Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

1. Do more read-a-thons. I did a couple this year, and they were really enjoyable. I would love to do more next year.

2. Relatedly, do more reading challenges. Even if I don't succeed at all of them, it pushes me a little out of my reading comfort zone. Perhaps not the Goodreads challenge though...

3. Comment more. I still feel sort of weird about commenting on other people's blogs? Is that just me? (Because, you know, if you feel weird about commenting on my blog, you'll obviously comment to let me know. That's clearly how things work.)

4. Timely reviews. That's a carry-over from last year. I think I've (for the most part) gotten a little better, but I still sometimes put off reviewing a book for quite a while.

5. Figure out some HTML and CSS. I've tried before, but I'm not very good at it. Hopefully I'll manage better the next time I try to learn. (Anyone know some good resources?)

6. Do more non-review posts. I didn't do enough posts that were just spontaneous, one-off posts this year, but I enjoyed the ones that I did (like this one... I got to show off my amazing skills with Microsoft Paint too).

7. Cultivated more of a reviewing style. I'm still settling into one I like... I've tried a couple of new things this year, and I think I'm finding a way that I enjoy writing reviews. Its an ongoing process.

8. Organise my Goodreads. I have reviews that I haven't posted on Goodreads, I have duplicates in my lists... suffice to say it isn't exactly pretty over there.

9. Organise everything else. I have a 2015 calendar just waiting to be updated. With things.

10. On the subject of things. Do things. Like actually going to a book fair/ signing/ thing in 2015.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Review: The Young Elites

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)Title: The Young Elites
Author: Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy

A Quick Introduction: Adelina Amouteru survived the devastating blood fever, only to emerge scarred- and marked with white hair and lashes. She's one of the malfetto, children who survived the plagues but are now dogged by suspicion and rumours that they have unnatural powers. When these rumours are proven true, Adelina is thrust into the world of the Young Elites, and a group led by Enzo Valenciano. Adelina has been hurt and betrayed many times in her life, and she's done taking all of the abuse from the world. She's ready to start paying people back.

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: An opening to a dark fantasy series whose characters I could not invest in.

Review: I enjoyed Marie Lu's debut Legend as well as its sequels Prodigy (review) and Champion (review), and was intrigued by her preliminary art for this series (like this). On the other side, I'm not sure how I feel about it. There were a lot of things about this book that I really didn't enjoy, but I don't think they are a result of poor writing or storytelling.

These mixed feelings are best explained by- and perhaps rooted in- the character of Adelina. She is overall not a very likable character, and isn't really intended to be. She's bitter and vengeful, and generally enjoys the torment of those whom she feels have wronged her. It made her an aggravating character to read, as well as making her someone whom I found myself unable to root for or connect to. However, that does not me she is not a vivid, multi-faceted character, because she is- she just isn't a very good person.

The other characters were generally as vividly formed as Adelina and were quite diverse, although also difficult to connect to, especially as a result of Adelina's narration and view of them. The romance was also difficult for me to invest in, and felt stilted and underdeveloped. Adelina and Enzo did not seem to know, much less trust, each other at all and didn't really seem to like spending time with each other.

The plot was overall straight-forward, both a plot in itself and a set-up for a larger story, as this is the first book in a series. It is closely interlinked with introducing the world and magic system, which is still somewhat unclear- to the characters as well as the reader, as the powers are fairly new to the world. This set's up Adelina's back story, which is more of a villain's origin story than that of a hero. The world itself is fairly well defined, and is set up to be explored more in the following book.

This is, as I have mentioned, a part of a series, that I am, at present, unsure if I will continue. I did not really enjoy reading much of the book, and actually found myself losing interest occasionally, even into the climax. Overall, I feel like this book was alright as a piece of writing, but really wasn't for me. The characters are somehow both very vibrant and very hard for me to invest in.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind As A Gift This Year

Top Ten Tuesdays are a weekly feature over at The Broke and The Bookish.

1-3. AirbornSkybreaker and Starclimber in the new covers. I already have copies of the books in fairly good condition, so I can't justify buying them for myself right now, but I really, really like the tenth anniversary editions.
4-5. Angelfall and World After. I haven't bought them... for no real reason in particular. I really enjoyed them, I think they were never quite on the top of my list, but always near the top. I will probably purchase them at some point in the new year. I'm kind of wondering what wings will be on the last one.
The Manual of Aeronautics: An Illustrated Guide to the Leviathan Series
6. Manual of Aeronautics. This is another one that has been on my list for a while. I own the Leviathan trilogy, and this is a companion to it. I haven't read it, but I enjoyed the illustrations in the trilogy, and I would enjoy seeing them in colour.
7-8. For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea. I was waiting for them both to be out in paperback before buying them, and I haven't purchased them yet. I will probably do that eventually.
9-10. Fullmetal Alchemist Omnibus Editions Vol. 8 and 9. I haven't bought either of them yet. I've read the whole series, but I haven't bought all of the books yet (I waited for the omnibus editions because they were less expensive). I don't really read much manga (I mean, comparatively), but I really enjoyed FMA.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Review: Rites of Passage

Rites of PassageTitle: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary

A Quick Introduction: Sam has always had a weakness for dares, which is how she finds herself enrolled in the first female group of students at Denmark Military Academy. It is the last dare that her brother ever gave her, and is will be the hardest one for her to follow through, because there are people who don't want the school open to women. People willing to do anything that they can to get her out.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: A strong debut driven by character, as well as by plot, though it felt somewhat incomplete.

