Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review Archive 2014

Here are all the reviews I posted on the blog in 2014.

Alphabet Challenge 2014 Archive

Here is the archive of my 2014 Alphabet Reading Challenge!

Seriously Series 2014 Archive

Here is the archive of my Seriously Series 2014 Challenge!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Review || Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1) by Jessica Spotswood ★★☆☆☆
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

I kept setting this book down because it just wasn't really holding my interest. When I thought to pick it up again, I usually breezed through 100 pages or so before setting it down again. 

Not that it was a bad book, but it just wasn't anything super exciting. The premise is really interesting and the world becomes more complex as things get going, but overall things faltered because of mediocre execution.

Cate is an interesting narrator, but she holds up the progression of the story for chapters at a time because of her stubbornness and unwillingness to yield to change. It becomes exhausting at times. And there's a little too much, "everyone knows something you don't know" going on here for my tastes. I don't mind a good mystery, teasing out the unknown from the narrative. But Cate throws up roadblock after roadblock that it's almost impossible to get at those hidden details until they're basically right on top of you.

There are some interesting plot threads that have yet to be tied up, but I'm not sure if I actually want to go through the trouble of reading the next two books in the trilogy or if I'd rather just seek out spoilers on the internet.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Review || Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey

Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey ★★★☆☆
Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.

Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.

3 stars is absolutely too generous for this book, objectively.

The writing, plot and characters are nothing special or memorable. It does not do anything unexpected. It has a huge number of extremely problematic moments.


Subjectively, I gobbled this book up. Light, fluffy and mostly mindless, it was not only exactly what I was in the mood for at the time, but features one of my favourite tropes of all time.

If your blurb goes anything like this, "Character A sworn to protect Character B, but Character B can't remember their past lives together." I am 110% down for your book.

It's an affliction.

I'm trash.

And this book is kind of trashy too. But whatever. I'm under no illusions about it. It's ridiculous, I'm ridiculous, and I had a good few hours reading it.

The end!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review || The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan ★☆☆☆☆
Jake Marlowe is the last werewolf. Now just over 200 years old, Jake has an insatiable appreciation for good scotch, books, and the pleasures of the flesh, with a voracious libido and a hunger for meat that drives him crazy each full moon. Although he is physically healthy, Jake has slipped into a deep existential crisis, considering taking his own life and ending a legend that has lived for thousands of years. But there are two dangerous groups--one new, one ancient--with reasons of their own for wanting Jake very much alive.

1.5 stars?

Basically, my reaction to the whole thing can be summed up with this gif:

Because really. Now, I get that Jake not being a likeable narrator is 100% the point. And that's not even what I minded about him. It was more that I don't think Jake's a relateable narrator if you're not male.

A lot of people slag off on this book because it's "literary fiction about werewolves". And by that, they take issue with the pretentious writing. Which, I'll give them, because at first I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get past it. I did, though, because you adapt to it.

But if you're going to criticize this book for being "literary", let's do it because it falls down all the same trappings: horrible representation and characterization of women, tortured male angsting--oh sorry, brooding, sex and drink and drugs just don't do it for me, recycled familial drama. And most bizarrely, insta-love. Which, I'll be honest, I expect to some degree in YA, so it seemed jarringly out of place here.

I'll admit, my interest was peaked with the addition of Tallula, but I mostly spent the next few chapters wishing we were telling her story instead of Jake's. But the way the book ended doesn't make me want to read on despite this. Mostly because I'd want her story, but as told by someone else.

But whatever. I read it. I didn't particularly enjoy it for any considerable stretch. And now it'll go in the 'to donate' pile. There it is. (I'll admit, this was a cover buy anyway and I mostly picked it up to read to see if it was worth keeping around. And it wasn't. So.)

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Review || To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han ★★★☆☆
Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her.

They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

This book is pretty much what it says on the tin: a cute contemporary read.

