Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List

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

As in the absolute most recently added? Okay, we'll go with that, vaguely. I'll do a list of the ten most recent fiction adds, not punctuated by all of my nonfiction books.


1. Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose: Language barrier friendships. Need I say more?

2. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier: I think I stumbled across the sequel?

3. Shades of Milk and Honey by Marie Robinette Kowal: I've had this on my mental TBR for a while, but I only put it on a physical list recently.

4. Soundless by Richelle Mead: it has a cover now, which is a lot better looking than Richelle Mead's other YA covers. That aside, it sounds like it should be an interesting read and I'm curious how it will be told.

5. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: I've mentioned that I love stories where storytelling plays a role, and I'm hoping this will have that (the story its based on does).

6. The Cloak Society by Jeremy Kraatz: I don't actually remember why I added this one.

7. The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall: I think I wanted to request this from the library...

8.  An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: I saw this on Netgalley a while ago, but it isn't available for request where I live. Its being really hyped right now, with its release fast approaching.

9. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: This actually came in at the library a few days ago, though I've yet to start it.

10. Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda: This is actually a graphic novel, and it looks lovely.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Re-read Challenge: March Re-read Recap

I didn't intend to reread more than one book in March... but it happened. Naturally. I've mentioned before that I am an obsessive re-reader, and I wasn't lying.

After finishing For Darkness Shows the Stars, I found that I wanted to pick up Across a Star-Swept Sea again as well, so that will be happening in the near future.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March Mini-Reviews

Otherwise known as the "do away with the romance" edition. Usually I can be neutral to an unnecessary romantic subplot, but I found several really frustrating this month, apparently.

Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)
Title: Stormdancer
Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus Wars
Volume: 1
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Out of Ten: 7/10
Review: This was a book where I liked the idea a lot more than I liked the execution. Jay Kristoff sets up a vivid Japan-inspired fantasy-steampunk world, the concept of which I quite enjoyed, and the worldbuilding was fairly strong. For me, the story was somewhat weakened by parts of the plot and characters, which I didn't like nearly so much as I did the world. The romance (if one can call it that) was something that, for me, the story would have been more enjoyable without. Yukiko was a character whom I couldn't always understand, but I admired her growth, and especially that of her bond with Buruu, the thunder tiger. While I overall enjoyed this book, I didn't find myself pulled in, and wasn't completely engaged in the story. At some point, I plan on picking up the sequel, and I would like to see where Yukiko's journey takes her next.

Title: Suspicion
Author: Alexandra Monir
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Out of Ten: 2/10
Review: This book felt like an unedited draft of a book meant to be a modern day, magical homage of Rebecca. The ideas in the story didn't flow, I really disliked the character of Imogen, the romance made me more confused that anything, and the magic system was never explained. Imogen felt more like a collection of worn out character tropes without enough substance to give her believable feelings. The book was much the same as its narrator, with a plot that was more of a concept than a plot and a magic system that was never explained or really defined. I really didn't enjoy the romance, because I have no idea what the characters (who barely felt like characters) liked about each other. Overall, this book really wasn't for me.

Belle Epoque
Title: Belle Epoque
Author: Elizabeth Ross
Release Date: July 11, 2013
Out of Ten: 6/10
Review: I've been playing with reading this book since it came out, which was almost two years ago. I was interested by the concept, but it wasn't ever very high on my to be read list, so I ended up putting it off until now. And, upon reading it, I found that I didn't really have any complex feeling about it. I think part of my issue was that I didn't like or understand Maude. She fell flat for me, as a character. She just didn't engage me, and I wasn't invested in her story. I felt she could have been more defined as a character. There is also a romantic subplot, which the book would have been better without. It felt forced, and Paul was a character that I actively disliked. The better relationship was the friendship between Maude and Isabelle, which I enjoyed, and would have liked to see more of toward the end of the story. Things felt wrapped up a bit too quickly, and I would have liked to see more of Maude's life after the changes that occurred in the last part of the novel. While this book had admirable aspects, overall it wasn't for me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top 10 Books From My Childhood That I Would Love To Revisit

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

... I'm still technically in my teen years... so we've going to go with childhood books. Including some picture books. This post made me feel really nostalgic.

Novels (or "Chapter Books" as they were called)

1. The Magic Treehouse series by Marie Pope Osborne. I think these are still going on, actually, but I haven't been keeping up. This series was a major part of my childhood. You know how Harry Potter is a series that people say "made them a reader"? Well, for me it was these ones.

2. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. This was the first "real" novel that I really decided to read on my own. I was seven or eight, I think? I keep meaning to reread them (the year after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, I read them all in a week over the summer, and I would like to do that again). Also, I listened to the audiobooks a lot (the Jim Dale ones).

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I remember picking this up and not expecting to read the whole thing as fast as I did. I think I have a copy somewhere... *rummaging in basement commences*

4. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. I distinctly recall sitting on the floor beside a bookshelf for the duration of reading this. It was not comfortable. I did not move. I don't remember too much about it (I do recall the scene with the toad at the end), but I remember being really engaged at the time.

5. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. It isn't my favourite Tolkien, but I've just finished The Silmarillion, and I've been thinking I might revisit The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings both.

Picture Books

6. Weslandia by Paul Flieschman. I liked the idea of this book a lot as a child. I think it made a lasting impression, I've never quite gotten past my fascination with sustainability in cities.

7. The Lorax by Doctor Seuss. I didn't realise people hadn't read this. Imagine my surprise when I mentioned it and received blank looks. It made a deep impression on me as a child. If you haven't read this, please go read it.

8. Wump World by Bill Peet. This book is glorious and, wow, I am becoming aware that all of my favourite children's books are pretty strongly environmentalist (now, the question is what came first, my environmentalist tendencies, or my reading of these books...? Or both, probably both). This book is a delight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

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

Spring releases I'm looking forward to:
1. End of Days by Susan Ee

2. The Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong

3. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

4. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Already released books I'm planning on reading soon:
5. Transcendent by Lesley Livingston 

6. Shades of Milk and Honey by Marie Robinette Kowal

7. Rain by Amanda Sun

8. Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

9. A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

10. The Princes in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist

Monday, March 16, 2015

Re-read Challenge: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

WHEN I First Read
I first read this in January of last year? (Apparently, it feels like it has been longer).

WHAT I Remember
I remembered the general concept of the story (the vampire-disease, the Coldtowns). I roughly recalled the characters and the plot. I still recalled the feeling of the novel  as well.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
I've been on a bit of a Holly Black kick this year... I read and really enjoyed The Darkest Part of the Forest, and finally got around to The Spiderwick Chronicles (I have a beautiful bind-up edition). So I just decided on a whim to reread it while I was browsing at the library. As one does.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
This book was more intense for me this time. I mentioned the feeling book before, and it hit me harder this time. There's a feeling of slow decay to the entire world, which I find delightful (apparently I have a thing for it). All of the  Holly Black books that I've read have an almost Gothic feel to them, and I really like that.

I don't recall noticing it last time I read it, but this book is GORY. Now, gore doesn't bother me, but if its something that squicks you out, I would probably give this book a pass. For me, it made the reading experience more vivid. Overall I found myself really enjoying reading it again. It has a strange sort of style, which I really enjoyed reading.
"...the world I remade with my terrible mercy."
 Random quote that I bookmarked while reading... the downside of mercy plays a interesting role in this book, and morality is very grey thing. I find I'm never quite sure what I would prefer to happen in the end, for Tana. I know what I would choose, but for her, I don't know.

WOULD I Re-Read Again
Yes, probably eventually. I feel like I almost always say that, don't I? I'm kind of a chronic re-reader.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Review: The Winner's Crime

Title: The Winner's Crime
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's trilogy
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: March 3, 2015

A Quick Introduction: Kestrel's engagement to the crown prince of Valoria may have bought Herran's limited independence, but it was at the price of her own freedom. Her marriage to will set her up as the next empress, but it won't bring her happiness. Meanwhile, Arin struggles to gain his peoples' position, and pursues as dangerous alliance. Unknown to him, Kestrel is  working as Herran's spy in the emperor's court, putting her at risk as her investigation draws nearer to a dangerous secret.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: An overall engaging sequel that raises the tension with a quick plot and vivid characters.

Review: The Winner's Crime has a very different feel for The Winner's Curse. While the was subterfuge in the first book, this book takes it to another level. There's deception on so many levels; Kestrel's deceit of the court, her father, the emperor, and Arin, as well as Arin's own spying and general sneaking around. Its an atmosphere that breeds both tension and misunderstandings (boy, does it). The tension I liked, and I enjoyed the air of darkness that often hovered over the novel.

