Phaedra by Laura Shepperson

Phaedra by Laura Shepperson

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Myth Retold

Laura Shepperson’s debut novel Phaedra (released as The Heroines in UK/AUS) is another new release in Greek myth retellings. The story follows Phaedra, who married Theseus after he slayed the Minotaur. This work re-examines the story from Phaedras point of view, and turns the story on its head. Ultimately, Phaedra, who is misunderstood, demands justice for the suffering and helplessness that is felt by not only herself, but for abused women everywhere.

It’s a very complex story (and controversial, as far as myths go). I won’t spoil the ending here for anyone who doesn’t know how the myth goes, but if you are interested search for Euripides’ Hippolytus myth summary.

A stark contrast between gender roles is explored within this work, showing how different expectations and beliefs were between men and women during this time in history.

IMHO the world-building left a lot to be desired, and I found the multiple POVs to be confusing at times. The challenging subject matter makes it an emotionally difficult read, in itself. Not hard, but uncomfortable to read, at times. And who am I to judge? They say good literature evokes feelings and makes you think critically…which this story definitely does. I do think this story brings a fresh twist to an old myth, and I am still excited to add this new story of Phaedra to my mythology collection 💙

⭐️⭐️⭐️

TW: rape, abuse, suicide

Thank you to @alcovepress @penguinrandomhouse and @laurashepperson for gifting me this ARC💕

Jane Austen Book Club – Sense & Sensibility Discussion Qs

What was your favorite moment of the book?

One of my favorite moments of Sense and Sensibility is in chapter 30 when Mrs. Jennings is checking on Marianne after her heartbreak, and offering olives. She says, “Well, poor thing! I won’t disturb her any longer, for she had better have her cry out at once and have done with.” And I just think that is the funniest and truest line ever. Cry it out, Marianne!

The working title of the book was Elinor and Marianne. Why is Sense and Sensibility a better title? In what ways do Elinore and Marianne embody these traits?

I would categorize Elinor and Marriane as dual heroines, and changing the title to S&S broadens the themes of the book. Typically Elinor is seen as the sensible one, and Marianne the sensitive one. But one of the interesting things about this book is how they do a switch, and by the end of the book Elinor is able to touch into her emotions in a way she wasn’t able to before, and Marianne makes much better choices, and shows more sense, which she was lacking at first. So this title change is important because it alludes to the sister’s transformations and dual nature, which I think everyone can relate to. We, all of us, have dual natures, a little bit of sense and a little bit of sensibility!

Margaret is often the overlooked younger sister in this novel–what do you think of her role in this novel?

Margaret Dashwood is mentioned sparsely throughout novel. Her character appears to be minor, existing as a particular supportive element for the her sisters. All her life depends on the events related to the members of her family, and she can not wait to live it by herself and feel all the patience of the independent existence.

What did you think about Willoughby’s apology? Did you feel sympathetic towards him?

I have very unsympathetic feelings toward Willoughby. He seems like a fuckboi and I just don’t like him.

What did you think of Lucy Steele? Did you trust her at first, or were you suspicious of her eagerness to befriend Elinor?

I personally do not trust Lucy Steele. There are moments where she seems to be intentionally petty, and I her keeping secret engagements makes her even less likeable.

Chapter 23 highlights her scheming character traits best, in my opinion. She is seen offering pointed information that Elinor hasn’t explicitly asked for, suggesting that Lucy is purposely choosing what to tell Elinor, and illuminates her pushing Elinor for information in an artful way.

In the end, Lucy gets what she wants—a wealthy husband who allows her to move up the social ladder through marriage. As the narrator says of her at the conclusion of the novel, she is a prime example of what someone can achieve when he or she is persistent, self-interested, and determined.

How do secrets drive Marianne and Elinor’s actions?

Secrets have a lot of power in the novel, both kept secrets and secrets revealed. 

