Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (226)

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 Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz (10/17/17):

Description on Goodreads:
When the music stops, the dance begins.

Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.

But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.
Why I’m Waiting:
I’m not going to lie; this gorgeous cover is a bag part of my waiting. But, also, I love stories that involve ballet. I wish there were more of them in YA. This sounds like a dark, mysterious thriller of a ballet story and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. I can’t wait for October this year!
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Good Week in Books (162)

I had a great book week. I received 3 new pretties for review (thank you, Macmillan!). I received one new book directly from the author (in exchange for an honest review), plus some super cute swag. And another book I’ve been waiting all year for finally came out. I could not get home soon enough from work to find it on my doorstep that day. I’m glad I remembered to pre-order it this time.
The gorgeous books:

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein (along with the cute swag)
Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
I believe in a thing called love by Maurene Goo
Every sing one of these books I received this week have unbelievably adorable covers. It’s a good book cover week too. How was your week in books?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Days and Summer Nights Edited by Stephanie Perkins and read by: Jessica Almasy, Michael Bakkensen, Cherise Boothe, Christopher Gebauer, Erin Moon, and Stina Nielsen

Summary on Goodreads:
Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.
I seriously loved this one. I don’t know why I’m always surprised to love short story collections. I always find myself enjoying them more than expected. It’s like getting an extra cupcake treat of an author you weren’t expecting to hear from for a long time.
Of course, I enjoyed some stories more than others. And I definitely loved some narrators more than others. I think this was my first time listening to an anthology, as compared to reading it the old fashioned way. And, I have to say, this was a good choice. Each story being read by a different voice, helped differentiate them more completely (though I know there were a couple repeat voices).  I’m going to take it apart by story.
“Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail” by Leigh Bardugo (10/10)

This was probably my favorite story in the whole book. I absolutely adored it and related to it in a weird way. I had a friend turned crush like the main character did. And I acted so stupidly, just like the main character did, but instead of coming to my senses I let something good go. This seemed so authentic. So did the town and summer setting. And I loved the slight pieces of magic added to the otherwise contemporary story. I loved how the beginning fitted perfectly with the end. And I loved the ending. Before getting to the final moments, I even cried. This story just moved me.

“The End of Love” by Nina LaCour (7/10)

This one didn’t grab me like the first story did. I liked the main character. Though, I’m not sure I ever believed her reason for doing geometry for summer school (even though she already aced it). Sometimes, I can super relate to teen characters (even as an adult) for feeling so strongly, and sometimes I do serious eye rolls for them completely overdoing it, and unfortunately I kept with the eye rolls in this story. Maybe the main character was behaving how any teen would, whose parents were getting a divorce, but I kept hearing a certain friend of mine in my head going, “first world problems.” I liked the romance/new friendship angle though.

“Last Stand at the Cinegore” by Libba Bray (8/10)

I love that everything I read by Libba Bray is nothing like anything else I’ve ever read by Libba Bray. I wouldn’t read/listen to this story and think this was the same author as A Great and Terrible Beauty, Beauty Queens, or The Diviners. This was something totally different. I loved the NYC old movie theater setting. It read like an episode of Are you Afraid of the Dark, so kinda creepy, but not too scary that I’d necessarily call it horror. It kind of reminded me of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with all the humor, teen angst, and believable boy characters (who think about believable things like sex and not just a girl’s laugh).  This one added a good sense of humor to the book. I just wish it had a better narrator. I kept zoning out to his voice, and I wish he was better at reading suspense.

“Sick Pleasures” by Francesca Lia Block (6/10)

I didn’t really get this one. I haven’t had much luck with reading this author in the past, though I have friends who swear by her. I hated the characters only having initials (though this is explained at the end). I couldn’t believe the lack of parents, the awfulness of the main character’s friends, or even how terrible the main character’s first sexual experience was. This was a harder, darker story. I guess I just found it super hard to relate to, at all. It was missing any light.