I found that I really appreciated Kestrel and Arin both as characters in this book. The events of this novel serve to emphasize their character flaws. This books shows two stubborn, proud, judgmental people caught in a complicated struggle with themselves, each other, and the world at large. They both tend to jump to conclusions and rush into a situation driven by emotion. Despite all this, I find that I don't hate them, because they're also both two driven people who are struggling fiercely to improve the world, in situations that are so tangled as to be beyond anyone's ability to predict the outcomes (except, perhaps the emperor, who holds all the cards). While their misunderstandings of each other were frustrating, given their respective personalities, they mostly managed not to feel contrived.

The world is fleshed out more in this book, and was satisfactorily done. I would certainly love to see more description of this world. It wasn't as vibrant as I was hoping, but it still served as an excellent backdrop for the events that unfolded.

This book is part political drama and part more fast-paced action, with, of course, a romance woven throughout. It is, in a lot of ways, faster paced than The Winner's Curse, and makes heavier use of the alternating points of view. For much of this book, Kestrel's and Arin's points of view are telling more separate stories, rather than offering different perspectives on a shared one. This works quite well, and certainly kept me turning pages. The only times my engagement faltered was that sometimes words or figures of speech used would seem overly modern for the world.

This also ends on a bit of a cliffhanger (more so than the last book), and I'm definitely looking forward to the release of the last book in this trilogy.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Re-Read Challenge: For Darkness Shows the Stars

WHEN I First Read
I  read and reviewed this December of 2013.

WHAT I Remember
I was staying at a family member's cottage with my immediate family and some cousins when I read this, and I was not in a people-seeing mood, so I spent the better part of three days reading and rereading this book. (I know, I know, that wasn't what was meant by this question).

I remember this one quite well, plot-wise, because it is a fairly simple plot. What made it for me then were the characters (and specifically Elliot, the main character).

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
I liked this book so much the first time, and finally order my own copy from Book Outlet. I wanted to break it in.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I liked it just as much the first time. Elliot remains a character that I enjoy. I like her practicality and sense of duty. She's got a lot of good character traits, but certainly flaws as well. She's just one of those characters that I empathise with.

I've always dislike this cover and how this book was packaged, because a) whitewashed cover and b) it makes it sound like the romance is the only thing going on, which it isn't. There's class struggle, there's Elliot desperately trying to keep the her family's estate together (behind her father's back), and conflict of progress vs. tradition. It isn't that I have an issue with romance, it just isn't all that is going on in this book. Elliot spends a lot of the book struggling with a lot of things, and her relationship with Kai is only one of them. She was definitely the strongest part of the book for me, and is still someone who I connected to pretty quickly.

Weirdly, I found that I followed Kai's character more than I did the first time I read it... I don't know how to put it. Just I was more aware that he was actually a character on his own who was wandering around doing things... he didn't just disappear when he wasn't in a scene. 

The Reduction was still something that seemed a little vague to me, simply because it wasn't explained (it wouldn't really have made sense for it to be explain, seeing how technologically backward the Luddites are, but still). I'm still trying to picture Elliot making transgenic wheat... I would love to see some more of that (for me, trying to wrap my head around that was the hardest part to really. There was also the fact that compasses don't work anymore, which suggests that, during the time of the story, Earth was going through a pole-reversal event, which could throw a lot off. (Sorry, science student tangent...)

In the end, I would love it if there were more than two retellings in this world. I would probably read another four, if offered.

WOULD I Re-Read Again
Yes, definitely at some point. I mean, I own it now, too, so probably randomly, on impulse (that's usually how my rereads happen to be honest). Also, I wasn't planning to reread Across a Star-Swept Sea, but now I kind of want to. Maybe that will be my next reread?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Shadow Scale

Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2)Title: Shadow Scale
Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina duology
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: March 10, 2015
eARC received through NetGalley.

A Quick Introduction: The alliance between humans and dragons in Goredd, tenuous already, is being tried as the dragons are plunged into a civil war. A war that will soon flood into Seraphina's home country. She sets off on a journey to find other half-dragons, like herself , in hopes they'll be able to help protect her people when the war does break out. But all is not as it seems, and Seraphina might be too late to stop what has been put in motion.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: Overall, a wonderful, character-driven conclusion to a complex fantasy duology.

Review: That was a marathon. Rachel Hartman takes us back to the world of Seraphina, half-dragon. Things have gotten more complicated for Seraphina, now that the carefully kept secret of her ancestry is out and the clouds of war billow on the horizon.

