Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan and read by Kieran Culkin

Summary from Goodreads:
Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon--the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki--and the price he wants is very high.
Rick Riordan books make for excellent audiobooks. The pace is just fast enough that I’m constantly involved in the story and always want to get back to it. And his books are so formulaic that when I occasionally zone out, or pay more attention to traffic, I can easily find my way back into my listening.
I am growing quite fond of Magnus. He reminds me a lot of Percy, yet almost nicer. He’s not a big figher –his powers are all about healing. And he cares so strongly for people, family, and friends that it’s hard to not like him. He’s a softie.
I love how diverse Riordan’s books are getting. Though, I wish his main character would be some one other than a white male. It’s nice having the main girl character be a practicing Muslim and a new character be gender fluid. The other two main characters are a deaf/mute elf and a dwarf with a high fashion sense (who may or may not be a couple).
The formula of this book was very familiar. Basically, the characters had to get Thor’s hammer back from the giants in order to prevent the end of the world. And along the way, they had to accomplish other smaller tasks –not the least of which is Sam’s fiancé learning she’s a Valkyrie, and saving a certain dwarf from a life of being a statue.
I like the background on Hearthstone. Wow, did he have a bad family! I also loved getting all the scenes that took place in Thor’s mansion. The giant wedding was terrifying. Loki was pretty terrifying too. And while, I kind of knew how it was going to end (how could Sam end up with a giant?), I still found everything to be pretty suspenseful.
I also now have a ship. I kind of like the idea of Magnus and Alex. I felt like Riordan kept trying to show scenes where Magnus not only understood and respected this character, but that he was falling for this character too. Please let this ship happen! Please. I find Alex to be so interesting. He/she is definitely a more prickly character and I want to know why he/she is the way she is. I also loved watching Alex get a little softer in the presence of Magnus.
The ending was maybe the best part. There were so many hints of joining these characters with those of Camp Half-blood. And there’s at least a possibility of Percy, Annabeth, Magnus, and his crew all going on an epic boat journey together soon. All in all, I give this an 8/10.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (218)

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 Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab (6/13/2017):

Description on Goodreads:
Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.
Why I’m Waiting:
I need to take a moment to bask in the beauty of this cover! I love the book covers to this series. I also super enjoyed the first book of the series. I got to meet/get a book singed by this author this past year, and hearing her talk made me want to read all of her books.  I thankfully have plenty to read while waiting for this sequel. But, I really cannot wait to read it.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman

Summary from Goodreads:
Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. But the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. He knows he was friends with Clary, and that he convinced the total goddess Isabelle Lightwood to go out with him…but he doesn’t know how. And when Clary and Isabelle look at him, expecting him to be a man he doesn’t remember…Simon can’t take it.

So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. His new self. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. And that differences—like being a former vampire—are greatly looked down upon. At least Simon is trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. These ten short stories give an epilogue to the Mortal Instruments series and provide glimpses of what’s in store in the Dark Artifices.
Why did I wait so long to read this one? I really need to stop letting lengthy books become road blocks. This was a giant book of novellas. But, also, I guess Simon was just never really my favorite character. I liked him. I liked the geeky humor and best friend vibes he provided, but I never thought of him as a main character. (Like I would never think of Ron Weasley as a main character either.)
Good news: this book was only half about Simon. The other half was about shadowhunter history, about other loved characters from series past, and about the new characters in the upcoming series. And weirdly, I found myself liking the Simon parts the best. Sometimes I’d skim some of the other stuff to get back into Simon’s head.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved all the moments with Jace and Clary. I also love every second of Magnus and Alec. I liked seeing more of Tessa and Jem. And I definitely found the Herondale history super interesting. That being said, I loved Simon so much more. I cared for him in a way I hadn’t before. I really got to see what a brave, smart, good person he was here. I love the minor, yet major changes he inflicted on the Shadowhunter Academy. I love that even though he doesn’t remember a lot, he still knows what the right thing to do is.
I also super shipped him and Isabelle and I couldn’t wait to read any scene with the two of them in it. I also loved his new friends at the Academy, particularly his roommate. Cassandra Clare (and her closest writing buddies) all super excel at character development.
It also read more like a book than a series of novellas. They were in chronological order and my brain sort of interrupted them into one story. Not all the stories were amazing, but most of them were. It also (for the most part) felt like a fluffier addition to the more generally dark shadowhunter plots. It took place in a decaying school. There was no world to save, estranged fathers to face off, angels to confront, or hell dimensions to go to. It was all about learning to be a shadowhunter. It was nice having the simpler, fluffier story arc for a change.
All in all, I loved this. I read it super fast. I loved the characters, old and new. I even loved Simon. I’m happy to add it to my rather large and growing collection of Cassandra Clare books. I give it 9/10.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Summary from Goodreads:
It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning.

