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Review: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

RoseBlood- A.G. Howard




In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.


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My Review - 5 Stars

Something you should know about me: I love The Phantom Of The Opera. LOVE IT. The first time I encountered the story was an animated version on TV when I was probably 10 or 11. I was completely swept away.

Several years later my friends and I bought tickets to see it downtown Chicago as our post-prom activity. That is when I really fell in love with it. A few years later I got to see it on Broadway again and it's place in my heart grew ever more secure. The music sweeps over me like nothing else. I can get teary eyed just thinking about All I Ask Of You. Gah.

When I saw the cover for RoseBlood, I wondered if there was a connection to the Phantom. And when I saw it was, I immediately begged for an ARC. I needed to read this. Did it ever blow me away! 

RoseBlood is part YA, part gothic novel, and 100% unputdownable. I was spellbound from the start, wondering how much influence the original story would have. This is almost a spin off because while the Phantom does indeed have plans for Rune, this takes place after the original story. 

When Rune arrives at her new French boarding school, she is grieving the death of her father a couple years prior and still untangling complicated family her grandma trying to drown her. Grandma's in jail not to far from Rune's new school and while Rune welcomes the opportunity to get to know her aunt (her father's sister), she has no interest in giving her grandmother another chance. At the same time, she's trying to figure out her unusual singing ability. She becomes ill if she doesn't sing but is also left physically drained when she does. She also worries her voice could harm others. And she's also caught up in the mystery of the school itself, as well as the disappearing gardener Thorn.



I loved Rune's friends at the school and the part each ultimately plays. I also loved her burgeoning friendship with Thorn and getting to see things from his point of view as well. The way Rune and Thorn bond over music is beautiful, as is the way Thorn's virtuoso violin playing helps Rune better understand her gift.

There's some solid character growth and I was seriously agonized at some points, wondering how it would all work out, particularly Thorn's battle over what his heart wanted vs. what his foster father wanted.

I don't want to spoil the plot so I'll leave it here. Even if you know the Phantom of the Opera well, you'll be surprised by the story's twists and turns. It's obvious Howard loves her source material and it plays off in such wonderful ways. I loved how much history was included- from Leroux, Paris itself, and Rune's family tree.

One of the best parts of this book was the way the author brought music to life. The descriptions were incredible, not only in how Rune and Thorn felt about their gifts but the actual musical pieces themselves. It made me want to track down more than a few operas so I can aurally experience the ones Howard included. It also made me want to read Gaston Leroux’s novel and see how it differs from the Broadway show.

I haven't read anything else by A.G. Howard before but I plan on diving into her backlist. Based on how much I loved this one, I'm sure to enjoy the rest of her work.


Disclosure: I was provided an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post. 

Favorite Books on the Enneagram

  Favorite Books on the Enneagram

I've lost track of how many books and online resources I've read on the Enneagram. It's my favorite personality type system. I've been plumbing the depths of my type for several years now and still keep learning new aspects about it. It truly is a dynamic system.

These books are my go-tos. I use them for different reasons and I've tried to mention what I like (and dislike, as it were) about each one. 



Start Here

The Enneagram for Black LiberationThe Enneagram for Black Liberation: Return to Who You Are Beneath the Armor You Carry - Chichi Agorom

One of the best Enneagram books I've ever read. Using a Black liberation lens, her approach makes this a more intersectional system. She also focuses on the Holy Ideas with some truly lovely imagery that helps set the tone for each type’s chapter. This book is a counterpoint to the meme-ification of the Enneagram. We’re not meant to be fixed and unchanged. The whole point is to move toward growth and wholeness and that only happens through connection with others. We need all nine types. Agorom emphasizes that we are more than our armor and the things we do to survive. Community practice is key, taking us beyond what we’ve learned about ourselves and going into the world to live out our strengths and healing. At the end of each type, there are reflection questions, visualizations, and community practices. This will be especially helpful to those who are new to the Enneagram. While this is written toward a Black audience, this book is for everyone and I’m so glad a friend recommended it to me.




