a great commentary on the new world technology versus old world traditions.

5) The Extinction Trials by S.M. Wilson

  • I can’t make a list of books without including one book about dinosaurs! The Extinction Trialsis a wonderful fall read because you can escape our world and be thrown into a new one. This is perfect if you love the dystopian feel because Storm’s world in closing in on her as the population grows. The dinosaurs aren’t exactly cliché in this book and there are some moments of cutthroat competition. But this is a story about more than survival, you’ll be introduced to new friendships, families, trust and betrayl.

6) The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

  • Are you obsessed with witches and the Salem witch trials? Do you love learning about history? Do you want a new take on an old favorite? If you answered yes to all of these questions, then this is the book for you!

7) Dracula by Bram Stoker

  • I figured I had to throw at least one classic into this mix. Dracula has had a profound cultural impact on the way books and movies are written and portrayed. Dracula himself is a creepy and intoxicating character and you can tell that a substantial amount of research and time went into this character. If you want to know how and why the vampire phenomenon was revived in mainstream culture, you can see it here. If you have to read this book, so why not now?

8) The Merciless by Danielle Vega

  • I honestly still don’t know what to make of this book. I’m confused about a lot of the events and the ending surprised me a little. But if you’re looking for weird yet engaging this fall, then this is the book for you! I’d classify this as a “scary” read because a group of teenage girls are attempting to perform an exorcism and things go wrong, but not in the way you’d expect. This book stands out to me because I have no read another one like it. I’m still trying to determine if that’s a good or bad thing.

9) Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls Series) by C.C. Hunter

  • When I think of fall, my mind immediately jumps to Halloween. I have a fond love of all things paranormal. When I was putting together this list, I’ll admit that I didn’t immediately think of this series until I did some digging. If you look this book up, you will find a mix of reviews. Some people hate it and other love it. But I think this is a fast-paced series. Yes, some things are predictable. But you get love, laughter, and a host of characters who will keep you amused. This is an entertaining series and will keep you engaged.

10) Final Girls by Riley Sager

  • Final Girlsis the book equivalent of a slasher film, and I LOVED that. Quincy survives a horrible event that she has slowly forgotten about over time. But when a new friend shows up, she starts reliving her personal nightmare. Maybe I enjoyed this book because I didn’t predict the killer and was surprised. But I still couldn’t put it down. You will need to know what happened to Quincy all those years ago just as much as you’ll need to know what’s going to happen next.
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The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The year is 1952 and a meteorite has struck Earth. In the aftermath, the majority of the eastern seaboard of the United States has been destroyed, including the nation’s capitol of Washington D.C. However, the shock of the meteorite was felt around the world and is not threatening an extinction-level event. As a result, a space race to colonize the moon and Mars starts.

Elma York is a mathematician and a former WASP Pilot from the war. Due to her experience, she becomes a human computer for the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC). Her husband, Nathanial York, is the lead engineer in the space race project. Elma is not content just being a computer, she loves flying and wants to get into space and become an astronaut.

Elma paves the way for lady astronauts to be included into the space and colonization programs, but some of her closest friends are denied entry into the program because of the color of their skin. Elma fights for equal opportunities but is met with hostility and question at every turn. But, her determination opens the door for women in space and the expansion of the colonization program. In a beautifully written story by Mary Robinette Kowal, readers become immersed in an alternative version of history and the fallout and rebuilding of society.

This is usually not the kind of book I willingly reach for, but I am glad this book was recommended. In July, I had the honor of meeting one of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss. Someone asked what books he was reading or what he would recommend, and he recommended this book. I was skeptical at first, but I do enjoy pushing my book comfort zone every now and then; especially when I am in reading a slump.

I loved this book! This is my first time reading a book by Mary Robinette Kowal and I think tat the writing was phenomenal and the story makes you question the progression of history. In a time where we are currently dealing with gender and race issues, this story approaches the prejudices head on. While most of the main characters are white, Elma forces a male-dominated field to accept lady astronauts on scientific grounds. However, while there is a victory for women in general, there is not a victory for women of color. The prejudices presented make you question the way society is ran and why so many women and people of color are still held back after a catastrophic event.

I highly recommend this book. It’s not “too outer space driven,” but it is also not a post-apocalyptic world. Instead, the United States, United Nations, and the rest of the world are faced with an alternative version of history. This book is classified as science fiction, but do not let the term scare you. It is grounded in fiction and there are some technical terms. But, you do not need a fundamental understanding of rocket science to enjoy this novel.

