Friday, 28 February 2014

Friday Faves || Favourite Ensembles

So I haven't done one of these in a long time, for which I apologize. You can check out the main Friday Faves page to see what I've posted previously along with ideas for future topics. Feel free to jump in and link me any time!

I got this idea from saidthestory over on Youtube. She did a video about her top 5 favourite literary casts (which you can find here). I love me some ensemble casts, so I decided to do a post of my own. It doesn't hurt that I've been reading some amazing series lately!

The Belgariad Series by David Eddings ★★★★☆
Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved--but did not know...?

A high fantasy series of five books: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician's Gambit, Castle of Wizardry and Enchanter's End Game.

We primarily follow Garion, who is a young boy when the story begins. But as things continue to unfold, he ends up gathering with him quite the crew. I remember gushing about the series to my friend who'd first recommended it--about how I loved all the characters. They were all so different and unique. It's one of the first times I remember loving an entire cast of characters like that.

It's been a while since I read these though. But just talking about it makes me want to reread the series again. If you're a little wary of high fantasy, these books are a nice introduction to the genre as well--they're not difficult to follow!

The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater ★★★★☆
Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there—known as Raven Boys—can only mean trouble. When Gansey and his Raven Boy friends come into her life, Blue realizes how true this is. She never thought her fortune would be a problem. But she was wrong.

A young adult urban fantasy series of four books: The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves are the only two currently published.

With the series revolving around Blue and her four Raven boys (Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah) there is a lot of main characters to love. And while each of these five mains are diverse and flawed and compelling in their own right, there's also a pile of secondary characters who add depth and life to this world. It makes everything feel real.

The first book took me completely by surprise when I read it. It is so unlike anything else I've ever read, especially in the YA genre. Some people complain about it being complicated and difficult to follow, but just go with it--you'll get the hang of it.

The Darkest Minds Trilogy by Alexandra Bracken ★★★★☆
A near-future thriller Young Adult series about a 16-year-old girl named Ruby with special abilities that she has only just begun to understand who breaks out of the “rehabilitation camp” in which she has been imprisoned and teams up with a rag-tag group of fellow camp escapees to find the Slip Kid, a leader who offers shelter to young people in danger and who possesses the secret to controlling one’s powers.

A young adult dystopian trilogy: The Darkest Minds and Never Fade are the only two published currently.

I'll admit, it took me some time to get into this book series. The first 80-100 pages of book 1 were slow going. But then Ruby breaks away from camp and meets all sorts of characters. Once Liam, Zu and Chubs were on the scene, I became desperately attached to everyone. Even Ruby, who initially was not doing it for me, grew on me as she herself began to grow and change. Book 2 adds even more interesting personalities to the mix and overall it's hard not to like them. (Or absolutely despise, in the case of some of the antagonists.)

It's a different take on "super powers" with a bleak outlook. But I absolutely cannot wait for book 3!

Vicious by VE Schwab ★★★★★
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

An adult sci-fi standalone novel.

Legitimately, the subtitle of this book should be: EVERYONE IS SO MESSED UP. This is such a brilliantly twisted tale. You can't help but get attached to Victor and his ragtag crew. Even though you know he's a terrible human being. There's depth to these characters. So much so that you understand the rationale behind even the most sinister of plots.

Another "super power" twist that will leave you reeling. So good!

The Lunar Chronicles Series by Marissa Meyer ★★★★★
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

A young adult futuristic series of four books: Cinder, Scarlet and Cress are currently published.

You guys, this is fast becoming my favourite series of all time. And it's in large part to do with the incredible cast of characters that inhabits this series. With each book we're introduced to more characters and instead of feeling overwhelming, it actually makes things come together. I am so desperately attached to every one of the main characters and am possibly going to die of anticipation of book 4 (Winter, 2015).

You just need to read this series okay? Okay.

And that's it! My top 5. Have you read any of these series? What did you think of them? Do you have favourite casts of characters? Let me know!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review || Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1) by Kasie West ★★★★☆
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

I have to admit, I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected to. In the end, I gave it 3.5 stars. It had its flaws and never really defied my expectations or anything, but I found myself much more absorbed in the writing than I'd expected.

I have to admit, that I went into this book knowing very little about it. I knew about Addie's ability to see multiple timelines--but that was about it. The book was better in some ways, I think, because I knew almost nothing else.