It doesn't do anything unexpected and it isn't really a novel with much depth. The romantic angle the book takes isn't exactly what you're anticipating at the start, but from there it becomes fairly conventional.

One of the highlights is Lara Jean's relationship with her family members. There's a strong bond of sisterhood--and the novel spends time looking at how distance changes that relationship. Lara Jean's father is also fairly present and involved in the goings on of his daughters, which is nice to see.

I also appreciated Han's intentional choice to make Lara Jean Korean American. I'm a huge supporter of more diversity in books.

I didn't mind the "open" ending here as I know some people did. Though, I've heard this is going to be a duology and I'm not sure how I feel about that. While the ending here didn't necessarily offer any definite conclusions, I liked how things were sort of left up to the reader. We'll see how book 2 goes, I suppose.

That said, I would've liked to have had more complexity overall in the book. I expected Lara Jean's letters to be longer, and for more time to be devoted to reading them and understanding why she'd written them. There were also a number of common high school drama themes the story touched on, but never really did much about in the end.

Still. If you need a feel good book that doesn't require effort to read, I'd pick this up. It was cute, fluffy and perfect for my mood at the time.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Review || Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown ★★★★☆
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda.

The first thing that comes to mind when I reflect upon this book is: ambitious.

This book (and from how things are shaping up--the entire series) is incredibly ambitious. This is Brown's debut novel as well, which sort of adds to my awe of the whole thing.

Though things sort of start off in the predictable "society is keeping secrets from you to keep you under control" vein, Brown brings his own twists on the trope and the result is a rollercoaster of a tale.

The set up of the society isn't particularly unique--ruling class superiority and then others divided by profession through to the bottom of the caste system. But this book is only marginally about that side of things. And I will say that I'm looking forward to seeing it get fleshed out in future instalments.

Darrow, on the surface, seems to be an unremarkable character. But as he undergoes change throughout the course of the book--well, I wouldn't exactly say that I ever fully identified with him. But I understood him. And I sure as hell was rooting for him.

I've seen this book classified as YA--which I understand given the ages of the characters. But I mostly disagree with that classification. Brown does not pull his punches here and the story does not hold anything back. Darrow gets thrown into a war (albeit, not a "real" one as it's pitched as "on-the-job training" for the school) and war is a brutal, savage thing.

Brown also does an exceptional job of keeping the stakes high. No one is safe, not truly, and there were a number of surprising character deaths. There was at least one character that made me think, "Did they really have to die?" And then I realized the answer was, "Yes." Not just because of the consequences for the story (and character relationships) but because really, why should I have expected them to be safe and exempt from death? Just because they were a named character who I had time to get a bit attached to... it made their death that much harder.

The whole book felt like that. Rough. Brown puts his characters through hell and back. And it's remarkable to see how they respond.

Now, a good portion of this book relies on military style strategics. There is a lot of time devoted to this. Keeping track of all the players, weighing the options, battles and retreats. So if that isn't your style, you might have a hard time with this book.

That said, it's all written in such a way that is very comprehensible. While Brown doesn't skimp on the details, he also doesn't bog you down in unnecessary technical minutiae. And the strategies his characters use are fascinatingly desperate at times.

Overall, this book far exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I thought I was going to. I cannot wait for the sequel in January!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Review || Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo ★★★☆☆
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed with this book.

Not that it wasn't a great read--because it was. I absolutely devoured it. Bardugo did a superb job leaving you hanging at the end of the chapter, desperate to keep reading. There were a few times when I told myself I'd put the book down after I finished the chapter I was reading... but by the end I just couldn't! I had to keep reading.

There was also a fabulous twist with respect to the search for the third amplifier that I did not see coming. It actually floored me. (Its resolution was a little lacklustre, though, but that's only because I like it when the stakes stay high and consequences are sometimes dreadful.)

Still. All that said. There was just something missing here. Something about this conclusion that did not meet my expectations. In general, it was the resolution to a number of plot threads that ended up being too convenient.

