Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Mini-Reviews

Title: Gates of Thread and Stone
Author: Lori M. Lee
Series: Gates of Thread and Stone
Volume: 1
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Out of Ten: 5/10
Review: This book is hard for me to rate on a scale out of ten. I quite liked some of the ideas, though I wasn't as much of a fan of the execution. This book tries to do a lot of things, but it ultimately struggles to pull everything together into a cohesive story and world. There are steampunk and fantasy aspects, as well as dystopian aspects. All of these were almost too much for the story to carry. Part of it was that this book fails to breathe new life into the some of the tired tropes it employs, which rendered it predictable or just not engaging at some points. However, there were some parts of the core plot itself that I did enjoy, and, despite times where I nearly lost interest, I did manage to finish the book, though I'm not sure if I'll be picking up its sequel.

Title: The Rithmatist
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Rithmatist
Volume: 1
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Out of Ten: 7/10
Review: This is my second Brandon Sanderson book, and I've found that I quite enjoy his storytelling. While The Rithmatist is marketed as young adult, and has a sixteen year old protagonist, it has the overall feel of a middle-grade novel and it had many of the features that I tend to appreciate about middle-grade fantasy novels. The world is a strange, imaginative one- one where small chalk drawings, when drawn by the right person in the right way, come to life, though they remain two dimensional. They're called chalkings, and the ones who draw them are called Rithmatists. The primary dangers in this world are also fairly small, two dimensional chalk creatures. This almost shouldn't work, but it does. Sanderson combines the chalklings with a more threatening antagonist, and hints that there is much more to the world. My only complaint is that the characters don't quite feel as complete as their vibrant world, but I'm hoping that I'll feel more connection to them in the next book, which I'm looking forward to picking up whenever it is released (which is slated to be in a while... a long while).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books

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

Shortening this list down to ten is was very difficult. There are a lot of heroines that I love for a lot of different reasons...

1. Kami from The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

2. Fire from Fire by Kristen Cashore

3. Liyanna from Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

4. Eliot from For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

5. Daphne from Nation by Terry Pratchett

6. Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

7. Hazel from The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

8. Penryn from Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee

9. Seraphina from Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

10. Puck from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Re-Read Challenge: Vessel

First re-read completed for The Re-Read Challenge! Which I missed the link-up for in January, because I'm like that with my  2015 challenges post.

WHEN I First Read
I actually reviewed this two years ago.(I really hope my reviewing style has improved since then...) 

WHAT I Remember
I remember being drawn to the world of the story more than anything. I picked it up from my local library, back when I was still working my way though their collection (now I've read just about all the YA that they have which sounds remotely appealing to me). Vessel is set in a desert, and its about a girl who is to be a sacrifice- giving her body to a god so that she may help the people of the desert survive the hostile environment. Except, of course, there's a complication- when the ceremony is conducted, the goddess doesn't come, leaving the vessel, Liyanna to be abandoned by her clan. It follows Liyanna's quest to find out what has become of her goddess.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
I really like the world and story the first time I read it, but by now couldn't remember the finer points of the story. 

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I like it just as much as the first time. I didn't remember everything, though I remembered the general shape of the story.

I focused more on Liyanna's character arc this time through, and I found her an enjoyable lead. She's brave,  very determined, which I like, and also very comfortable rising to what a situation demands, especially toward the end of the book. She's just great at rising to the occasion. Someone to use a knife? While she's not super-good at it, she'll be there. Need someone to work magic? She's working on it. Even if it is against the rules, someone has to do it or they'll all die in the desert. Someone to negotiate? She walks right into the enemy camp and demands an audience with the emperor
“You do realize that you are addressing the emperor of the Crescent Empire."
"And you are addressing a free woman of the desert. You are not my emperor. Therefore, I am your equal.”
I love books with an emphasis on stories, it gives such a great background to the cultures in the book. In this book, storytelling is often used to communicate another idea or to tell the reader (or other characters) something about a character.

I realised, when I got to it, that I had sort of forgotten the climax of the story and how exactly that came about, so that was enjoyable to rediscover.

For me one of the weaker points of the story was, both times, the romance. I didn't particularly feel much of anything for the romantic aspect of the story... it definitely wasn't my favourite aspect of the story. It was just sort of strangely told, I suppose? I liked how the other vessels grew on Liyanna, when she, in the beginning didn't like them much, and I wish that there was more of that.