The concept here is really fascinating to me, and that remained one of the book's strong points. I was also pleasantly surprised by the whole Compound thing. I didn't realize going in that people besides Addie had powers. That said, I sort of wish the worldbuilding had been fleshed out a bit more. You see glimpses of it here and there, but really for the most part this book is a contemporary romance disguised as paranormal science fiction-y. Which, there's nothing wrong with that, but I really dig some good worldbuilding.

As the different paths unfold chapters are told from alternating timelines. At first, I wasn't sure if I liked that choice or if I was going to be able to follow it. But West actually does a really good job keeping things clear. I always knew what timeline we were in. And it ended up being really neat seeing the similarities and differences contrasted back to back.

As the main conflict comes to a climax--I don't know that it was rushed, per se, but it felt like it all went down quickly. Some of that was the tension, building and building to the point where I was flipping pages madly. But it started to unravel a bit more me as Addie had to make her choice. And it was an interesting one, to say the least.

My list of book boyfriends is growing by leaps and bounds these days, because I have to add Trevor to the list. I adored him from the first mention and ugh!

Overall, definitely a fun one. I'll certainly be picking up the sequel Split Second.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Top 10 Tuesday || Series TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a new category every week!

This week is rewind, meaning you get to pick whatever previous category you want. Since one of my goals is to actually complete the series I start this year, I thought I'd do my Top 10 Series TBR.

1. The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas
YA high fantasy series (not trilogy!) about assassins? I'm super in. Let's do this.

2. The Falling Kingdoms Series by Morgan Rhodes
More YA high fantasy series? Yes please.

3. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
Adult fantasy this time. I've been meaning to get around to this for quite some time now.

4. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
With book 3 coming out this year, I need to get to Siege and Storm immediately.

5. The Darkest Minds Trilogy by Alexandra Bracken
I'm all caught up with this series, but anxiously awaiting the release of book 3 later this year!

6. The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater
Another series that I'm caught up on but can't wait for book 3!

7. The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
I read book 1 a long time ago and loved it. I have no idea why I haven't continued this series!

8. The Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott
I read Cold Magic quite a while back and loved it. I'll need a refresher, but I can't wait to continue this.

9. The Others Series by Anne Bishop
Book 2, Murder of Crows, comes out this year and I absolutely cannot wait!

10. The Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
Saving the best for last. Dreams of Gods & Monsters comes out in April to round out this trilogy. Eek!

Have you read any of these? Looking forward to the new releases? What other series are you dying to read/finish? Let me know! And link me to you TTT!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Love for Books Readathon Wrap Up!

Another readathon comes to a close. I'm starting to hope that I can come across one of these every month, because they give me the best boost in my reading. (Which is code for: point me in the direction of any and all March readathons, please.)

My goals were:
  • Read 2 books
  • Write reviews
I ended up reading 3 books and posting 3 reviews! Which came to a grand total of 1,286 pages! (Which is 73 more pages than the Bout of Books readathon in January.)

You can see my updates post here. As well as my reviews for Vicious, The Impossible Knife of Memory and Cress.

What a fantastic week!

Did you participate in this readathon? How did it go? If you didn't, what did you read this week? Let me know!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review || Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer ★★★★★
In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

4.5 stars. This series is fast becoming one of my favourite series--perhaps of all time.

When I picked up Cinder last fall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I'd been putting it off for one silly reason or another, but was easily hooked. Scarlet was a Christmas present, which I devoured last month. It was another step up, even better than its predecessor.

Cress continues that upward climb.

With each new book, Meyer adds new characters. And for some, the sheer number of characters to keep track of would render their book a scrambled, inconsistent mess. But not so for Meyer. She continues to defy my expectations and not only make the characters and their stories fit perfectly with the already established narrative, but to make me care about them too.

I love ensemble casts, and Meyer does it all so very well in Cress. The point of view switches let you keep track of everyone, but never become disjointed. Every character has a distinct voice, so it's clear where you are and who you're following. In moments of high tension there's just enough of a break from that point of view to have you turning the pages, racing to find out what happens.

I laughed with them. I cried with them. I am so desperately attached to them.

As I neared the last 100 pages or so of the book--as the master plan starts to come together--I found myself almost shaking with anticipation. The series has started its approach to the climax and I cannot wait to see how everything ends up turning out.

How am I ever going to survive the next 12 months without Winter?

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Diverse Opinions

One of the things that is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating about books is that our opinions on them are so subjective.

It's fascinating because with a large enough sample size a book can be considered by one person to be their favourite book of all time, while another regards it as the worst book they've ever read.

