Author Archives: Nicole & Isis

About Nicole & Isis

Hi! This is Nicole and Isis, and we will be running this awesome book blog. We're both aspiring authors, which means that we do a lot of reading and writing, so we hope you enjoy our posts! Currently, we're both co-writing an urban fantasy novel, as well as writing our own individual fiction novels. Basically, we're both constantly writing. But in order to write better, one must read. Therefore, we have our very own book club. Here we will discuss some of our favorite books.

The End of the Year Book Tag

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This book tag was created by Ariel over on Youtube. It sounded fun, so we decided to do it!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

Nicole: All of them? Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, and Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh is just two of them.
Isis: I need to finish the book I’m currently reading: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee. It’s a good book, but it’s pretty long for my usual taste. I’m hoping I finish it soon. Other than that, I’d just like to finish all the books I’m currently reading on GR. There’s just too many to list.
Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?
Nicole: The Diviners by Libba Bray. It has magic and deals with the occult which always makes me think of fall for some reason.
Isis: I’ve been reading Point Pleasant by Jen Archer Wood every fall for the past few years. It’s set in October, and it’s sort of a monster book with an eerie vibe. I even have a soundtrack for it. That’s my go-to fall book. I’m not sure if I’ll read it again this year, but I might.
Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?
Nicole: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan comes out October 3rd. I can’t wait.
Isis: I’m looking forward to Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. It comes out October 10. Although I fear I may be too old to enjoy a John Green novel, the teenager in me is still super excited to get back into his stories. I have high hopes.
What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?
Nicole: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Follow Her Home by Steph Cha, and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
Isis: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?
Nicole: I expect to love The Fifth Season and The Ship of the Dead.
Isis: I think The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee definitely has its potential to become a new favorite. I’m about 150 pages into it and I’m already in love with the writing style. I love the dynamic between the three main characters and I’m looking forward to more. I’m hoping it stays consistently good.
Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?
Nicole: I did but I don’t think it’ll happen. I never stick to anything.
Isis: No. I don’t like to think that far ahead. I don’t even know what I’m going to read after I finish my current reads.
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Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

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Ada had told Corinne that together they could do it, because that’s what she was supposed to say. That was always the way of things between them. Ada made the promises, and Corinne found a way to keep them. But this time Ada wasn’t so sure. 

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria is a standalone young adult fantasy novel that takes place in 1919 Boston. Told in duel perspective by Ada, who is Portuguese and Swahili, and Corinne, who is a privileged heiress. They are both hemopaths, people of afflicted blood that can create illusions through art. The problem with that is that is that is looked down upon and practically illegal. Ada and Corinne work at this pub called Iron Cast which is a safe haven for people like them. But the pub is having problems because of hemopaths practically being illegal, and with prohibition being of the verge of happening.  

With that short summary, I feel like I’m doing this book a disservice. It’s so much more than that, but it’s so complicated to explain. There is friendship, romance, betrayal, and mystery. It’s so much yet I can only give a lackluster summary about the pub so I don’t give away spoilers.

The main thing I can see people disliking about this book, that even I disliked a little bit as I was reading it, was the pacing of the novel. It starts off with a bang. Ada had just been caught during a con gone wrong, and Corrine has to bail her out. It’s fast paced and exciting until they make it to safety. Then the story slows to almost a complete stop. The book builds up the world, the magic, the characters, and all their relationships. And then slowly, slowly the action starts happening again until the ending where it’s nonstop fast paced action again. During the slow bits, I got a little annoyed, but after the book ended I came to appreciate them. It really helped build up the world and characters so everything seemed very fleshed out and real.

Now, I must warn you the rest of this review will be a complete gush fest because I completely fell in love with this book. Let me start with the representation. Like I mentioned before, Ada is biracial. She’s in a relationship with a black man who came from the south.  They aren’t only stated to be black, but they talk about it. It has consequences from the other white people in the novel. It’s not glossed over. They talk about how bad the south is. Corinne is white, but her privilege is mentioned. Not just because she is rich, but because she is white. It’s acknowledged that she can not understand all of Ada’s struggles despite the fact they are both hemopaths. There is also a male/male romance. It’s with two side characters, and mostly hinted at, but it is definitely there and acknowledged. I haven’t read much historical fiction, but usually it is completely white and straight so the diversity in this novel really caught me by surprise.