Seraphina remains a wonderful lead to read (that rhymed, but its nearly one in the morning as I write this, so cut me some slack here). She's determined and delightfully pragmatic (only you, the world says, would find pragmatism delightful). Most of all, she feels human. She struggles with self-doubt, with the fear that she won't succeed. She's a balance of flaws and strengths. Shadow Scale is strongly character driven, by Seraphina's development and her relationships with other characters: her friendships with Abdo and Glisselda, her romance with Lucian, her hopes for kinship with the other half-dragons, her love for her uncle, and with the world in general as a half-dragon.

This book was a journey. The majority of Seraphina takes place in Goredd, but a lot of Shadow Scale is on the road, as Seraphina attempts to locate and bring together the other half-dragons. There's a cast of new characters introduced, and a lot of new places. The world itself was enjoyable in there are recognisable hints of  real-world medieval influences from different parts of our world, but nothing that made the culture feel transplanted. The cultures and places were well formed, and the many of the supporting characters are memorable. And what a cast of supporting characters it was.

The cast of characters grows exponentially from that in the first book. Almost all of the characters from the first book play a role in the second, in addition to 15+ (I eventually stopped counting) new named characters. Rachel Hartman does an admirable job of juggling all of the new characters, while still maintaining the pace of the novel.

Plot-wise, a lot happened. If I had a complaint, it would be that it felt rushed- the climax was sudden and came up fast, and if felt like there could have been more build-up to the resolution than there was. Though I was for the most part very happy with how well the foreshadowing in this book was carried out, it felt that there could have been more in how certain aspects were built up. Another flaw lies in the fact that the magic system was never concretely defined. The writing was otherwise consistent, though this book does start off slowly, and is more slowly paced, with exposition.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. It took me just over twenty-four hours to read six hundred pages worth of words. Fortunately, I was home alone, as my family members might have been alarmed by my shouting "No, no, no, you IDIOT. Don't even think about it! Ugh! Why?" at my computer screen (where I was reading my galley).

Top Ten ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years

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

I generally can't even give you my top ten for ONE year, much less three, but let's try this. Also, these books are often recent rereads, so they are my favourites at this moment in time. Ask me tomorrow, and bets are off... Also, I'm only allowed to mention each author once.

1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

2. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

3. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

4. Nation by Terry Pratchett

5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

6. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

7. Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

8. Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

9. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

10. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Monday, March 2, 2015

February Wrap-Up

February was a month of unfinished books in a lot of ways. This month in books:
  • I'm working my way though The Silmarillion, it is a different reading experience from most of what I've read before, different even from the other Tolkien that I have read. I've got a running commentary going on my tumblr...
  • Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson
  • The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (I did a mini-review for this, but I'm tempted to talk more about it)
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
  • I also reread Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst for the Re-Read Challenge
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  • This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Remember the office floor from my January haul? You get to see it again! The lighting is slightly better this time around, because I planned a bit better and photographed during the day.
I said that I didn't usually purchase enough books to do a haul in January, and this is still an abnormal number of books for me to purchase. It was a Book Outlet order, actually, and consists of a lot of books I've wanted to read, or have already read and wanted to buy, for a while now:
  • A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix: I've borrowed it from the library a lot, and I've started it before, but it had to be returned. I did enjoy the start, though, so I'm taking a gamble that I'll like this
  • A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sarah Biggs Waller: Surprisingly, I didn't already have one of my favourite debuts from last year. I like the hardcover better than the paperback, though, so I jumped when I found it on Book Outlet.
  • The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson: It sounded like fun. 
  • For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: I read and loved this in 2013, and I was just waiting for the paper back of Across a Star-Swept Sea to purchase them... then I forgot to until now.
  • Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande: This was one of the first YA novels I ever read *reminisces* wow, that was a while ago...
  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick: I've heard excellent things about this, and I tend to enjoy Printz-award books.
  • Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
  • Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff: Steampunk Japan caught my interest. 

February DNF

The Archived (The Archived, #1)
Title: The Archived
Author: Victoria Schwab
Jan. 9- Feb. 24
108 pages
I've been trying to get through this for almost two months now. It just isn't for me, I don't think. One thing I have a dominant dislike of is when the main character keeps a secret that is clearly dangerous, and to me some of the secrets Mac keeps are just that. Nothing about Mac's character, or the other characters, really. I also just didn't buy the world. Maybe everything is explained later, but I got a good portion of the way though and still didn't find that the world was well formed. There just seemed to be so much that was undefined... it didn't feel complete, which isn't how I like my worlds.