Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (215)

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 Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo (8/29/2017):

Description on Goodreads:
She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.
Why I’m Waiting:
There are so many reasons why I’m waiting for this book! I am a huge Wonder Woman fan. Seriously, she is the best. I’ve gone to panels about her at Comic Con, I’ve dressed as her for Halloween. She’s my favorite hero. And I always knew her story would make for a great YA novel. Also, I love Leigh Bardugo. I know this author will give my hero credit. The story sounds like an awesome friendship story too, mixed with Greek mythology. What else does a book need?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Summary on Goodreads:

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
I never thought it would take me over 2 weeks to complete a Marissa Meyer book, but it did…At first, I couldn’t explain what exactly it was that I was not liking. The world-building was magical. The writing was like revisiting Lewis Carroll, who I love. Everything had this sugary layer of whimsical to it, and I enjoyed that. I really did. It truly felt like Wonderland.
I almost stopped reading this book though, several times. Not a lot happened in it (until the last 100 pages or so). It was a forbidden love story, and sometimes I like those and sometimes I don’t. I guess I like them when there is something unique and special about them. And I guess the author was relying on the amazing world and whimsical, yet dark somehow at the same time, side characters to stand in for the story being lackluster. But, the amazingness of everything else could not hide the fact that the forbidden love story plot was nothing new or special.
And I wish I could say the love interests/main characters were new or special, but they weren’t either. Cath was so dull. Yes, she loved baking. And reading this book really had me craving sugar. But, that was it to her character. She fell for Jest really quickly, and mostly because she dreamed him before she met him. But, she never stood up for herself or what she wanted. Why did she let the king court her at all? Either you do what you want to do or you do what your parents want you to do. Deciding this took hundreds and hundreds of pages of indecision. At least I was hoping for some sizzling, typical Meyer romance in that indecision. But no, there was very little of that.
There was one fabulous tea party, and some truly amazing side characters to meet. But, really, it was hundreds of pages of “should I or shouldn’t I?” And I wanted to slap some sense into this spoiled, ignorant, mean, and kind of stupid main character.
I did enjoy that last 100 pages. So much happened with monsters, pumpkins, best friends, adventures, prophecies, and revenge. I wish the book started there. I’m not sure if I recommend this book or not. Reading it requires a steadfast determination to eventually, near the end, get to the good stuff. I was hoping for more romance, more plot, and a better main character. I give it a 5/10.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Best Books of 2016

What a great, interesting year this has been. I know there’s still some time left, and so many books I didn’t get to, but I felt like it was time to come out with my list already. Also, I’ll be on vacation soon, and I wanted to do this before other things got in the way.
I both love and hate coming up with this list. I love looking back on my year and organizing all the books I loved. I hate narrowing down the good books though. It’s so hard to scratch books off my list. On the other hand, this year, it was surprisingly easy to come up with my books and scratch the ones I didn’t love as much, off. Everything kind of came together easily. How crazy is that?
My rules for this list are how they have always been:
1) Each book listed has come out this past year.
2) Each book is YA or Middle Grade
3) I have read the book in 2016.
I am going to start at the top with number 1, and make my way down to my number 10 book of the year. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! May 2017 bring just as many, if not more wonderful books into the world.

1) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (Review / Rating: 10/10)

I seriously think Stiefvater should have won best YA fantasy on Goodreads this year. This wasn’t just the best fantasy of the year, it was the best book. The writing, the characters, the setting, the action, the romance, and the everything was just so good. This was all that I was hoping it to be. And I’m hoping more people put it on their best lists because it deserves it. How many final installments of a series actually accomplish all you want them to? And on top of that, as I said in my review, “
This book (along with the rest in the series) is a book that makes me feel like I’m reconnecting with old friends. Seriously, I feel like I know these characters. They can make me laugh, tear up, and roll my eyes. And I love them no matter what. So few books do this for me any more. It’s so wonderfully charming that I can’t help but smile just thinking about it.”

2) The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh (Review / Rating: 10/10)
This was one of those books, I know I will come back to and read over and over again. The magic and the romance were some of the best I’ve seen in YA. But more than anything, it was the writing I loved. I want to go back to this book right now and read some of it out loud. It’s beautiful and heartfelt, and filled with the power of words and story. I have so much love for this book and this series.

