Friday, November 27, 2015

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Summary from Goodreads:
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?
What a fun series! I have loved these books since Cinder first came out. I love fairytale retellings and there is just something so, so cool about a cyborg Cinderella.
Winter is probably my least favorite of the heroines. She doesn’t have the bravery of Cinder, the sass of Scarlet, or the intelligence of Cress. That being said, she is such an admirable character. She’s the only Lunar, that I know of, who point-blank refuses to use her gift of mind control. She’s thinks it’s wrong to control people that way. And because of her convictions is slightly mad. She hallucinates a lot.
She’s also insanely beautiful. No one believes she’s not manipulating her looks. And she’s so pretty and sweet that she wins over so many people so easily. I guess that’s part of my issue with her. She gets things a little too easily for my liking. And she does kind of need to be saved/taken care of a lot. However, I do admire her and find her interesting. She’s kind of like a sci-fi princess, less tough version of Luna from Harry Potter. She’s kind of crazy, but still so wise.
I loved this take on the Snow White story too. I was wondering how they’d handle the dwarves and the sleeping in the casket element to the story. I was not expecting what I got. It was so cool how these elements were handled. So cool.
And let’s face it. This book was about the revolution. It was about taking back the moon, getting revenge on Queen Levana, and saving the world from evil domination. It’s the culmination of all the other books. All of the other books focused on different aspects of Queen Levana’s terribleness: her mind control, her need of domination, her treatment of Lunars without the gift (shells), her mutated super soldiers, her engineered plague and timely cure, her power, etc. And finally, all these super hero fairy tale characters have their shot at putting an end to it all.
If there is one thing Meyer has down, it’s her characters. Reading this felt like meeting up with old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Seriously, I love Cinder and Scarlet and Cress like friends. Also, the boys are pretty amazing too. I love the roll reversal with Cinder and Prince Kai. Prince Kai is trapped in the castle, getting married off and imprisoned in his tower, while Cinder is off starting a revolution.
I loved the point of view switches in this one. The characters never seemed to all be together at the same time. The reunions and the side missions made it all worth it. Everyone had a part to play. No part was too small.
The revolution aspect of the story did seem a little rushed and I’m not sure the planning of it all made enough sense for me to have it work as successfully as it did. Pretty much, there was no planning at all, and a lot of luck. A lot was dependent on Cress’s tech abilities and no one seemed to plan for Cress being separated from the group at all. And the final battle felt a little too Disney (aka: The beast and Gaston or Simba and Scar) for me.
All in all, this book was a lot of fun. I absolutely love the characters. I love this take on the classic fairytale. I love the action. And I love the end and how all the pieces fit together. I was not a fan of the revolution and final fight scenes, but that’s okay. It didn’t hinder my love for the book or the series as a whole. I give this one a 9/10. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick and read by Ashley Clements

Summary on Goodreads:
A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice based on the Emmy Award-winning phenomenon, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

There is a great deal that goes into making a video blog. Lizzie Bennet should know, having become a YouTube sensation over the course of her year-long video diary project. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries chronicled Lizzie’s life as a 24-year-old grad student, struggling under a mountain of student loans and living at home with her two sisters - beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. What may have started as her grad student thesis grew into so much more, as the videos came to inform and reflect her life and that of her sisters. When rich, handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck-up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets - and for Lizzie’s viewers. Suddenly Lizzie - who always considered herself a fairly normal young woman - was a public figure. But not everything happened on-screen. Luckily for us, Lizzie kept a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet provides more character introspection as only a book can, with revelatory details about the Bennet household, including Lizzie’s special relationship with her father, untold stories from Netherfield, Lizzie’s thoughts and fears about life after grad school and becoming an instant web celebrity.

