Books on My Fall Tbr

“My cozy fall tbr” posts flooded my socials last week, so I wanted to write my own minus the “cozy.” The titles on my list are spooky-ish, speculative, thrilling, or just weird enough to get my attention.

Here they are:

(Note #1: There are amazon affiliate links in this post. This means if you click and buy through them I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This would be an excellent way to support the blog if you’re so inclined.)

(Note #2: The blurbs [text in green squares] aren’t “official blurbs.” It’s me writing what the book is about gathered from interviews, reviews, blurbs, and/or from me actively reading the book. One day I’ll have to write my own blurbs for my work, so I guess you could say I’m practicing 😀 )

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Lara’s daughters return home to North Michigan and beg her to retell a story about a past romance. The story causes the daughters to reflect on themselves and their relationship with their mother. It’s a story about coming full circle in life. From child to parent.

Ann Patchett is one of those authors I’ve heard about, but never read (it’s also probably the “coziest” book in my fall tbr). After having my two little ones and watching my own parents say things my grandparents use to say, Tom Lake sounds like a story I could relate to right now.

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

Newlyweds Wren and Lewis suffer a blow to their marriage when Lewis is diagnosed with a rare disease: he’s turning into a shark. Wren struggles with coping with the diagnoses and begins reliving repressed memories of her past. Meanwhile, Lewis is trying to cope with turning into a shark and make peace with his unfulfilled artist dreams.

Shark Heart sounds like a modern day Metamorphosis. While I’m sure it says something about grief, I’m interested in the unfulfilled dream aspect of the story. I’ve seen people of all ages battling with this fear of not fulfilling a dream they’ve held for years lately. Perhaps it goes beyond my circles and it’s a fear of the times. I just want to see how Lewis manages it all.

Babel by R.F. Kuang

Robin, an orphan from 1928 Canton, became Professor Lovell’s ward under the condition that he studies Latin, Greek, and Chinese so that he can enroll in Oxford’s prestigious translation institute: Babel. Dabbling in magic known as silver working, exploring the beautiful city of Oxford, and finding his place among friends, everything seems to go well for Robin. But Babel is the center of civil unrest within the world as it pressures other countries in the name of Britain. Robin faces questions about his identity as a foreigner in Britain something his peers, faculty, and guardian wont let him forget. Then, Britain launches a war against China and suddenly Robin must pick a side.

This is my current read and I’m enjoying myself. It’s full of dark academia vibes, big questions, and features a rich world.

Yellowface by R.F Kuang

June Hayward witnesses her literary rival, Athena Liu, die in a freak accident and steals her unpublished manuscript. Sending the work to her agent after a few edits, June achieves literary stardom. However, evidence about Athena’s death surfaces and threatens June’s new life.

I’ve seen Yellowface on so many people’s fall tbr lists and for good reason. R.F. Kuang’s writing draws you in!

How Can I Help You by Laura Sims

No one knows about Margo’s dark past as a nurse nor her real name. That all changes when her coworker and aspiring novelist, Patricia, uses Margo as inspiration for her work-in-progress. As Patricia studies Margo, she notices that there’s something not right with her and begins to dig deeper.

Ooooh, trouble in the library. There’s something about characters who are writers going through turmoil that’s fun to me.

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

The passengers on The Phoenix are on a mission to repopulate a distant, livable planet with human life. But things change when an unknown bomber on the ship kills three passengers in a deadly explosion. Asuka is the only surviving witness, and she must find the bomber before they strike again and before the crew loses hope in the mission.

It’s giving Among Us vibes and is the first book on my fall tbr list that’s spooky.

The Possibilities by Yael Goldstein-Love

Hannah experiences a difficult childbirth that’s left her traumatized. Symptoms that she believes is just new mom anxieties give way to extraordinary abilities. When her newborn disappears, Hannah taps into those abilities and travels through multiple versions of herself to bring her son back.