It's not that I didn't like the ending. That I wasn't pleased with how it all turned out. But more that feeling of "we could've had it all". And it just did not deliver. Maybe my expectations were too high.

Still, it is absolutely one for the bookshelves. And a series, overall, that I thoroughly enjoyed and would absolutely recommend.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Review || Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J Maas ★★★★☆
In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

I loved this book. It had everything I wanted: action, intrigue, secrets, BAMFs, love triangles...


Hold up.

A love triangle I actually enjoyed?????

Say it ain't so.

But it is. Because there was just something so compelling about the romantic forces at play in this book. There was no clear and decisive preference in my opinion. Which never happens to me. I always can firmly choose a team to side with. And in this book, I didn't want to.

Sighs happily. How refreshing.

Besides all that, Celaena is a fantastic character in her own right. And I am absolutely itching to get more of her backstory. The supporting cast of characters are also wonderful in their own right. I'm particularly partial to Nehemia.

Maas does a brilliant job of teasing out tidbits of information about the world. It feels like jumping into a fully realized universe, despite how much there still is to know.

I was enthralled with the tale, despite its flaws. I cannot wait to get my hands on both the prequel and the sequel. (Especially with book 3 out already!) Definitely recommended!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Review || More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This by Patrick Ness ★★☆☆☆
A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust.

What's going on? Is it real? Or has he woken up in his own personal hell? Seth begins to search for answers, hoping desperately that there must be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife...

I am so torn. I really have no idea how to rate this book.

This entire review contains spoilers for this book. 
Turn back now if you haven't read it!

The first 160 pages of this book were so good. It was everything I wanted. Seth coming to grips with what had happened to him, us discovering what had lead him to this point. The bleakness, the loneliness.

And then the story twists. And at first, I was willing to play along. Because the first part had been so good.

But in the end, I mostly just feel betrayed.

I've seen people complain about the open-ended-ness of the conclusion. Which, I understand, but honestly, if you didn't see that coming from fifty pages away, I don't really know what to tell you.

Ness plays this game with you in the narrative. Is it real? Not real? Does it matter? (I want to make a Peeta Mellark joke here, I am restraining myself.) And while I can understand what he was going for, it's not a choice I respected. It started to feel like we were trying just a bit too hard.

Which is a real shame. Because there are moments of sheer brilliance hidden away in here. The first 160 pages, as I mentioned, but also the slow unraveling of what had happened. The dynamics and interplay between characters was so strong, so real. I would literally read an entire book about Tomasz.

And that's part of why I think I'm so torn. Because I am so disappointed. Even as we hit the weird Twilight Zone-esque happenings, I was still prepared to go along for the ride. But it just continued to devolve.

I was genuinely frustrated by this book as I finished it. Unsatisfied, not because of the open ending, but because of the wasted potential. This was not a book with answers. Which I get. But instead of being a poignant tale about a young boy coming to terms with his life and death, it ended up as a overwrought cliched mess.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Top 5 Wednesday || Series I Won't Finish

So, if you didn't know, Top 5 Wednesday is primarily a BookTube feature. Started by Lainey @ gingerreadlainey, there's a Goodreads group as well.

This week's topic is not actually the one I'm posting about today. But I saw the video responses floating around online this past week or so and thought, "Yeah, I wanna do that."

So here I am.

And here are the list of the Top 5 Series I Won't Finish.

1. The Syrena Legacy by Anna Banks
This book was too little substance for my tastes. I couldn't stand any of the characters and some super problematic elements were treated as perfectly acceptable. I have no desire to continue and, in fact, donated my copy of this book pretty much immediately after I was finished it.

2. The Firelight trilogy by Sophie Jordan
This one doesn't bring up as visceral feelings as the previous series. But it wasn't particularly memorable. My review on Goodreads wonders if I would've even bothered finishing the book had I not been stuck on an airplane for many hours. So.