Review: This was another of the few debut novels that I enjoyed this year. It was a bad year for me as debuts go. It was also a contemporary which I don't usually read, but I enjoyed it more than I was expecting.

Sam was such a strong character. Raised in a military family, she's familiar with a lot of the demands of that life, as well as being under constant pressure from her father, a well respected officer. She enrolls in the DMA knowing that the stakes are against her- there's a lot of people who don't want a girl at the academy, and will do just about anything to send her packing. But Sam is tough as nails, and doesn't back down from anyone. She's incredibly determined, though not without her struggles. While the attempts of the boys to scare her off don't shake her, the dynamics within her family make her insecure. She had her vulnerabilities, and they made her seem human, when her determination and strength might have made her seem inhuman.

I don't usually read contemporaries, but I did enjoy the plot of this one. While Sam herself was the main force that pulled this novel along, she wouldn't have shone without the plot. She's up against a lot, on top of the rigors of the military school (which are intense), it isn't just a few malcontents trying to get her out of school- it is a secret society, and they seem like they're everywhere. There aren't a lot of people who she can trust. Sam was amazingly tough, and someone who I found myself really rooting for.

I didn't end up minding the romance in this one. I was a bit worried about a love triangle, but it didn't really end up happening, so that was nice. I did like that the relationship between Sam and Drill was good in that it was very much based on trust and respect, and was overall quite well done. Sam's relationships with her family were, as mentioned, troubled, especially due to her attending the DMA and her brother's recent death. She does also form some relationships with some of her classmates, but some of them felt a little inconsistent (or possibly cliche?) in their arcs.

Really, for me, my only complaint was that it felt unfinished. There isn't a planned sequel, but it felt very open to another book, and I really would prefer that it have one. There were some aspects that were a little too open ended, more as if certain things had not been touched on (her brother's death, and her family situation were something that I felt could have had more focus). It just felt like there was more to the story, that some things were either wrapped up too easily or not wrapped up (and I couldn't tell which). I think this was part of why I had minor issues with arcs of some of the minor characters. I suppose it was just that I was expecting more.

I greatly enjoyed Sam's character and the plot, though I felt like there was more to the story than what was given when the book wrapped up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Books I Read In 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays are a weekly feature over at The Broke and The Bookish.

I think my top ten books fluctuate by mood. Here's what they are right now.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.

A Mad Wicked Folly by Sarah Biggs Waller.

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong.

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund.

Cress by Marissa Meyer.

World After by Susan Ee.

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo.

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird
Volume: 1
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, romance

A Quick Introduction: Marguerite Caine has just lost her father and his killer got away... to another dimension. Marguerite's parents were a team of brilliant physicists and inventors, and together they created the Firebird, a device that allows a person to transport their consciousness from one version of themselves to another, in another dimension. Grieving her father and desperate to get some justice, Marguerite takes a prototype Firebird and follows the last person she would have expected to hurt her father, her parent's assistant Paul into another dimension.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: This novel has an interesting premise, and, though it ended up being carried more by plot than character for me, it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Review: Overall, I enjoyed this one, it was quite engaging, though there were some things that pulled me out of the story. (Also, look at the cover. It's lovely.)

I enjoyed the science fiction component of the story- I don't know too much about multi-dimensional theories, and, though the idea of the Firebird is likely far-fetched in physics terms, it was a fun "what-if," which is really a main component of sci-fi. The dimension-jumping was interesting, and I would like to know more about that at some point. It was described well enough that the idea worked within the world Claudia Gray introduced.

The characters were fairly engaging, but not ones I really connected to. There was enough going on plot-wise, that this was less of a problem than if the novel had been entirely dependent on being character driven, though it reduce how invested I was in the story and its outcomes.

The romance... was convoluted. Part of it, for me, was that my reaction was basically, "Wait-what-suddenly-romance?" Possibly because I don't really buy that you can be the same person when your entire world is different, because, you know, nature vs. nurture, the environment a person is raised in dramatically alters them- their outlook, many aspects of their personality... So to me, when Marguerite was in alternate-dimension Russia, it was as if she took very little time and very few encounters to be utterly, completely in love with someone she had just met. So I essentially understood the idea of it, but it didn't really work for me.

There are a lot of different worlds introduced, and were generally pretty well-formed, though more more background for how each dimension had diverged from the one Marguerite calls home would have been interesting. This is the first book in a series, and I'm looking forward to exploring more of this world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays are a weekly feature over at The Broke and The Bookish.