CH 23 — “The necessity of concealing from her mother and Marianne, what had been entrusted in confidence to herself, though it obliged her to unceasing exertion, was no aggravation of Elinor’s distress.”

CH 29 — “Nor I,” answered Marianne with energy, “our situations then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.”

Which sister seems to change the most over the course of the novel? Who would you say is the heroine of the story, or do they share the role equally? 

Elinor and Marianne’s characters both show great development and growth by the end of the book. Typically Elinor is seen as representing sense and Marianne as representing Sensibility throughout the novel, but as the novel goes on, the heroines are able to learn from each other and that drives their characters’ evolution. By the end, Elinor has learned to be more sensible, and Marianne has learned to be more sensical, and that is one of the greatest journeys: learning that it is okay to be a little bit of both.

If I had to choose, I would say Elinor is the heroine of the story, in the same way that Lizzy is the heroine of P&P. P&P presents a story where the heroines are lifted up from poverty to wealth, marry rich handsome gentlemen, and get to marry for love. S&S presents more of a story about choices–both sisters marry, but Elinor gets her man in the end because she makes more rational choices from point A to B. Marianne loses her first choice because of her desperate actions, poor decision-making, and lack of foresight. She marries a good man in the end, but unlike Elinor, she ends up with her second-choice after incredible suffering and heartbreak. It makes her a stronger character, but it is much less idealized than the HEA of P&P.

How would you compare/contrast P&P to S&S? How are they similar, and how are they different?

Ofc P&P is still my favorite, but it’s always interesting to go through her other works and read them closer. I have to say that I do see a lot of similarities between P&P/S&S—even the titles stand out as the most similar of her stories. However, while Pride and Prejudice leans more towards a fantasy HEA, Sense and Sensibility presents a much more realistic (albeit cynical) take on love.

Pod by Laline Paull

Pod by Laline Paull

Release Date: February 7

Laline Paull returns with an immersive new novel about the ocean world as told through the eyes of two different dolphin pods: spinner dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins.

Ea is more than just a spinner dolphin. Ea is different. In this story, she has an identity. She has an acoustic disability that makes her unable to spin like the other dolphins in her pod, and she is ultimately on a journey of self-understanding and acceptance. As her inner struggles become more complex, she must also grapple with the changing of her world when she is uprooted from everything and everyone she knows. When catastrophe befalls her family and Ea knows she is partly to blame, she decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave the pod.

The ocean is a place of peace and calm. Until ocean demons and pollution threaten the oceans’ way of thriving. As Ea ventures into the vast, she finds danger lurking everywhere. The ocean itself seems to be changing; creatures are mutating, demonic noises pierce the depths, and entire species of fish disappear into the sky above.

I would describe it as scientific fiction, but I wouldn’t exactly call it sci-fi… I would call it cli-fi (climate fiction) because, though it is the story of dolphins, it is also the story of the whole ocean, and how the careless and cruel actions of humans put entire ecosystems at risk.

A diverse cast of sea creatures from dolphins and whales to pufferfish create an incredibly unique POV. Writing the main characters as dolphins and other marine animals draws comparisons between animals and humans, suggesting that we’re all the same— we, all of us are living beings.

This is a musical story, full of sound and space. Because dolphins use sonar, sound and music are strong themes in this book. Beautiful imagery and stunning ocean settings make this a perfect blend of reality and fiction. I loved how musical prose is woven so intricately with scientific fact, and I love this author because she has an amazing way of educating readers about the ocean while entertaining them at the same time.

TW: rape, sexual assault, death

Thank you so much to Pegasus Books for sending me an early copy to read and review. I love Laline Paull, and this is a new favorite of mine!

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello (now a major motion-picture)

“But there was another part of me that saw the installation as the defining metaphor for how Kit had confronted this entire year: with grace, courage, dark humor, and unquestionable fearlessness, right up to the end.” —Michael Ausiello, Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies

This was the most heart-wrenching book I have read in a long time. It was also really beautiful. If you get a chance to read or watch the new movie—do it.