“In Ninety Minutes, Turn North” by Stephanie Perkins (10/10)

I adored this one. It’s like the sum of every girl’s wishes about what would happen with a certain ex that got away. More than that though, Perkins just gets teen YA awkwardness; it’s like she’s been in my mind and had the same thoughts as me. I loved the mountain setting. I loved that the main character had to realize her own feelings and it wasn’t just about rescuing her ex. This one gave me all the feels.

“Souvenirs” by Tim Federle (9/10)

I loved this story too. I’m not familiar with the author at all. But, I thought this was great. It seriously captured the truth of a lot of summer romances: they are only meant for summer. Not all of these romances can end with an OTP. And I’m glad the main character didn’t end up with his romance for good because he sounded kind of awful. I loved all the theater stuff and theme park stuff. I loved the main character’s relationship with his mother. Despite the not so happy ending that the main character tells you is coming, I still thought this was one of my favorites. 

“Inertia” by Veronica Roth (9/10)

This was not what I was expecting from Veronica Roth at all. And I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. It’s a darker story because the main character’s best friend is on his death bed and in this weird world, people who are dying can share their dying consciousness with loved ones before they go…Everything else is contemporary and realistic. I thought this was a cool concept. And I loved seeing the ups and downs of their friendship. I had tears in this one. And I loved the hopeful ending.

“Love Is the Last Resort” by Jon Skovron (7/10)

Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot about this one because I despised the narrator. I almost just skipped the story entirely, so I wouldn’t have to listen to his voice. Some voices are just misses for me (and I’m not entirely sure why). Though, I’m glad I made it through, cause I remember loving the summer setting. And it was nice having a more cheerful story.

“Good Luck and Farewell” by Brandy Colbert (9/10)

I wasn’t familiar with this author at all either. But, I loved this story. I loved the Chicago setting because it’s where I grew up. I loved that the main character could find a new friend/romance amongst the pain of her closest friend/relative moving away. There’s some good family drama, relationship drama, and Chicago fun to be had.

“Brand New Attraction” by Cassandra Clare (10/10)

I also loved this story. I loved the carnival setting. I loved the idea of carnivals being run by demons (thought not connected to shadowhunters at all). I loved the adults who disappeared and the kids working together to figure it out. I loved the main character, even though it took her so long to figure things out. Again, I had some Buffy flashbacks with this one, in all the good ways.

“A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong” by Jennifer E. Smith (10/10)

If I didn’t already declare Leigh Bardugo’s story as my favorite, this one would be it. I loved the camp counselor setting. I loved getting a YA story that talked about autism in more than one character! I loved the believable romance and that the main character had no idea about so many things, but she was so willing to do her best. I could have read a whole book of this.

“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” by Lev Grossman (8/10)

This was a strange story. The main character kept repeating the same day over and over. I like that he first spends his days reading! I kind of loved him. And I like that the repeating days is actually because of someone else and not him. The reason behind it all had me really sad and surprised. I’m not sure I liked his love interest as much as I was supposed to, but I was definitely hooked from the very beginning
All in all, I loved this. I want more stories like this. I almost feel like going back to my car and re-listening to my favorites. The good stories and narrators outweigh the less good ones. I give it a 10/10 overall.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (225)

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 Renegades by Marissa Meyer (11/7/17):

Description on Goodreads:
From #1 New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer, comes a high-stakes world of adventure, passion, danger, and betrayal.