3. The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner
Maybe not a super unpopular opinion, because I know this series has mixed reviews--but I figured it was fitting given the film adaptation is upon us. While the premise was intriguing there was too much "everyone knows something you don't know" nonsense. I couldn't make it through this. I looked up some spoilers online and wasn't too disappointed I'd decided to drop this. (I will be seeing the movie though.)

4. The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
I ended up skimming about 75% of this book. It just never captured my attention. I can't remember if it was the characters or writing style or both that aggravated me. But given that this is a six book series, I can't be bothered to invest in something I didn't care about.

5. The Last Werewolf trilogy by Glen Duncan
A recent read (and review to follow). This was just too "male power fantasy" for me. Yuck. Though I am interested in Tallula's story, I think I'd want it to be written by someone else. This checks off too many boxes on the "super problematic representation of women" list. So bye.

How about you? Any series you're not finishing? Read any of these and think I should give them another chance? (Or not!) Let's chat in the comments!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Review || Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1) by Paolo Bacigalupi ★★☆☆☆
In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars again. It's not as though I didn't like the book, but I'm not totally sure if it was really beyond "okay".

2.5 stars?

I don't want to undersell this book. It's definitely not a bad one. The writing style is tight, the story is gripping and fast paced. I read 60% of the book in one sitting without really trying. It definitely embodies the descriptor "page-turner".

But it wasn't that great. The world was interesting. The conflict compelling. But I felt this sort of detachment from the characters. Nailer was a decent protagonist, but I never really loved him. The other characters existed mostly two-dimensionally in the background. Even the one's Nailer has strong feelings about. I don't know, I was interested in the story but never invested.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it, though. It's an interesting and highly plausible take on dystopia. I'm glad to have read it, but I don't think it's one I'd probably ever come back to again.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Seriously Series Update 3

I'm having a hard time believing we're 3/4 of the way through the year. But that means it's time for another Seriously Series Challenge Update! This is hosted over at Reading the Paranormal.

My current running list can be found here and things continue to truck along. I knew when I started that I'd never get through all the books, but it's nice to have a list of the series I want to be getting through. I've made some additions and omissions over the past few months, because I've picked up series I want to continue and dropped ones that I'm not that keen on.


Series Started Before 2014
I broke this down into two categories: continuing (I need to read a few or the new release) and resuming (I read the first book so long ago I need to start over).

I'm basically a failure at the restarting series side of things, because there are too many other books I want to read. But oh well!

  • The Grisha by Leigh Bardugo
    • Ruin and Rising
(Sadly, I wasn't super thrilled with the ending! It was all right, but I felt like it could've delivered so much more!)

Series Started In 2014
I've sort of slowed down in this category this quarter. It really all boils down to the problem every book lover has, "too many books, not enough time!"
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
    • Ship Breaker
  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
    • Falling Kingdoms
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
    • Throne of Glass
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
    • The 5th Wave
I'm probably going to be dropping the Ship Breaker series, to be honest. I wasn't that keen on book one and despite the fact that it's only a duology, I don't really have any desire to read book 2 any time soon.

Falling Kingdoms was a bit of a disappointment too, actually. Not as bad, because I'll definitely be reading on in the series, but I felt let down. It was trying too hard to be a YA version of A Game of Thrones I think.

I loved Throne of Glass and have heard the series only gets better from here. So I can't wait to continue it. And I'm excited to read The Infinite Sea as well, since that was just released. Though I've heard pretty mixed reviews about it so far....

Overall Results
A lot of first books this quarter and not a lot of completion (save The Grisha trilogy). But a number of next books or series concluders are due out this fall and winter, so hopefully I'll jump on those right away! I'm especially looking forward to the 3rd Raven Cycle book, the conclusion of The Darkest Minds and more of The Lunar Chronicles

What series are you reading right now? How are they going? Any thoughts about these books? Let's chat in the comments!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

September Book Haul

With the acquisition and assembly of my new bookshelves for my new place, it was only really a matter of time before I bought a ton of new books to go on it!

