Book Reviews, Bookish Posts

Book Review – Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Abundance

 

In my opinion, Abundance is the definitive historical fiction novel on Marie Antoinette. I think she captures her perfectly as she is the one telling her own story. In this novel, she is portrayed as entirely human throughout the whole thing. I particularly enjoyed the fact Naslund framed the novel into 5 acts like a Shakespearean play, and I think it works. The rise and fall of Marie Antoinette and the rest of the nobility does read like a Shakespearean tragedy. Though there were times Naslund’s prose delved a bit into being really fluffy, I still enjoyed it.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Marie and her husband, Louis XVI. A lot of authors seem to go the way of having Marie Antoinette hop into bed with Axel von Fersen like two seconds after they met. But I don’t necessarily believe that was the case. Instead, Naslund builds an awkward love story between Marie and Louis and it’s just the cutest. Yes, their relationship starts off rocky as we all know by not consummating their marriage for seven years but they grow to truly love each other. And yes, I do believe they loved each other. After all, Marie Antoinette stayed with him to the very end even though there were numerous times when she could have gotten the hell out of dodge.

The descriptions of Versailles (the palace and court life itself) brought me to a completely different time and place. While reading, I also did the virtual tour of the real palace and it enhanced the reading experience.

I did not want to get to the end of the novel for obvious reasons. I truly sympathized with her plight. She honestly tried to do the right thing for the people but they just hated her… mostly for things she had no control over.  A lot of the things she was accused of literally every other noble did the same thing many times over. And don’t even get me started on The Diamond Necklace Affair. Ugh.

I truly loved this book and it might actually crack my all-time favorites list.

Rating: 5/5

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Bookish Posts

Winter Wrap Up

For the first couple months of 2018, I did pretty well reading-wise. So far, I’ve read 13 books in January, February, and March with a total of 5, 159 pages. Yay me! Here are the books that I’ve read so far:

  • Some Luck by Jane Smiley [4/5]
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau [3/5]
  • Early Warning by Jane Smiley [3.5/5]
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys [5/5]
  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios [4/5]
  • Golden Age by Jane Smiley [2/5]
  • March: Book 3 by John Lewis [5/5]
  • Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember edited by John Mellon [5/5]
  • Bingo Love by Tee Franklin [5/5]
  • Victoria Victorious by Jean Plaidy [3/5]
  • Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee [5/5]
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab [4.5/5]
  • Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser [4/5]

Of all the books I’ve read,  my favorites have probably been A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee, and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. I’ve reviewed the other two, but Bygone Badass Broads is a definite must-read if you want to learn about little known historical women who kicked ass and took names. I 100% reccommend it.

badasss historical chicks

Here’s to reading a lot more during the spring (despite the fact that I have no time off until Memorial Day weekend because our spring break was stripped away because of the snow)…

Book Reviews, Bookish Posts

Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

 

A Darker Shade of Magic is an awesome New-Adult Fantasy novel following a young man named Kell who has the power to move between alternate Londons: grey London, red London, and white London. He serves as an ambassador between the Londons and on one of his trips, he acquires an artifact that changes his life forever.

What I Liked:

The worldbuilding is amazing! I love V. E. Schwab’s different versions of London. Each one is very different and it was easy to tell them apart. My favorite of them all, of course, has to be White London. I hope we see a lot more of it than we did in the sequel. I mean, we do see a lot of it, don’t get me wrong, but I want to know more about the geography, other countries, the political workings, and the royal family…especially Prince Rhy, because swoon. White London creeped me out (in a good way) and I thought the Dane twins were deliciously cruel (though a bit two-dimensional). Even though I know they already played twins in another enormously successful franchise, I kept picturing Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Astrid and Athos. We know Aaron Taylor-Johnson can pull off white hair, and I bet Olsen can, too.

scarletwitchquicksilver-1430152839

 

Kell and Rhy’s bromance was well-fleshed out especially as you find out how much Kell has exactly done for Rhy. It is heartbreaking. The sacrifice that Kell makes to keep him safe made me cry, and books usually don’t make me cry so that says a lot.

My favorite character has to be Delilah effing Bard, wannabe pirate. She was all of my favorite things: feisty, sarcastic, and didn’t take crap from anyone. What I really loved was that even though she was a criminal, Lila does show that she has (some) morals and is really rather vulnerable. Even if she doesn’t like to show it. I totally ship her and Kell so it’d better happen.

heart eyes

The magic system is a unique take on the four elements system that is so overdone nowadays. (Yes, I do realize I am writing a novel that has this magic system, but I’m trying to overhaul it.)

