My Summer TBR Pile – ft. a tower of books which will probably kill me

good morning, cyberspace!

I woke up the other morning to sunshine gleaming through my window, birdsong sparkling through the air, and the sound and smell (yes, smell) of the air conditioner filtering through the house.

In other words, summer is nigh upon us, and I figured it’s time to start plotting out which books I want to read this season!

I don’t know the logistics behind it, but I find that my excitement for reading strengthens tenfold during the summer. It’s like even though my life gets busier, I’m STILL able to find more time to read than I do during the winter/spring. It literally makes no sense, and yet…? I’m oddly okay with this. XD I love reading. I love summer. And sitting out on my front porch with a good book in my lap and a cat clawing at my feet is literally one of the best ways to spend my free time. #selfcare

So! Over the past few days I’ve been scribbling down which books I’d like to read during the summer, and today, I thought I’d share that (rather extensive) list with you all! Obviously it will be a miracle if I even end up reading HALF of the books on this list, but as of right now, I’m confident I can read at least three of them.

I’m a relatively slow reader, okay, don’t judge me. XD

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MY SUMMER TBR PILE

THE NEWBIES

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THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan

Believe it or not, I have yet to finish a Percy Jackson novel. …or anything written by Rick Riordan, for that matter. And I KNOW this is basically an atrocity to all reader-kind, of course, but allow me to explain the why’s behind it:

In a similar vein to the way Harry Potter was frowned upon in many Christian communities when it first came forth (unless you, like my family, realized it’s actually super cool and became lowkey obsessed with it), I always kind of looked at Percy Jackson–which is filled with Greek Mythology–and thought, “huh. blasphemous.” And I’m really not sure why I ever thought this, because it’s just mythology. The concept of such things is actually highly intriguing to most individuals. But there was something about it that made me feel funny, and therefore I stuck to Hogwarts and wizardry and stayed far, FAAAAAAR away from Camp Half-Blood. (because reading about witchcraft is so much more normal than reading about a kid who’s the son of Poseidon [or whoever Percy is related to. I think it’s the fish-dude {anyway. moving on.}])

But now that I’m a little bit older and a little bit wiser, I’ve since realized that I seriously missed out when it comes to the Percy Jackson stories. It’s essentially a classic Middle Grade series, and I–being the odd child that I was–completely passed it by. So now that I’m in my 20’s and clearly much more mature than I was all those years ago, I’m gonna read the book with the fish boy and the fawn kid with the funny boots. (I feel like I’m totally butchering this storyline, but HUZZAH. we shall see just how much of this I got right once I start reading. XD)

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PETER PAN by JM Barrie

Believe it or not, despite my severe and unquenchable love for Peter Pan, I’ve never actually read Peter Pan. And this is CLEARLY an abomination which must be fixed immediately. I can’t go around touting a love for something I’ve technically never read, now can I?

(I mean, obviously I can because I’ve been doing it for years now but SHUSH. No one needs to think about this that hard. It’s fine. Everything is totally fine.)

Ahem. Moving on.

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KING’S WARRIOR by Jenelle Schmidt (audiobook)

Okay, so this is one that I’m SO SO excited about. Jenelle’s fantasy series, Minstrel’s Song, JUST finished releasing in audiobook format, and it is my desire to read ALL of the audiobooks this year. But specifically this summer. XD

I have 20 minute long commutes to work (both ways), so that’s a total of 40 minutes of drive time every single time I’m scheduled to work. Despite the fact that I normally listen to music on my way to and from the coffee shop, it has since come to my attention that my time may be better spent jamming out to some super cool audiobooks–specifically ones about dragons and fantastical lands and SWORDS AND FIGHTING AND–

….to be honest, I’m a little nervous that I’ll get so emotionally invested in the story that I’ll crash, but eh. It’s fine. At least I’ll be slaying a dragon at the same time. XD

Okay okay, but in all seriousness, I really want to try listening to audiobooks during my drives! If I can listen to my ’tis but a bop playlist with my windows down while screaming Crocodile Rock at the top of my lungs, I’m pretty sure I can listen to an audiobook without anything truly awful happening.

…right? Right.

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GEMINA by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kauffman

I read the first book in this series during the very beginnings of the *cough* plague *cough*. And for anyone who has read ILLUMINAE, I’m sure you can understand why reading such a book during a time in which a global pandemic was raging around the universe was scarring to say the least. I am therefore prone to believe that anything which happens in this series will inexplicably come to life and affect my real world whenever I read it. It’s a very terrifying situation I’ve found myself within, my friends.