I’m really into time travel stories by default, but this one features a new mother in her post partum stage. I don’t often read fiction exploring motherhood and I hope this will be the first of many.

Black River Orchard by Chuck Wendig

There is an orchard in a small town that’s home to seven apple trees. Those who eat the apples become better versions of themselves, but also inherit a hunger for more. The townspeople learn of the dark history of the orchard and dark days follow when the leaves begin to fall.

I’ve followed Wendig’s blog, Terribleminds, for years and sometimes he shares his love for apples. It’s like a running joke! But to see this obsession turned into a horror story is priceless. Plus it sounds interesting.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Flor can predict when someone will die and she suddenly arranges a living wake to celebrate herself. Everyone is confused whether the wake is for Flor, someone else, or if Flor has ill intentions. She refuses to tell anyone and tensions rise, poking at long held secrets.

I learned about this one from an interview Acevedo did with Book Page. She spoke about telling her truth in her stories despite how others may feel and showing up as an artist for her work. I thought it was a brave interview and wanted to see how it all plays out in the manuscript.

I write what haunts me. The family I come from and the families I grew up around—including extended family—practiced a good amount of enmeshment. In trying to piece apart my self-identity and self-worth, I had to undo threads that bound me to others. It was—and is—garbage dumpster work. It’s sifting through so much junk I carry that doesn’t innately belong to me. It’s reconsidering what it means to be a part of a community for yourself, not how perfectly you can perform yourself. I still don’t recognize sometimes how I’m thinking of every single person in my life and whether or not they’ll approve. So my novels agitate these webs because my mind agitates those webs.

Elizabeth Acevedo

Bridge by Lauren Beukes

Bridge ran away from her mother, Jo, when she was a teenager. Jo is an eccentric scientist who spent her life looking for the “dreamworm”: an artifact capable of traveling the multiverse. Bridge hoped to one day return home and reconcile with her mother, but those plans were ruined with Jo’s sudden death. Or, is she really dead? Bridge finds the dreamworm and consumes it while going through her mother’s belongings. Armed with the artifact, she embarks on an universe hopping quest to find out what really happened to her mother.

I also learned about this via a Book Page interview with the author. Like I said, I love a good time travel story and the author mentions that it’s very trippy.

It’s the appeal of the road not taken, all the might have beens in your life and the choices you didn’t make. How useful would that be, to be able to audition other versions of you, correct your mistakes, learn from your successes? 

Lauren Beukes (when asked why a time travel story)

What’s on your fall tbr? Have you read any of the ones I listed above?

Cinder by Marrissa Meyer (book review)

Remember all the hype Cinder had when it first out? It was the book that book bloggers and bookworms on twitter gushed about (the ones I follow at least). I remember thinking, It’s probably not that good!

I was wrong.

With awesome characterizations, a gripping plot, and an authentic story world, Cinder always kept me up passed my bedtime.

Quick synopsis

Cyborg and mechanic Linh Cinder was just trying to survive her miserable life with her step mother when Prince Kai appeared at her shop with a malfunctioning android. Little does she know that the secrets locked within the android’s mainframe, her favorite sister’s sudden illness, and her developing affection for Kai will propel her into the center of an intergalactic conflict.

What I Loved

The amazing characters

There’s something to love about all the characters in Cinder, but there’s only a handful that made an impression on me.

Cinder was my favorite. Whether it meant bashing in android heads or sassing bad guys, she never played the victim. She wasn’t passive and actively tried to solve her problems. And…well, she’s a cyborg!

Prince Kai wasn’t just the snarky, yet charming, love interest whose sole purpose was to sweep Cinder (and, let’s be honest, the reader) off her feet. He had his own story and faced his own conflicts.

Then there was Queen Levana. She’s a sadistic control freak that’ll make anyone do anything with just a thought (or she murdered them). Surely, a villain I loved to hate!

The beautiful world building

Marissa Meyer did an awesome job with the setting. The way she fused traditional China with sci-fi elements gave the story an authentic feel.

