Friday, 22 August 2014

Bout of Books 11 Progress

So I haven't been doing too poorly this time around. I've read one book and one graphic novel so far, which is awesome! Haven't made any progress whatsoever on the review writing front, however... Whoops.

Number of books I've read today: 1
Number of pages I've read today: 100
Books: The Queen of the Tearling

Number of books I've read today: 2
Number of pages I've read today: 100 + 160
Books: The Queen of the Tearling & Blue is the Warmest Color

Number of books I've read today: 3
Number of pages I've read today: 30 + 25 + 47
Books: The Queen of the Tearling (FINISHED), The End of Everything (couldn't get into it), Throne of Glass

Number of books I've read today:
Number of pages I've read today: 20 + 5% of ebook
Books: Throne of Glass (I had to return all of my books to the library today so I'll have to pick this one up again at a later date!) & These Broken Stars

Review - The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Series: Standalone
Published by Penguin Books on June 24 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction
Pages: 464
Rating: 3/5 stars
Another New York Times bestseller by the author of Me Before You—a spellbinding story of two women united in their fight for what they love most 
Jojo Moyes’s word-of-mouth bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and struck a chord with a wide range of readers everywhere. Now, with The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker—a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with her signature ability to capture our hearts. 
Paris, 1916. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv’s world is turned upside all over again.
The Girl You Left Behind is a book I normally wouldn’t gravitate towards. I picked it up because it was the only book in the ferry gift shop that looked decent, and I was desperate for a book (I’d finished the book I brought in the car & my e-reader was dead!). I’ve heard a lot of praise for Jojo Moyes’ books and thought I’d give this one a shot.

I must say right off the bat that I just didn’t love this book. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t realise when I started that the majority of the book was devoted to the contemporary story line. I just didn’t connect with Liv and I wish the entire book had just been Sophie’s story. I loved the glimpse into life in a small French village under German occupation during WWI. It was fascinating. How could I possibly not love Sophie after that pig scene at the very beginning of the book? She was clever and stubborn and independent.

I found Liv rather unsympathetic. I understood that she was in a poor state of mind following her husband’s death, but I just thought she was whiny and irritating. She has come to be the owner of a very special painting (the connection between her story and Sophie’s) bought by her and her late husband on their honeymoon. This painting becomes part of a restitution case, as descendants of Edouard LeFevre (Sophie’s husband) claim that it was stolen during the war and demand its return to its rightful owners. Liv doesn’t want to return the painting because of the emotional attachment that she has to it, and she also suspects that the family is pursuing the painting for all the wrong reasons. I agree that the LeFevres were assholes, but I don’t think that what Liv did was much better. She was holding onto the painting the same way that she was holding on to every little thing that reminded her of David – it was holding her back from any kind of future she could imagine.

The main issue I had with the modern day storyline was that there was so much emphasis on the romance between Liv and Paul. I just didn’t see the chemistry at all. I didn’t care about them. I didn’t really care about what happened to in the restitution case. The only person who I felt actually deserved that painting was Sophie, but she was long dead by that point. I think that this book would have been much more successful if Sophie’s story took up the majority of the bulk, while Liv’s romance and legal case took a backseat. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

TTT - Books People Have Been Telling Me to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me to Read

Because I very very rarely have anybody recommending books to me specifically or telling me to read a book ASAP, I decided to base my list on books that have exceptionally high ratings by my Goodreads friends. Most of these books have almost exclusively positive reviews from the people I trust.
The Book Thief
1. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
4.78 average rating
Since You've Been Gone
2. Since You've Been Gone - Morgan Matson
4.75 average rating
Two Boys Kissing
3. Two Boys Kissing - David Levithan
4.67 average rating
Between Shades of Gray
4. Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
4.6 average rating
Breathe, Annie, Breathe
5. Breathe, Annie, Breathe - Miranda Kenneally
4.5 average rating
This Song Will Save Your Life
6. This Song Will Save Your Life - Leila Sales
4.48 average rating
A Monster Calls
7. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
4.47 average rating
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)
8. Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson
4.44 average rating
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
9. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz
4.40 average rating
I'll Give You the Sun
10. I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
4.25 average rating