But alas. We are going to continue along with the series, nevertheless. XD I sincerely apologize to anyone who has read GEMINA and knows the horrors which I’m about to release upon the real world. I simply cannot resist reading this novel any longer, I’m afraid.

THE REREADS

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HARRY POTTER YEARS 4-7

Technically these are all rereads, and I SUPPOSE if I wanted to challenge myself less, I could just….delete these from my TBR. But, guys, I’m SO excited to be rereading this series, and I can’t possibly put it down now! My lovely friend, Christine, has been buddy reading these books with me, and it is just such a breath of fresh air for me right now. Getting to re-experience the world of Harry Potter with such a dear friend has been an experience of a lifetime.

I also just finished reading Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, and getting to see Remus and Sirius again made my heart oh so happy! While I love all of the Harry Potter’s dearly, Year 3 is definitely my favorite. There’s something about that book that just fills me with all of the warm fuzzies. XD

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talk to me, peasants!

And there you have it–my summer 2021 TBR pile! I’m absolutely positive I won’t be able to read ALL of these before the sun sets on the last day of summer, but like … a girl can dream, right? XD

So! What kinds of books are YOU planning on reading over the next few months? Pop down into the comments and tell me all about your wildest reading adventures! And until next time, as always…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

A BOOKISH BEANS REVIEW: The Girl and the Witch’s Garden by Erin Bowman

good morning, cyberspace!

Today I’m coming at you all with a book review, which–in case you’re kinda confused with all the general bookishness that I’m flinging at you this month–has absolutely nothing to do with the book cover that I helped reveal last week. (however, if you’re interested in beautiful covers and want to join me in my mass excitement for Jenelle Schmidt’s new release coming out later this month, GO CHECK THAT SMUDGE OUT, PEASANTS!)

However, sallying forth, let’s talk about The Girl And The Witch’s Garden! (a.k.a. the novel I shall be providing a non-spoilery review for today!)

(special thanks to Netgalley and the publisher–Simon and Schuster–for sending me a free e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review!!)

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THE GIRL AND THE WITCH’S GARDEN – A BOOKISH BEANS REVIEW

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THE BLURB

taken from goodreads

Mallory Estate is the last place twelve-year-old Piper Peavey wants to spend her summer vacation. The grounds are always cold, the garden out back is dead, a mysterious group of children call the property home, and there’s a rumor that Melena M. Mallory—the owner of the estate and Piper’s wealthy grandmother—is a witch.

But when Piper’s father falls ill, Mallory Estate is exactly where she finds herself.

The grand house and its garden hold many secrets—some of which may even save her father—and Piper will need to believe in herself, her new friends, and magic if she wants to unlock them before it’s too late.

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THE REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

SO. I’m going to be perfectly blunt here and say that this particular novel was . . . not exactly what I expected when I requested the arc for it. I’m sure this is yet another prime example of judging a book by its cover, but looking at the adorable illustration pictured above, I was expecting something soft and whimsical and–dare I say it–childish between the pages. That’s what I love most about Middle Grade, after all. Of course it has deep themes and hard truths of life and all that “fun stuff” about what it’s like living through your Youngin’ Years, but there’s also a simplicity and innocence lurking there, as well–something that Young Adult novels are strikingly without.

However, this book in particular felt more like a read for fans of the Percy Jackson series than fans of The Girl Who Drank The Moon, if that makes any sense. Whereas they’re both Middle Grades with an emphasis on magic and the fantastical, they both have drastically different tones to them.

HOWEVER! That being said, this is definitely not a bad thing and should not be taken as a knock against this book! Despite the fact that it wasn’t the tone I was initially anticipating (something that is entirely my fault), I still thought this book was very well done.

The theme, in particular, stands out as one of this book’s shining qualities. For one thing, it is deep for a children’s book. Not in a “this is gonna fly right over this kid’s head” kind of way, but in a “this is something that kids should really have more access to/conversation about” kind of way. It was nice to see a topic of such importance handled with such grace and tact, and I truly believe that somewhere out there, there’s a child who will benefit greatly from having a book with this particular message in their life. (not to mention that it IS filled with magic and wonder and enchantments, which is clearly what all of us readers are here for anyways, amiright? XD)

While the theme may have been my favorite aspect of this book, the characters were probably my least favorite. (which sounds harsh, but I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds.) Actually, the more I think about it, I’m not entirely sure whether it was the characters or the plot which fell a little flat for me–in some ways I think it might have been a mixture of the two working together–but there was definitely something about this novel that felt . . . “off”.