Written by Bernie Su, the series’ executive producer, co-creator, head writer, and director, along with Kate Rorick, the novelist, TV writer, and consulting producer on the series, the novel features a journal-entry format, complementing the existing web series, while including plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new listeners alike. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like it’s never been done before.
I am a huge fan of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I first became a fan after being lucky enough to walk past a panel at Leaky Con (with the actors) talking about it. I got interested of course. And over the span of the conference, was heavily persuaded to watch the show by various fans. It sounded fabulous. I soon became hooked. I literally marked my calendar for the days I could catch a new video. I screeched for joy the first time Darcy came on film. I got so angry for Lydia and all she went through. And I cried when the last video aired because I knew nothing else would be this good.
It took me a long time to get to this book. I tried the regular book version a while back, but it was too much like the videos that I decided I needed a little space between the videos ending and my reading of the book. I’m glad I postponed my reading because I definitely feel like I appreciated it more this way. Plus, the audio version was so cool. I got to hear the actress who played Lizzie do the reading. How cool is that?
I’m also a huge Jane Austen fan. And all Jane Austen fans love Pride and Prejudice. It’s like a rule. Seriously though, I’ve read Pride and Prejudice probably almost as many times as I’ve read Harry Potter. I love it.
That being said, I’m not always a huge fan of modern adaptations of Austen. They are usually hit or miss for me. This adaptation was like nothing I’d seen before. It truly is Jane Austen of the 21st century. It’s Pride and Prejudice 2.0, where not only is YouTube the platform, but commentary is encouraged by the fans. Add that to the fact that I super related to being a grad student with student loans. And I was so living at home still when I first watched these videos.
This audiobook just brought back all my love. It reminded me how special The Lizzie Bennet Diaries really is. And I loved getting further insight into the head of Lizzie. There was so much more in this format than I remember getting in the videos. For starters, there was something that happened with Jane that I don’t remember being in the videos at all. There are things that happened in Lizzie’s world that she didn’t feel comfortable posting for the world to see in video format.
And the whole issue of what is appropriate to post about oneself online is brought up in a way I’ve never seen before. I loved getting a more critical eye on the research and work Lizzie was doing in regards to multi-media platforms. I loved learning about her tour of San Francisco. I love Darcy. There was just so much more in this format that I don’t remember getting before. Granted, it has been years since I’ve watched the videos and my brain might be a little fuzzy. But, I guess that was my intention. I wanted to read it with fresh eyes, and I’m so glad I did.
I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an audiobook more quickly. I couldn’t leave my car. I had to keep listening. The narrator, while the actual star of the videos, is a great reader too. She should seriously do more audio books. I’d listen to them all. I highly recommend this to fans of the videos and to Jane Austen fans period. And if you haven’t seen the videos, what are you waiting for? I give this a 9/10.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (164)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The Crown by Kiera Cass (5/3/16):

Description on Goodreads:
Kiera Cass’s #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series has captured the hearts of readers from its very first page. Now the end of the journey is here. Prepare to be swept off your feet by The Crown—the eagerly awaited, wonderfully romantic fifth and final book in the Selection series.

In The Heir, a new era dawned in the world of The Selection. Twenty years have passed since America Singer and Prince Maxon fell in love, and their daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own.

Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.
Why I’m Waiting:
I’m such a sucker for these books. I like to think of them as the sort of fluffier type of dystopia. If these books were a tv show, I’d want to binge them all in one sitting. The story always gets me. I love the drama. And I was so pleasantly surprised when Cass announced she was doing more books in this world. I’m kind of sad it ends with this book, but I’m glad to see what else Cass will write too. Also, the cover is to die for. Seriously, this author has won the YA book cover lottery. They are all so pretty. I must have them all.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Good Week in Books (122)

So, I had a great book week. For starters, my new favorite movie theater gave me a free paperback copy of the re-designed City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (along with an awesome Mockingjay poster) when I went to go see Mockingjay Part 2 this past weekend. I don’t have a picture of the poster because it is still in my car, and I plan on giving it to the teen librarian to put in the teen room. I also went to one of those giant Scholastic book fairs where all the books are at least 50% off. I went in with a 10 dollars off coupon too…I may have gone a little overboard. At least one of the 10 books pictured from there is going to be a gift, I think…I may have one or two others not pictured, already set aside as gifts. I’ve already read a lot of them, but I felt the need to own them.

City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
El Deafo by CeCe Bell
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The World Within by Jane Eagland
That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Out of Sight, Out of Mind by Ally Carter
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
Don’t Judge a Girl by her Cover by Ally Carter
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (163)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (4/26/16):

Description on Goodreads:
The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

In a starred review for Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Kirkus Reviews declared: "Expect this truly one-of-a-kind series to come to a thundering close."
Why I’m Waiting:
I realize all the bloggers probably posted this one last Wednesday or are doing so today, like me…I’m not unique in my love Maggie Stiefvater. She is so amazingly good and I’m glad she has a huge fan base. That being said, I’m so anxious to see what happens to certain characters in this last book. I need to know how it will turn out with Gansey. I need to know! I wish a little more could have been said in that description…but, alas, I guess this is a book that needs no description. I will read it no matter what. I will most definitely be counting down the days until I do. Also, how pretty is the cover?
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and read by Ariana Delawari

