Posted in book review

Review: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

My first book of 2020! (Well, the first book I both started and finished in 2020, because I did finish one 2019 read after the first of the year.)

This book reminded me of a lot of things, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Labyrinth, with a hint of Coraline (which I didn’t italicize as a book because I’m not actually sure if I’m referring to the book or movie haha), and I’m here for it.


The Spindlers

Genres/Descriptors: middle grade; fantasy>portal fantasy
Publication: 2012
Pages: 246
Check it out on Goodreads

What’s it about?

One day, Liza wakes up to find that her brother, Patrick, might not really be her brother. He can answer her questions, things only Patrick would know, but something about him is just off. Her suspicion? In the night, his soul was whisked away by the Spindlers (spider-like creatures with human faces and hands) their old babysitter warned them about.

Of course her parents don’t believe her, so it’s up to Liza to venture into the world Below (armed with a broom) to find Patrick’s soul and save him. Below, Liza meets a lot of interesting characters and creatures, most notable, a rat named Mirabella who offers to act as Liza’s guide to the Spindlers. Along the way, she faces many challenges and plenty of dangers, but the biggest of all comes when she faces the queen of the Spindlers and finds that it isn’t only Patrick’s soul in danger, but also her own.


Review

I’ve read a couple of Lauren Oliver’s YA books, and I liked them at the time, but it’s been a while. The Spindlers has been on my shelf for ages, but I kept putting it off because I wasn’t really reading middle grade very often, and honestly, I just kept kind of overlooking it. But, it was a shorter read for a reading challenge, so I finally picked it up, and I’m so glad!

Lauren Oliver can write very well, but I haven’t read enough of her books to say whether I prefer her middle grade or young adult books. I can say that I will definitely be looking out for more middle grade from her. The world Below really came to life for me as I read, and I almost finished this in one sitting because I was so engrossed. (I probably would have read it in one sitting if I hadn’t gotten hungry halfway through haha.)

I could really “see” the world and the characters, even the ones we didn’t spend as much time with. Mirabella was particularly clear in my mind, with her paper skirt, a wig, and lipstick. One of my favorite things about this was how there were creatures we know (like rats, but in this book they can talk) as well as ones I haven’t come across anything quite like before (like the spindlers, or the nocturni).

One thing I’m learning about middle grade, now that I’m reading more of it, is that there are much higher stakes than I used to think. I spent a fair portion of this book genuinely concerned for Liza and the things she was facing. The tension was definitely there, even as an adult reader.

The spindlers and other scarier creatures were sufficiently creepy, but there was also some humor sprinkled in, as well as nicer creatures, to balance things out. I really loved the concept of the nocturni, in particular, and I would love to learn more about them. They were probably my favorite creatures from this book.

Liza was brave, smart, and didn’t lose sight of her end goal, even when things were really hard. She kept pushing forward, in spite of her fear and the obstacles she faced. She was a bit naive, which is understandable because she is still quite young, but she was also a fairly quick thinker and used her brain more than anything else to navigate the challenges in the world Below. I just adored her, honestly.

My least favorite part of this book was almost certainly the parents. I don’t think Liza and Patrick’s parents were the absolute worst ever, but they weren’t great. That, I feel, is a trend in a lot of YA and middle grade books, and I’m not a fan. I know firsthand that not everyone has pleasant childhoods with loving, encouraging, understanding guardians/parents/etc., but I wish we had more books with parents who are like that. (Think Sally from the Percy Jackson books.) The way things ended, with the parents, was also not my favorite. I won’t go into more details on that so I don’t spoil anything, but I feel like there needed to be a step between when the parents were introduced, and how the book ended with them.

Overall, I really liked this book and gave it 4 out of 5 stars. If you like middle grade and portal fantasy (Narnia, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Coraline, Oz, Inkheart, etc.), and you haven’t read this one yet, I would definitely recommend it.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Challenges this book counted for:

The Winter Magical Readathon– Read a book that starts with the letter S, for Slytherin

Beat the Backlist– published before 2020

Posted in Uncategorized

OwlCrate: Tales of Trickery (December 2019) Review

I’m not sure if I should call this a review or a gush haha. I feel like OwlCrate boxes just keep getting better, I’ve loved September through December’s boxes, and I have a feeling I’m going to love the January 2020 box as well.


From the OwlCrate team, we had these Caraval by Stephanie Garber inspired, rose patterned earmuffs. It’s not secret that I did not like Caraval, but I do like a lot of the merch I see, and I really like these earmuffs. There’s no way you’d know they’re inspired by Caraval just by looking at them, and I think they’re so pretty and soft.

It hasn’t been cold enough for me to wear them yet, but I’m glad I have them. They’re comfortable, even with my glasses, which is something I had a problem with in the past with other earmuffs I’ve used.

The red is much more vibrant in person, but it’s been really rainy here so my lighting was not always great :/

I think I’m way too excited about the hand warmer haha. This is such a simple item (created by KitCronkStudio), but I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this in a book box before. I use things like this all the time in the winter (we seriously have almost a dozen of these kinds of things), and I love the little cozy it came with. This item has a phrase from Adrienne Young’s Sky in the Deep on it: “Qnd eldr. Breathe Fire.” I was so excited to see a Sky in the Deep item because I really enjoyed that book, and I feel like I’ve only seen maybe one other item in a book box inspired by it.