Secret Identities.
Extraordinary Powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
Why I’m Waiting:
This sounds like a lot of fun. I’m interested in reading a story by this author that is not a fairy tale retelling. The story does sound like a lot of dystopias already out there, but I have a feeling this author will put her own, humorous, and fun spin on it. I can’t wait to read it.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Summary from Goodreads:
Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.
So, I was mostly disappointed by A Court of Thorns and Roses. Then, I liked A Court of Mist and Fury a little more than book 1, though I still just felt like there was something I wasn’t getting that the whole book world got, but me. And then this third book happened. And I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing with this series or not. I love Maas’ other series. And maybe I just expect too much from her because of my love of those other books. Either way though I liked this book the least in the series so far.
I didn’t hate it. I wouldn’t have read 705 pages if I hated it entirely. It did take me a significant amount of time to truck through it all, which is weird because even with the previous books in this series, a Sarah J. Maas book has never taken me more than a few days to read.
Book 2 ended with a big cliff-hanger. And thankfully, this one picked up right where that left off. You’d think with my drastic need for this book to come out and the way things left off in the previous book, I’d be flying through the beginning. You’d be wrong. The beginning was super slow. And that is my first problem. How can a beginning where (BIG SPOILER AHEAD FOR BOOK 2 –Warning you now) the main character is under cover with her ex, an evil priestess, and some seriously evil characters and not with her “mate” be boring?
The beginning moved so slowly I thought about putting this book down a few times. This should have been a hard-to-put-down part. I should have been biting my nails. I should have loved the suspense and revenge-like plotting. I was bored. There was not enough of any of those things I just said. I needed more suspense, plotting, and drama.
Then, finally, Feyre escapes (after her little bit of revenge that seemed more petty and less helpful for Rhys), and the pace picks up a bit. My second problem with the book, and it’s a problem I had from the second book, was all the “mate” business. Am I the only one creeped out by its usage? Like why can’t the characters ever say each other’s names instead of, “my mate.” It feels more animal than human. And it certainly reminded me of imprinting from the Twilight books. It felt like a cheep way to get away with insta-love. And every, single important character has one…It was too much. I was hoping this would be less eye-roll inducing for me in this book than it was in the last one. I was wrong. It was worse.
I liked the romance between Rhys and Feyre. However, the “mate” stuff kept taking me out of he story and I kept rolling my eyes. And I wish I could have enjoyed that stuff more because I know how sizzling Maas’s romance can be.
The second half of the book was a lot more action-packed. But, it was my least favorite kind of action-packed. It’s the one element of a lot of fantasy books that I just never got into, nor ever enjoyed as much as everyone else: war. It was all about fighting in war, planning for war, making alliances for war, etc. And war just isn’t my favorite thing to read about. Did Maas write it well? I think so. It’s just unfortunate that when the writing finally picked up, it did for a kind of fantasy style that I never liked.
There was a deeper sense of girl power in this book than in any of the others in the series so far, and I loved that. I loved how Feyre’s sisters had a big role to play. I loved that stuff wasn’t necessarily easy for the sisters just because of who they were now. I loved that the animosity between the fairies and the humans was still a thing. And I loved all the meetings with all of the high fey. There was some serious banter going on.
All in all, this could have been better. The beginning could have been so much more interesting. The “mate” terminology bothered me even more in this book than it did before. It kept taking me out of the story in parts I really didn’t want to be taken away from. And then, the book became a war book, and I personally hate reading war stories. The characters were still fun to read. I loved the girl power and the banter between the high fey. But, I’m not sure this was enough to keep me interested enough to continue with the series. I give it 6/10.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

From the author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hollow comes a moving story of identity and belonging.

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow's only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn't until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk's Beyond the Bright Sea is a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.
So, I’m kind of obsessed with this book. I knew I’d enjoy it because I loved Wolf Hollow. But, I wasn’t expecting this level of love that I have. I think I like it even more than Wolf Hollow. This book kept me up to 3am one night…on a night, where I knew I had to be up at 5am the next day. Go me.
The weirdest thing is I never really was a big fan of historical fiction, but I guess that doesn’t matter when the quality of book is out of this world. I just get so lost in Wolk’s words. I feel like I’m there with her main character. I connected so deeply to Crow. And in this one, there were just so many things I needed to know. This book I guess could fall kind of into the mystery genre. Crow’s history is such a mystery. It’s tied in with an abandoned leper colony, island travel, treasure hunts, a love story, con artists,  and so many other interesting things.
It also takes place on an island off Cape Cod, where I live. And it was so, so cool getting a glimpse of these places in the 1920’s. The mainland Crow visits (aka: New Beford) was just as interesting for me as Cuttyhunk.
Also, the life of Crow and Osh is so unique. They live off the sea. They set lobster traps and grow their own gardens. They live an isolated, yet beautiful and simple life. Their neighbor, Miss Maggie is another interesting character. She lives across the sandbar and helps teach Crow lessons. Crow helps her with physical chores and in return gets a lot of home cooked meals. Their world and life seems so extordinary to me that it almost read like a fantasy.
The mystery is what kept me up late. I had to know if Crow was connected to the Leper colony. And then I had to know other things like why a certain character was kidnapped.  And I don’t want to say too many more things because it’s best to go into this with as little knowledge as possible. It will hopefully be as nice a surprise and as enticing a mystery for every reader. Also, the overarching themes of family and identity ring so strongly and true.
This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I recommend it highly, particularly to fans of Middle Grade. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (224)