Summary (from Goodreads):
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
This was above and beyond what I was expecting it to be. As a huge YA fan, I pounce on books that seem remotely different and unique from the heard. Not only was this inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, but it takes place in a part of the world I’ve barely had the fortune of learning about. I pounced.
I do have to admit, I hesitated a bit at first. This is not my favorite type of romance, and I had to suffer through a very similar one in a different fantasy novel I was reading at the same time (aka: Uprooted). It worked here, for me though.
My hesitancy dropped away almost immediately. The more I got to know Shazi, the more I knew the standard rules just didn’t apply. I loved her. What’s not to love about a character who risks her life for the revenge of a best friend, and for the revenge of all the murdered women before her? Also, she’s a storyteller, she’s brave, intelligent, witty, and a tad unpredictable. What a great main character.
I also had to know things. Why were all the wives being killed? What did it have to with the rain mentioned in the beginning chapters? Was Shazi really planning revenge or was she punishing herself for something? What was Khalid always hiding? And what was her family back home really getting into? The more I listened to Shazi’s story, the more invested I became in finding out all my answers. I needed to know.
Besides the excellent, suspenseful mystery of a story and one kick-butt main character, there was also just this huge sense of unpredictability. This book shocked me. There was  a scene in the first half of the book, that had me gasping out loud in shock and outrage. I literally had to pull my car over on my way home from work that night to digest what was happening. And while it’s hard to imagine an author killing a main character, I never quite felt like Shazi was safe, and because so much of the story wasn’t going the path I expected it to, I really wasn’t sure if my main girl would make it through it all. And I loved this.
Also, the narrator has probably proven herself to be one of my all-time favorite readers. She was fantastic. She’s the kind of reader, all authors should hope to get for their audi-version of things. I literally pulled over to keep listening one night, and then was almost late to work another day because I could not leave my car until I knew how something resolved.
I do wish there was a little more resolution at the end. There was one giant cliffhanger there that I know was meant to segue nicely into book 2. It’s just that book 2 is so far away and I needed it like yesterday.
Oh, and I have to take a moment to bask in the wonders that is the world-building here. Everything seemed so real, so vibrant, colorful, and interesting. I was practically drooling, listening about the food Shazi was eating. I could see the colors of the jewelry and the clothes. I could feel the heat of the desert. The description of the setting was just pure, beautiful. It was everything I could hope for in a YA book that took place in such a unique setting.
I also, just loved how smart the characters were. I’m not used to getting so much snark in a fantasy novel. The dialog between Shazi and her handmaiden was loaded with witty commentary. I loved all the scenes with them together. I also loved how forward Shazi was with Khalid. She wasn’t afraid to get angry with him or say her opinion, ever. And I loved her for it. And when Khalid seemed the most human was when he was conversing with Shazi and bickering with her.
This book was unpredictable. It was full of amazing characters. The setting and world-building were as good as they can get. The snark and witty commentary between certain characters was fantastic. The mystery and suspense was so intense there were moments I couldn’t drive and listen at the same time. The narrator was amazing. And I really can’t think of anything negative to say. I give it a 10/10.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Description from Goodreads:
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I have read so many good reviews for this book (at least a dozen). There has been some serious hype. Also, I was craving a good fantasy, and this sounded exactly like what I needed.
And it was what I needed, mostly. The story grabbed me from page one. It read like a classic folktale. The language, the world building, and the descriptions were all just so pretty. Sometimes I forget how nice it is to read something that is just so beautifully written. It’s like drinking a nice, tall cup of cold water after being thirsty for days. Seriously, it’s so nice to read something that’s written so well.
The plot was amazing too. It’s a book all about magic! The main character is both someone who has to work really hard to become good at magic and someone who seems to come naturally to pieces of learning it too. She’s powerful, brave, and smart. I love how loyal she is to her best friend. And I love how loyal she is to her home.
I love books about magic. The learning of it is so much fun to read. Also, it’s one of those classic fantasy books where you get to see the main character in the country, but also at court, so there’s all this clashing of classes too. The main character had so much to learn and while she was ignorant of so many things, she also was so willing to learn and fill in those holes of her ignorance, and I applauded her for that. She was a great main character.
This wasn’t my favorite type of romance. I’m actually pretty against student/teacher romances. And I’m definitely against these romances with such drastic age gaps. She was a kid, grasping at straws to learn everything she could. And he’s over a century old, and well part of me just got the creeps from it, a little. Though, you’d think I’d be used to this by now. So many books have this romance arc now.
On the other hand, it was a slow-building romance, and those are the best kind. And clearly they were connecting on a lot of levels, sharing so much magic together. I guess I got sucked into the romance a bit after a major development happens, but then I was kind of disappointed about how it sort of disappears. It felt a bit like the author threw in a couple of sizzling romantic moments when she needed time to figure out where the story was going because then there is no romance mentioned, thought of, thought back on, or talked about again….
I loved the story though. It was fun, action-packed, and full of all the things I come to expect from a good fantasy book. There was some stuff I didn’t really understand at the end. Stuff got a little strange with the trees and the evil forest, and I think I was following it all, but I’m not 100% sure. It goes from a Tamora Pierce type fantasy to full-out Lewis Carol and I think I actually would have liked it more if it ended a little more open-ended. The answers/justifications for things were just so strange and hard to wrap my head around.
All in all, I was a craving a good fantasy and I got one. I loved the world, the characters, and the folk-tale type storyline. The writing was gorgeous. The action was great. I had mixed feelings about the romance and I was a little confused by the ending. I don’t think I loved it as much as everyone else seemed to, but I still really enjoyed it. I give it an 8/10.