Enneagram Made EasyThe Enneagram Made Easy- Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele

The title says it all: this is a quick and easy overview of the nine types. Baron and Wagele's books also feature fun cartoons to illustrate each type's strengths and weaknesses. The book also highlights how to get along with each type, what's great and what's hard about being each type, and closes out the chapter with practical suggestions.





The Road Back To YouThe Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey To Self-Discovery- Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

One of the more readable Enneagram books out there. This provides an introduction to the Enneagram and why it's beneficial to figure out your type. They then devote a chapter to each type. Cron includes many examples from his and Suzanne's lives, including their friends and family, and this roots the type descriptions better than other Enneagram resources. His writing style is engaging, though his attempts at humor didn't always work for me. This is written from a Christian perspective but non-Christians could still get a lot out of it. Cron is able to depict the types in a way that is personable, gracious, and incising. People will see themselves reflected on the pages and gain more compassion and understanding for themselves and others. (Full review here.) 





Go Deeper

The Wisdom of the Enneagram

The Wisdom Of The Enneagram: The Complete Guide To Psychological And Spiritual Growth For The Nine Personality Types- Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

Dense with information, Riso and Hudson lay out their approach to the Enneagram, particularly focusing on each type's biggest fears, desires, and motivations. This is considered by many to be the foremost resource when it comes to the Enneagram- and I agree. It's my go-to for a reason. If you don't already know your type, this could be overwhelming. But once you do, dive on in. Riso and Hudson spend a lot of time illustrating how wings and arrows work, as well as showing how each type can grow. Some people may find small sections to be a little too woo-woo but it's easy enough to skip those if you need to and focus on the rest. One of my favorite chapters includes the Healing Attitudes for each type, which has been life-changing.





The Complete EnneagramThe Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths To Greater Self-Knowledge- Beatrice Chestnut

Chestnut has her own spin on the Enneagram. I particularly liked how she lists the key beliefs and assumptions for each type and the way she laid out practical applications. She offers one of the most thorough explanations of the instinctual subtypes (self-preservation, social, sexual) that I've come across and while that particular part of Enneagram theory has yet to resonate with me personally, a ton of friends were able to identify their specific type because of this. I had a huge personal breakthrough while reading the chapter on Fours. However, I find her explanation of arrows to be confusing and even misleading and would point people toward Riso and Hudson's explanation in The Wisdom of the Enneagram instead. I also didn't like the insets on each type's Greek archetype, though I can see why others will appreciate it. Overall, a solid resource.




Improve Your Relationship With Others

Are You My Type? Am I Yours?Are You My Type? Am I Yours? Relationships Made Easy Through The Enneagram- Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele

A basic but thorough resource comparing how each Enneagram type pairing gets along. I like how they clarify what each type likes and dislikes about the other types and then gives concrete advice on how to support each type. This is fun to bring to a gathering of Enneagram lovers and pass around. Much interesting conversation ensues.





The Enneagram Of ParentingThe Enneagram of Parenting: The Nine Types of Children and How to Raise Them Successfully- Elizabeth Wagele 

Fantastic resource for anyone with children in their life, whether or not they're a parent. I'm glad the emphasis is on children containing qualities of a type, instead of typing children. They're too young for that. Their personalities can change so much! Still, the concrete information and practical applications will be helpful.





The Enneagram In Love and WorkThe Enneagram in Love and Work- Helen Palmer

I use this more as a reference tool, rather than a book to read from start to finish. It has proven to be very helpful thus far. Palmer shows how each type interacts with other types in both relationships and at work.The analysis for each type pairing's dynamic at work and in relationships is different, which makes sense because we relate to each other differently if we're coworkers vs. dating/married. I had a tricky dynamic with a colleague and Palmer's suggestions helped me stay on track. 