Monday, 18 August 2014

ARC Review - Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel: A Novel
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Series: Standalone
To Be Published by Algonquin Young Readers on Oct 7 2014
Genres: LGBT, Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 304
Rating: 4/5 stars
High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia's confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This is one of the most enjoyable F/F romances I’ve read this year (and I’ve read quite a few). To tell you exactly how enjoyable it is, I shall paint you a little word-picture. Me, sitting on a rather uncomfortably stiff forest green couch in my mother’s living room. It is growing late, but I’m not in any hurry to go to bed. Instead, my eyes scan across the pages of the PDF document over and over again, for hours on end. The muted television does not even catch my gaze, I’m so enthralled by this adorable little book on my laptop screen. My laptop is hot on my legs, but I need to reach the end of the book. I can’t go to sleep until it’s done. Just a little bit longer…

I read this entire book in one rather lengthy sitting. I couldn’t open the document on my e-reader, which forced me to read it on my computer screen. Let me tell you, most of the time that is reason enough for me not to read a book, but once I got started with Farizan’s sophomore novel, I just couldn’t stop.

I’ll admit that it’s not a particularly original story – girl meets girl, girl has giant crush on girl, girl gets heart broken by other girl, etc. But I really liked the way that Farizan took a somewhat cliché story and put her own spin on it – partially through Leila’s Persian heritage and her somewhat difficult family, and through one of the cutest love interests ever.

It’s pretty obvious from the beginning that Saskia, as glamorous and incredible as Leila thinks she is, is bad news. She’s not a nice girl, and I wish that there had been more character development and background for what made Saskia the way she was. I was curious as to why she treated those around her like pawns, like she was the only real person and everyone else was collateral damage in the game of Saskia’s life. Part of the explanation for this limited look into Saskia’s life can be put on Laila’s narration, as she is without question a very self-involved teenager with a limited ability to put herself in others’ shoes. I really can’t blame her for it – she’s a sixteen year old girl. It’s normal for her to be self-involved. Aren’t most people at that age?

I think that Farizan’s writing style may not be for everyone, as her narrator came off as a bit young and immature and the writing was sometimes a bit simplistic, but I loved the jokes Laila told herself in her head. On page three is this gem: “Why would I ever care about frictionless acceleration anyway? How is that ever going to get me a girlfriend?” I make those kinds of jokes on a pretty much daily basis. I really related to Laila, though I’m much older and less insecure (now, at least. I was SO insecure as a teenager!).

I think what I liked most about this book was the fact that it was so fluffy. So often books about queer teenagers are so depressing, and it was nice to find a book with such an unequivocally happy ending. As Gwendoline Nelson (@writing_kills) said on Twitter, “Lots of good LGBT YA out there, but it’s pretty dark. If I want to read something light and fun, I have to read about straight people.” Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel was a lovely, much appreciated change of pace, and I’m very grateful for it. I was smiling so hard through the last three or four chapters that my cheeks started to hurt. It was a cute, sweet book and I’m definitely ready to read Farizan’s first book, If You Could Be Mine (which has been on my TBR since long before it was released over a year ago).

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Bout of Books 11 Goals

Look look look, I'm doing Bout of Books again! Whaddaya know? I feel like the last one just happened. 

In case you don't already know, Bout of Books is a week-long readathon put together by Amanda (On a Book Bender) and Kelly (Reading the Paranormal). It starts at 12:01 Monday, August 18 and ends at 11:59 Sunday, August 24. There are challenges and fun stuff like that, but I'm not participating in those because minimal participation is where it's at, yo!