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 Piper by Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg (10/31/17):

Description on Goodreads:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Jay Asher and co-author Jessica Freeburg brilliantly reimagine the classic Pied Piper legend as a powerful graphic novel about loneliness, love, and vengeance. Fans of Neil Gaiman and Through the Woods by Emily Carroll will devour this eerie, atmospheric retelling.

Long ago, in a small village in the middle of a deep, dark forest, there lived a lonely, deaf girl named Maggie. Shunned by her village because of her disability, her only comfort comes from her vivid imagination. Maggie has a gift for inventing stories and dreams of one day finding her fairy-tale love.

When Maggie meets the mysterious Piper, it seems that all her wishes are coming true. Spellbound, Maggie falls hard for him and plunges headfirst into his magical world. But as she grows closer to the Piper, Maggie discovers that he has a dark side.

The boy of Maggie's dreams might just turn out to be her worst nightmare...

With striking illustrations from Eisner-nominated artist Jeff Stokely, Piper is an exciting new departure for Jay Asher that deftly touches on the same themes of truth, guilt, and redemption that made Thirteen Reasons Why a beloved bestseller.
Why I’m Waiting:
I love Jay Asher. I’d probably read anything he writes. Also, I’m excited to see what a fantasy story by him looks like. I love the Pied Piper story and I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA that covers it. All in all, this looks like something I’ll love. I can’t wait for Halloween!
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Good Week in Books (161)

I had a nice book week. I devoured a new Middle Grade. I was literally up until 3am reading…not so easily done when you wake up at 5am. I’m in love with an audio book that I’ll finish in the next couple of days. I’m also very much addicted to a fantasy right now too. So many books! I received 3 lovely new books for review (Thanks, Macmillan!)
The new books:

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag
The Truth about Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo
How was your week in books?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Starfall by Melissa Landers

When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a ship hand, she is finally returning to her beloved home, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend...with occasional benefits.

Meanwhile, Kane and the rest of the crew of the Banshee plan a desperate rescue mission. But when they arrive on Eturia, Cassia isn't exactly in need of heroics—she's claimed her birthright as Eturia's queen, but has inherited a war-torn planet simmering with rebellion. Cassia must make alliances, and Kane, the bastard son of a merchant, isn't a choice that will earn her any friends. Kane knows he will never find someone to replace Cassia—and is certain she returns his feelings—but how can he throw away his own promising future waiting on a queen?