For Christians

The Enneagram A Christian PerspectiveThe Enneagram: A Christian Perspective- Richard Rohr

This was my introduction to the Enneagram, based on a friend's recommendation, so it will always have a special place in my heart but I include it here with major reservations. This is not the book I'd recommend read unless you are a Christian who has concerns about the Enneagram's origins. (If you only knew about many Christians have taken me aside and asked in hushed tones if the Enneagram is "New Age".) Rohr devotes time to explaining the origins of the Enneagram and the nine types. As the subtitle shows, it's very much rooted in his Christian beliefs. If you're not a Christian, you'll want to skip it. If you are a Christian, you may appreciate his care in showing how growing within your type mirrors sanctification. At times, his type descriptions rely on stereotypes and I don't find some of his assumptions helpful (i.e. I don't think entire countries have an Enneagram type.)




Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post. 

How I Read 313 Books In One Year

How I Read 313 Books In One Year |

The more I read, the more I read. This has proven true the last few years but especially this year. While I've consistently read more than 100 books since 2012, I somehow managed to read 313 books in 2016. That is an explosion compared to 2015's respectable 141 books.

There were 366 days in 2016, which means there were only 53 days where I did not finish a book. 

And y'all, I promise I did things other than read this past year. I may be an introvert but I'm a social one and like to have plans at least a few times a week. 

For the past month, I've thought about what factors might have led to 313 books. There are the usual suspects: I read more than one book at a time, I read every day, I'm a really fast reader, and I always have a book with me. But I've been doing this for years so that cannot explain how I doubled my reading intake.

I seriously doubt I'll be able to replicate this feat in 2017, if only because I'll be starting full-time work (hopefully soon.) You never know though. I love how many books I was able to read because the To Read list never stops growing, always spurring me on. 


Here's how I did it:  

I read primarily ebooks.

This was not intentional, at least not at first. For years I only used my Nook if I traveled or if a publisher sent me an ARC. I preferred physical books- and still do. But with most of my books in storage when I moved to San Francisco, it was so much easier to simply check out ebooks from the library. Bonus: no worrying about returning books on time, which would have been tricky given how my local branch's limited hours conflicted with my work schedule. I also have the Nook and Kindle apps on my phone so it's easy to resume reading at any time.

A couple of years ago I read an article by someone who said they were going to stop using their e-reader because they noticed they were reading faster (swiper keep swiping!) but losing comprehension in the process. I haven't noticed a loss in comprehension but I do think there's something to their swiping theory. When you're swiping pages, there is a strange temptation to keep going that is not as apparent when you're physically turning the page of a paperback book. I'm more aware of how often I'm finishing a page on an e-reader and subconsciously want to maintain that pace. 

I still read physical books this past year and it did seem to take me longer. I haven't tracked page numbers vs. content vs. time spent reading vs. format so I can't be sure. But this does seem a likely factor.


Limited or no TV.

When I'm in for the night, I love watching a couple of TV shows or Hallmark movies to unwind. This past year I've lived in places that either did not have a TV at all or did not have cable or where I had limited access to the TV for various reasons. I kept up with my staple shows either on my laptop or my housemates' iPad when it was available but that was about it.

The plain truth is I'm not a good binge watcher so while I have Netflix, I can go weeks without using it. If I try watching something on my laptop, I usually get distracted by all the internetty things.

This simply meant reading became my primary downtime activity. Instead of reading before bedtime like I usually did, I'd start reading after dinner. Presto changeo.


Shorter books were in the mix.

This was purely accidental. I had no idea The House On Mango Street clocked in at 110 pages or Another Brooklyn- at least the e-version- was a little over 100. I also read a number of romance novels that were in the 175-225 page range and I can knock those out in a couple hours. This helped me realize I have a page length preference. Some of the most well developed stories seem to be in the 300-400 page range. That's not true across the board and I still read shorter novels but I'm paying attention now.


I moved across the country and only work part-time (aka stress and transition!)

In October I moved from San Francisco to Minneapolis. I have a bunch of friends here but I'm still building my community. Once the cold hit in December, I was ready to hibernate until spring. I'm working part-time remotely for my SF job and working as a Virtual Assistant while looking for a full-time job here. Since I'm not working 40 hours a week, this has meant more time to read. It's nice but I'm really looking forward to the routine of working in an office so hopefully this will happen soon.