Our main protagonist, Piper Peavey, started off with quite a bit of promise. And for the most part, she was a likable protagonist. She was smol and young and sassy–a beautiful combination, truly–but as the story progressed, she began to develop a trait which I’m seeing more and more in the fiction world, and one that I just canNOT get behind, no matter how many times it crops up: lying.

My goodness, if there is one thing we can change in the future years of the publishing industry, can it PLEASE be the storylines that revolve around lies? Like??? Please??? I can’t even tell you how many books I have read that have “conflicts” which could easily be resolved in three minutes flat if the characters would just TALK to one another openly and honestly. I’ve actually considered flinging books at the wall because the characters are acting like utter imbeciles.

But I digress. These characters were not quite as bad as that, and the adorable motley crew of children living at Mallory Estate were, as a matter of fact, my favorite characters of the bunch. Especially Teddy and Kenji. (which is probably why it bothered me so much that Piper, who had JUST MET THESE SMOL PRECIOUS BEANS, started lying to them, even if I can understand the reasoning behind her secrecy.)

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for any length of time, you’ll already know that characters MAKE a story for me. Plot is important, of course, but if your characters are flat, chances are I won’t enjoy your story, even if it IS the coolest concept I’ve ever seen. So, with that being said, I truly believe that the smol beans of Mallory Estate brought the story together in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise happened had they not been included in the cast.

Piper’s grandmother, on the other hand . . . well, she’s part of the reason the story felt a bit off, simply because her and her daughter’s character arcs felt slightly unnatural and forced. (Sophia Peavey, especially, was a bit of a disappointment as far as character development goes. I didn’t really understand the reasoning behind her choices, even at the resolution of the story. it felt inorganic, in a way. definitely unnatural for the woman I had initially believed her to be, but maybe that was the point. . .?)

Overall, if I can stop thinking about the plot and characterization from a writer’s perspective and view it as a reader simply looking for a good dose of the fantastical, I can honestly say I found this book to be a rather pleasant read. I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute favorite, but for readers looking for a sweet, enchanting Middle Grade novel with deep themes of love, loyalty, and family, I’d definitely recommend giving The Girl and the Witch’s Garden a try!

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talk to me, peasants!

Have you read any particularly good middle grade novels recently? (I’m currently trying to devour as many of these as I possibly can for some reason?? Middle grade is SPEAKING to me right now, and I think I’d like to try my hand at writing one someday…? *hint hint*) What kinds of themes do you like to see in books? Soft themes? Deep ones? And do you prefer softer, more whimsical MG novels (like The Girl Who Drank The Moon), or more hardcore fantastical ones (like Percy Jackson)?

And most importantly of all. . .

IS IT BAD THAT I’VE NEVER READ PERCY JACKSON?

I feel like not reading this book is semi-akin to the sin which is never-having-read Harry Potter. So. Tell me if this is something that needs to change immediately. XD

As usual, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS! down in the comments below, and until next time. . .

An Echo of the Fae Cover Reveal!

good morning, cyberspace!

Today, I have a very, very, very, very exciting post for you all! Recently, Jenelle Schmidt–author of The Minstrel’s Song series, ‘Twas an Evening in Bethlehem, and many other delightful books which you can find right here–sent out a call for bloggers to help spread the word about her newest release–an original fairytale titled An Echo Of The Fae. And I–being the very lucky bean that I am–was able to sign up to help out with the cover reveal!!

(and also the actual book release, but shhh. you’ll hear more about that later. . .!)

Obviously, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I absolutely adore Jenelle. She’s like the fairy godmother of indie publishing, and her Self-Publishing Summer School series is something that I think every aspiring author should read–especially if you, like me, are interested in learning more about the indie side of publishing. So when I discovered that I actually had the chance to help celebrate the release of her newest book baby, I was over the moon excited.

And I’m possibly even MORE excited for you guys to see this cover today!!! I don’t even know the right words to describe it. Whimsical? Enchanting? Absolute perfection in every way? I’m honestly squealing just looking at it in my email. Which DEFINITELY ISN’T WEIRD AT ALL, HOW DARE YOU.

Ahem. So I should probably share it with you all now, right? Right. I’m pretty sure that’s how a cover reveal works. . . *laughs nervously*

All right, folks! Without any further ado, allow me to introduce you to the absolutely stunning cover for An Echo of the Fae!

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THE BLURB

Echo enjoys the peace and solitude of the Faeorn forest, regardless of how strange spending time in the “haunted” wood seems to others.