This moving biographical memoir centers around Michael Ausiello and his partner Kit Cowan, who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of Neuroendocrine cancer. Though Kit and Michael did their best to fight the deadly disease, Kit’s struggle ended just 11 months after his diagnosis. This is the life story of Kit, and the love story of Kit-and-Mike, all wrapped up in a touching dedication to an incredible fighter—Kit Cowan.

Thank you @the.queerreader for sending me this book so we could buddy read without waiting for library holds 

 I can’t remember the last book that made me cry this much. I loved and hated every second of it 

Kit, you are amazing. Michael, you are amazing. Thank you for sharing Kit’s story—and your story—with the world.

Follow Michael on Instagram @michealausiello and buy Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies here, or stream the new movie today!

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

Historical Fiction – Chicago 1911

Wow!!! I LOVED this book. It is this author’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see more from her in the future. It was sweet, exciting, and well-researched historical fiction. I would rank it very high up in my list of favorite historical fictions, actually. I really loved it. The story is loosely based on the C. R. Patterson family. It weaves a lot of important Black history into the story, and is one of those books you could read for fun while still learning a lot, though I would still say romance is central to the story.

SHORT SPOILERY SUMMARY: First, there is Olivia, who is looking for love and ends up in a love triangle. Helen wants to be a mechanic and is on a personal journey. She wants to be respected and valued for more than a pretty face, but things get complicated when she turns her sisters’ love triangle into a love square by falling for Olivia’s suitor. Amy-Rose works for the Davenports, and has big dreams of opening her own salon. And she falls in love with Olivia’ brother, who already has something going on with Oliva’s riches-to-rags BFF Ruby!!! SO. MUCH. DRAMAAA!

I loved Amy-Rose and her love story, hers was my favorite couple, easily! Helen was an awesome SFL and the chapters from her POV were my favorites overall. But, its hard to pick favorites because Olivia was also amazing!! I think Ruby was my least favorite, just because I got jealous-friend-vibes from her near the beginning and I couldn’t shake them off. But it left lots of room for her character to grow, so that was valuable.

I love when authors hide character traits within the characters’ names (the closest word I can find is ‘Euonym‘: a name well suited to the person, place, or thing named. I feel like there is a better literary device for this, if you know it please help me!). I thought it was clever that there was flower imagery in Amy-Rose chapters, gemstone imagery in Ruby chapters, and Olivia gets an olive-branch moment that is super adorable.

Overall I enjoyed Marquis’ writing style. Having four main characters can be a lot to juggle, but each perspective is so different that it makes it really easy to keep them separate in your head. The multiple POV also allowed readers to see the differences in class, the challenging of gender roles, and the difficulty of aquiring and maintaining wealth and status. There were places where I thought the grammar could have been better, and passages that I thought could be reworded for readability, but this copy was just an ARC and those things are usually fixed in final copies. I did think the story moved very fast, and because of the multiple POVs certain characters and relationships could have been fleshed out more. Also, more history!! I selfishly would have loved to this done as a series, but that’s just because I wanted more lol!

I also maintain that this could make a really great show or movie adaptation!

 Follow Krystal Marquis on Instagram @krystabelle_reads and @krystalmarquis on Twitter.

Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me an ARC of this title. All opinions are my own.

#PenguinTeenPartner!

A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman

“Their three kisses would be just the beginning. He wanted all of her, body and soul.” —Kate Bateman, A Wicked Game

This was my first Kate Bateman book and right away I fell in love with this author’s writing style! It is the third book of the Ruthless Rivals series, but can easily be read as a standalone. A Wicked game was exciting, fast-paced, and steamy. Now I can’t wait to read more of this author!

It was a light and easy read, and it brought me back to a time when all I wanted to do was read harlequin resonances under my desk. This was a fun book to start the year with—romance, scandal, and smut, what more could you want!