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's been told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

Guided by his mother's visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.

The Burning Sky—the first book in the Elemental Trilogy—is an electrifying and unforgettable novel of intrigue and adventure.
In searching my TBR shelf for a nice pile of paperbacks to take with me on my holiday trip back to the family in Chicago, I came across this gorgeous book. Believe it or not, the copy I took with me was an ARC from 2013…I’m so glad I don’t get rid of books that I think I might enjoy reading at some point in the future. I loved this. Sadly, I did not start reading it until I was back home in MA…but still. I’m so glad I put this back on my radar.
Reading this felt like reading a great fantasy of the past (and I don’t mean four years ago in the past when I should have read this). It felt like an old Tamora Pierce/Garth Nix/Caroline Stevermer/Sherwood Smith/Tanith Lee type book. It read like a book I would have carried around with me, close to my heart, in my awkward early teen years, like I did with books by the authors mentioned above.
There is something so inherently classic fantasy about this book. And also, I can see it appealing to the young folks today. I mean the girl main character can summon lightning like Pikachu, summon elements like something from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and is destined to save the world from a great evil like Harry was chosen to do. The elements for great fantasy are all there in a super appealing, almost familiar way.
But also, there’s Prince Titus who guides Iolanthe (the main character) into all she’s supposed to be. And he has this crazy, awesome, magic book that he can metaphysically go into and train in. He literally battles dragons, defeats evil fairytale villains, and becomes the best prince he can in that book. I want one of those books so bad.
There’s secret portals, all kinds of magical creatures, a kingdom/world on the brink of a badly needed revolution, and so much magic. I love all the parts where Iolanthe pretends to be a boy at Titus’s normal human school. And I kind of love that this is the background for which Titus falls for her. It reminded me so much of Alanna and George in Tamora Pierce’s books.
I also love all the scenes where Iloanthe was a bird (she took a potion –kind of polyjuice like) and hid in plain sight from the one person in the world who could not know where she was. I love the scenes that take place within the magic book. Just when I thought this book could not get any more magical, fairytales came to life and epic battles were fought. And I adored how smart and manipulative the prince was. Watching his brain work was so, so cool.
I also seriously shipped the two main characters. I want them together so bad! I know they mostly likely won’t have a happy future together because of the prophecy, but I so don’t care. I ship them any way.
All in all, I zoomed through this one. And I already ordered the next two…they should be at my house by tomorrow. I guess there is a perk to reading this so late –I don’t have to wait long to get my hands on the rest of the series. I give it a 10/10, and I highly recommend this to all fantasy fans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (217)

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 Coming up for Air by Miranda Kenneally (7/1/2017):

Description on Goodreads:
Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?
Why I’m Waiting:
I’ve come to accept that I’ll always be waiting on the next Miranda Kenneally book. I love her books. I love the focus on girl athletes. I love her strong characters and their sense of family. And I always love the romance too. I cannot wait to read her next book! And this one is about a sport I actually partook in for a few years (I have not an ounce of athletic blood left in my body, but I once did…kind of/maybe).
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon And Dean Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale

Summary from Goodreads:
Once upon a time, in a land you only think you know, lived a little girl and her mother . . . or the woman she thought was her mother.

Every day, when the little girl played in her pretty garden, she grew more curious about what lay on the other side of the garden wall . . . a rather enormous garden wall.

And every year, as she grew older, things seemed weirder and weirder, until the day she finally climbed to the top of the wall and looked over into the mines and desert beyond.

Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale teams up with husband Dean Hale and brilliant artist Nathan Hale (no relation) to bring readers a swashbuckling and hilarious twist on the classic story as you've never seen it before. Watch as Rapunzel and her amazing hair team up with Jack (of beanstalk fame) to gallop around the wild and western landscape, changing lives, righting wrongs, and bringing joy to every soul they encounter.
This was pure joy to read. This was a recipe for success in my book: fairytale turned revenge story, girl hero with lots and lots of hair, monsters, adventures, western setting, and even a little romance thrown in. I seriously want more books like this. And only in finding the picture of the cover to post in this entry just now, did I even realize there’s a sequel! I must get my hands on Calamity Jack.
I’ve been on a reading frenzy kick lately. This is good because for months, I was in a slump. Basically, I’ve been putting down books I’m not feeling. I’ve been reading what I want when I want and paying less and less attention to library wait lists and books for review. I’m not sure this is the best plan, but I’ve certainly been a lot happier with my reading choices.
I’m also not going to lie; I was one book shy of my yearly goal and the morning of Dec 31, I pulled off this graphic novel from my TBR shelf, knowing I’d be able to read it quickly. Sadly, I wish it was bigger and that it took me longer to read because I loved it so much.
I love traditional fairytales that are turned upside down and usually involve a girl main character who saves the day, instead of the prince. This one was that but so much more. Rapunzel is on a mission to save her birth mom, someone she didn’t even realize existed until too late.  She’s a naïve character who has to learn how the world truly is. Instead of then wanting to take advantage of the world (like her “adoptive” mother wants”) she instead decides she’d rather fix it. I also loved Jack, the thief/best friend/love interest. Their chemistry is fantastic.
I was also a fan of the art. It was bright and fun, and easy to follow. Someone not experienced with graphic novels would have an easy time reading it. I also love that Rapunzel wasn’t hyper sexualized or even always pretty. She was dressed strangely through most of it, and her hair was always in practical, and sometimes violent braids. I really enjoyed this. I give it a 10/10.

Friday, January 6, 2017

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Summary from Goodreads:
In his twisty, gritty, profoundly moving New York Times bestselling-debut—also called “mandatory reading” and selected as an Editors' Choice by the New York Times—Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.

In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he's still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he's slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron's crew notices, and they're not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can't deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can't stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?
I knew I was going to love this one. I attended a “We Need Diverse Books” panel at a library conference about a year ago, and Adam Silvera was one of the speakers. First off, after listening to him speak for about 30 seconds, I wanted to be this man’s best friend. And after I heard him talk about his book, I knew I needed to get my hands on his novel immediately. I bought the book when it came out in paperback. And it took me way too long to get to it. What was I waiting for?
I guess I was technically waiting for a vacation so I’d have an opportunity to pack several paperbacks and take a break from ARCs and library books. I’m so glad I did because I loved all the books I read on vacation, particularly this one.
This was the kind of book that gives goosebumps. It’s dark, twisted, authentic, incredibly sad, harsh, and beautiful all at the same time. When explaining it to people, I have to bring in the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It’s like a better, more YA version of that movie, with a gay love story attached.
This book deals with heavy things: suicide, hate crimes, growing up poor, grief, depression, and pain. But, it’s also about falling in love for the first time. It’s about art. It’s about learning who you are and accepting who you are. It’s about growing up in the worst of circumstances and making the best of what you have.
I cried at several different moments while reading this. I have to admit that some of the plot was a little bit spoiled for me by the author during his panel…Yet, if it wasn’t, I might not have read it, so I’m 100% okay with it.
If a surgery existed that could erase the most painful memories from your life, would you have it? And would it work to change your sexual orientation? Could a guy forget that he was gay? Could forgetting crucial memories make you a happier/better version of yourself?
There are so many layers to this book that I wish I could dissect right now, but I then would be giving too much away. Just know that reading this felt different. It felt like when I read Fight Club for the first time as a teenager. I knew I was reading something special and that I might not figure out why it was so special until the end, and maybe not even then. This is a book that I can’t get out of my head, nor do I want to. It would make for a great book club book. I can’t recommend it enough. I give it a 10/10.