Some scholars believe that the earliest Cinderella tale came from 9th-century China. Additionally, some believe that the iconic glass slipper (which was gold in the Grimm version) came to us from China’s tradition of foot-binding and a culture in which women were praised for tiny feet. So having Cinder set in China was my way of paying homage to the story’s roots.

It also seemed more interesting than setting another book in America!

Marissa Meyer

There was also a ton of nifty gadgets and androids! Cinder had an augment that could tell her when people were lying. Plus, she could download information to her brain from the Internet! Cool, right?

…Or would that be painful?

The light romance

I like to think of myself as an open minded reader, but the one thing I just CANNOT tolerate in books is a love-struck protagonist who never stops  gushing about the object of their affection. I’ve had to put down a couple of books because of this.

Romantic moments between Cinder and Prince Kai were gingerly sprinkled throughout the prose, making them more memorable.

Oh no, a cliffhanger!

I wouldn’t have finished Cinder if I thought it was horrible, but I have one problem with it: the ending.

(Spoiler Warning: There’s spoilers galore from here to the end of this post. Continue at your own risk.)

After getting thrown in jail, Dr. Erland convinces Cinder to escape and gives her the tools to do so. She commits to the idea and mentally accepts her new life as a fugitive, but that’s it! The story ends. I wanted to see her sneak out of prison Mission: Impossible style (or fight more androids!) at least.

I mean why? Why a cliffhanger?!

Cinder’s life lessons

Stories can teach us things. They can give us a new perception of the world around us or even teach us something about ourselves. With that said, here’s two things Cinder taught me.

Don’t loose yourself

Prince Kai’s carefree life ends the moment his father dies. A ton of responsibilities are tossed on his shoulder before he has time to grieve: prepare for his coronation, conduct official meetings with Earth’s leaders, negotiate with an evil moon witch (and possibly marry her)–Kai had it rough!

He had to change the way he behaved just to fit the mold of Emperor. Sure, he fought to hold onto who he was, but he slowly gave into what other’s wanted him to be.

He chaffed under social pressure, but we don’t have to. Everyone will always have expectations for us or try to force us into cookie cutter molds, but we’re the ones who have to live with ourselves. It’s our lives and our decisions and we should stay true to who we are.

Don’t like your situation? Do something about it.

Whether it was Cinder’s decision to leave her verbally abusive family or Kai’s mission to find the heir, both characters sought solutions to their problems.

No matter how bad a situation is, there’s always a way to make things better if we’re willing to look.


Overall, I enjoyed this book and if it sounds like something you might like, consider following the links below to learn more about it.

Goodreads Page

Marissa Meyer’s author website

Did you read Cinder, but have a different experience than me? Did Cinder teach you anything? Is there something you’d like to add?  Tell me about it in the comments section below.

Gifts for Writers: Writing Reference Books

Festive trees, snow inspired holiday decorations, and presents. Yep, it’s the Christmas season! Christmas is my favorite holiday and not because of the presents (although that’s a close second). I love it because it brings friends and families together.

Assuming you can’t figure out what to buy that special writer in your life, I’m here to tell you about five books that make great gifts for word nerds.

On Writing by Stephen King

My journalism instructor urged me to the read this book when I told him I was creative writer. A few weeks before finals, he gave me a spare copy! It’s just something that writers must read. On Writing documents King’s time with the craft and gives writers helpful advice on developing their writing skills.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh**t by Steven Pressfield

Okay, the title is a little rough, but there’s a deeper message to it. Pressfield stresses that writers must keep their readers in mind when they tell their stories. He takes us through his personal struggle with his own creativity sharing both motivation and advice on furthering one’s writing career. You can read my full review here.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I recently picked up Lamott’s book from my college’s library and, so far, its been an insightful read. She urges writers to focus on the craft first and leave the drama (publishing, marketing, reviews, criticism, money, and etc.) for later.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

The first “how to” book on the list (and another book I snagged from my college’s library). In Plot and Structure, Bell introduces his plotting technique, the LOCK system, in keeping readers engaged from beginning to end. There’s also information on outlining techniques, developing ideas, fixing plot issues and more.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey is about the mythic structure or Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (sometimes called monomyth) theory. Vogler also talks about character archetypes and gives plenty examples of the Hero’s Journey in use. This book also happens to be the only textbook I decided to keep in my college career.