It's frustrating because you can be really looking forward to your next read because of all the hype surrounding it and be left feeling lukewarm about the whole thing.

Sometimes you have to wonder, are we all reading the same book?

We are, of course, but our individual tastes are so varied what appeals to some is the biggest turn off for others.

Still, we try and try and try to surround ourselves with like-minded people. We push our favourites upon others, hoping they'll love it as much as we did. We can be devastated when these favourites are not well received.

The reason I mention this is because of one of the people I follow on Goodreads. I've followed her for a long while now, since long before I really had much awareness about the online book blogging community. At first, I followed her reviews because she was well read and posted reviews often. Now, I continue to follow her because we have almost diametrically opposite tastes in books.

That seems a little odd, right? Books I love, she tends to hate. The first time this happened, I was pretty wounded. How could she trash this book I loved like that? In a fit of angst that was not at all age appropriate, I considered unfollowing her out of spite.

Like that would've done anything other than make me feel childishly vindicated. With over 7000 friends and followers my absence wouldn't have been noticed.

I decided to cool down instead. Let it pass. When it happened again, I swallowed my pride and read through the scathing review carefully. To my surprise, I realized that I understood her complaints. The problems she pointed out were reasonable, and upon reflection I could see where she was coming from. It was just that those aspects hadn't bothered me in the slightest.


We get worked up when people speak poorly about the things we love and enjoy. As we should. But we also tend to take things far too personally. Poor reviews aren't an attack or a reflection of the people who enjoy them. They're simply a reminder that we're all individuals.

I still follow this person on Goodreads. Hilariously, when I'm interested in reading a book and see that she's rated it poorly, I'm that much more willing to add it to my tbr. Since we have such opposite tastes. This method has worked out surprisingly well for the most part.

It's also interesting to note that the reverse isn't always true. There have been a few times when I've checked out a book she's loved only to be indifferent towards it. Most of the time, I've really enjoyed the books she praises highly. And more than that, they tend to be a different sort of book than something I might have checked out on my own.

And therein lies my point: diversity.

It's good to be surrounded by people who have similar tastes. But sometimes I think we get too comfortable in our little bubbles like this. With everyone reading and liking and recommending similar types of books, it can almost feel like a little bit of a circle jerk at times. Or, at least, that's been my experience.

By being open to the opinions of people with different tastes, it can also open up the doors to books, authors and genres that you may never have considered before. I discovered one of my favourite authors because I followed my seemingly polar opposite on Goodreads.

Sure, this won't always work. Sometimes people's tastes are just too different. And you shouldn't continually subject yourself to reading that is just not your thing.

But I think it's equally as important to give it a try. To step outside of that safety bubble, your comfort zone, and see something different.

What do you think about all of this? Let me know!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Review || The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson ★★★★☆
For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?

There was a teeny tiny part of me that was slightly... disappointed isn't the right word exactly, but let's go with it... "disappointed" that this book didn't have a single word title like the other Laurie Halse Anderson books. And then I promptly got over that because how freaking gorgeous is this title? It's so evocative.

Just like the book itself. Anderson knows what she's doing and she continues to prove that. She writes some of the best hard hitting YA... ever. Period.

Now, I only have Speak and Wintergirls under my belt as Anderson reads before this, but I still had high expectations. Anderson has a reputation. And she does not disappoint. (Not even with the title.)

Since I started blogging, I've taken to making plus/minus lists for a book after I've read them so I can cobble together a review. I started one for this book... drew the table, wrote + and then - and then AH

And that's really as far as I've gotten. This book was just so good. So raw and so real. The characters in this book all have their own sets of problems and their own ways of dealing. Their lives are messy and complex and they feel like people you know, not just characters on a page.

Hayley is witty and fun, but carries her own demons. She struggles to take care of her father and watches helplessly when he falls apart. She was a great narrator, the combination of her quick wit and desperate struggles kept me turning the pages. "One more chapter. Okay, just one more chapter." It was hard to put the book down because it all unspooled before me so easily and readily. One thing after another after another. It felt more like watching a movie than reading a book.

I have to tack on a tiny bit of fangirling over Finn. I adored him as a character and as a love interest. Other book bloggers talk about having book boyfriends... and I almost feel like I know what they're talking about now, having met Finn. (And okay, Levi from Fangirl too. But it's a small list.)