What I Didn’t Like (mini spoiler):

I found A Darker Shade of Magic to be a bit predictable. From the moment we met Holland and Dane twins, I pretty much knew what was going to go down. They were just too textbook cruel. However, it wasn’t predictable enough where I did not enjoy the novel.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Bookish Posts

2018 Reading Goals (You Can Do It!)

So, as I’ve said in my last post, I did not do as much reading as I usually do last year. There was a lot going on what with grad school, wedding planning, getting sick and not knowing what the heck is wrong with me, and other stressful things. However, while this year will probably be just as stressful (it’s wedding year!), there is one main difference: I have (finally) moved out of my very, very crowded house and into an apartment with my fiance. That being said, I have a lot more time to read! I also noticed that because I did not do a lot of reading last year, I was anxious a lot more of the time and became a bit of a cyberchondriac. I realized that reading is not only my favorite hobby, but also plays a huge role in helping me relax.

Anyway, sorry to get all psychological on you all. I’m usually more chipper than that!

happy sailor moon

I have quite a few reading goals of the year that I really hope to accomplish, and here they are:

  • Read (at least) 50 books, especially since I have so much time.
  • Read (at least) 5 classics.
    • I’ve especially wanted to read all of Jane Austen’s novels this year.
  • Finish 10 series/trilogies.
    • For a lot of these, all I literally have to do is finish one measly book or two. If only I didn’t have a fear of finishing series haha!
  • Read (at least) 5 chunksters (books over 500 pages).
  • Read 5 history/non-fiction books.
  • Read (at least) 1 diverse book a month.
  • Take part in at least 2 reading challenges in groups I’m in on Goodreads. I’ll link the challenges that I’m doing in case anyone wants to try them too!
  • Buy 1 book every 2 paychecks.
    • …Instead of, you know, buying 8 books with 1 paycheck…
  • Attempt to review EVERYTHING I read even if I have to do mini reviews.

Those are all of my reading goals for 2018. It seems like a lot, but I think I can handle it!

Do you have any reading goals for 2018? If you have any, comment with at least one of them.

Happy reading everyone!

Bookish Posts

2017 End of Year Book Survey

Today on this sweet, sweet snow day I’ll be filling out the 2017 End of Year Book Survey created by Jamie from Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner. I love this survey because it helps me see my entire year through books.

Number of books read: 34

Number of re-reads: 3

Genre You Read from the Most: Historical Fiction 

Best Book of 2017: Definitely The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This was such a powerful and just overall amazing read. 

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Book You Were Excited About and Thought you Would Love but Didn’t? I really wanted to like When Dimple Met Rishi, but the romance just sort of fell flat to me. If you liked it, then that’s awesome. Just wasn’t for me. 

When Dimple Met Rishi

Most Surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read? All We Have Left by Wendy Mills definitely surprised me…in a completely good way. It was an impulse buy, and I read it in only two hours because I was so engrossed in it. 
All We Have Left

Book You Pushed People to Read (And They Did) I didn’t really push anyone to read anything this year. 

Best Series Starter: Well…..this is easy.

 six of crows

Best Sequel:

Lair of Dreams

Best Series Ender: I did not read any series enders this year (unfortunately). Hopefully, I change this in 2018. 

Favorite New Author:

Adult: The Nightingale

Young Adult:

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Best book from a genre you don’t normally read? I don’t usually read poetry but I loved The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace. This poetry collection resonated very deeply with me and I highly recommend it. 

The Princess Saves Herself in This One

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book? Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. During the whole entire heist scene, I could NOT put the book down. I was so worried about my children {hugs them, even though Kaz tries to get away}

Book you read in 2017 that you are Most Likely to Re-read in 2018? A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I just received the entire trilogy from my fiance for Christmas, and I think I’m going to binge read the whole trilogy this year. I’ll also probably re-read Six of Crows before I read Crooked Kingdom, too. 

Favorite Cover of  a book you Read in 2017?

All We Have Left

Most Memorable Character? My baby son Kaz Brekker, Bastard of the Barrel from Six of Crows. Actually, all of the members of the Dregs hold a place in my heart. 

Most Beautifully Written Book of 2017? I’m going to have to go with The Nightingale. I really loved the prose. 

Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book of 2017? While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry, who survived the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four of her friends. This book was definitely one I will never forget. Reading about the survivor’s guilt McKinstry felt and probably still feels was gut-wrenching. I also thought a lot about how someone can hate so much that they could freely kill four little girls and not feel a shred of guilt. I am extremely happy to learn that justice was finally served. 

while the world watched

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited until 2017 to Read? Once again, The Nightingale. However, I had this one on hold for about two years, so it was well worth the wait. 

Favorite Passage/Quote from a Book Read in 2017?

“It’s also about Oscar. Aiyana. Trayvon. Rekia. Michael. Eric. Tamir. John. Ezell. Sandra. Freddie. Alton. Philando. It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first — Emmett. The messed-up part? There are so many more. Yet I know it’ll change one day…Why? Because there will always be someone ready to fight. Maybe it’s my turn.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

Shortest Book You Read in 2017: Cast in Moonlight by Michelle Sagara(109 pgs)

Cast in Moonlight

Longest Book You Read in 2017: Winter of the World by Ken Follett (960 pgs)

Winter of the World

Book that Shocked You the Most: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. The plot twist at the end shook me. 

OTP of the Year? Definitely my babies Kaz/Inej from Six of Crows. I will go down with this ship. A special mention is also Starr/Chris from The Hate U Give. 

Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship: Lucien and Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses. I loved their banter. 

Court of Thorns and Roses

Favorite Book You Read in 2017 from an Author You’ve Read Previously:

Indigo

Newest Fictional Crush: Kaz effin’ Brekker. 

Best 2017 Debut? Once again…

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Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure? I guess I would have to say Six of Crows. So many of the Booktubers I watch gave it such high praise, so naturally I just had to pick it up. 

Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting? I love how Evelyn Skye used Russia as a magical setting for this one. 
the crown's game

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Unexpected Everything

Book That Made You Cry/Nearly Made You Cry? The Hate U Give and While the World Watched

Hidden Gem of the Year? The Kiss of the Concubine by Judith Arnopp. It was a simple story about the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. It wasn’t anything too special, but I enjoyed how it didn’t portray her as a harpy or a shrew. 

The Kiss of the Concubine

Books that Crushed your Soul in 2017?

wp-image--201855530The Nightingalewhile the world watched

Most Unique Book? Inherit Midnight by Katie Kae Myers. It was kind of like a cutthroat family version of Amazing Race, 39 Clues, and The Westing Game. I loved it. 

Inherit Midnight

Book that Made You the Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it): This book just gave me a LOT of feels….

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Newest favorite book blog you discovered in 2017? Thrice Read. I haven’t really been on WordPress enough to find more bookish blogs, but I really like this one and how they do reviews not only on their own, but with each other as well. It’s a fresh and cute idea. 

Favorite review you wrote in 2017? My review of Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? My favorite non-review post was the Things I Want to See More of In Literature post. I had a lot of fun doing it. 

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? Unfortunately, I did not take part in any fun events and hopefully I will in 2018. 

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017? Well, actually remembering to blog and having time to blog is definitely at the top of my list 🙂

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? I got really sick this year and even now, I don’t exactly know what is wrong with me, but I have NOT had the motivation to do any reading or any blogging. However, I know that despite whatever is happening right now, I want to keep reading and sharing my thoughts. 

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)? My book review of The Hate U Give. 

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love? I don’t really know. I guess Things I want to See More of In Literature post since it only got a couple views. 

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? I’m soooo happy I discovered that there’s a whole world out there where people have bullet journals solely for reading. I found a few videos on YouTube that showcased people setting them up. I now have a bookish bullet journal of my own. 

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? Not exactly because of all the issues I’ve had this year, but I definitely plan to complete the goals I’ve set for myself this year. 

One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number One Priority in 2018?

The Way of Kings

Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?

Dread NationThe Radical Element

2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Children of Blood and Bone

Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018? I honestly can’t really say. I think I should probably focus on finishing the series that have been out since like 2006.

One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018? I’ll cover most of this in my reading goals of 2018 post. One thing I do really want to accomplish is to read A LOT more than I did in 2017.

A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone: I have not read any 2018 releases yet, but I definitely can’ wait to read them!

And there we have it. The 2017 End of Year Book Survey. My reading year in 2017 didn’t go so well, and hopefully, I’ll get a lot more reading done in 2018!