This book very much feels like a story. Its something that I often find I like- books that read like stories. I don't know how to explain that. There's just a certain feel to some books that makes it feel like a story being told to you, and I often find that I really enjoy that.

WOULD I Re-Read Again
Probably at some point. I don't know when, but it is a book that I feel like I could read multiple times and still get something out of.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: Toads and Diamonds

Toads and DiamondsTitle: Toads and Diamonds
Author: Heather Tomlinson
Genre: Fantasty
Release Date: March 30, 2010

A Quick Introduction: When Diribani went to the community's well, she does not expect the blessing from a goddess. Though the gems and flowers that fall from her lips whenever she speaks seem like a blessing to her recently impoverished family, they have unexpected consequences. As do the toads and snakes that manifest whenever her brusque stepsister, Tani speaks. The girls struggle to understand their respective gifts, with more than just their lives at stake.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: An enjoyable fairy talk retelling in a setting highly reminiscent of historic India.

Review: This is a fairy tale retelling, set in a world heavily inspired by historic India. The story itself reads like a fairy tale, by which I mean that it is more story-driven than driven by characters.

The story is told in third person limited, from the points of view of both Diribani and Tani, as they go on individual and subtly parallel journeys. While I didn't really connect to either of the girls, I still found myself enjoying their stories. They're both, in their way, good people with character flaws, and they just want to figure out what to do with their strange new abilities. Diribani was gentler than Tani, who is more accustomed to hard work, both are trying to figure out how to do what is right. A weakness was that I didn't connect to the characters, or, for the most part, really believe the connections between the characters.

The world itself is fairly firmly constructed. Its based on Mughal Empire India, which was a flourishing of the arts from 1526-1858. Drawing on that culture, the world is built up, with two distinct religions (neither of which exist in reality, though they have recognisable elements). The world was pretty simple, but it worked when built on the background of a real, recognisable past civilization.

The writing is in the spirit of folktales and fairy stories. The writing is simple, but paints a picture of the setting and the plot. The plot itself is juggled between the two girls, on parallel journeys of self discovery in two very different places. There was more substance to Tani's story than Diribani's, and I did find myself more invested in her story that Diribani's. The plots are both straight forward and simple.

Overall, this was an enjoyable little story, a simple and light fantasy about sisters and finding a purpose for even things that would appear as curse.

Top Ten Book Related Problems I Have

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

1. Twelve books at once. This has been a problem recently. I've been struggling with finishing books recently (look forward to the February DNF pile... I feel like its going to be huge if I don't get my act together soon).

2. Multiple library books. I have this habit of taking ten or fifteen books at a time, which is all well and good in the summer months when I'm not in classes, but when I'm in the throes of midterms its a bit of a problem.

3. Running out of shelf space. I'm finally getting there. Time to give some books away soon, perhaps?

4. Lending books. I do lend out books from my library (because, if they aren't going to be read, what's the point in having books?), but I still get antsy when people have a book for more than a week or two. It doesn't help that some people keep my books for months... I need to set at three-week limit.

5. Carrying multiple books around. I've been carrying three books around in my school bag, which probably isn't good for my back. Or my attentiveness to those dull lectures (most of my classes are great, but there's one...)

6. Disorganised book shelves. Right now its a bit of a problem, because I haven't sorted out my shelves since last year, and I've acquired a couple of books since then. And I don't want to reorganise them until I get all of my books back.

7. Most book events are in Texas. I am in Canada. You see the problem?

8. The book events that do happen around here have this awkward habit of happening during midterms, exams, or in places completely inaccessible without a car.

That's all I've got off the top of my head.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Challenges 2015

This post is late... because I'm an indecisive creature. So here we go (click the banners/logos to see the sign-up page on the host blog):

We all know that I an obsessive rereader who rereads, so why not make it official? I'm planning to do at least ten rereads. I'm not quite sure what exactly those will be, but they will happen.