But on the cusp of her thirteenth birthday, the discovery of a family secret reveals why Echo has never been drawn to the sea like her mother. This discovery shakes the foundations of her world and sends Echo on a quest, not merely into the forest, but into the heart of the fae-lands themselves, to rescue the sister she didn’t know existed.

Elves, dragons, and fairy courts will put Echo’s wit and resolve to the test. But with time running out for her sister, will Echo even be able to save herself?

A fairytale adventure perfect for fans of The Secret of Roan Innish and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

PRAISE FOR AN ECHO OF THE FAE

“Enthralled by the terror, charm, riddles, and beauty of a richly depicted fae world, I devoured this marvelous book in two sittings! Readers of all ages will love Echo, a heroine strong in her weakness, clever and resolute amid her doubt and fear. An Echo of the Fae is sure to satisfy lovers of adventure and faery!” — J.M. Stengl, author of The Faraway Castle Series

OH. MY. GOODNESS. First of all, let’s talk about the cover, shall we? Because is this the most beautiful cover in the whole entire universe, or what? The font. The forest. The whole enchantment of it all. . . I am literally in love with this cover, okay? I’ve been squealing ever since I found it in my inbox.

BUT CAN WE ALSO TALK ABOUT THAT BLURB, THOUGH??? I don’t know about you guys, but this sounds like it’s going to become one of my all-time favorite books of ever. It has the makings of everything I absolutely adore in a book–a precious protagonist, mysterious fae, creepy forests, FAIRYTALES. Not only that, but it’s geared towards 12-to-13-year olds, and that’s kind of where I’m finding my reading tastes to be leaning towards lately???

(I’m not entirely sure what this means for my mental state, but it’s fine. I’m sure this is perfectly normal for a twenty-year-old.)

So yeah. Suffice to say, this is a book that I am very excited about. Later this month I’ll be back with my full–hopefully non-spoilery–review of this book, but until then, allow me to leave you with a beautiful snippet from this beautiful book!

A SNIPPET FROM AN ECHO OF THE FAE

My earliest memory returns often in my dreams. My mother’s soft smile caresses me as she bends down to kiss my forehead, my own tiny hand reaching up and trying to capture a lock of her long red-gold hair between clumsy fingers that refuse to obey my wish. A soft, sweet humming fills the memory, a tune that is both dear and yet unfamiliar. Eyes filled with love gaze down at me, and a gentle laugh, a man’s laugh, fills the room. Strong arms encircle us both, my mother and me, and I know I am perfectly safe. Perfectly loved.

Another sound permeates the memory: a rhythmic, rushing, liquid sound I do not recognize, but which fills me with a deep longing that threatens to burst out of my chest and leave me completely hollow. In the dream, it is merely a subtle noise in the background, but when I wake I feel a desperate need to find its source. Sometimes the longing clutches me so tightly that it leaves me gasping, desperately sucking in each breath as if through a narrow reed, my lungs screaming as though they have forgotten how to breathe the very air I need to survive.

It is rare to have a memory from such a tender age, especially one so vivid. And yet, that moment is locked in my thoughts with perfect clarity. During the day it grows distant and faded, but it has haunted my sleep in full, vibrant detail each night for nearly thirteen years.

So why is it that the face in my dreams is wholly unfamiliar to me? Why is the mother from my memory a stranger?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenelle first fell in love with stories through her father’s voice reading books aloud each night. A relentless opener-of-doors in hopes of someday finding a passage to Narnia, it was only natural that she soon began making up fantastical realms of her own. Jenelle currently resides in the wintry tundra of Wisconsin—which she maintains is almost as good as Narnia—with her knight-in-shining armor and their four adorable hobbits. When she is not writing, she homeschools said hobbits and helps them along on their daily adventures… which she says makes her a wizard.

Follow Jenelle around the interwebs to get news about latest releases and her writing adventures:


WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

GOODREADS

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP

AMAZON AUTHOR CENTRAL

FIND THE DESIGNER!

This beautiful cover was designed by Savannah Jezowski from Dragonpen Press! You can find out more about Savannah at her website down below, as well as join the Dragonpen Press Facebook group!

WEBSITE

FACEBOOK GROUP

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talk to me, peasants!

  • is anyone else super excited about the arrival of this book? I have had SO MUCH FUN getting to be a part of this cover reveal, but I’ll be honest–it’s making me super impatient for this book to be released. XD Only 19 more days until it’s out in the universe and I can squeal about it without worrying about spoilers!!! MEEP!
  • what sorts of things compose your favorite kinds of books? For me it’s a mixture of the fantastical, the whimsical, and the strange. Fairytales are a wonderful example of this, which is probably why I love them so much. . .

and most important of all. . .