Bonus! Gift Cards

In case your writer friend has already read the above books, an amazon (or some other book retailer) gift card is a safe bet. This takes the guess work out of the equation and allows your writer pal to buy books that they’re really interested in.

Books aren’t the only things you can gift a writer. You can also give them boardgames that caters to their skills. But, we’ll talk about that later.

Harry Potter Book Tag!!

Nirvana tagged me in a book tag!

And not just any tag. But a Harry Potter Book Tag. Ooh!

What’s the difference? …It’s Harry Potter-ish…don’t question me darn it!

Here we go:


1. Expecto Patronum! (A childhood book connected to good memories.)


DeathNote by Tsugumi Ohba. Yeah, I know, it’s a graphic novel! But this is the book that started my unhealthy manga crave.

2. Expelliarmus! (A book that took you by surprise.)


The Weight of Blood by David Dalglish. I went on Amazon searching for a specific book (I can’t remember which) and happened across Daglish’s novel. I fell in love with it after reading the summary and sample. I ended up finding a new favorite author!

3. Prior Incantato! (The last book you read.)


Choices by K.W. McKabe. Here’s my review.

4. Alohomora! (A book that introduced you to a genre you would’t have considered before.)


The Cleaner by Mark Dawson. At one time I only frequented fantasy and science fiction. Dawson taught there’s a wealth of stories in other genres too.

5. Riddikulus! (A funny book you read.)


The only funny book that I can remember is Captain Underpants. It never gets old!

6. Sonorus! (A Book that you think everyone should know about.)


The Crown Tower by Michael J Sullivan. If you haven’t read into his series yet—you’re so missing out.

7. Obliviate! (A book you wish you never read)

There’s never been a book that I wish I never read. Simply because I don’t finish the ones that I don’t like.

8. Imperio! (A book you had to read for school.)


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. What’s there to say? Hinton’s book has a way with connecting to kids. This was the first book that my classmates and I didn’t fall asleep on.

9. Crucio! (A book that was painful to read.)

Cry, the Beloved

Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. It was just sad to read about a priest divided by faith and fatherly duty.

10. Avada Kedavra! (A book that could kill.)


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I respect classics…but…I can never get pass that sentence.


Tag YOU are it!

Book Review: Choices by K.W. McCabe

12979425“It was the Choice. Always the Choice—and it had to be given.

‘Who will the forfeit be?’ She asked slowly.

I shook my head. They always wanted to know although they knew they wouldn’t be told. She had known the conditions when she accepted the return of her life for a period of time.”

In K.W. McCabe’s Choices, a dark lord gives souls the opportunity to come back to life. However, he will come and collect payment. After a period of time, his messenger, Thomas, will appear and give them one doozy of a choice:

Return to the world of the dead OR have someone else take their place.

The narrative doesn’t say outright, but it seems as if Thomas has been doing this for a long time. Though he appears to just be “following orders” he also has his own feelings and opinions about his “job.” For instance, he harbors a bit of disdain for the souls around him—especially for the soul he has to collect.


Useful Links:

Book Review: Fine Wine by Scott Marlowe

Fine_Wine_200x320“Abelard ate a lot. That was why, after I’d slashed my knife across his belly, I half-expected his bulbous stomach, chock full of tender roast, broccoli, soft rolls, and the most delicate shiraz I’d ever sampled—all served just an hour before by his fat merchantship’s very staff—to come tumbling out like a too swollen jellyfish. But something about the cut didn’t feel right, and though Abelard clenched his hands to his gut and fell to his knees as I expected he would, there wasn’t even a single, glistening trickle of gastric juice seeping out from between his fat fingers.”