I think I've run out of praise for this book that doesn't just devolve into, "AH SO GOOD READ IT" so I'll stop there. But if you're familiar with Anderson's work (and especially if you're not!) pick this up. It will meet all your high expectations.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review || Vicious by VE Schwab

Vicious by VE Schwab ★★★★★
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

I don't even know what to say about this book. It was just so good.

I mentioned shades of grey in my recent review of Prodigy, but that ain't got nothing on this. You're rooting for Victor while completely aware of the fact that he is the farthest thing from "the good guy". In fact, everyone in this book is so messed up. It's part of what makes the book so wonderful. There are no good guys or bad guys and this isn't your typical superhero fare. Everyone is twisted and ruthless and terrible.

I loved this book from the first page. The writing is evocative and atmospheric. Schwab gives you breadcrumbs with her out of chronological order narrative in the first half of the book. She reveals the world and its characters slowly and masterfully. So much so that it's a genuine pleasure when things start to slot together.

Books with ensemble casts tend to be my favourite, and there is quite the cast of characters in Vicious. Each one has their own story, which you learn slowly. And each one has their own motivations. Thrust together by chance and circumstance (and occasionally piss poor decision making) Schwab blends their backstories together effortlessly. You get to peer into their heads and it's difficult not to get attached.

The world Schwab has built feels alive and real. The explanations she gives behind EOs (ExtraOrdinarys) and how exactly their powers manifest is really cool. But more than that, there are little ticks and traits that she gives her characters that make them feel real. She turns tropes on their heads. (Can we talk about how much I adored Mitch as the big, burly and super intelligent one? UGH. YES.)

One thing I wish we'd seen more of was Victor's "poetry". This might not make much sense unless you've read the book, but when you actually get to see his blacked out work... I nearly threw the book across the room, it was so good.

I won't really give away any more than that, except to leave you with his quote:
“Be lost. Give up. Give In. in the end It would be better to surrender before you begin. be lost. Be lost And then you will not care if you are ever found.”   
Read this book. You won't regret it.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Love for Books Readathon

I was just thinking that I needed another readathon. After Bout of Books in January was responsible for me having one of the best reading months ever. This readathon is being hosted by Novel Heartbeat and Confessions of a Bookie Monster.

I'm going to run this much like I did with Bout of Books and use this post as my sign up and tracking post... so check back for updates! I'll probably finish with a wrap up as well.

My Goals:
  • Read (at least) 2 (of these) books
    • Vicious by VE Schwab
    • Winger by Andrew Smith
    • Cress by Marissa Meyer
    • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Post reviews of any books read

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Review || Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu

Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu ★★★☆☆
Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic's most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots - a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

If Legend was 3.5 stars rounded up, I think Prodigy would have to be 3.5 stars rounded down. But still 3.5, don't get me wrong.

There was so much about this book that I really liked. Revolutions! Covert operations! Shades of moral grey! More conspiracies! But the pacing was just not doing it for me. The book never really gripped me until the last 80 pages or so. But because it was so late in the book the whole climax felt a little rushed.

That said this was a book that I did enjoy overall. I marathoned this book all weekend and am really glad I had it on hand to pick up right after I finished Legend. As I mentioned in the Legend review, it was so clear that this was a series. Prodigy almost literally picks up right where Legend left off. If you haven't started this series yet, I'd recommend picking up at least these first two books as a set and reading them back-to-back. It helped the overall flow for me.

But with the way Prodigy ends, I'm not entirely sure what exactly we're going to be left doing in Champion? Sure, the ending is open and ambiguous. And there is one final little twist thrown in right at the very end--but that almost seems like an afterthought? And I'm not entirely convinced that the plot of Champion is going to be centred around it?

Another dislike... or maybe you could call it a squick... Some of the "relationships" that pop up in this book (and are in Legend as well) are just really not doing it for me. Day and June are not even 16. Tess is 13, and while I could buy her thing for Day being written off as puppy love, it's sort of presented as almost a legitimate option in the narrative for a bit? And that's just. No. I can't. The same with June and Thomas. Thomas is implied to be Metias' age, right? He's at least 18 but is probably close to a decade older. He's not really a viable option, but the narrative doesn't play the age thing off as all that creepy. Nope. No. Just don't.

Even Anden's thing for June sort of squicks me a bit. Not as much for whatever reason, but she's fifteen.

That said, a lot of that could be fixed with aging some of these characters up. Have June and Day be 18. I'm not sure exactly why they're 15. It's not really that crucial to the plot? Regardless.