Have you seen this thing? It is a slight disaster... and thus, the organisation challenge.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books

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

Oh boy, this is going to be hard... I'm not much of a romantic (that or I'm too much of a romantic, you decide)... Okay. Lets see.
  1. Not overbearing. I prefer the romance not to be the only thing that's going on. I don't mind it being an important part of the story, but I need something else happening. Like aliens. Or dragons. I'm here for the dragons.
  2. Both the main character and the love interest are actual characters. Characters with flaws and personalities. I find it impossible to invest in a pair when one of them feels like they exist solely to be part of a romantic plot. Essentially that they both have a life outside of the other person.
  3. Slow build. I know people will argue to the moon and back about whether or not insta-love is a thing... but you don't meet someone one day, and then decide you would die without them the next.
  4. Chemistry... I guess? That the couple feels... right together? I don't know what the word would be. I guess chemistry.
  5. Characters actually seem to want to know each other. I don't know how to explain this one... but that they actually want to spend time together. Like, just doing things like... I don't know homework or battle plans or having an actual conversation. Especially if they learn from each other.
  6. Trust. Call me naive, but I feel like if you can't trust someone, you probably shouldn't be in a relationship with them.
  7. Inside jokes. Crazy plans. Dodge ball. Generally just having fun with each other? Like, it doesn't all have to be life and death romantic stuff.
  8. Seriously, having something, anything in common besides the love part.
  9. NO LOVE TRIANGLES. (Does this belong here... whatever, it is at least 4% of my personality on any given day, so its here). I have read *counts of fingers* .., one? Maybe two? Love triangles that I didn't dislike. They're a hard trope to do in a way that's appealing, and too often feel unnecessary.
  10. I don't like the phrase "devastatingly handsome" unless they are being said sarcastically, and even then I'm iffy... I don't know why it bothers me so much... it just does. (I think maybe it has been over-used? Maybe I subconsciously associate it with another trope I don't like?) I wrote a rant-y post about it a long time ago, which I am not linking because I hope it will never be unearthed (then why mention it?)
I feel like this got really off topic... this is one of those posts that I might come back and update if I think of something else. I feel like this wasn't what the prompt meant... *shrugs*

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Top Ten Books I Want to Read from the Fantasy Genre

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

1. Transcendent by Lesley Livingston: There were some shenanigans with the release date here in Canada, and then I didn't get around to buying it. It wasn't available in stores near where I am.

2. Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jenson: It has been on my list for a while now (a long while, by my standards).

3. Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson: I actually have this book in my TBR pile now, I ordered if from the Book Outlet a little while ago.

4. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gailman (illustrated by Chris Riddell): The cover looks lovely, and I'm interested.

5.  The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy: This has been on my list for a very long time, and I've just somehow not gotten around to it.

6. House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple: Because Gothics.

7. Compulsion by Martina Boone: See above, because Gothics.

8. Blood Song by Rhiannon Hart: This is something that I became aware of this one late last year, and I'm super curious about it.

9. Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell: Again, long time on the TBR. Also, I've heard it is quite lovely.

10. Cutlass by Ashley Nixon: It is name after a sword.

This is just right now, I have a lot of fantasy novels that I really want to read, and have been putting off for a while.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January Wrap-Up

The month in books:
January was quite a good reading month for me. I've been listening to audiobooks more and more recently. This month I listened to two new ones.
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (I read the book when it came out, but I like the really enjoy the audiobooks for this series, too).
  • Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
January book haul featuring the office floor and terrible lighting because it is 7 pm in Canada and thus there is no natural lighting whatsoever.
I don't usually have enough books to do a haul on, but here's my January mess. I didn't actually get purchase most of them in January, but they came in January, so that counts. Most of them are from the Book Outlet (they had a boxing day sale, and most of these were books that I've had my eye on for a while).

Book Outlet:
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (the hardcover was about $3.00, and I've wanted to get a hardcover of this for a while now)
  • Death Sworn by Leah Cypress
  • Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett  (the hardcover, this time for a non-ridiculous reason: I find the trade paperback very uncomfortable to read)
  • The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahney 
  • Thumbs, Toes and Tears by Chip Walter
  • Blonde Ops by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman
  • Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (I'm getting them in paperback, since I really enjoyed them when I borrowed them from the library)
  • Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science and Evolution by David Rothenberg
  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer (I got it 40% off... it was on sale for some reason, not that I'm complaining)
  • Spiderwick: The Completely Fantastical Edition by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi: this is a beautiful bind-up, it has sketches in the back
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
So, probably don't expect a book haul with next month's wrap up (we'll see), because I rarely anywhere near this many books in a month.