Rating: 5/5

The Extinction Trials

The Extinction Trials by S.M. Wilson

This book was an impulse buy for me. I saw the cover, the sticker that said this book is a mix between Jurassic Park and the Hunger Games, and I jumped at the chance to pick this book up. Not only did this book meet my expectations (and the description) but it surpassed them as well.

The Extinction Trials is a gripping tale. In a world that is quickly running out of resources, the powers that be look beyond their land to a territory that is overrun with primitive animals. Time and time again, champions have been sent to Piloria to collect data about the animals on the land and report back. However, most champions are not given the luxury of coming home. But now, the scientists believe they have found a solution and all that is need is dinosaur DNA. Who will be the one to go and retrieve the DNA? Will they make it back alive? Are there other dangers that the scientists aren’t telling the champions?

The story goes between the point of view of Lincoln and Stormchaser (Storm). The story is further split into several parts: the lives of Lincoln and Storm before the trials, the trials themselves, and the island of Piloria.

Lincoln has decided to enter the trials because he needs to money and rations that come with being a winner. Lincoln’s younger sister is dying and is in dire need of medical attention. While his mother can only do so much. Lincoln is the only hope his family has. And he will do whatever it takes to become a champion. Storm, on the other hand, is not sure why she entered the trials. As first, she was excited about eating well. But as the trials progress, she realizes she’s good and could possibly be the champion.

Once on Piloria, all of the trial champions are tested time and time again. The dinosaurs are vicious, they have little supplies, and their designated tasks are deadly. No one trusts each other, as most people have a hidden agenda. Not only are the animals dangerous, but so is the terrain. One wrong step, and you could die. Things are hidden in swamps, cliffs are abrupt, and the dense forest is riddled with secrets. Storm and Lincoln fight for their lives in a living nightmare.

S. M. Wilson has created a wonderful world full of danger—both human and animal. While some of the characters are not entertaining, they are dynamic. We learn what drives each champion; most want to help their families, some just want the fame and notoriety, while Storm wants to learn more about the animals on Piloria. The Extinction Trialsis a quick and gripping read. And one of the best takes on “dinosaur books” I have seen in quite a while.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fates

Fates by Lanie Bross

“Only love is eternal, remember that.”

Fates is a story about young Corinthe who was sent to Earth as a punishment. She must collect the souls of the departed and return them to the sea so that they can make their way across the galaxy and fulfill their destiny. Corinthe’s final mission is to kill Lucas Kaller to fuilfill her own destiny so that she can return home to Pyralis Terra.

There is some romance, turmoil, and action but nothing that is too exciting. Everything in this book seems to fall short. From the short-lived romance, to the flat characters, and hastily described new worlds. You will likely walk away from this book feeling unimpressed because this is not a memorable story.

The first half of the book is tolerable. There is world building, character building, we want Corinthe to succeed and return home but then the “twist” in this book is a total turn off. Not only can you see it coming long before it’s revealed, but the villain isn’t even a complex one. This book had the making of becoming something beautiful. I was hopeful even. But the “one must live so the other must die” narrative is overdone and this is not a new story.

I did not like this book. The promise of traveling through different worlds was what hooked me initially, but I could not get into this book. This book is a giant cliché. It is the epitome of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and then boy and girl have a quarrel and must work together to save the world.

The characters are un-relatable and there seem to be too many competing storylines fighting for attention. You have Corinthe vs. Lukas, Corinthe’s keeper and her ultimate goals, Lukas’s sister fighting for her life, and then Corinthe and Lukas vs. the universe. I felt myself rolling my eyes for the entire second half of this book. I cannot recommend this book and do not care enough about the characters or the storyline to continue this series.

Rating 2/5

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

“But life finds a way.”

I cannot believe that it has taken me this long to read Jurassic Park. If you’re anything like me, you love the movie series but never picked up the book. I was always hesitant to read the book because I adored the movies so much. While the movie is framed to be a blockbuster hit, the book is highly underrated. There is so much more action and adventure in this novel than the three blockbuster hits combined.

Crichton’s Jurassic Park is a story of a mastermind, John Hammond, who has not only found a way to resurrect dinosaurs but plans to open an amusement park and control the animals. The majority of the book takes place on the island of Isla Nublar, in South America.  Here, Hammond hopes to turn the park into an attraction and charge high prices for visitors to get a glimpse of animals that were long thought to be extinct. Hammond calls Dr. Alan Grant and his colleague, Dr. Ellie Sattler, as well as Ian Malcolm to the island to assess the animals and the park. Hammond also invites his grandchildren, Tim and Lex.