One final thing I need to mention, but this time as a total plus. (Highlight for spoilers)

THE COLONIES. Oh my gosh. The digs at capitalism. AH. It was just so good. I had to pause a few times and slap my hand over my mouth. I cannot even explain. It was just so wonderful. Such a good twist!

Overall, still enjoyable, but it's sort of not really meeting all my expectations? I have to wait a bit for Champion now because I'm third on a hold list at the public library. I'll be happy to have read this series, but it's not really shaping up to be a favourite. Which is slightly disappointing.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Review || Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu ★★★★☆
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

I've got my new rating system firmly in mind as I write this review. So with that in mind, I think this is probably a rounded up 3.5 star book. It was good, don't get me wrong, and I enjoyed the heck out of it, but it never quite broke into really good territory.

That said, I did basically read most of this in one night. So do what you will with that information.

Legend has been on my radar for a while now, but I was recently reading something on The Midnight Garden about the author and she mentioned that she had been inspired by Les Miserables for this book.

Hold the phone. Stop the presses. Shut down everything. Les Mis is like my favourite musical of all time. (Shush, I haven't had the heart to brave the actual book yet. There's a reason its fans affectionately call it "The Brick".) But no, really, my sister and I grew up on the 10th anniversary edition of the musical and it is definitely a formative piece of my childhood.

So with that information in mind, Legend shuffled its way up to the top of my tbr pile quite quickly.

That said, this book still had some flaws, but they were all flaws I'm willing to forgive because it was still an enjoyable read.

The chapters in the book alternate perspectives, and I've seen people complain about how June and Day didn't have different voices. If I reflect critically on this, I don't think those people are wrong. Thankfully, I was engrossed enough in the story that this didn't bother me.

Also, I have to gripe just a little about the insta-love. I'm more of a slow-burn romance kind of girl, so insta-love usually puts me right off. Insta-lust, I can buy, but this is YA not New Adult. Sigh. That said, again, I'm willing to dole out a lot of forgiveness on the grounds that I liked this book. But still.

Because you guys, government conspiracies. I am so in. Granted, the twists and turns this book took weren't particularly original or shocking, but I still liked watching the pieces fall into place. I liked the way Lu handed out snippets of information about this world. How I grew to understand exactly what was going on here and how I started to suspect some of the why. Some of the violent parts of this book were just so brutal they actually genuinely shocked me.

And this book did a great job tugging at my heartstrings with the familial relations. Parents and siblings and ugh, I nearly cried several times during this book--including once right at the beginning. (I always count crying as a good sign!)

That said, this didn't really feel like a complete book. At just over 300 pages, it clocks in short compared to some of the stuff I've been reading lately. And I understand why it was left off the way it did, but it leaves too many things open to stand on its own. It is so obviously part of a series. And while that doesn't particularly bother me as I have Prodigy sitting right next to it, ready to go, I think that would've annoyed me had I read this without the sequel queued up.

All in all, I'm really excited to continue this series and see where it goes. (And I kind of need an Enjolras equivalent in the Patriots or something, yes/yes?)

Book Ratings

So, I'm trying out a new rating system. I've always known that my ratings on Goodreads were probably overly generous. Especially since according to Goodreads 3 stars is "I liked it" and my 3 stars used to be "it was okay", which should be a Goodreads 2.

I decided to go back through my read books and tweak my ratings last weekend-ish. And aside from spamming the ever-loving hell out of everyone, I think I'm a lot happier with how things look on my Goodreads page now.

I ended up going with the Goodreads standard:

  • 1 star = I didn't like it
  • 2 stars = It was okay
  • 3 stars = I liked it
  • 4 stars = I really liked it
  • 5 stars = It was amazing
And I updated my page on here to reflect that... with a few more comments. You can check it out here if you want.

But all of that got me really thinking about book ratings in general. And how swayed or not I am by things like the Goodreads average.

When I'm out and about, at the library or bookstore, and I see a book that looks interesting but I otherwise know nothing about, I whip out my phone and open the Goodreads app. I'll check out the average rating and maybe scroll through a few of the top reviews just to see what people are saying. And sometimes that's enough. If the average rating is close to a 4, I'll probably add it to the (overflowing) tbr. If not, or if a review mentions something that would really put me off, I'll leave it be.

Still, it's interesting how wrong some of that information can be. Just for fun, I went through my read shelf and sorted it by average rating--to compare those numbers to my own ratings. The books ranked from 2.80 (Re:union by Eric Liu) up to 4.54 (Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning).