This month totals 15 books, but because I bought these either second hand or through BookOutlet, it didn't do that big of a dent in my finances.


Value Village
Already Read

This is the second copy of The Book Thief that I've purchased. I loaned my original copy to a friend and don't have any idea when I might see it again. So I bought another copy to have. It'll end up in my classroom library if I get the original back.

And though I usually only buy books I really loved, I decided to get The Knife of Never Letting Go because I feel as though I ought to give it another try. We'll see!

TBR Pile

Two second books in a series I already have the first books for, and two first books in a series I've been meaning to read. How can you say no at bargain prices?

Already Read

I read Elsewhere earlier this year and basically did not stop crying throughout it. So I knew I had to own it. And I impulse bought the first two books of The Grisha trilogy in hardcover because a) they were cheap b) I actually don't care that much for the paperback version of Siege and Storm and c) I want to round the collection off with Ruin and Rising stat. So the old paperback I have of Shadow and Bone goes to my classroom library.

TBR Pile

Oops. Yeah, I kind of went overboard here. But they were all so cheap and I needed some retail therapy okay? I'm probably the most excited for Old Man's War because I loved Redshirts by John Scalzi and have been meaning to read his other work.

So that's that haul! Have you read any of these? What did you think? Any good book purchases this month? Let's chat in the comments!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

September Wrap Up & October TBR

Yowza! I've surpassed yet another reading goal for this year! This is actually bordering on insanity right now. I've upped my goal again to 88--which might seem like a random number, but there's a method to this madness, I swear. Before this year, I'd only ever topped out at 44 books in one year. That had been my maximum. So, the new goal 88 will be exactly double! Aah!

Also, I have an IRL friend who told me in June she was sort of competing with me, trying to read just as many, if not more, books than I was. We're friends on Goodreads too, so I've been keeping an eye on her challenge. Before, she was always a handful of books behind me, but now I'm only one book ahead of her! Better get reading!!


Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown 
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han 
Reality Boy by AS King 
The Last Werewolf (The Last Werewolf #1) by Glen Duncan 
Shattered Souls (Souls #1) by Mary Lindsey 
Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronciles #1) by Jessica Spotswood 
The Gathering Storm (Katerina #1) by Robin Bridges 
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn 
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein 

GOODREADS: 78/88 [+9]
ALPHABET: 20/26 [+0]
SERIES: 9 complete [+0]; 8 ongoing [+0]


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Old Man's War (Old Man's War #1) by John Scalzi
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

A number of the Goodreads groups I'm part of this month are reading books that are either on my shelves, or that I really wanted to read anyway. So I actually have a reasonable goal for my TBR this month.

Another book that I want to read but doesn't exactly fit into these two categories is The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I'm borrowing a copy of it from a friend and it's been calling to me these past few days. So I'd like to read it in October!

How did your September reading go? What was your favourite book? What are your plans for October? Got any spooky books to recommend? Let's chat in the comments!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review || Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes ★★★☆☆
AURANOS - Privileged Princess Cleo is forced to confront violence for the first time in her life when a shocking murder sets her kingdom on a path to collapse.

LIMEROS - The king’s son, Magnus, must plan each footstep with shrewd, sharp guile if he is to earn his powerful father’s trust, while his sister, Lucia, discovers a terrifying secret about her heritage that will change everything.

PAELSIA - Rebellious Jonas lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Witches, if found, are put to death, and Watchers, immortal beings who take the shape of hawks to visit the human world, have been almost entirely forgotten. A vicious power struggle quickly escalates to war, and these four young people collide against each other and the rise of elementia, the magic that can topple kingdoms and crown a ruler in the same day.

I don't know if it was the hype or that my expectations were too high, but this fell short for me.

Not that short, as you'll notice from the 3 star rating. But this book was just average for me. I liked it well enough but it never was amazing.