I also turn to books more when I'm stressed or in a season of transition. Books provide some normalcy when the rest of my life is upside down. Plus, the library helps keep this the cheapest entertainment around.


I started listening to audiobooks.

I tried listening to audiobooks in my early to mid 20s and could not get into them, usually because I was too distracted. I'd try listening on a road trip and 20 minutes would go by and I'd realize I'd gotten lost in my thoughts instead of paying attention to the story.

In the intervening years, however, I've become a big podcast listener so I thought moving across the country would be a good time to try again. I listened to Meghan March's Beneath This Mask and was completely hooked. I've listened to a few more since and am starting to figure out which narrators I like and what types of stories keep me focused. My preference is still to listen when I'm going to be on the road for a fair amount of time but I'll also listen while I eat a meal or have at least a 25 minute drive. 



Favorite Nonfiction of 2016

Favorite Fiction of 2016


Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post.  

What I'm Into (December 2016 Edition)


While I was in my hometown for Christmas, everyone asked me what I thought about Minnesota. "It's cold and snowy," I replied. Sometimes I'd even joke about how I questioned my decision to move here...and there's a grain of truth to that. I hate winter and I especially hate snow, with the exception of white Christmases. I thought when I moved here I'd get some gateway winter weather to ease me back in but a switch flipped in December and I've been in for a rude awakening instead. Since I chose to move back to the Midwest, I've been trying to find the beauty in this cold, snowy season. I'm reading poems from A Mind Of Winter and taking pictures of fresh snowfalls and, of course, I'm drinking lots of tea while curling up under blankets with a good book. 2016 was a whirlwind. There was so much- good and bad- I never saw coming. We'll see where 2017 goes.


Read and Reading

PicMonkey Collage

I have heard so many rave reviews about A Court Of Thorns And Roses (Maas) and it absolutely lived up to its reputation. In fact, if I hadn't already written about my Favorite Fiction of 2016, it would be on that list. I'm not sure what genre it is (YA? New Adult? Fantasy?) but the world building and storytelling were incredible. I'm a sucker for anything magical and questions about good and evil so this was perfectly up my alley. The character development was fantastic, particularly for Feyre and unexpectedly for the presumed villain Rhysand. I loved seeing Feyre and Tamlin's relationship develop and all that we get to learn about the Faerie world. There's lots to ponder concerning the poor relationship between Faeries and humans, mostly due to how humans were enslaved for years and how treacherous their lives are, even though they now live free of Faerie rule. I also liked how literacy played such an important role in the plot. This is the first book in a series and it left me with a ton of questions so I'm glad book 2 is already out. 


Talking As Fast As I Can (Graham) will probably be best appreciated by Gilmore Girls fans. I found it to be quite enjoyable, especially getting to know about Graham's unconventional upbringing, her years as a struggling actress, and of course all the behind the scenes stuff. My favorite part, however, was her chapter on singleness.


Scrappy Little Nobody was fun and sardonic. If you've ever followed Kendrick on Twitter, you'll have a good idea of what to expect here. I loved how she's fine with being her awkward self- or at least the evolution of how she came to be- and the way she talked about her first year in LA. This definitely doesn't glamorize life in Hollywood, which made the behind the scenes stories that much more interesting. 


The Friend Zone (Callihan) was such a sweet slow burn of a romance! I loved how Ivy and Gray first connected by texting and how quickly it became more, even though they were scared of losing their friendship. It was especially great to see Gray confront his issues and to see how different things with Ivy were from how he would have handled it in the past. Callihan's story was really fresh and engaging, steering clear of any predictable plot lines and making this a novel I couldn't put down.


Hidden Figures (Shetterly) was truly marvelous. (My full review here.) Given how much I loved the book, I cannot wait to see how it's brought to life as a movie.


You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), The Art Of Happiness (Dalai Lama), A Mind Of Winter (poetry), The Association Of Small Bombs (Mahajan), Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty (Hennessy), Heartless (Meyer)

(I read 32 books this month. You can tell hibernation has begun in earnest.)



This is the first year in a while I haven't had regular access to Hallmark Christmas movies but I did watch a couple with Addie and it was glorious. 