3) The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Review / Rating: 10/10)
This book was not a fantasy novel, yet it had so much magic. I think what made it stand out to me was how plausible it felt. It’s sometimes the real kind of magic that can grab me more than any other story. It’s about falling in love in one day. It’s about how one city, and one series of events can change everything. I cannot do this book justice in a few sentences. Just know that it is YA contemporary at it’s finest. The characters are real and sad, and lovely, and wonderful. I wanted them all to succeed so badly, even the minor side characters. If you like contemporary at all, please read this book. This is the kind of story I aspire to write myself some day.

4) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Review / Rating: 9/10)
As I said in my review, “I thought nothing could be more nostalgic than attending the release party. I was wrong. Reading this play took me back to all the times I read the Harry Potter books.” Yes, this book was nowhere near as good as the original seven stories. And yeah, there were things I did not like about it. But, what this book accomplished that no other book on this list did for me was: pure and utter happiness. I never thought I’d get the feeling of reading a new Harry Potter book again, and I got that feeling. What a gift.

5) Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine (Review / Rating: 10/10)
This book was by far the book with the best suspense and action of the year. I remember comparing it to Catching Fire and The Last Olympian. It was full of twists and surprises. It’s also the ultimate dystopian series for book lovers. The characters are awesome, the setting is both beautiful and frightening. And for a book 2, this was beyond remarkable.

6) This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills (Review / Rating: 10/10)
This book was full of so many great, wonderful things. I loved that the main character’s dad is a famous novelist. I love the focus on family. I love that the dad introduces his daughter to fandoms and fan fiction. Finally, there’s a YA book with a believable amount of social media usage. I feel like this is very commonly left out. I also loved the focus on art and grief, and friendships. Seriously, this book had everything going for it. And I’m really coming to love this author.

7) Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (Review / Rating: 10/10)
As I said in my review, “I’m not generally a big historical fiction fan, particularly with middle grade. So, despite the high praise, I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did.  Thankfully, it was hard not to love this. The writing was beautiful, the characters were spot-on, the setting was fantastic, and I can understand why reviewers are comparing this to To Kill a Mockingbird.” This was a very powerful book for me.

8) A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Review / Rating: 9/10)
Finally, we have a girl Sherlock Holmes! Words cannot express how much I needed this character. This book was everything I was hoping it to be. I read it super quickly because I needed to know all the things. Also, I had a super big book crush on Watson. But mostly, I loved watching the super intelligent, snarky detective be a girl. I can’t wait to read more in this series.

9) Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (Review / Rating: 9/10)
Clare is another character writing queen. I seriously love her characters. I loved the new kids right away. I also loved the cameos from other known/loved characters of the past. I loved the romance, the magic, the action, and the setting. And I think with each book, the author’s writing skills improve. What a fun new series start!

10) Pax by Sarah Pennypacker (Review / Rating: 10/10)
Middlegrade books killed it this year. This is one of those strong books that sticks with you days, weeks, and months after you finish it. I’m not usually a big fan of books about animals either. This book was all kinds of out of my normal comfort zone, but it called to me. And I’m so glad it did. Sometimes I just have to read something a little different. This was it. As I said in my review, “I liked that this wasn’t a book about humans destroying the planet, a father abusing his kid, a boy running away from home, or even a country devastated by war. All these were components. But, the main focal point was the boy and his fox trying to find each other again. It was about friendship and doing the right thing.” And now I successfully convicnced myself to re-read this as soon as I can.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (214)

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 Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare (5/23/2017):

Description on Goodreads:
Sunny Los Angeles can be a dark place indeed in Cassandra Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the sequel to the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Lady Midnight.

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.
Why I’m Waiting:
I have to admit it. As long as there is another Cassandra Clare book, I’ll be waiting. I absolutely adored the first book in her new series, and I can’t wait to see where all the characters are now. I just love all of the characters. All of them. The author could write the worst story in the world, and I’d probably still love her characters. I need to know so many things. And May cannot come fast enough. Also, the sideways cover is growing on me.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty and read by Cassandra Campbell