There was a bookish candle with a wood wick, from Novelly Yours, and I am pumped! This is my second bookish candle (the only other one I have was also from an OwlCrate box), and it was my first wood wick candle. It smells like cinnamon, and I love it. It’s not super overpowering or chemical-y like some cinnamon candles I’ve had in the past. This candle was inspired by Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart, which I haven’t read yet. I think wood wick candles might become my next obsession. I’m not sure what the throw of the scent is, but that’s not something I pay much attention to unless the scent is overpowering, which this one hasn’t been.

Then we had the item I was losing my mind over when they posted the sneak peak: a book sleeve! I’ve been looking at book sleeves for years, and I think this one that Chatty Nora designed is gorgeous. It was inspired by Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (which I haven’t read yet), and I’m delighted to have it. The sleeve is quite spacious, and I think any of my regular hardcovers will easily fit inside it. I think it might fit two standard paperbacks, if they’re not too chunky. I do wish it had a closure at the top, but that’s just me nitpicking. I can’t really say how well padded it is in comparison to other sleeves, since this is my first, but it does feel like it will protect my books.

The OwlCrate team also designed an awesome little coloring book and set of colored pencils. The coloring book features all of their enamel pins from 2019, and the pencils all have bookish hashtags on them like #bibliophile, #currentlyreading, and #booksandcoffee. I really like these, and I feel like they’re pretty unique. I have seen pencils or pens in book boxes before, but I don’t think I’ve seen a coloring book. I definitely haven’t seen one like this, that features the art of the box’s pins.

I’ve only used the pencils once so far, so I haven’t really tested them out a ton, but I don’t think I’ll really use them for coloring books. They’re fine, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I need to press down quite hard to get much color payoff. However, I think they’ll be perfect for my bullet journal because of that (I like pencils for when I want a lighter wash of color than I can get from my markers, but I don’t want to break out my watercolors).

I knew what the book was as soon as I started reading the theme announcement, and I was so excited. Kiersten White’s The Guinevere Deception has been on my TBR since early 2019, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I love a good Arhurian story, and I can’t wait to see what this one is like.

I don’t actually remember much from the synopsis (and I want to keep it that way), but I’m pretty sure it’s from Guinevere’s perspective. She’s gone to Camelot to protect Arthur, or save him from something, but she might not be who she seems to be, and that’s all I remember.

Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate how pretty the naked hardcover is?!

Finally, there’s this month’s enamel pin, which was designed by Read and Wonder. I love this pin! I don’t know what else to say about it. I love castles, I love Arthurian legend, and I think this pin is so pretty.


I really enjoyed this box, overall. There was nothing in it I disliked, and I love it when there are useful items in book boxes, which most of these items were. I think my favorite item is probably the candle. It’s a scent I like a lot, it was my first wood wick, and now I have a tiny collection of bookish candles started ❤ But really, I loved it all.

Posted in tbr

January 2020 TBR

I realize we’re now about a third of the way through the month, but in my defense I was making a TBR game board for the first week and I was still trying to finish my last December book :/

I made a Bookopoly board, which I’m not showing off because A) I am not great at drawing (especially freehand with a Sharpie haha), B) I never got around to putting the title “Bookopoly”) on the board, and C) my board might have been ruined less than 24 hours after I finished it. I’m still too upset to really assess the damage, so I’m ignoring it and hoping it fixes itself because I spent at least 12 hours working on it and I was fairly pleased with how it turned out.

Anyway… That’s not why we’re here, but it is relevant because the board chose my TBR. I think my rules are pretty much the same as Becca’s from Becca and the Books over on YouTube (her board was one of the inspirations for creating my own), but I could be mistaken.

I don’t have a set number of rolls, because I think I’ll just feel it out every month (assuming my board is still functional). Rolling doubles means I have to roll again (as in regular Monopoly) and add an additional book to my TBR. This month, I did six rolls but two of those were doubles, so I ended up with eight rolls/books.

Because I’m still trying to finish the Winter Magical Readathon, I might have to add more books, but this is what I have so far.


The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)

Read a Library Book– For this one, I’m probably going with The Girl in the Tower by Katharine Arden. I was hoping my hold on this would come through later so I could use it for Polarthon next month, but oh well.

Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #1)

Husband Picks– This one made me nervous haha. Husband picked Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (I think his reasoning was that it looked cool) and my reaction was gleefully screeching “LESBIAN NEROMANCERS IN SPACE!” at a pitch I think only dogs could hear 😛

The Spindlers

Children/Middle Grade– My Magical Readathon pick for “starts with S” works for this one, so I’m reading The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver.

Vengeance Road (Vengeance Road, #1)

Outside My Comfort Zone– I think I’ll be borrowing for this one and checking out Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman. This one was already on my TBR for 2020 because there’s a PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt to read a Western, which is outside my comfort zone.