Happy New Year

 

 

Book Reviews, Bookish Posts

Book Review – A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

a touch of stardust

Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite movies so naturally I had to grab this book since it focused on the making of the movie and the love story between Hollywood legends Carole Lombard and Clark Gable.

The novel follows our protagonist, Julie, a good girl from Indiana, who goes to Hollywood to be a famous screenwriter. Something women were not particularly known for yet. Through a couple of lucky breaks, Julie ends up becoming Carole Lombard’s personal assistant and best friend. While this was a bit far-fetched, I did suspend my belief and wasn’t too bothered by it. After all, who doesn’t wish they could be their favorite actor’s assistant? Julie achieved the dream.

What I Liked:
I LOVED the setting of 1930s Hollywood and seeing GWTW behind-the-scenes. There were a lot of little tidbits I didn’t know about. For example, it took a really long time to find a Scarlett and thousands of actresses read for the part before it was given to Vivien Leigh. I’ve seen some of those screen tests and it’s obvious that Leigh was the right one for the part. Also, Clark Gable was very much against segregation and demanded the bathrooms on the set be integrated. When it was known that GWTW’s African American actors would not be welcomed at the Atlanta premiere, Gable actually refused to attend and basically had to be bribed. He actually seems like a pretty chill dude. However, there is one scene where he uses a slur against the openly gay George Cukor, but I had to remember that this is the 1930s and people were not particularly as accepting of members of the LGBT community as we are now.

Carole Lombard was my favorite character. I’ve seen any of her movies, but she seems like she was an amazing person. There’s a scene where one of the production studios’ employees asks to keep a record of her menstrual cycle and she basically tells him to stuff it (in harsher words than that). Even though she at first seems like a jaded Hollywood veteran, she’s still optimistic about the world and her love for Clark.

What I thought was Meh:
I had a bit of a problem with the main character, Julie. She had absolutely no personality and was basically a conduit used to learn more about this world of Hollywood. She doesn’t really make any decisions for herself and does whatever Carole or her boyfriend, Andy, says. Through her, you do learn about how difficult it was as a woman trying to make her mark in Hollywood. There’s a scene where a man asks for sex in order to give her the job of her dreams. It’s disgusting and you definitely feel for her.

Also, the main love story between Julie and David Selznick’s assistant, Andy, really fell flat when parallel with the real story between Gable and Lombard and even the fictional one between Scarlett and Rhett. There was chemistry there but after reading about them arguing for the fifth time, their flame started to flicker. Also, many times Julie is left wondering why Andy is so distant and does not seem to understand he’s a Jewish man living in 1939 with relatives in Nazi Germany. Like obviously he has bigger things to worry about than when you’re going to spoon next, Julie. Ugh, I wanted to smack her with a newspaper and then make her read it.

Even though I didn’t enjoy the main character, A Touch of Stardust is an interesting story about making it in Hollywood. The scenes about making GWTW the iconic movie it is today is worth the read though.

Rating: 3 stars

Bookish Posts

Things I Want to See More of in Literature

Yes, I do realize this was a Top 10 Tuesday post a while ago, but since today is neither Tuesday, and I don’t have merely 10 things, I don’t think it’s too much of a problem to post this today. One day I will actually post one of these things on a Tuesday, but that will probably not be until the future.

Anyway, here’s my list!

1.) More of the Enemies>Friends>Lovers trope. Not gonna lie, but I’m in love with this trope, and it want to read more books with it. I find it so romantic when two people start off on opposite sides of a conflict, slowly become friends, and then realize that there’s something more. In all reality, I think I just want this because I was a hardcore Zutara shipper during the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. You know we were cheated out of our Zutara moment, fans!

Image result for zutara gif
Sorry…need a moment {sobs}

2.) Books set during the Civil Rights Movement. There aren’t many YA historical fiction books set during the Civil Rights Movement, and it’s a shame. It’s unfortunate because teenagers and young adults were the backbone of the Movement. If I don’t see this soon, I might have to write my own.

Image result for teenagers during civil rights movement

3.) Books set during The Great Depression. The Great Depression was an important yet tragic time in American history. I think it’d be a good idea to see novels about teens riding the rails or even maybe a Robin Hood retelling set during this time period.

4.) No more girl-on-girl hate. I’m so tired of girls hating each other simply because one is more popular or because one wears more make-up. I especially hate when girls who are supposed to be friends end up hating each other because they fought over a boy. I was so annoyed when I recently read a book where two girls who have been friends since preschool end up feuding because one decided to date the other’s crush. Real friends don’t act that way.