The primary “villain” in this novel is Hammond. He has taken dinosaurs and brought them back hastily. He often does not care about the science or what should be done, instead, he wants his park open fast. Hammond’s primary aim is to make money. He does not care much about the animals and how they are made, so long as they are made. He is naïve in believing everything can be controlled, despite the predatory nature of some of the dinosaurs. This is a stark contrast from the movie. In the movie, Hammond is seen as a sweet old man and not the vicious money hungry man Crichton wrote about.

Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler are paleontologists who have worked together. Ellie’s primary focus is paleo-botany, or the study of fossil plants. Dr. Grant spends most of his time on the island with the children, Tim and Lex. While Dr. Sattler stays with the scientists to discover more about the process of creating the dinosaurs as well as studying the ones who are already on the island.

Ian Malcolm is a scientist who tries to talk sense into Hammond. Malcolm has repeated his theories to Hammond, such as his chaos theory, and Hammond is tried of hearing it. Malcolm correctly predicts that the animals on the island are no easily controlled and are likely to escape the island and make it to the mainland. Malcolm is the voice of reason, but he often isn’t reasonable. He is the hardest character to understand at times because he is science and fact driven, he’s not a relatable character due to his jargon and demeanor, but he does seem to mean well. He wants to warn Hammond that ha the is doing is wrong, even when it is ill received.

Tim is Lex’s older brother. Tim has a genuine interest in dinosaurs, while Lex’s interests lie in sports and pestering her big brother. Tim is a little reserved, but he looks up to Dr. Grant. Lex is more outspoken and is not afraid to complain when she’s uncomfortable or bored—which tends to happen often.

I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. I went in with high expectations, but also knew to keep the movie separate from the book. There are many differences between the movie and book and that happens any time creative leeway is given. But I have discovered that I love this book more. It is heavily based in science, but it is all explained in laymen’s terms. The characters are also more well rounded and fleshed out in the book. If you have not read Jurassic Park, then I highly recommend it. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to finally read it.

Rating: 5/5

May TBR

This month, I am setting our to read new books I hope to become some of my favorites, a book that seems like everyone’s favorite, and a classic I cannot believe I have not picked up yet. This May, I hope to finish Leah on the OffbeatA Court of Frost & StarlightSix of Crows, and Stardust.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli 

Synopsis: “When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon. So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.”–Amazon

I want to start out by saying that I LOVED Simon vs. the Homo-Sapien Agenda. I laughed, cried, had my heart crushed, and felt for each of the characters in that book. Alberalli’s writing style blew me away and I have been excited for this sequel ever since. I preordered this book a a while ago and I cannot wait to devour this. I have been a little upset that I haven’t found the time to sit down and read this book, so I am proclaiming this the first book that I must read this month.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas

Synopsis: “Narrated by Feyre and Rhysand, this story bridges the events in A Court of Wings and Ruin and the upcoming novels in the series. Feyre, Rhys and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated – scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their court.”–SarahJMaas.com

Sarah J Maas is a quintessential young adult author While her other series, Throne of Glass is my favorite of the two, I am still excited to read this book. But I am also hesitant. I usually hate spinoff books, but I miss the characters from the ACOTAR series so much that my curiosity outweighs my hesitations right now. And I’m sure that once I dive into another SJM book that I will lose track of time and my heart.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis: “Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone… A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.”–LeighBardugo.com

I have heard nothing but positive things about this book. I can’t tell you why I never decided to pick up this book until now, but I am glad to finally have it in my possession. I’m a little iffy about Bardugo’s writing style, but I won’t be quick to judge because I’ve only read one book by her and my expectations were so high that disappointment was inevitable. Hopefully, this one lives up to the hype.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Synopsis: “In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian Era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall — a secluded hamlet so named for an imposing stone barrier that surrounds a fertile grassland. Armed sentries guard the sole gap in the bulwark to keep the inquisitive from wandering through, relaxing their vigil only once every nine years, when a market fair unlike any other in the world of men comes to the meadow. Here in Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to beautiful Victoria Forester. But Victoria is cold and distant — as distant, in fact, as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky on a crisp October evening. For the coveted prize of Victoria’s hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the ancient wall, and propels him into a world that is strange beyond imagining. But Tristran is not the only one seeking the heavenly jewel. There are those for whom it promises youth and beauty, the key to a kingdom, and the rejuvenation of dark, dormant magics. And a lad compelled by love will have to keep his wits about him to succeed and survive in this secret place where fallen stars come in many guises — and where quests have a way of branching off in unexpected directions, even turning back upon themselves in space and in time.”–Barnes & Noble

I want to start of by saying that Stardust is one of my all-time favorite feel good movies. It is visually stunning and the story warms my heart. I knew it was based off of a novel, but I did not know that Neil Gaiman wrote the book. After reading American Gods and Norse Mythology, I can confidently say that I enjoy Gaiman’s books and I am excited to read this one. I have heard conflicting reviews and comparisons between the book and the movie. So I decided to approach this book as its own entity, and entirely different from the movie.