I’ve seen mention in other reviews that the romance in this book isn’t much. I don’t understand that because I thought there was plenty. That might be because I am not usually a big romance reader, but I thought the romance from this book was balanced perfectly with all the other elements of the book. Ada and Corinne each have a romantic storyline that doesn’t takeaway from their friendship or the action of the story at all. Ada’s relationship in particular is nice because they began their romance before the book started. So it’s a nice change from the usual romance seen in books. They have different struggles, mainly on whether to fully commit to each other. Corinne’s romance is more of the usual type, but I surprised myself by really liking it.

Don’t get me wrong though. The romance is not the focus of this book at all. The main thing is friendship, mainly between Ada and Corinne. They love each other so much. It was refreshing. They are both strong, complex women, and their banter was always fun to read.

It should come to no surprise that I gave this book five stars. I was so disappointed to learn it was a standalone when I finished it. It’s even more disappointing to know this was Soria’s only book. I think this book doesn’t get as much love as it deserves, and everybody should go out and give it a chance. 

 

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

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There was no use fighting fate, fighting the lot you were given in life. But she refused to be ignorant and helpless, halfling demon or no.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon is a young adult fantasy novel inspired by Chinese mythology. It follows sixteen year old Skybright who is the handmaid of Zhen Ni, the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. Skybright deals with becoming a serpent half demon, changing relationships, her mysterious past, and the breach of Hell.

There is a female/female relationship in this story. Not the main pairing, but it’s given significant page time. I feel I must put a warning that if you want a fluffy happy romance, it isn’t in this book. Homosexuality isn’t accepted, and when the romance is found out it is met rather violently. 

While this book has really long chapters which I usually hate in books, the pace of the novel is so fast that I honestly didn’t notice much. The writing was easy to read, and the world was rich and lovely to sink into. I loved the characters and the complex relationships they had with each other. Skybright was a lovely main character to read. Practical, loyal, and smart. I think she’s a new favorite character.

I truly loved my time with this book which was a pleasant surprise. I wanted to check out this novel out for a while now ever since I saw Cindy Pon speak at a festival a couple years ago. However I hesitated because while I love fantasy and magic, a half serpent demon seemed a little out there for me. So I put it off for a long time, but it really wasn’t hard to grasp at all.

I gave this novel five stars. It’s the first in a duology, and I will definitely be picking up the last one.

The Reading Quest Final Update

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Nicole:

In the last update, I was unsure of which book I would continue. I ended up reading, finishing, and loving Serpentine by Cindy Pon. It was 274 pages, and a complete five star read for me.

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Out of the five books and 1,964 pages I had in my TBR, I finished three books and 1,083 pages. While not living up to my hopes, I finished books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. Plus, all the books I read I enjoyed. So I will have to consider this a success on my part.

Isis:

I was under the impression that the read-a-thon was over a week ago, but apparently it wasn’t. I did read, but it was not one of the books on my list. However, I’m still counting it. I read The Last Cigarette on Earth by Benjamin Alire Saenz. It was 130 pages long. I wrote a review on it. 

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I also read 10 pages in After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. I’m really not feeling this book of short stories anymore. I loved the first story, but I couldn’t even finish the second one. Maybe I’m not in the mood for this book right now.

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So, in total, I read 471 pages and two books during the read-a-thon out of the five books and 1,200 pages from my TBR. I blame it on my recent obsession with Friends. It happens every time I decide to rewatch it. But come on, it’s the best show!

The Last Cigarette on Earth by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review

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“I was a man who had lived in drought for so long that what I desired most was rain. But the rain never came.”

This book of poetry was heart-wrenching. Saenz always writes the most profound words that create the most impressive sentences. I read this slowly because I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed. There’s always so much emotion packed into his poetry, and the subjects are never easy. But I really loved every moment I spent reading it.

“How many people can you love anyway? Love may be infinite but the human heart has its limits. That’s why they’ve built a wall between us and Mexico.”

This collection is full of personal accounts, including a drug addiction. I was surprised to hear Saenz talk about this in person during a book reading, but I was curious as well. I think it’s really brave of him to write about such a difficult topic. I’m glad he did. He’s mentioned many times how therapeutic writing is for him. I’ve felt the same way.

“One day, an angel will arrive to lead me into paradise. I will send the angel away.”