Summary from Goodreads:
In 1899, when an evil threatens all the humans and animals of the Blue Ridge Mountains, twelve-year-old Serafina, rat catcher for the Biltmore estate and the daughter of a shapeshifting mountain lion, must search deep inside herself and embrace the destiny that awaits her.
I ended up enjoying this one a lot more than I thought I would. For some reason, a lot of middle grade sequels lose me. They just usually aren’t as good as the first book. And at first, I felt this way here. The beginning had a lot of repetition and slowness that I just wasn’t feeling. I don’t get it. Some one who has not read the first book should absolutely not read this second one. Yet, the beginning was kind of written like the reader never read the first one…I hate when books do that.
Also, the beginning was kind of slow. I’m glad I kept going though, because when it picked up, it seriously picked up. All of the magic, the darkness, the characters, and the animals from book 1 were back in full force here. But, now there are even more interesting characters, worse evil, and new friendships. There were moments when my jaw dropped, listening to the suspense. There’s this scene in the forest with tons of animals locked up in cages, that has me creeped out still, just thinking about it.
Also, I love Serafina so much more now. She’s struggling to fit in with her newfound mother. She can’t learn to be what her mother tells her she is. And the more she hangs out with her best friend, the more she realizes she’s not that great at being human either. She’s learning table manners, and worrying about her state of her dress, which she never really did before. And all of this makes her so much more authentic to me. Yes, she has some extraordinary abilities, but also, she’s just a girl who wants to fit in. And I loved this side of the story.
I love the narrator too, and I hope she continues to voice the next book (which I think comes out next summer). When I think of Serafina, I hear her voice. Really, she does such justice to the gothic setting, the suspenseful scenes, and all the humorous moments. She’s an amazing reader.
All in all, this is the kind of book I hope all middle grade books to be like. The main character grows so much in this installment. The action is fantastic. The characters were great. And the setting carries the whole story. I give it a 9/10.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Good Week in Books (149)

I’m finally beginning to get over my reading slump. I finished listening to a fantastic audio book and started reading a new great by a favorite author. All is not lost. Also, the holidays came a little early for me this week, in the form of two new books. One book is one that I forgot was coming out! And the other is an ARC I’m super excited to dig into. (Thank you, Penguin Random House!)

The pretties:

by Jennifer E. Smith
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (213)

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 Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine (7/11/2017):

Description on Goodreads:
The unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire unite to save the Great Library of Alexandria from itself in this electrifying adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealousy guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny....

Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.

Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library....
Why I’m Waiting:
I absolutely love this series. I wish it had more hype than it did. I cannot sing its praises enough. The first book was my favorite book of 2015. The second book will most definitely make my Best Books of 2016 list. And ahhhhh, July seems so far away. The second book left off in such a second book cliffhanger too! I need to know what the characters will all do now! I need to know.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, December 5, 2016

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

Summary from Goodreads:
England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.
I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. November has been a crazy/kind of awful/kind of not so awful month for me. And when I ran off to CA for a family emergency, some part of my brain remembered I liked traveling with paperbacks. So, I took this one with me hoping for a bit of distraction. Unfortunately, it did not hold me enough for a distraction, at least in the beginning. I ended up watching kids movies for the whole plane ride.
The beginning kind of read like all other books in this genre. It’s getting harder and harder to believe that this same main character exists so many times in historical fiction. The Elizabeth Bennett, ahead of her time, too smart for society character is becoming so cliché for me. When she turns up, I need her to have some distinguishing characteristic that separates her from all the others, and unfortunately, this one didn’t really have that. That being said, the book did pick up, a lot, long past the time I needed it to though.
It’s not the book’s fault that I was not in a good reading mood. I ended up liking the book overall, despite its slow/cliché beginning. When it became more supernatural, I quickly came to enjoy it more. It needed that little something different to make it…well a little something different.
I found the mystery a lot of fun, though never too surprising. I liked the witty dialog between Evelyn and her two suitors. I loved the balls, the theater, the disguises, the secret powers, and the idea for what the bad guy was after. I loved that the main character loved her sister and her freedom more than she cared for anything else.
Nothing was that new here though. And I hate making comparisons, but I couldn’t help but comparing this book to Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink, and thinking the other books got it a lot better. Weirdly, they both have “angel” in the title, and angels are only kind of involved in one of them. Regardless, I was hoping for a little more uniqueness. Even the bad guy felt like someone I had met before.
All in all, this was a fun, easy read. There was nothing that really stood out too much for me. I enjoyed reading it, but I can easily see forgetting about it soon. The characters were all very familiar. Granted, I have not been in the best mood for reading lately. I give it a 7/10.