Maybe I'm comparing it harshly to its adult fantasy counterparts, but this felt overly simplistic to me. Things were very easy and convenient. I don't mean that as though the characters had it easy, because oh boy, that's the opposite of true. But for a book that set the stage to have a broad scope the whole thing felt very narrowly focused. Does that make any sense?

There were hints of the sweeping grandeur that you'd expect from fantasy, but it was never fully realized. Now, that said, this is the first of a planned series. It is very clearly the set up book for something more. And I don't mind that. I knew that going in.

And I liked this book well enough to want to know where this all goes. But I still had issues with it.

There were some really predictable plot points and deaths. On the flip side there were a few deaths that were very shocking. I'll be honest, the body count in this book is way higher than I expected! Which is something I really enjoyed (and also makes me sound like a psychopath).

The characters seem to lack depth. They're very reactionary. The plot happens to them instead of having them drive the plot. Now, you can argue that means there's room for growth, which I'm totally in for. And also that they're kids in the world of kings. Which is also true. But holy man, is every adult leader in this book super messed up or is that just me? I just found myself baffled by some of the choices made here.

There's also this weird pseudo-incest plot that I'm struggling with the necessity of. I mean, I get that A Song of Ice and Fire did it. But that never made any allusions that it was anything other than super messed up. Here it's sort of played of as (SPOILER) "She's not really your sister so.... that's okay."

Wait. What.

I just didn't find it necessary? (Though, admittedly, Magnus is not much as as a character if you take that away. Back to the lack of depth thing.)

And the ladies in this book. Ugh. Just. Why. I need Lucia to become a character in her own right. With her own complex motives. Right now, she's a walking plot device that occasionally talks. It's frustrating because I think she has so much potential. And Cleo... well, I understand her, but I don't particularly like her. I think given all the strife she's gone through at the end of this book, the set up is there for her to become very interesting. But for the most part she just wasn't doing it for me.

The other problem is that Rhodes has obviously tried to make everyone flawed and blur the lines between good and bad, it makes most of the main group of 4 hard to like. The girls suffer from being walking plot devices most of the time. I want to like Jonas but he keeps being stupid. And I have no idea why everyone has their knickers in a twist for Magnus.

I'm the most interested in Alexius, to be honest. For all the screen time he doesn't have. The whole Watchers thing is immensely intriguing.

Anyway. A decent enough start that I'll be reading book 2. I've heard it gets better and I'm hoping that holds true. We'll see.

Friday, 26 September 2014

An Update

You may have noticed that I haven't really been around these parts much lately.

Sure, my prescheduled "Waiting on Wednesday" and review posts have been coming through regularly. But there's not much else going on.

I have to apologize for that. And then, of course, explain myself.

As you may or may not know, I moved house in August. It was a hugely stressful process, but I'm finally starting to feel settled in to my new place after just over a month. (I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and don't quite know where I am... the bedroom feels strange still for some reason!)

If that wasn't enough, school of course started back up in September. I have a totally new course load this semester, as I'm teaching senior high for the first time in many years. So the stress of a new school year is compounded by the fact that I'm planning new (to me) courses and trying to get a feel for the much faster pace of senior high. (And all the tons of marking that comes with it!)

And, of course, the best for last. (And by best, I mean worst.) This past week and a bit I've been struck down by the worst cold I've ever had. ... Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I've got a pretty good immune system. So when I get sick, I get sick. And this is definitely the sickest I've been in recent memory. I had to take 2 sick days from school this week. Two! The last time I used a sick day period was June 2010. This does not happen to me.

The reading slump I've been in since moving is getting better. I'm at least on track to read a fairly average number of books this month. (The total looks like it's going to be about 7, which is great.) And I'm generally pretty excited about reading things off my bookshelf. It helps that I have new shelves and everything is visible now. I occasionally will just sit and stare at the shelves lovingly. I'm probably going to have to post some pictures soon!

So! All that to say, I've been absent here lately and I'm sorry for it. I really want to get back into things and post some new content and interact with people again.

