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!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman
September 9, 2014
Emmeline knows she’s not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement. The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean—even if she has eyes for another. But before she’s forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect. Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price. If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.

I have to admit, this is at least 50% because of that cover. I'm a shallow person, we've established this. And that cover is gorgeous.

Also, the synopsis seems to suggest that there's more to this than it would seem. And I love a good mystery. We'll have to see how this one plays out, I suppose!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

August Wrap Up & September TBR

Well. This was the worst reading month of the year by far. But that's not totally surprising, given that I had to pack up my apartment, haul it all across the city and then unpack it all. It's still a work in progress, but I have just had so much to do that reading has not been a priority, sadly. Hopefully I'll get back into my groove this month.


Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1) by Paolo Bacigalupi 
More Than This by Patrick Ness 
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J Maas 
Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo 

GOODREADS: 69/75 [+4]
ALPHABET: 20/26 [+0]
SERIES: 9 complete [+1]; 8 ongoing [+1]


Reality Boy by AS King
Guardian (Proxy #2) by Alex London

All my books are still in boxes :((((((
So who knows, September will be a month of surprises!

One book I didn't include on the library list is Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown because I'm about 75% finished it already. So expect to see that one as well this month.

How did your August reading go? (Better than mine, I hope!) Let's chat in the comments!