I'm still mad about the last episode of This Is Us. They are beyond emotionally manipulative. I'm going to give it one chance to make it up to me or we're so breaking up.




New discovery: Meg Myers

I barely listened to Christmas music, which was strange. The exception was my friendAnnie's fantastic Christmas song Secret Santa. I've had the chorus stuck in my head for weeks! I also adored Mariah Carey's Carpool Karaoke. All those great people singing All I Want For Christmas! It filled me with so much spirit.

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.



Hold Up! Time For An Explanatory Comma is precisely why I listen to Code Switch. 

The rise of fake news should concern us all. To that end: Reply All gives us Voyage Into Pizzagate

I loved the book episode from Sorta Awesome! I kept wanting to chime in with Laura and Jess.

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me had great interviews with Anthony Bourdain and Senator Bernie Sanders

Season 4 of Start Up followed Dov Charney, the controversial founder of American Apparel. I appreciated the way they didn't shy away from the allegations of sexual harassment. I'm still not sure what to make of Charney- other than knowing there's no way in hell I'd ever work for him- but it made for compelling listening. 



  • There were three Little Free Libraries within walking distance of where I was catsitting at the beginning of the month. It seems like MSP has tons of them everywhere.
  • This is going to sound goofy but I went over to a friend's house to help her get organized and it was so much fun!  My brain automatically creates systems and flow so I really enjoyed seeing how my advice helped her out in such a tangible way. Now she calls me her personal Mary Poppins.


  • My new winter coat from LL Bean! It's down and practically floor-length and came just in time for the first big dip in weather. 
  • Chris Ann's husband Todd cooked an incredible Indian meal for us. It was great getting to know him better!
  • I won 3 book giveaways in the span of a week!


  • My best friend Tracy sent me one of the best gifts I've ever received: this sign from Whimsy Makery. I can't wait to have my own place so I can hang it up!
  • Annie let me crash her gathering with friends. I loved getting to know them better and our discussion about fame, feminism, and more.
  • My first stop when I headed home for Christmas was Megan's house. It was so good seeing her family and Al made me an incredible Manhattan and we sat by the fireplace and it was the coziest visit ever.


  • My best friend Erin and I made our annual visit to Little Goat. This is the fourth year of this tradition. We split the fries and I ate the Bahn Mi burger and it was heaven.
  • I made a couple of stops at Serene Teaz. I love that place so much.
  • Annie and I caught up for a couple of hours at Starbucks and it was just what I needed. Crazy to think about how we've been friends for 22 years now. Our old pal Charles happened to come into Starbucks while we were there and it was nice getting to catch up with him.


  • Christmas Eve was spent with my dad's side of the family and Christmas was with my mom's side of the family. Lots of catching up all around and they didn't rib me about the Cubs winning...too much. #gowhitesox 
  • Laura and I spent a magical day together. We went to Barnes & Noble, bought tea at Adagio, then sat in Starbucks for a while before heading back to her house to hang out with her daughter and husband. I treasured every moment, partly because I don't know the last time we got to have that much time together and partly because it is just so wonderful to spend time with her. We always joke that we're twins and the day was a reminder of why.


  • Donna, Jen, and I were roommates more than a decade ago and when it worked out Jen and I would both be back in town at the same time, we made lunch plans at Egglectic. It was such a treat to be just the three of us! (With a bonus brief visit from Jen's husband Jason, aka Token Male. Love you, TM!)
  • Portillo's still has the best french fries and I cannot wait for them to open their MSP location.
  • My nephew was born! He is absolutely darling and I cannot wait to snuggle him.
  • Spending time with Kelly and her family, who are graciously letting me stay with them right now.
  • For NYE I joined Kelly's family for their traditional cheese and chocolate fondue and it was glorious.



Favorite Instagram:


It's a white Christmas and my aunt and uncle brought their sweet kitten with them so my day is made.

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)


On The Blog:

I shared my Favorite Nonfiction and Favorite Fiction of 2016



What I'm Into

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

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What have you been into this month? 

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