Thanks for sticking around despite my relative radio silence. Here's to things getting back to normal!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
September 30, 2014
New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

If you couldn't tell already, I'm really intrigued by retellings. And even though it's a little hazy now, I do remember having some sort of fixation with The Nutcracker as a child. There was a TV movie, I think. I watched it a lot.

This retelling sounds dark and moody. And truthfully, I can't wait!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review || The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1) by Rick Yancey ★★★★★
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.

Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

If you haven't read this book yet, you pretty much need to ignore that synopsis because it does not do this book any justice.

Because even though Cassie is a major player (and most of the book is told from her perspective) this is not just her story. This book is told in multiple POVs with an exceptional ensemble cast. Yancey knows when to pull away from one storyline and when to give you the close ups. He knows how to dangle the information just out of your grasp and make you work for it.

Every time I thought I knew where this book was going I was wrong.

I don't think I have ever cursed at an author so profusely as I did whilst reading this book. Yancey drops bits of information for you and gives you time to digest them. Enough time for your brain to sprout up any number of red herrings. He makes you think you know what's going on only to pull back the curtain yet again.

Seriously. There is this amazing double bluff plot point going on at the core of this book that just blew my freaking mind. It was so good.

This isn't a perfect book. The romance that springs up in the middle doesn't feel totally authentic. At least, not from Cassie's POV. From Evan's, I can totally believe the insta-love thing. I don't know. It's probably because we actually got his POV about the whole thing. I know some people have had issues with it. And I can understand why it might not ring true for them.

There also is a criminal lack of ladies in this book. Despite Cassie being one of our major main characters, another female character of import isn't introduced until much much later. The secondary females seem to exist only to be fridged for male character angst. And I don't think this book passes the Bechdel test. (It might, between Ringer and Teacup, but I can't remember and I don't think so.)

Still, I am quibbling about details in an otherwise exceptional book. It was really really good. Like throw across the room I can't handle it good. Hence the rating. Definitely recommended!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
September 23, 2014
Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings...

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

I'll be honest, I've heard mixed things about this one. Some people really love it and some people have felt that it would've been stronger if it had just been Lizzie's story, instead of both.

Still, the basic premise of this is that Darcy writes a novel during NaNoWriMo and sells it. As a WriMo myself, that's obviously the dream, regardless of how realistic it is. So I'm intrigued about Darcy's story. Her process and her writing. And her novel sounds super intriguing as well.

I think this is one of those books where you have to decide for yourself how you feel about it. So I'm interested in giving it a try!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review || Fractured by Teri Terry

Fractured (Slated #2) by Teri Terry ★★★☆☆
Kyla has been Slated—her personality wiped blank, her memories lost to her forever. Or so she thought. She shouldn’t be able to remember anything. But increasingly she can—and she’s discovering that there are a lot of dark secrets locked away in her memories. When a mysterious man from her past comes back into her life and wants her help, she thinks she’s on her way to finding the truth. But this new knowledge lands her in the middle of a tug-of-war between two dangerous adversaries, and despite her misgivings about both of them, she’s forced to choose a side for her own protection.

Eh. I'm waffling between 2 and 3 stars for this one. It just wasn't as good as its predecessor.

That's not to say it wasn't good, but it never really gripped me like Slated did.

The pacing was a bit weird too... not really anything I can put my finger on, but still.

The twists never really surprised me, but that's not entirely a bad thing. Some of them were properly foreshadowed and definitely made me feel clever to have figured them out. Others suffered in their reveals from the aforementioned pacing issues.

The relationships in this book were also really lacklustre. It's not even the whole "not knowing who to trust" thing. But they felt a lot more superficial this time around.

Kyla too was a bit too all over the place for me in her narrative. Which, okay, given the whole plot here is understandable. But it just wasn't done satisfactorily for me.

I'm still interested in book 3, but I'm not going to hustle to get my hands on a copy.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither

Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither
September 16, 2014
When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement. Like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

This is the month of gorgeous covers and standalone novels, I feel, because look at that. 