When the outer realm is threatened by the dangerous Zhang mafia, Cassia, Kane and the rest of the Banshee crew uncover a horrifying conspiracy that endangers the entire universe. In the face of unspeakable evil, Cassia must confront her own family's complicated legacy on Eturia and decide once and for all who her real family is.
This was a fun read. I absolutely loved the first book in the series. And while I knew this would be about different characters, I still had high expectations. This series has a definite Firefly mixed with Cowboy Bebop vibe. I love all the spaceship drama and strong character development.
That being said, it was not as good as book 1. The lead characters just did not have the spark that the original main characters did for me. Cassia is interesting. Her story though is very familiar. She has the same sort of dystopian/revolutionary story arc as many leading ladies in YA. Little add-ons to the story did make this a little different. And Cassia was a lot tougher that I originally made her out to be.
I guess I did ship the two leads –just not in the same way I shipped the two leads in the first book. I almost feel like its unfair to always be comparing this to book 1. Like if this was book 1, I’d have no comparison and I’d probably like this more.
I enjoyed seeing all the characters again. And one thing I really loved was being able to get right back into the swing of things. I felt like I never left the crew. I didn’t have to readjust to them. I just naturally got back into their stories. I also love that the crew got to go explore and figure out how to solve the problems on Cassia’s planet.
There’s still this overall sense of camaraderie and humor amongst all the characters. And I guess that’s what really makes this book shine. I could see this being a great tv show, maybe something done by Joss Whedon…A girl can dream.
All in all, it was joy to read this. It was not as good as the first book in the series. The couple was lacking a spark that I hope they’d have. And there were definite dystopian elements I’m kind of bored of seeing at this point. The characters and setting though were just as strong as before. I also loved the humor and how easy it was to fall back into the story again. All in all, I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (233)

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 Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills (12/26/17):

Description on Goodreads:
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.
Why I’m Waiting:
I love this author. I’m so glad she’s been writing so many books. She’s really starting to develop a name for herself in the YA contemporary genre. And I can’t wait to get my hands on her latest story. Also, I love the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This sounds like a fun, dramatic contemporary alright.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Good Week in Books (160)

I had a nice book week. I finished a fun sci-fi novel. I started an audio book compilation of YA short stories that I’m seriously into. I started a new Middle Grade that I’ve been excited about. I also (believe it or not) started reading an adult nonfiction title that I plan on taking my sweet time reading. I also received 4 new books for review. Thank you, Macmillan!
The new books:

Just Dreaming
by Kerstin Gier
The Inquisition by Taran Matharu
The Battlemage by Taran Matharu
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland
How was your week in books?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black and read by Lauren Fortgang

Summary from Goodreads:
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
Wow. I was obsessed with this book. I haven’t read Holly Black in a very long time (except for the books she co-writes with Cassandra Clare). I forgot how much I can lose myself in this author’s words. She can write about the strangest things (like a prince with horns in a glass coffin) and make everything feel not strange at all. Like, it’s totally believable that tourists come to this town to take selfies with the sleeping prince.
When I say “obsessed,” I mean it. I stayed out late in my car, in my driveway, finishing up chapters. I also took the last two discs inside to listen to at home, something I rarely do with audio books. I just had to keep listening at the end. So much action happens in the second half of the book.
I love how Black mingles together the world of magic (and dark fairies) with the normal world of mortals. I love books that do this, probably because a childish part of me still wishes for magic to be real. This book has me thinking it’s possible. I also love that this magic is dark and filled with monsters, bargains, changelings, and battles.
The world reminded me a little of the world of one of my favorite YA novels: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Basically, there are some skeptics, but for the most part, people know magic is real and to be weary of the fey. What a fun, twisted world the characters of this town live in. And what a fun, twisted childhood the main character and her brother had.
The world-building is beautiful, but the character development is magic. I felt like I knew the characters. I could see being friends with the brave Hazel and the talented Ben. They felt so real. I loved having a main character who kissed a lot of boys. It’s nice having a main character that isn’t waiting for her first kiss. I also loved her relationship with her brother, Ben. They were close, but also distant enough to be a believable teen brother/sister team.
I kind of hated their parents, though, I think I was supposed to. I can hear a past co-worer in my head complaining about another set of ditzy, artist parents. I have to admit that artist parents are not usually portrayed well in YA. And while I think it’s clear Hazel and Ben’s parents loved them, it’s also clear that they had a very free, strange, and neglected childhood.
I loved Jack too. I love that he takes Hazel to dangerous places and trusts her when she says she’ll be okay. And I love that he’s honest with her when they have a romantic moment. I love how good, yet mysterious he is. The spare moments in his point of view were some of the most interesting parts of the book for me.
I also loved that this wasn’t a simple, linear story. A lot comes out in bits and pieces through memories. So much of Hazel doesn’t make complete sense till the second half of the book when you learn all that she has given up and done. And I guess this is true of Ben too. I love that the characters and story aren’t simple and I had to fit some pieces together myself. I like that Hazel and Ben had to learn to trust each other again (after some serious dark stuff happens when they are kids).
All in all, I loved this book. It was better than expected. The world building was crazy-good. The character development was top-notch. And the nonlinear story all just flowed in its unique eccentricities and pieces. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (232)