𝕄𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕕 𝕚𝕗 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖:
-Harlequin romance
-Rivalry & Revenge
-Old Maps

This was a pleasure to read! Two childhood rivals, one bet: three kisses. A rogue and a lady tease each other, constantly bickering, but in a tension-building way that is irresistibly hot.

An anonymous act of heroism from one leads to dangerous consequences for another. But not everything is as simple as it seems. Can their desire for each other overcome their desire for revenge?

Thank you to @macmillanusa and @stmartinspress for sending me an ARC of this title! All opinions are my own.

Unboxing Penguin Teen YA Paperback Picks

Christmas came early for me this year! A huge thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me such an amazing book box! I can’t wait to show you all of the amazing books they sent me!!!

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time. But then one of the sisters goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, and Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realize that the story they’ve been told about their past is unraveling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican question asker who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister, Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has long been denied.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Aza Holmes never intended to pursuethe disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Pickett’s son Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

At first, Jude and her twin brother are NoahandJude; inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible. But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake.

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl, an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn is the first of a two-book duology. It is a reimagining of the Arabian Nights and is about a teenage girl, Shahrzad, who, as an act of revenge, volunteers to marry a caliph, Khalid, even though she is aware that he takes a new bride each night and has them executed at sunrise, but then finds herself falling in love with him.

Dark And Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain

A teen girl disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp like water rot, in this chilling debut supernatural thriller for fans of Natasha Preston, Karen McManus, and Rory Power.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

In a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Rome, the story follows a girl named Laia spying for rebels against the reigning empire in exchange for their help in rescuing her captive brother; and a boy named Elias struggling to free himself from being an enforcer of a tyrannical regime. The novel is narrated in the first-person, alternating between the points of view of Laia and Elias.

Have you read any of these? Any votes for which I should read first?
They all look so good, I have no idea how I am going to pick just one to start with!!!

The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories

This is a collection of some of the most magical, moving, chilling and surprising Christmas stories from around the world. These short stories take readers on a Christmas journey, from the frozen Nordic woods to the glittering streets of Paris, a New York speakeasy to a quaint English country house, the bustling city of Lagos to midnight mass in Rio, and even deep into outer space. Featuring Santa, ghosts, trolls, unexpected guests, curmudgeons, and miracles, here is Christmas as imagined by some of the greatest short story writers of all time.

Collected works by writers big and small make this an essential companion for any Christmas reader. Classic Christmas storytellers such as Hans Christian Anderson and O. Henry have features in this compendium, as well as some unexpected names like Truman Capote, Shirley Jackson, and Chekhov, in addition to little-known treasures such as Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Italo Calvino and Irène Nemerovsky (and more!).

Some of my favorites include:

The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen

The Legend of the Christmas Rose by Selma Lagerlof

A Chaparral Christmas Gift by O. Henry

The Necklace of Pearls by Dorothy L. Sayers

One Christmas Eve by Langston Hughes

The Gift by Ray Bradbury

I was a little disappointed that the O. Henry story included wasn’t The Gift of the Magi, but I did enjoy A Chaparral Christmas Gift (which I hadn’t read before), so actually, it was probably a good thing that I got to read a new O. Henry story instead of one I already knew. 

This book of short classic Christmas stories is the perfect book to cozy up with this holiday. I am in love with this collection and can see that myself and my family will cherish reading these Christmas stories for years to come.

Christmas Past: The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday’s Traditions

Christmas Past: The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday’s Traditions by Brian Earl

Behind every Christmas tradition is a story. Every year, as we trim our tree, build gingerbread houses, and bake cookies to leave out for Santa, we are continuing generations-old customs and rituals. Knowing where and how these traditions began can add a new level of depth to our understanding of the holidays (and, will surely make you the appointed Christmas connoisseur at all of your holiday parties!).