Also, man, I am so here for a cloning plot line. Especially when there's protest involved. As you might've guessed, I'm a sucker for the whole "things are more than they seem" plot device. I'm hoping this book delves into some tough stuff--like the idea of personhood. I can't wait!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review || It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini ★★★☆☆
Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life--which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job--Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he's just average, and maybe not even that. He starts earning mediocre grades and sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping--until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new roommate is an Egyptian schoolteacher who refuses to get out of bed. His neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

General spoilers for the book in this review. 
Read at your own risk!

I liked this book.

But that's about as far as it goes. Just "like". 3 stars.

What starts off as a raw and honest look at depression gets a little derailed by romantic entanglements by the end.

Craig is relateable. Overwhelmed by academic pressures and spiraling into suicidal thoughts. I understand the pressures he is experiencing, because I too was concerned about my grades--though not nearly to the same extent. I saw a bit of myself in Craig, and at times it made my gut churn.

The book offers a relatively realistic look at therapy and hospitalization. (I say this given my limited experience with both, but having seen some of the process because my mother deals with both anxiety and depression.) However, despite Craig's understanding that this is only the beginning upon his discharge, five days seemed like an unrealistic turn around time. Though, I did appreciate the open endedness.

Craig's family is another one of the high points for me in this book. Wonderfully supportive and doing the best they can to help. It was nice to see.

Still, the book is not without flaws. The treatment of a trans* character in this book was deplorable and made me very uncomfortable. What's worse was that it didn't really seem to do anything to further the story. It was just a throwaway moment for... what? Comedy? Supremely unfunny.

And I think the whole thing would've been stronger without any of the romance. Sure, including Craig getting over Nia is an important step in his recovery, but I don't think he needed to make out with her in the hospital.

Noelle seemed to be a last minute love interest thrown in for the sake of Craig having some prize to obtain at the end of his struggle. She shows a lot of potential during her few short appearances, but is generally done a disservice by the narrative.

So. 3 stars. I liked it. I'd encourage others to give it a try and see for themselves.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

August Book Haul

So! It's book haul time again.

TBR Pile

I actually bought this the day it came out in July... but surprisingly it was the only book I bought in July! So I'm including it here. I haven't read this yet and I don't know why.

Already Read

TBR Pile

I went on a roadtrip with a few friends at the beginning of August down to the US. And so naturally we checked out ever book seller we could find. I'd never been to Hastings before, but holy smokes, I was not disappointed by their selection!

I picked up the Wool omnibus because I'd read it originally on my Kobo and liked it enough to want a physical copy. (And also, everything here was super cheap!)

The other books were mostly impulse buys because I knew something about them and they were inexpensive. But BONUS, the Morgan Matson book (despite being used) was SIGNED! I think I paid $5 for it! Woo-hoo!

Barnes & Noble
Already Read

TBR Pile

I also had my first Barnes & Noble excursion! Yay. I picked up The Coldest Girl in Coldtown because I really enjoyed it and wanted a physical copy for my shelf. (Which--eek! I have new bookshelves! Pictures forthcoming!)

Now, Les Miserables has a bit of a story behind it. In case you didn't know, I was basically raised on the 10th Anniversary Dream Cast Recording of the Les Mis musical. And I've been meaning to read the source material for a while now. But as I got more into the fandom, I started learning a few things that the musical had left out. One of which became my love for Enjolras and Grantaire. When the barricade falls, there's a line Grantaire says to Enjolras, "Permets tu?" which translates to "Do you permit it?" Which is sort of a hallmark of the pairing in the fandom. So I've been scouring translations of "the brick" for one that has "Do you permit it?" in it. AND LO. I finally found it. 

Which is a long explanation for a single book, I know, but indulge me!

Thankfully, it's the end of the haul now, so! Have you read any of these? Bought any good books this past month? Let's chat in the comments!