That alone was interesting. Re:union was definitely a free ebook I picked up out of sheer boredom, but liked it well enough (my rating was a 3). And while I liked the Fever series as a whole, I'd probably go back and re-rate most of the books 3 out of 5 if I could remember enough about them separately to do so. My Shadowfever rating is a 4, but is probably actually 3.5 based on my new system. It was good, but certainly not the be all end all that 4.54 would have you believe.

So, what about other books? Did my tastes match up pretty well with the overall Goodreads community? Surprisingly, it's not too bad. There are a few glaring differences though.

While I only have a few books that have low averages that I really enjoyed (Firestorm by LA Graf and The Serial Killers Club by Jeff Povey) it's more often a problem of books I could not stand having high ratings.

The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Geir has an average over 4 stars and those books are just mediocre at best and irritating at worst for me. (I rated both books I've read 2 stars.)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling has almost a 4.40 average and that is the book that resulted in me falling out of love with Harry Potter. (My rating: 2.) So, yikes.

I've already complained excessively about Brent Weeks' Night Angel Trilogy in a previous post, but I actively disliked them (book 1 & 2 have 1 stars from me, and book 3 wasn't actually that bad but probably is at best a 2.5). All three books have over 4 stars for their averages.

And the book that booktube is certainly drooling over collectively, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin was another super miss for me. (My rating: 1 star.) I actually could not stand that book and ended up skimming a lot of it just waiting for it to get better or be over or something. Goodreads clocks it in at 4.12 average.

It's interesting, isn't it? How subjective reading tastes can be?

That said, I'm still probably going to use Goodreads averages as an initial sounding board for my choices. We're not often too far out of alignment. But this was an interesting analysis overall. It certainly made me think about rating systems in general.

What about you? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Do you find your tastes line up pretty well with others? Let me know!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Review || Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken

Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken ★★★★☆
Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

I barely even know what to tell you about this book. I accidentally read it over the weekend without meaning to. In fact, once I got started on it, I'd actually planned to savour it a little bit more--read it in chunks. But when I hit 70% done with still Sunday evening left to go, I knew I just had to finish the darn thing.

I have not wanted to stay up past my bedtime for a book in a long time. And that might sounds fairly trivial, but listen, I need my sleep. I am not happy when I don't sleep well. And not only that, I need my winding down time. I usually take close to an hour or more to get my brain to shut down at night. And that's on a normal night.

Last night, after I finished this book, I did not sleep well. The world and story were still turning around in my mind. I was restless and awake. And I knew this would happen before I decided to stay up and finish the book--and I decided I didn't care.

That's the sign of a darned good book, in my opinion.

Now, you'll notice this is not a 5 star rating. I had a very hard time trying to make that decision. I feel like this is probably 4.5 stars... and I say that with my new "harsher" rating system in mind. I really enjoyed this book. The plot just kept rolling. The depth of the world made everything so much richer. I had strong and extreme emotions about characters. (I plotted at least two gruesome deaths in my head during the course of the book. And at one point actually propped the book open on my head like a hat and wailed, "I AM SO ATTACHED TO EVERYONE.")

This book was solid. It was so good. And I read it surprisingly quickly given its not inconsiderable size at 507 pages. Despite all the ups and downs, all the rooting for and mental murdering of characters, despite all of that... it never quite tipped over into the land of 5 star material.

I laughed, I cheered, but I didn't cry. It never made me want to throw the book across the room because I couldn't stand how good it was.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is a spectacular book. And I really thoroughly enjoyed it. I would absolutely recommend this series. I'm actually seriously considering buying physical copies of this and book 1 for my book shelf (which is only a thing I do for a book I've already read if I really loved it). But I guess that I'm trying to justify a not-5 star rating.

Which I suppose is silly. It's my opinion and my rating system. But there you have it.

So so good. Give this series a chance if you haven't started it already. And if you have read this book, come wail in a corner with me about waiting until September for book 3. I could barely stand waiting a month for this one!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Book Tag || Harry Potter Spells Tag

So, I saw this tag going around before Christmas and have wanted to give it a shot. I figure since things have been a little quiet around here recently, this was a good time to do it!

This tag was created by TurtleSympathy on Youtube... with the original video here.

Onto the questions!

1. Expecto Patronum: A childhood book connected to good memories
I'm going to have to go way back with this one and talk about RL Stine's Goosebumps series. I know that might seem a little weird to connect it with good memories, since Goosebumps is the children's equivalent of horror... But Goosebumps books were one of the first times I can remember really loving reading. I devoured these books and for a while they were literally I could talk about when people mentioned books. I love reading because I loved reading Goosebumps. So.