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 Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (9/19/17):

Description on Goodreads:
Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: "If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you'll go." With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.
Why I’m Waiting:
Is anyone not waiting for Kristin Cashore’s new book? Her other YA fantasy trilogy was a masterpiece. It’s been so long since this author has come out with a new book that I had to remind myself why I recognized her name. Graceling is one of the books that got me obsessed with fantasy. I cannot wait to read a new story by this talented author.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Summary from Goodreads:
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.
This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. I absolutely adored Ahdieh’s other series.  And when I received an ARC for review, I screeched in fangirl joy. I put aside other books I was in the middle of (including library books that needed to go back) and went into this with high expectations.
Maybe my expectations were too high…If you were to ask me two weeks ago what book I thought I’d be more interested in: this one or the audio book I was listening to (of a book that came out a couple years ago), I would have said, hands down, this one. Unfortunately, I fell in love with my audio book, and Flame in the Mist felt like a reunion with an old crush that makes you go, “what did I see in that guy?”
It wasn’t terrible. I didn’t hate it. I just wanted to be more invested. I wanted to love it. It kind of felt like a lot of other YA out there and I wanted the same level of captivation that I got from The Wrath and the Dawn, which stood out from everything else I was reading at the time. This story was too familiar. The main character is on her way to an arranged marriage, but her whole “caravan” is attacked and she is presumed dead. Instead of dead, she’s pissed, and goes on a revenge mission. This mission involves infiltrating the gang of Samurai warriors she believes were sent to kill her. She disguises as a boy, earns their trust, and believes she’s on the road to answers, when her brother (the tracker/Samurai warrior in his own right) finds her and everything becomes complicated.
I love revenge stories. I also love stories where the female character dresses as a man. I loved Mulan and this book has so many little nods to that film (despite this book being in Japan and Mulan being from China). That being said, for a revenge story to work, I need to believe in the main character’s motivation for such a feet. And well, I never really felt like Mariko had a good enough reason. Sure, her guard was murdered. But, did she even know them? She was not interested in the man she was destined to marry. And I get loving the freedom of dressing as a man and escaping the marriage. But…why such a revenge thing? I just didn’t get it.
Also, I loved the character, Mulan. I felt like I only sometimes tolerated Mariko. Mulan did what she did to save her father and protect her family. I’m not clear why Mariko did all that she did. It wasn’t for her family. And while it was clear that Mulan was smart and not like the women her matchmaker wanted her to be like, this wasn’t her sole character trate. Mariko didn’t have a lot going for her, besides her intelligence that every, single character noticed. And maybe this wouldn’t have bothered me so much if not for the fact that I never saw her actually act intelligently.
Mariko makes a lot mistakes. Yes, she uses logical thinking to solve problems. But, none of her actions made her stand out as this super intelligent character that every side character commented on her to be. This kind of reminded me of Throne of Glass, when the author kept mentioning how tough the main character was, but I never got to see it…Later in the series, I certainly saw it. But, this bothered me. I hate when authors talk about something, but then they don’t show it. It makes me question everything. What else am I not being shown? And it takes me out of the story.
I wish I wasn’t taken out of the story like I was because the story was good. Ahdieh has a clear talent. Some of the suspense was spectacular. And the romance was actually my favorite part. It was sizzling off the page. I know when I read a book by this author that the love story will be awesome. I just wish I liked the main character more than I did. I wish Mariko had a stronger reason for her revenge. And I wish she acted like the intelligent character everyone seemed to think she was. This book was not as good as I was hoping it to be. Maybe my expectations were just too high. I give it a 7/10.