Imagine that you invited a guest over to your house and, after showering them with your best hospitality, they suddenly reveal that they’re there to kill you. A situation like that would make anyone desperate!

In a nutshell, this is Abelard’s situation in Scott Marlowe’s short, Fine Wine. The main character, who’s unnamed, is hired to kill Abelard for reasons unknown. The story starts off with Abelard being “assassinated” but something just isn’t right…

What’s wrong? Since this a very short tale I don’t want to ruin anything. BUT you can go find out for yourself, here.

One thing that I want to assure you is that Fine Wine isn’t as dark and gritty as it may seem. Marlowe uses humor to temper the grim aspects of the story, keeping it interesting and easy to digest. In fact, I found the main character to be hilarious!

Sound interesting?


Useful Links

Bookshelf Tag!

S.E. Stone from Paper, Pen, and No Plan “bookshelf tagged” me earlier this week. I thought it would be fun to do (not to mention that I am way behind with my posts) so here’s the rules:

“Answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five other bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you want, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so they can read it.”

– S.E. Stone

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

I haven’t came across such a book yet. So no 🙁

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre?

If it wasn’t for The Strange Case of Finely Jane by Kady Cross, I wouldn’t have discovered the mechanical world of steampunk.

3. Find a book that you want to reread.

The Crown Tower by Michael J Sullivan! This book was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes high fantasy stories.

4. Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t?

There isn’t a single book that I’ve read that I didn’t like. However, I do wish that I would have finished Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest series before watching the anime.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

Omigosh a fire!!! I would grab my laptop—hands down. It has everything on it…including my digital library. 🙂

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

The City of Towers by Keith Baker. My parents gave this book to me on my 13th birthday. It was a book of “firsts”: 1st book I ever owned, 1st fantasy book I ever enjoyed, and the 1st longest book I ever read.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. This is a book I would recommend to anyone trying to start any sort of creative project. Pressfield taught me to ignore resistance and just get things done.

8. Do you have any autographed books?

No…I don’t 🙁

I’ll have to make a point to get one just for the heck of it!

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest. 

Bram Stokers Dracula and a Webster Thesaurus that my dad gave me.

I know—that’s two books!

Thing is, I’ve had them both for such a long time that I can’t remember which came first.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey. This series was the rave during gradeschool! However, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about until I read one myself.

Here are my five tags:

  1. Lizzy Baldwin from My Little Book Blog
  2. Nirvana from Nirvana’s Pocket Full
  3. Sabrina Wolfheart from Books and Bark
  4. Taylor Grace
  5. Vik Tory Arch

I suggest that you—

*points at you*

YOU should check out those five awesome bloggers.

Book Review: The New World by Patrick Ness

“Don’t open it until you’ve landed.”

“’Til we’ve landed?” I said. “That’s five months from now.”

He smiled and lowered his voice. “Do you know what separates us from the beasts, Viola?”

I frowned, sensing a lesson. “The ability to wait to open a present?”

He laughed. “Fire,” he said. “The ability to make fire at will. It allowed us light to see in the darkness, warmth against the cold, a tool to cook our food.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the Delta’s engines. “Fire is what eventually led to travel across the black beyond, the ability to start a new life on a New World.


9412471Viola’s family is given a mission to prepare The New World for human colonization. It’s
a honorable mission because no one else on ships Delta and Alpha have lived on a real planet. In fact, humans haven’t lived on an actual planet since Old Earth was poisoned generations ago.

However, Viola doesn’t care how “honorable” the mission is. Deep down, she’s actually afraid. And why not? The last settlers didn’t come back. It’s disheartening! But everyone wants her to have hope.

Approaching their destination…something happens…


Overall I enjoyed this short read! The ending of this prequel makes me want to check out the rest of the Chaos Walking trilogy. Another thing that I really enjoyed was the theme of hope.

You can find The New World at Amazon for FREE, enjoy!