2. Expelliarmus: A book that took you by surprise
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor. I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. Ugh, it was just so good. And the illustrations were amazing. I did a review of this book here and had to retroactively sneak it on to my top reads of 2013, that's how much I loved it!

3. Prior Incantato: The last book you read.
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier. Meh.

4. Alohamora: A book that introduced you to a genre you had not considered before.
Worldshaker by Richard Harland. When I first picked this book up, I'd assumed it was fantasy. What with the whole living on airships bit. (It was totally a cover-buy, shush!) But as I got into things, I realized it was really an alternate history book--a "what if", if you will. I hadn't really considered that before and was pleasantly surprised by the revelation. (The book itself, unfortunately falls into "just okay" territory and was kind of a waste of potential.)

5. Riddikulus: A funny book you've read.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Hilarity. Do yourself a favour and read this immediately.

6. Sonorus: A book you think everybody should know about.
Most of my favourite books already have enough hype surrounding them. So let me go a little off the beaten path and recommend a graphic novel instead--Saga by Brian K Vaughan. So so amazing. People have described it as Romeo & Juliet meets Star Wars, which isn't inaccurate, but also only just barely scratching the surface. It's a visually stunning space opera with family at the centre and lots of shades of grey. It's phenomenal.

7. Obliviate: A book or spoiler you would like to forget having read.
The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. UGH. What a waste of my life. I just did not enjoy this series at all. Truth be told, the only reason I managed to slog through the whole darn thing was because it was June and I didn't have guaranteed employment in the fall, so there was nothing else to do during exam week. I couldn't prep any courses because I didn't have a job. So it was supervise exams, clean out my room and then read. I powered through this series in two weeks because I literally had nothing else to do with my time. And I didn't enjoy it. (Logan was a decent character, though, but I couldn't stand Kylar. At all.)

8. Imperio: A book you had to read for school.
I'm going to pick a book I enjoyed reading for school--George Orwell's 1984. At my school we had TA (teacher advisor) periods, once a day. It was for homework and whatnot and had students from all grades (9-12) in it. In grade 12 we also got to pick from a selection of books for our independent novel study. And I remember being in grade 9 or 10 and seeing a grade 12 student reading 1984 and thinking to myself, "That's the book I'm going to pick in grade 12." And I did. And I loved it.

9. Crucio: A book that was painful to read.
Can I use Night Angel again? No? Okay. Then let's go with A Strong and Sudden Thaw by RW Day. In theory, this book should be doing everything right for me. Post-apocalypse/dystopia. Dragons. LGBT content. Sounds great!

It was not. In fact, it was so bad I immediately went out of my way to get rid of the stupid thing. It was so overwrought. So soap opera-y. So actually bad in places. And it included the most awkward and badly written sex scene I have ever read in my life. (And that's saying something, because I have been on the internet for a long time and have read pretty terrible fanfic smut by 13 year olds.) Skip this one. Seriously.

10. Avada Kedavra: A book that could kill (interpret as you will).
Water by Terra Harmony. I think I picked this up cheap/free on kindle because I was bored. I certainly know I read it because I was bored. I was visiting a friend out of town and had to entertain myself at her apartment during the day while she went to work. So I read this. It was barely even worth the distraction. I should have settled for staring into middle distance all afternoon. I wrote a rather scathing review on my Goodreads after having read it--check it out.

And there's the book tag! Have you read any of these books? What do you think? If you want to take a crack at the tag, feel free to link me to your posts!

Review || Sapphire Blue (The Ruby Red #2) by Kerstin Gier

Sapphire Blue (The Ruby Red #2) by Kerstin Gier ★★☆☆☆
Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

I read the first book in this trilogy Ruby Red shortly before I started blogging--so you can see my review here.

I'd heard people on Booktube raving about this series and the hardcovers are so pretty and I love me some time travel. What do I have to lose, right?

Wrong. Ugh. This series continues to be aggravating. But the books themselves are so easy to plow through that it never ventures into DNF territory. Plus, with only one left now, I might as well just finish it.

I'm working on being more discerning with my ratings and trying to follow the Goodreads guidelines. So 2 stars is "it was okay" according to this new system I'm trying out. Sapphire Blue is probably the definition of just okay. There's nothing special about the writing, the plot has its moments but the characters make me a little crazy.

Let's separate out the good and the bad, shall we?