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We don’t actually all act this way…I promise…

5.) Study abroad novels. I know there’s a whole series dedicated to this premise but they’re literally not anywhere I know except online. I don’t even see them at my library and honestly I don’t even know if they’re any good. Anyway, I love books where characters travel overseas and experience a culture shock. Or even having a foreign character comes to the U.S.

6.) More time travel books. I want a Magic Tree House series but for YA. I was obsessed with the Magic Tree House as a kid and I would love to have a series where characters all over time to participate in hi-jinks and shenanigans.

Image result for magic tree house

7.) More girl-friend groups. The years I spent in high school and middle school were awesome NOT because of any lasting romances, but because of the amazing friends I had. I’d love to see more groups of girls being friends, and possibly kicking ass and taking names together. Like the Sailor Senshi!

 

Image result for sailor scouts battle gif
…realizing much of this list is due to downright nostalgia…

8.) Fairy-tale retellings of diverse mythologies/folk tales/fairy-tales. Don’t get me wrong. I love Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, but I’d like retellings of Asian, Latinx, African, or Aboriginal folklore too!

9.) More epic fantasies where the protagonist is a female. The fantasy industry has largely male main characters, and I’m kind of getting bored with it. As a writer who’s currently penning a (hopefully) epic fantasy of her own, this definitely needs to happen.

10.) Books set during the 1990s. I want to see more YA books set during the 1990s and early 2000s. These years shaped my childhood and I would love to see books that talk about 90s pop culture…

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11.) DIVERSITY (especially in fantasy and sci-fi)!!! I know this was probably on everyone’s list, but I really mean it. As a biracial woman, it infuriates me that people can get mad because there’s POC in a fantasy world where there’s talking frogs, magic, and…I don’t know, flying pigs. Like really? There needs to be more representation of everyone whether POC, LGBTQA, or disabled characters.

Honorable Mentions: Fantasies involving the Zodiac signs, powerful female superheroes, more magic boarding schools/colleges, and soooooo much more!

Bookish Posts

My Summer TBR

So in the grand state of New Jersey, it is 91 degrees which means I’m ready to hop in a pool and stuff my face full of ice cream. In fact, at this exact second, I’m still deciding whether I want to go to work or head to the beach instead. (I’m kidding. I promise I’m a responsible adult…most of the time.)

Anyway, this weather is playing with my emotions and forcing me to believe that we’re in the season teacher and students alike dream of: summer. While it’s not my favorite season, I love it for one reason:

READING!

During the summer, I get to read a lot more than I usually do during the school year. Probably because I don’t have hundreds of small children to look after. And this summer I’m particularly excited about my “summer reading” list.

Summer 2017 shall be dubbed my Summer of Fantasy!

I plan to read:

1.) The entire Shadowhunters series!

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2)City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5)City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6)Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices, #2)Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, #3)Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices, #1)Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices, #2)The Bane ChroniclesTales from the Shadowhunter Academy

I read City of Bones way back when it came it out in 2007, but I never actually finished the rest of the series. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the book. I just kind of forgot to read the rest of them. This summer, however, I plan to tackle them all. I have to go to my university where I’m taking grad school classes for two weeks and since I know absolutely no one, I’m going to take these books with me. Maybe I’ll even liveblog as I read them because this will be one interesting ride.

2.) As if that wasn’t enough, I plan to re-read:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

Pottermore is hosting a Wizarding World Book Club and I am soooo excited about it. I only believe we’re reading one book a month so it should be fairly easy to keep up with. (P.S. If you want to know, I’m a Hufflepuff!)

3.) As if that wasn’t enough, I also plan to get started on:

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)

4.) And…

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

Because I really want to get started on both series! I heard so many good things about Brandon Sanderson’s writing, and I want to completely be immersed.

5.) Finally, I have:

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)

This was completely an impulse buy as was…

6.) …this one…

The Palace Job (Rogues of the Republic, #1)

Now, you may be thinking: Ashley, you have a really daunting summer reading list. Are you actually going to read all of these? The answer is probably not. After all, I’ll have homework and wedding planning to do but that’s okay! I’m not the type of person to be mad and look like this if I don’t finish all of these books by August 31.

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I’ll just carry it over to September 1 and create my Autumn of Fantasy!

What are some books you plan to read this summer? Do you have a daunting summer reading list?