Christmas Past: The Fascinating Stories Behind Our Favorite Holiday’s Traditions reveals the surprising, quirky, and sometimes horrifying stories behind the most wonderful time of the year. With 26 short chapters, it is a festive, digestible Advent calendar of a book that is perfect fireside reading for the holiday season!

Have you ever wondered why we hang Christmas lights? (hint: so Santa can find us in the dark!) Why do we say ‘Merry Christmas’? And why is egg nog seasonal?? Covering ancient and modern traditions, Christmas Past is filled with the origin stories of happy accidents, cultural histories, criminal capers (including tomb raiders and con artists), and hidden connections between Christmas and broader social, economic, and technological influences. How did the invention of plate glass forever change the Christmas season? What common Christmas item helped introduce fine art to the masses? Why do Americans typically spike their eggnog with rum, rather than the traditional brandy? And speaking of booze, does using the phrase “Merry Christmas” mark you as a drunken reveler? Christmas Past answers all of those questions, and many more.

Thank you to Rowman & Littlefield for sending me an ARC of this title! All opinions are my own.

An A-Z of Jane Austen

𝐽 𝑖𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝐽𝑎𝑛𝑒 🤍

An A-Z of Jane Austen by Michael Greaney

This was such an interesting read! Jane Austen is my all-time fav, and I always jump at the chance to learn more about her and her life.

I took so many notes and made too many annotations, but there were so many important passages and I just wanted to highlight everything! 26 short essays highlight keywords concepts and activities that would’ve been important to Jane Austen, and discussed in her books. Some stand out chapters include B is for bath, H is for horse, D is for dance, and V is for visits. I loved these essays and learned even more about Jane and the Regency era 🤍

Thank you so much to @bloomsburypublishing for sending me a copy!

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Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander

“𝑇𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑚𝑒 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑟𝑦 𝑖𝑠 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑚𝑒 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑒.”

Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander

Domestic Fiction

This story opens with Meredith Maggs, who hasn’t left her home in 1,214 days. She likes books, jigsaw puzzles, and baking with her cat. She works remote, interacts with others online, and has a small circle of friends and delivery drivers that help her out—by bringing her groceries, taking her cat to the vet, and checking in on her. She suffers from panic attacks, struggles with anxiety and depression, and her past trauma has forced her into a self-imposed isolation. Her small circle of familiar people and predictable situations are what help her manage.

As the story unfolds we learn more about her trauma, which sheds light on why she relates to the world in the way that she does. Though she is haunted by her past, this is the story of her overcoming, and by the end of the novel Meredith is able to grow and clear the ghosts from her closet. Scary, new, unfamiliar circumstances force Meredith out of her comfort zone, and time and time again she rises and meets challenges head-on until she is able to take back control of her life.

This story is heavily character driven. It centers around Meredith, her thoughts, her fears, her pain, and her hero’s journey.

As a socially anxious introvert myself, I found her to be very relateable. The moments where she doesn’t want to leave the house, or answer the door, or have any interaction with anyone… those were some of my favorite moments.

Thank you to the author Claire Alexander and Grand Central Publishing for sending me an ARC of this title! All opinions are my own.

TW: rape, self-harm, trauma

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Lighting The Wick

This is a really interesting book that glimpses into the ancient art and modern magic of candles. Packed full of wisdom and spells, this book is essential for witches of all paths.

Candle spells are one of the simplest form of magic. Fire helps to align yourself with the elements, focus your intentions and release your energy into the world.

This book offers a wonderful introduction to candle magic, and teaches readers how to harness the power of the flame. It covers everything from the history of candles to spells of all kinds: spells for love, money, career, health, and luck are just some of the things you will learn from this guide.

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Authors Sandra Mariah Wright and Leanne Marrama are professional psychics based in Salem, MA. You can follow them at @thepsychictea and @leannemarrama on Instagram.

Thank you to Tarcher Perigree for sending me an Advance Reading Copy of this title. All opinions are my own. #atpinfluencers