Saenz also wrote about the border between the U.S. and Mexico, which is a topic he often writes about. I’ve read so many of his books: fiction, short stories, poetry, children’s book, you name it. And in so many of them, he’s talked about the dangers and terrible deaths that happen in Juarez. But it never gets easier reading about it. Mexico is my country. I hate to be reminded of its cruelty.

“Work is a word he knew. It was what he was born for. Work his future, his fate, his destiny.”

I was also really touched to read about Saenz’s relationships. He wrote about a few important men in his life. I loved his raw honesty. But there was also a not-so-subtle gilt throughout that comes from his sexual orientation. I don’t know if I’m interpreting it right because I’m not him, but it hurts to think he holds guilt because he’s attracted to men. I know he was a priest once, and that religion isn’t very accepting. But there is such a thing as accepting your sexuality while maintaining your faith and/or religion. That just really hit close to home.

“To think that once my love for you was fire and now my heart has leapt beyond desire.”

I think it’s obvious how much I enjoyed this book. It left me thinking, but that’s a good thing. I’d recommend Saenz’s poetry to anyone. His poetry is beyond beautiful.

Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo – Book Review

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Fat Angie is about a girl in her freshman year of high school dealing with some difficult stuff. Angie refers to herself as Fat Angie because she thinks that’s all there is to her. I should mention trigger warnings for self-harm and suicide, bullying, abuse, and homophobia. Due to all of these reasons, I found it hard to read it at times, but I pushed through it. Despite all the bad stuff, there were sweet moments to balance it out.

There are two lovely characters in this book: KC Romance and Jake, both very different people, but they are probably the only two decent people in Angie’s life. I liked that KC was a “bad girl” who shows up to a new school and is immediately drawn to Angie. It felt like a little twist to the “bad boy” trope. I loved that KC and Angie fall for each other (Not a spoiler, this is amazing). I love that Jake is the jock who always has Angie’s back, and works to help her achieve her goals. I loved all of those things.

That being said, I really hated Angie’s mom and brother. Angie’s mom was just awful. Again, it’s a really common trope in YA whenever young people have totally neglectful, verbally abusive parents, but I am so sick of it. The mom had no reason to treat Angie so poorly, and yet she did. Angie was probably abused way more at home than at school, and that’s just terrible. I didn’t want to read about Angie’s mom anymore, but she just kept showing up and ruining the peace that Angie found with KC and Jake.

Overall, this was a good read. The storyline of Angie’s sister who went off to war, was taken captive, and disappeared for months was really touching. I really felt for Angie. I understood why her world seemed to be crashing down on her the entire time. And the ending wrapped things up nicely. So, I think this book is definitely worth checking out.

The Reading Quest Update #2

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Nicole: First, I have to apologize since there hasn’t been any posts for two weeks now. I didn’t put up an update last week because honestly I didn’t open up a book at all. And since I didn’t finish anything, I didn’t have a review to put up. This week however was much better. I read all week, and finished The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan on Thursday.

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It was 312 pages, and a five star read. Since then I’ve been bouncing around books again. I’ve read 10 pages of Serpentine by Cindy Pon and 44 pages of Asylum by Madeleine Roux even though that wasn’t on my TBR for this.

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I’m not sure if I will continue one of those, go back to The Bone Witch, or start something new. There’s one more week of this Reading Quest, and I hope to finish at least one more book.

Isis:  This week I had a lot of health issues that stopped me from reading a lot, but I still managed to get some reading done. Thanks to goodreads, I was able to monitor the pages I read in Fat Angie. I got to page 108 on 8/27, and then to page 161 on 8/29, and this was my favorite moment because the romance started kicking in. And let me tell you, I was rooting for this romance. It was very sweet. Today I managed to finish the entire book, so I read 263 pages for this book. 

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I have some mixed feelings about Fat Angie. Although it was mostly good, there was a lot that bothered me. The writing style was odd. I liked Angie, but didn’t like the way she narrated the book. I didn’t like KC’s dialogue, as much as I liked her. Their lingo just didn’t make much sense. Overall, I did appreciate the themes in the book, and the romance between Angie and KC. I also really liked Jake, Angie’s friend. He was so sweet and supportive. I wish I’d managed to finish other books during this time, but I’m glad I got one done at least. Counting the bit I read from the other books, I read 331 pages total.