Review: A Tip for the Hangman

A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein

Genre: Historical Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

England, 1585. In Kit Marlowe’s last year at Cambridge, he receives an unexpected visitor: Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, who has come with an unorthodox career opportunity. Her Majesty’s spies are in need of new recruits, and Kit’s flexible moral compass has drawn their attention. Kit, a scholarship student without money or prospects, accepts the offer, and after his training the game is on. Kit is dispatched to the chilly manor where Mary, Queen of Scots is under house arrest, to act as a servant in her household and keep his ear to the ground for a Catholic plot to put Mary on the throne.

While observing Mary, Kit learns more than he bargained for. The ripple effects of his service to the Crown are far-reaching and leave Kit a changed man. But there are benefits as well. The salary he earns through his spywork allows him to mount his first play, and over the following years, he becomes the toast of London’s raucous theatre scene. But when Kit finds himself reluctantly drawn back into the uncertain world of espionage, conspiracy, and high treason, he realizes everything he’s worked so hard to attain–including the trust of the man he loves–could vanish before his very eyes.


OHMYGOSH THIS BOOK THIS BOOK THIS BOOK! I *loved* this book!

A Tip for the Hangman is The Scarlett Pimpernel meets Wolf Hall meets Hamilton. It’s irreverent, exciting, sexy, and utterly heartbreaking. I was in love with Kit as both a narrator and a character, delighted by his quick wit and sarcastic sense of humor, engrossed in his adventures as a spy, and desperate for the book to end, somehow, happily. But if you know Marlowe’s story you know a happy ending was never in the cards. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. 

I’m Back!

… Sort Of

Hello all!

I’ve been away, what, nine months? And boy, what a nine months it has been. Never you fear, I have still been reading, just not blogging.

Honestly, it’s Instagram that has brought me back. I’ve been halfheartedly posting on Insta, but that community is just so … blah. It’s all about self-promotion and followers. And as much as they like to pretend it’s about conversations, it’s just about taking stupid pictures of nothing. In short, I’ve finally realized how much I missed you all. ❤

That being said, I have no plans to going back to regularly scheduled posting. I don’t particularly miss writing long reviews of the books I read. My current habit of two or three paragraph reviews suits me just fine. Maybe I’ll post reviews of some of the books I read over the time that already exist on Goodreads, but then maybe I won’t. *shrug*

Nor do I intend to go back to reading (or attempting to read….) (or pretending to attempt to read…) everyone’s posts. I’m going to read what interests me from my favorite people.

What I WILL go back to doing will be leaving lengthy comments and responding in lengthy ways to your comments. As I said, I miss talking to you all and hearing what you think. Love you guys. 🙂

Blogging Break

Good morning friends.

This is an unexpected post, not something I planned. But after the giant snowstorm kicked off our internet for a week I just haven’t been motivated to get back into the groove of blogging. I haven’t posted anything in a week, and I’m probably at least three weeks behind on my comments. I think it’s time for a break.

At this time I don’t have a definite plan for when I will be back.

I love being friends with you, and I don’t want to lose contact with y’all while I’m on my break. I’m still going to be reading, just not writing. I would love to keep chatting with books about you on Goodreads, which I am still active on, or Instagram, which I am sometimes active on.

Find me on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/27247586-katie
I’m on Insta @NNRbooks or follow this link: https://www.instagram.com/nnrbooks/

See you soon I hope!

Review: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Series: The Carls
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While they were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction without ever lifting a finger. Well, that’s not exactly true. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.

Months later, the world is as confused as ever. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online about the world post-Carl; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda infiltrates a new scientific operation . . . one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension.

As they each get further down their own paths, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers; unexplained internet outages; and more—which seem to suggest April may be very much alive. In the midst of the gang’s possible reunion is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality.


I’m going to start by saying that if you haven’t read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing to turn around and do that, because neither this book nor this review will make any sense to you unless you have. Not a sequel that can be enjoyed without having read the first book, sorry folks.

Continue reading “Review: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor”

American Sports: Basically The Hunger Games

I know, I know, what a ridiculous hot take. But hear me out!

So I was scrolling through Instagram, like you do, when I saw an ad (does anyone else get SO MANY ADS these days???) for Nike. It was a super cool video of girls playing football in the dark and rain, exciting music, and so on. The final message was that Nike is spending some large sum of money to promote having women’s flag football in every school in America by 2023. Cool! I would totally have played! I opened the comments, curious if anyone else was annoyed they weren’t all pushing for the boys to play flag football too. Well. I should have known better.

“You make football better?! I dont understand why they dont just give ’em pads and put them on the field with the boys then.”