The time travelling in this book is actually handled surprisingly well. I really love the concept of circular time travel and it's neat to see some of those threads coming together in non-chronological order. It's actually fairly smart at times, so color me impressed. That, and the period history is fun. There's a major party in the 18th century that Gwen and Gideon attend that was probably some of the most entertaining writing in the whole book. It was just a fun chapter.

The side characters are also endearing to me. Gwen's family, her best friend Lesley, even her ghostly buddies James and Xemerius. Heck, even the brief cameos by Gideon's little brother make me interested about him. It's so incredibly frustrating because I absolutely cannot stand Gwen and Gideon. Like at all.

Let's tear apart Gideon first. He plays this hot-and-cold game with Gwen throughout both books. They go from making out to him being super vile to her. And the worst part is that it's played off as attractive. Gwen pulls a lot of "woe is me" nonsense in this book about being so in love with Gideon. He is downright terrible to her. That is not romantic.

Gwen is especially whiny and flighty and just a bigger mess than normal in this book too. I really do not particularly care for her at all and barely tolerate her as a vehicle for this story. She behaves like a child and not even remotely like the 16 year old she is.

There's also some really gross casual sexism stuff happening. Granted, some of the historical stuff can be hand-waved away by the nature of the period. And for the most part, that stuff is at least played off as being gross. Which is fair, I'll give the book points for that. But the problem is, the modern day stuff is just as sexist. Despite the fact that it's established that the time travelling gene is male in the de Villiers and female in the Montroses the big huge super secret order controlling things is run exclusively by men. And is mentioned as intentionally being that way and staying that way despite the fact that the book takes place in 2011. And no one has a problem with that? Nope. Not okay.

Anyway, again, just okay. I'll finish it because I might as well--and because I actually am interested in the side characters (Lucy and Paul too). But I wouldn't recommend it truthfully.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

January Wrap Up & February TBR

January was a really good reading month for me. Probably the best I've had in a long time! Here's the run-down.


The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Steifvater
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Ash by Malinda Lo
Girl of Nightmares (Anna #2) by Kendare Blake
Saga (volume 1) by Brian K. Vaughan
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

(The links go to my review, if applicable, and to Goodreads if not.)

SERIES: 1 complete; 3 started


Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken
Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu
Vicious by V.E. Schwab

(Totally subject to change. But this list will probably grow. These are the only books I really really want to read this month--and the first 3 are library books. So!)

How was your January? What books are on your February TBR? Let me know!

Review || The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King ★★☆☆☆
In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.

Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.

Okay, full disclosure on this. I am the biggest sucker in the universe for stories about reincarnation (especially if it involves finding a soulmate and ughhhh).

So I went into this book pretty excited. It was also my first A.S. King book and I've been hearing a lot of good things about her writing around the blogosphere.

But truth be told, this wasn't really what I was expecting. Not that I could necessarily tell you what exactly I was expecting. But this wasn't it.

The concept is great, but I never felt that the storylines really ever fully intertwined cohesively. You had Emer's story, Saffron's story and then snippets here and there about her time as various dogs. It idea was cool, but it never really flowed the way I think it could have.

There are some really cool bits throughout, though. Emer's history and backstory are sufficiently tragic and horrifying. It's Ireland and then the Caribbean at a time that isn't often written about. Or, at least, I haven't read much about it. It's also really close, chronologically, to the time period that Assassin's Creed IV is set--complete with your pirates and everything. And since I'm in the middle of playing that game right now too, there was a neat crossover.

Both Emer and Saffron have their share of hardships to deal with--and the issues surrounding family abuse, pressures and rape do not pull any punches. Though I feel like some of Saffron's identity issues could've been explored in more depth. Later on in the book she talks about Emer as though she's a separate part of herself--which I thought was a neat idea, but it was never really explored and kind of brought up as an afterthought?

As things get rolling for Saffron, she struggles with the idea of what to do with herself afterwards. After she's satisfied Emer's desire for treasure and the like. This idea of who is she without this quest? Without this drive?  It was another really cool idea, but it lacked the development and depth in the final execution. Which is a shame.

Overall, I think more development could be my theme for this book. I liked it well enough, but it always fell just short of my expectations and desires. It did some neat things--the prologue making an appearance word-for-word near the end again, for example--but it never totally enthralled me. It was just kind of mediocre throughout.

If you want a reincarnation story that is a little more swoon-worthy (and totally a guilty pleasure) I'd recommend Reincarnation by Suzanne Weyn instead.