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS GORGEOUS COVER???

I’ve seen a lot of covers in my day, but my goodness. This probably has to be one of my personal favorites.

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS! down in the comments below! And until next time. . .

The What If. . .? Fantasy Tag

good morning, Cyberspace!

Oh lookie there! A tag! A completely innovative and creative way to get out of writing an original blog post three hours before I need to have a smudge up!

. . .aha.

Okay, okay, I’ll confess. Once again I have fallen victim to the deceitful bloggerly rut and have utterly failed to write a blog post before Tuesday morning. #OOPS. But it’s not that I didn’t try. I really did. I’ve been brainstorming all weekend to find the perfect post to write, but as is usual for me when I’m on a deadline. . .I’ve got nothing.

I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump lately, guys. My life is a chaotic jumble of half-baked blog posts and messy inboxes and a slew of chapters that should have been edited three days ago and thirty-five books that have been glaring at me to read them for two years.

It’s a problem.

So I really needed something fantastical and whimsical and creative to help kick me out of this rut. Something like this really cool tag I found on Christine’s blog. I’m not sure if I was officially tagged for this or not, but seeing as though Christine said that she’s tagging everyone who wants to do the tag. . .I THINK IT’S SAFE TO SAY I AM NOT A THIEF.

But if I was a thief, would any of us truly be surprised? Hmmm???

I didn’t think so.

But I digress. Basically, this tag is a conglomeration of the fantastical and the whimsical and BOOKS! and mythological creatures and pretty much just ALL OF THE THINGS that will help fling me out of this slump I’ve been wallowing in for the past few weeks. So, in conclusion, I AM JUST SUPER UBER EXCITED TO DO THIS, OKAY? Okay.

Let’s dive into the tag, shall we?

*sploosh*Read More »

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag! (SHHH, it’s still sweater weather, peasants)

good morning, Cyberspace!

You know what goes great with April? Sweaters. Fuzzy sweaters, stripe-y sweaters, sweaters with short sleeves, no sleeves (that’s a vest, kenzie), long sleeves. Sweaters with fluffy kittens on them. Sweaters with owls. Hufflepuff sweaters. SWEATERS.

I love sweaters. Especially when it’s the middle of Spring and the sun is practically searing my skin off with its fiery rays of inevitable death.

Aha…haha…ha.Read More »

A Bookish Beans Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

*a giant THANK YOU!!!! to my flawless mom for helping to both capture and balance not only these books upon my head, but also my complete and utter insanity. (I love you, Mom!!!)*



Good afternoon, Cyberspace!

I have never written a book review before.

Scratch that–I have written one two book reviews before.

And they were absolutely terrible.

Centuries ago, I wrote a smol book review on one of my all-time favorite books of ever–Winter by Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles is forever and always my Supreme Favorite Series, and therefore it was obligatory that I write a raving five-star review on its most smashing book.

And then the other review was for In Between by Jenny B. Jones, which was pretty much just meh(the review, not the book. the book was SPECTUCULAR!!!)

Of course, little did I know that these reviews would later come back to haunt me from beyond the grave. Apparently Goodreads does not just house the tears of the soul-shattered and the limbs of the dead.

It also holds the cringe-worthy reviews of a budding blogger, as well.Read More »

Book Bites: Five Books You Probably Have Not Read (and that you totally should)

Good evening, Cyberspace! As you all probably know by now, Smudged Thoughts is basically a Writer’s Resort where I scream and yell at you all with spittle flinging from my snarled teeth about how to be a better, more productive (bahahahahahaha) writer.

Well, today I’m going to be doing something a little bit different. (as usual)

Today, we shall be venturing into the world of books.

As in books that are actually and physically available to buy, and not just sitting on a hard-drive in your computer looking like the soggy, half-finished cookie that it is.

Read More »

Six Books That I WILL Conquer In 2017: The Classics (and Eragon)

Good afternoon, Cyberspace!

Now, there’s something about me that most of you probably don’t know, and that is that I have a very rare mental disease in which I cannot seem to finish anything I start.

I’m like Professor Calamitous from Jimmy Neutron. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers Professor Calamitous)

Seriously, though.  It’s a problem.

And though this deadly disease is probably just laziness on my part rather than an actual mental problem, it still affects a very large part of my life: writing; any creative project ever; resolutions I make; plans; and yes, most devastatingly, my reading life.

Terrible. I know.

Read More »