“If they’re so tough and they sacrifice just as much, make them play real football, where men sacrifice their memory and their body sometimes.”

“How does flag football makes football better?”

“Why flag and not tackle ???”

These are the tame version of the comments, after the platform has taken down some of the most offensive offerings. But the attitude is the same. It ain’t football unless they’re hitting each other.

Continue reading “American Sports: Basically The Hunger Games”

Middle Grade Review: Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Genres: Middle Grade, Novel in Verse
Maturity Level: 2
Content Warning: Islamophobia
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.


This will be a short review. I don’t fully “get” free-verse poetry, so I’m not quite sure what all to say, but this book felt just amazing.

Continue reading “Middle Grade Review: Other Words for Home”

Review: Love From A to Z

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

Genres: Young Adult, Romance
Maturity Level: 3
Content Warnings: Islamophobia, Degenerative Illness
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break. Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since [redacted by reviewer, because spoiler!], Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister. Adam’s also intent on keeping [redacted] a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals. Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.


I loved this book so much! Maybe even more than A Very Large Expanse of Sea, which was my favorite YA book last year, and in several years, tbh. While the content of this book was similar, the style this book was written in was much more my preference and equally good.

Continue reading “Review: Love From A to Z”

Favorites February: Mockingjay

Welcome to Favorites February! This month I am re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in a long time, and then taking some time to discuss and celebrate each book when I’m done. This is the final week, and I’m of course going to discuss Mockingjay.

I feel like I should start by saying I actively disliked the final book the first time I read it. I think the plot is objectively less strong than the firsts two books, and I still hate how the last third played out. It all seemed so pointless and unnecessary. However, every time I read this book I enjoy it a little bit more. This is also probably the most thought-provoking book in the series, so there should be plenty to discuss!

As always, spoilers ahead.

Summary

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.

Why I Love This Book

  • Katniss’s PTSD is extremely intense and compelling, and I think important for young people to read in this bloody series.
  • Man, Snow is EVIL.
  • When they play “crazy cat” with Buttercup ❤
  • The ethical and moral questions brought up by the war.
  • What happens to Peeta is so terrible, but for some reason so unputdownable?
Continue reading “Favorites February: Mockingjay”

Classic Remarks: Are Genre Classics Respected?

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Do you think genre books receive the respect they deserve, even if they are considered classics?

I think this is such an interesting question, and I’m really looking forward to hearing some of the discussion around it. The short version of my answer is: sometimes.

Classic science fiction tends to get a lot more respect than classic fantasy, but only if it’s not *too* science fiction-y. Romantic mysteries and adventures get taken much more seriously than the gothic adventure novels of the Regency era. Classic romance novels get taken seriously until about the19th century.

Examples. Fahrenheit 451 is generally taken seriously as “literature,” and is even studied in school by most American students. It was written around the same time as The Lord of the Rings, which is generally dismissed by the literary folks as perfectly fine to read for fun, but not on par with, say, Catch-22. Frankenstein, widely regarded as the first science fiction novel, is likewise beloved and respected. Dracula (which, to be fair, was never meant to be “serious”) and the stories that inspired it are not. Isaac Asimov’s work is generally well-regarded, whereas HG Wells is an oddity. Brave New World has successfully made the literary canon, Dune has not.

Continue reading “Classic Remarks: Are Genre Classics Respected?”

Thoughts from The Hunger Games: Not so Different from the Capitol

The Hunger Games is a pretty explicit commentary on reality TV and sensationalized news stories in America. It’s disturbing how much Americans enjoy seeing people’s suffering play out in real time, whether it’s their failing love stories (Married At First Sight, *cringe*), physical challenges (Survivor), or even death (George Floyd’s murder being broadcast repeatedly on the nightly news). Even when it’s horrible, we just can’t look away.

But what really stood out to me as I re-read The Hunger Games this past month was the subtle way in which Suzanne Collins would relate me, the reader, with the viewers at the Capitol. Especially poignant to me was this quote close to the end of the book:

Well, Foxface died almost a day ago, so there’s been plenty of time for the audience to place bets and get bored.

The audience, i.e. the reader, has had a pretty “boring” couple of chapters. Nobody has tried to kill anyone, it’s just been Peeta and Katniss snuggling in a cave trying to not die. Presumably Cato and Thresh are fighting it out off-screen, but YA readers who like a fast plot are probably starting to wonder when something is going to happen to our protagonists.

And that’s the moment that got me thinking. Why is it so appalling to us that the Capitol would enjoy the spectacle of children killing each other, but it’s totally fine for us as readers to enjoy the same thing?

Continue reading “Thoughts from The Hunger Games: Not so Different from the Capitol”