Basing Your Reading Habits off of Reviews is so…Grade School!

reviewsThe following conversation actually took place. Names have been changed to protect the Innocent:

Elf: My gawd, you’re just now reading that!

Alien: …yeah…

Elf: Even after the movie came out? Didn’t it spoil everything for you?

Alien: I didn’t read the book when it first came out.

Elf: Why?

Alien: Because the reviews were so bad.

Elf: …You base your reading habits off the opinions of others?

Alien: …Well…yeah.

Elf: Dude…that’s so grade school.


I’ve noticed a trend in the digital book market. It goes something like this:

  • 5 out of 5 (overall stars) – gets a book a lot of attention.
  • 4 out of 5 – almost the same as 5/5
  • 3 out of 5 – Makes people uncomfortable. They have to check the reviews!
  • 2 out of 5 – automatic skip
  • 1 out of 5 – You’re basically invisible
  • 0 out of 5 – You’d be lucky if someone accidentally clicked on the cover

Am I wrong? You’re free to disagree.

One day I was browsing through Amazon looking for a decent book to read. I found one, sampled it, liked it, and bought it.

Then I noticed it had a poor overall star rating.

One reader wrote a long review on how the author’s writing style was amateurish, that their characters were cardboard, and the manuscript was in need of a professional editor. The icing on the cake was this last part, “don’t waste your money on this rubbish.”

This reader’s review was declared the “most helpful” and one user thanked the reviewer for saving them money and time. I doubt they even looked at the sample…

Ok, the reviewer is entitled to their opinion. But the commenter…

Reviews are opinions of another reader. I’m not suggesting that we should do away with the starring/review system like some totalitarian regime. However–we (as mature readers, budding authors, and authors) should be adult enough to form our own opinions / decisions based on our own judgments.

At least give the author the courtesy of reading their synopsis and a sample of their work. It’s free! Still want to read the reviews? Go for it! But don’t base your reading / buying decisions off of them.

…it’s so grade school!


That’s my opinion, what’s yours?

Book Review: The Unfinished Boy by Chrystalla Thoma

“Have you nothing to say?” Mother stood, hand fisted. She fixed him with her steel gaze. “You, Raven.” She pointed with a fine white finger, so much like his own. “Oh, I told your father he made a mistake, but he wouldn’t listen. He took you from your maker to soon.”

Raven tangled his hand in his black hair. This information was new. “I have a maker? Who is it?”

16112120I am happy to say that The Unfinished Boy was a pleasant surprise! The novel contains two short stories that could be read in one sitting (at least…that’s what I did). There’s the title story and another called The Truth.


The Unfinished Boy
Raven is a young clockwork boy who was stolen from his maker, Chryse, for the sake of the childless Queen. However, Raven cannot feel emotion because his maker didn’t finish him.

So when his “dad” dies he’s unable to feel any sadness. Actually, he spends more time worrying why his “mother” cries crystals then about the sudden loss of his “parent.” He understands the concept of death–but that’s it. In his eyes, life just means to breathe. This strains  his “mother’s” patience and she sends him off to the Crystal Mines, a horrible horrible prison, because she can’t have a son that doesn’t feel.

Great parenting skills, right?

I’m not going to spoil the story for you. But I bet you’re wondering:

  1. Does he eventually develop emotions?
  2. What does this Chryse person have to do with the story?
  3. Will he ever be finished?
  4. Am I going to stop numbering obvious questions?

Well that’s for you to find out.

All in all, I really enjoyed the steampunk feel that this short story had. Not only that, but I loved the overall question that the narrative asked: What is life without emotions?


The Truth

The Truth is the untold story of Rumpelstiltskin. Be it that this short story was…short…I don’t want to give away important tidbits. BUT! I will say that Rumpelstiltskin isn’t the ugly-villainous-green-goblin that we were all told. He’s actually a protector.

Of what?

Go figure it out.


Here’s Crystalla Thoma’s blog–you should check it out!