I read very few new authors this year that I really enjoyed.

I'll just give you the three that jump to mind.

1. Marie Rutkoski: I read The Winner's Curse and I loved it.

2. Sharon Biggs Waller: She's kind of a debut author (this was her fiction debut), but I'm really looking forward to her next book. Which comes out in 2016.

3. Holly Black: I hadn't read anything from her prior to this year... for no reason I can fathom. I have now decided that I must read The Spiderwick Chronicles, though. The art looks lovely too... Basically I don't know if she's in here because of what I read this year, or because I really want to read Spiderwick... but she's here.

Some whose series I'm going to continue, but I don't know if I would read a book not part of said series... basically judgement pending.

4. Maria V. Snyder: I read Poison Study, I enjoyed it, though I didn't love it. I'm continuing the series with hopes that I'll get more absorbed as time goes on.

5. Claudia Gray: I quite enjoyed A Thousand Pieces of You, and I will likely read the next book in the series.

I think that's it. Can you tell this post was a bit unplanned? I'm in the middle of exams right now and I didn't schedule it in advance because I'm a genius like that. I might come back and edit this once I've got some time.

Note to self: branch out more next year.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Review: Poison Study

Poison Study (Study, #1)Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: March 1, 2007

A Quick Introduction: Yelena is about to be executed for murder, when she is offered a chance to live as food tester to the ruler of her nation. Though the job is not without risk, and she will never be truly free, she takes it. As she learns to navigate her new position, and attempts to find a way that she might be free, unrest in the nation spreads. Yelena must tread carefully, especially when she begins to develop strange magical abilities beyond her control.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: An enjoyable opening to a fantasy series, though the characters were somewhat difficult to connect to, and the world would benefit from more detail.

Review:I enjoyed this one, though I was hoping to like it more. I like the premise a lot- Yelena is offered a choice- to be executed for murder (all killings are considered punishable be death, no matter what the reason), or to become food taster for the leader of Ixia, and likely eventually die by poison.

I found Yelena fairly likable, though I did not completely connect to her. Perhaps part of it was that she felt very multi-talented without being multifaceted? She felt generally quite straightforward as a character, though I could see that she was meant to have depth, that depth just didn't feel completely real to me. This aside, she's a very enduring person, she's had a lot of horrible things happen to her in the past, and she pushes on despite that. She's fairly intelligent and curious, and slow to trust because of her past, and forms bonds to other people slowly.

As a result, she takes some time finding her place in the palace, but she does make friends. One complaint I did have was that her relationship with her love interest, Valek, moves very quickly from friendship. It seemed strange, given the abuse in her past, for Yelena to be comfortable moving that quickly into an intimate relationship. It just seemed sudden, it might have done with more build-up, more time for the relationship to evolve.

The world was one that lacked a history, as there was a recent uprising, replacing the nobility with a military leader. The new leadership bans magic, endangering Yelena further, as power begins to awaken in her. I would have liked for there to be more depth to the world, parts of it were hard to picture. The plot was engaging, both a complete story and a part of a larger arc, as this book is part of a series.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I am planning on continuing the series, and I hope that I will connect more with Yelena in the next book.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: Shadows

Shadows (The Rephaim, #1)Title: Shadows
Author: Paula Weston
Series: The Rephiam
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
Release Date: September 10, 2013

A Quick Introduction: Gaby's been having nightmares. She would attribute them to the trauma of her twin's death, except that they're not about the car crash he was killed and Gaby herself was badly injured. They're about a nightclub, and in it she kills things that don't exist, with people she's never met. Never met, that is, until one of them turns up in the town where she's living with her best friend to tell her that she's not who she thinks she is.

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance:  This quartet opening was quite a fast read, though not one with characters or plot that I was entirely invested in.

Review: This was a fairly easy read, though one that I wasn't entirely engaged in. Gaby was a fairly sharp-edged character, likely partly due to the fact that she's still dealing with the loss of her brother. She's generally fairly harsh and callous, which didn't bother me, though I did have a hard time connecting with her. I just couldn't quite get into her head, though I generally could follow why she acted as she did, at least to a degree. I don't really have that much of an opinion on the other characters, they all seem fairly simple at this point. I'm not sure what it was, but I just found if difficult to care much about any of the characters.

My lack of connection to the characters may have been a part of the reason that the romance didn't end up interesting me. It felt like there was an imbalance, with the action lagging to allow for the romance, such as is was, to develop (or not develop...). It stilted the flow of the novel slightly in places, to the end that the two plot lines felt separate, rather than cohesive.

In some parts of the book were difficult to follow, in that I didn't understand how certain characters had certain information... parts of it seemed too convenient, which pushed the limits of my suspension of disbelief a little. This is the first book in a quartet, so the plot is just starting to build this book, and it does feel like its building up to something, rather than having a standalone plot. It is more set-up than it was plot.

Overall, I am giving the second book in this series a try, though I'm still uncertain if I'll end up finishing the series. We'll see if it picks up for me or not.