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Feminine Pursuits, #1)

Historical Fiction– Another book I have out from the library. I’ll be reading The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite which has been on my TBR for almost a year, and I finally got to the top of the holds list, yay!

The Odyssey

Community Shelf Card: (Owned) Book on Goodreads TBR the Longest– That would be Homer’s The Odyssey :/ I’ve actually read it before, but it was almost 20 years ago, so I’ve been wanting to re-read it for ages anyway. Hopefully I’ll be in the right mood.

Shades of Magic Vol. 1: The Steel Prince

Comics/Manga– Ok, I haven’t for sure chosen something or this one, but since I have gone through a few pages of Chapter 5 of the Magical Readathon to see my first couple of prompts, I think I’ll be going with The Steel Prince vol. 1 by V.E. Schwab for this one.

The Hate U Give

Chance Card– I pulled The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas for this one. I swear this book has probably been on my TBRs than any other :/


This…might be too ambitious considering I only have three weeks left in the month haha. (I’m also in a tiny slump, ugh.) But, two of these are pretty short, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping to get through all of them, but it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. If I read most of them and start the others, I’ll call that a win.


What’s on your TBR this month?

Have you read any of these? What did you think of it/them?

Posted in book tags/memes

Top 10 Tuesday: First Half of 2020 Book Releases

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Every week, there’s a theme and you choose ten books that fit it. Check out upcoming topics here.


This week, things are short and to the point for a change haha. I haven’t actually looked too much at 2020 book releases, but I think almost all of my 2020 most anticipated books are actually coming out during the second half of the year. That said, there are plenty of books I’m looking forward to during the first half of the year, and it was actually more challenging than I expected to narrow it down to just 10.

In publication order…


Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (January 7th, today!)

Woven in Moonlight

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañezwas (January 7th, today!)

Riot Baby

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (January 21st)

The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates, #1)

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood (February 11th)

Docile

Docile by K.M. Szpara (March 3rd)

The Winter Duke

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett (March 3rd)

Witches of Ash and Ruin

Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer (March 3rd)

Queen of Coin and Whispers

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (April 6th)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)

The Ballad of Songirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (May 19th)

How to Catch a Queen (Runaway Royals, #1)

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole (May 26th)


Are there any books you’re looking forward to during the first half of 2020?

Posted in reading challenges, tbr

Beat the Backlist 2020: Sign Up and Some TBR Picks

I can’t believe it took me so long to get this post together, because I’ve been thinking about it since mid-December haha.

Last year, I participated in Novel Knight’s Beat the Backlist challenge, and I did really well with it. In my 2019 Stats, Challenges, and Goals Wrap Up post, I talked about the breakdown of backlist vs 2019 release books I read, but in summary, I read a lot more backlist than new release books. That isn’t unusual for me, because I don’t buy and immediately read many new releases (and I’m not really getting ARCs anymore, which I keep meaning to talk about), but I’m still pleased with the results.

I’m excited to be participating in this challenge again this year, because it’s low pressure and helps keep me focused on reading books I already own. I’m not going to try to make a true TBR for this year’s challenge, because I’m a mood reader and can’t always stick to a TBR, but I did pick a few books from my shelves that I will probably be reading this year.

The Books

Monstress, vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu is a the first in a series I’ve really wanted to read for a few years now. I absolutely love the art style (Sana Takeda is the illustrator), and I’m really curious to see how I feel about steampunk comics (I tend to enjoy steampunk, but I haven’t read a ton of it yet).

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver was a book I picked up a few years ago, and I still haven’t read it. I think this is going to be my first book of the year, though, because I am still working my way through the Winter Magical Readathon, and I’m up to the prompt “Read a book that starts with the letter S, for Slytherin,” and this one fits. Plus, in addition to working for Beat the Backlist and the Magical Readathon, it also works for one of my goals for myself, which is to read more broadly. I don’t read a lot of middle grade, but I’ve been adding some to my TBR lately, and I might as well kick things off with a book I already own 😛

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the second book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, and I’m really hoping to re-read The Shadow of the Wind and then continue on with the series this year. I loved the first book, and I picked up the last one in 2019, so I can binge my way through them if I want. This also works for my goal to continue/finish series I own.

Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige is the third book in the Dorothy Must Die series. I read the first two last year and liked them a lot, so I’m looking forward to finishing the series this year. This one also works for continuing/finishing a series I own.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab is the sequel to Vicious (which I loved) and I still haven’t read it. I think I will get to it this year, though, because I’m starting to feel like I’m almost in the right mood for it.

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare is kind of a random choice because I think I have three of her books on my TBR shelf and I just grabbed the one on top of the stack 😛 I discovered my love of romance last year by reading a Tessa Dare book, and I’ve read several of her books since then and enjoyed them all. So, I don’t know if I’ll necessarily read this one this year, but it’s likely I will.


There are definitely more books than these that I hope to read this year, but when I was thinking about my options, I tried to think of the books I really thought I would be reading this year, and not just the ones I hope I get around to. All of these are books I’ve been wanting to read for a while, anyway, and they’re all by authors whose writing I’ve enjoyed in the past.


Are you participating in Beat the Backlist?

Do you tend to read more backlist or new release books?