What are you reading this month?

Happy Death Day Review

Happy Death Day is a story of Tree Gelbman perpetually living the same day, Monday, October 18, which is also her birthday. Tree is a college student who keeps waking up in a dorm room and has to go through the motions all over again—facing class, her roommate, sorority sisters, and people she would rather avoid.

This is not a horror movie and it also does not make a great “slasher film,” it is cutesy and predictable. You can guess the killer just by watching the commercials of this film. The movie is also riddled with clichés and stereotypes. The characters are traditional college students portrayed in movies but that we have never met in real life.

One stereotype in this movie is particularly frustrating. Tree’s sorority sisters are portrayed as obsessed with their looks and the image they put off. The sorority president shames another member for eating during lunch. The traditional stereotype is tired. It is exhausting to see sorority women only care about their looks, partying, and sleeping with fraternity men.

The “Groundhog Day” sentiment is also worn-out. This movie does poke fun at itself, but this is the second movie like this released this year.

The acting was great, however. Tree, played by Jessica Rothe, is dynamic and manages to turn a grim situation into a small comedic relief. Carter Davis, played by Israel Broussard, is the sensible person Tree needs in her life. These two leads work well together and make this movie worthwhile.

Overall, I would recommend this movie. I would not call it a “must see” but it is a decent movie.

 

Rating: 3/5

August BOTM Review: Fierce Kingdom

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

I chose Fierce Kingdom as my August BOTMC book. This was the only book this month that grabbed my attention. I was hopeful. This book sounded different and real. However, I just got bored.

Synopsis (taken from the inside cover):

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines-transform her into the hero she and her son need to stay a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and out human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

Characters:

Joan is a mother to Lincoln. She loves the quiet moments with her son, but her mind wonders to the thousands of other things that consume her daily life as her son plays. She’s protective and resourceful. She’ll do anything to ensure the safety of Lincoln, even if that means putting herself in harms’ way.

Lincoln is a 4-year-old boy who loves imagining scenarios with his plastic toy figurines. He seems like a normal kid who needs “normal kid things,” like food, attention, and safety. He is aware that a threat is looking but he’s more interested in his surroundings at the zoo.

Kailynn is a teenager who is distracted while doing her job. She’s young and would rather be on her phone, but she’s sensible enough to seek shelter and wait. She’s friendly and talks when she’s nervous, but she means well.

Margaret is an older woman who is caught power walking through the zoo. She is a former school teacher who remembers Robby from one of her classes. She appeals to the young boy in Robby, the one who was helpful to her and quiet in her classroom.

Mark & Robby are opposites but both feel like they have something to prove. One’s a better leader, but neither are the kind to call the shots. The other has a troubled past because he’s different, but there is still some good in him.

Plot:

The plot is quite simple in this novel: Joan, her son, and several others are trapped in the zoo while two men with guns hunt them down. The men—Mark and Robby—go into the zoo with guns and start shooting several minutes before the zoo is set to close. Joan wants to protect her son, Lincoln, and does everything she can to ensure he’s safe and content. Joan is disconnected from the outside world and has no way of knowing whether the offenders are still in the zoo or have been captured by police. Joan has to navigate the zoo, placate a small child, and hope that she and her son and escape unscathed.

Reflection:

The book is slow. It takes place over the span of several hours, but reading this book felt like it took days off of my life. The first half dragged on and I became quite frustrated with the pace of the book. I also did not think that the background information of a lot of the characters was necessary to propel the story. I nearly gave up half way through, but instead decided to skim.

After that, I finished the rest of the book within an hour.

One thing I liked about this book was the way it was written. An omniscient narrator tells the story, but I think it may have been a little more gripping if told from the perspective of Joan. However, I did like that the focus was not solely on Joan the entire time. We learn about other people stuck in the zoo as well as the perpetrators. But again, I felt like there was too much focus on the background of all of the characters. Do we really care why Kailynn had her phone taken away? Does it matter that there’s so much focus on Joan’s memories? The answer should be no. This book would be a fairly gripping movie because those background pieces of information wouldn’t be relevant, as they shouldn’t be here.

I was excited about the premise of this book, but I was let down. This story sounded gripping and promising, but instead I rushed through it just to finish it. I wouldn’t call this book a complete dud, but I also wouldn’t suggest you run out and buy it either. If you have a couple hours of time to spare and don’t mind skimming most of the book, then this will be a hit for you.

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