My goals are a little bit different this time around. I'm going to be spending most of this week packing up all of my stuff (and doing a major purge of all the stuff I don't want/need anymore) because I'm moving next week! I'm so excited and ready to get back to the city, especially given that I'll have a whole week of settling in before classes start. I get to see my friends again, after a whole summer of separation! Yay! However, more time spent packing means less time to read/spend on the internet. 


  • read for at least one hour a day
  • read at least three books
  • actually interact with other bloggers for once in my life
  • figure out what these twitter chats everyone's talking about are all about
  • get caught up on my reviews! I have like 5 books finished that I still need to write reviews for...

Irises by Francisco X Stork
The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

not pictured - More Than This by Patrick Ness
                           - These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Friday, 15 August 2014

Review - Split Second by Kasie West

Split Second (Pivot Point, #2)
Split Second by Kasie West
Series: Pivot Point #2
Published by HarperTeen on Feb 11 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 360
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Life can change in a split second.
Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price. 
When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that. 
Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her. 
As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.
Split Second, the second and final book in the Pivot Point duology, was a thoroughly pleasant read. I have very few complaints about this series as a whole. Though it was enjoyable and quick and the writing was excellent, I just don’t feel like this series is as memorable as it should be. I wanted to love it so much more than I actually did. I greatly enjoyed the process of reading it, but looking back upon Split Second, it just didn’t quite cut it for me.

My favourite thing about Split Second was West’s decision to switch the narration back and forth between best friends Addie and Laila. I love love loved the addition of Laila’s viewpoint, and it really made the book so much richer. Not to mention that her love interest is a total babe. I thought that I was fond of Addie’s love interest in Pivot Point (Trevor), but Connor totally gave him a run for his money. I was a little bit wary of Laila’s point of view to begin with, as I worried that it might be a snorefest and I’d spend every second of Laila’s chapters wanting to get back to Addie and Trevor. Surprisingly, I found the opposite occurred! I just couldn’t get behind the idea of Addie having all of her old memories of Trevor while he had none of her – their relationship just seemed very lopsided to me in this book. It just didn’t meet up to the magic of their beautiful romance in Pivot Point. Laila and Connor, on the other hand? They were everything I wanted and more. Laila is so much more complicated and layered than she appears in Pivot Point, and I loved watching her let down her guard and slowly let Connor into her life, and vice versa. My one complaint about their relationship is how quickly they shift from complete denial of the chemistry and feelings between them to being one of those gross couples that are always all over each other. Not that they’re gross! They totally aren’t!

There were also some more minor details that I found particularly special. I loved seeing the way that Addie and Stephanie’s relationship was completely changed simply by how they first met. In Split Second, Addie is introduced to Steph at one of their fathers’ work functions, and Steph becomes her first friend in Dallas. This is so insanely different from the side of Steph we see in Pivot Point; the girl who is in turns jealous and manipulative and cruel to Addie. I also enjoyed seeing more of Laila’s siblings. I was slightly annoyed at how little her parents played into her storyline, especially considering how damaging her relationships with her mother and her father were, but I was pleased with the inclusion of her brothers (one more than the other). Despite making mistakes, it’s clear that Laila loves her brothers and wants to protect them. Their parents certainly don’t do a good job of it.

I did find the plot kind of contrived, and though it was fast-paced and action-packed, I just didn’t really like it. The premise of their world, yes. The actuality of the Compound officials going around and brainwashing people willy-nilly, not so much. It was just a bit too dramatic for my tastes. That said, I thought that it was a lovely conclusion to a lovely series. I really do love Kasie West’s writing, and I’m eager to pick up her contemporary novels in the (near-ish?) future.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

TV Spotlight {4} - Faking It

This week's spotlighted programme is:

You may have heard of Faking It. You may not have. It's received quite a bit of buzz since its inception, and despite a few misgivings and a huge expectation that it would be horrible (like some of MTV's other recent projects, not to name names), I have to admit that I love this show. So much. Way beyond I ever thought I could. The season one teaser trailer (above) doesn't do a good job of showing what this show is really about.
At its core, Faking It is the story of a girl who discovers that she has a huge, impossible, irrepressible crush on her best friend. To make matters worse, said best friend has convinced her to pretend to be a lesbian couple in order to increase their social standing within their school. 
Amy (the super cute blonde played by Rita Volk) and Karma (the gorgeous brunette played by Katie Stevens) have been best friends forever. They are also each others' only friends. And Karma is dead set on changing that, especially if it means catching the eye of Liam, whom she believes herself to be madly in love with. Given Amy's feelings for Karma and Karma's feelings for Liam, it's inevitable that things get a bit (a lot) messy.
This face actually hurts my soul. My poor Amy!
I'll admit that when this show came out, I was really confused and kind of offended by its premise. A pair of cute, feminine girls pretending to be lesbians to become popular? What kind of alternate universe to they live in in which being gay makes you popular? Especially considering that this show takes place in Texas, of all places. But surprisingly, it kind of works. It's so much less offensive that I imagined, and I'm fully dedicated to seeing this show through to the bitter end, if only because I'm utterly in love with Amy Raudenfeld. 
There are a few unfortunate moments, namely an encounter that occurs in the final episode of the first season that really pissed me off but that I am not going to spoil here. But if you ask me, the fact that I'm still upset about it means that this show is doing something right. You can't get mad about something that you don't care about, and it just goes to show that I really do care about this show. And as infuriating as Karma can be at times, and as much as I sometimes want to throw things at her and tell her to wake the fuck up, I get it. She's a fifteen year old girl. She may be selfish and blind to what's going on around her, but so was I at fifteen.
So fucking accurate.
I'm really excited to see what happens in season two, which starts at the end of September. Honestly, all I want on this show is to see Amy happy. And also maybe for hottie-douche-face (Liam) to fuck off a little bit. Not such lofty demands, right??

Do you watch Faking It? Have you seen commercials for it or spotted gifsets on tumblr? You should go marathon it right now. It's only like 12 episodes and they're only 20 minutes long. You could knock that out in like a day, easy!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

TTT - Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

This is a funny topic to come up at this time, because I just made a Goodreads shelf for all of the books I feel this way about called on-the-fence. As in, I'm on the fence between want to read and don't want to read and I'm not sure which side to get off on.
Let's Get Lost
Let's Get Lost - Adi Alsaid
I think I read a couple of really unfavourable reviews of this one that made me start to second guess whether I want to give it a shot or not. Either way, it's not like I'll be getting to it any time soon - I don't even have a copy.
The Returned
The Returned - Jason Mott
It sounds interesting, but I'm just not sure whether it'll be up my alley or not. I suppose there's no way to find out other than to try. Books like this frustrate me because I don't like wasting time on books I won't like, but how can I know whether I'll like it if I don't read at least a bit of it?
The Elementals
The Elementals - Francesca Lia Block
I loved Francesca Lia Block's books when I was younger, but I just haven't been impressed with any of her newer releases. I don't know if I'm just not into her style any more or if I just haven't been in the right mood for it. Her style is so distinctive and I used to be all over it, but now I'm just not so sure.
Imaginary Girls
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
Don't shoot me! I've started this book two or three times and just couldn't get into it. Maybe I just haven't been in the right mood for it, but I have this niggling feeling that I'm just not a fan. I should love this book, I just don't. And I don't know why.
Magnified World
Magnified World - Grace O'Connell
I've been trying to expand my reading parameters a little bit and read more literary fiction and historical fiction - basically just anything that isn't YA. I think this book sounds good, but it might be a little too far away from my comfort zone. It seems like something that has a lot of potential to be boring. Very boring. Plus none of my GR friends have read it so I've got nobody to vouch for it!
Liesl & Po
Liesl and Po - Lauren Oliver
I tried to like this book. I really did. I've taken it out of the library at least twice and read the first chapter or so. I'm just not captivated by it the way that I want to be. I've heard such wonderful things about it, but I haven't experienced them first hand. I know that it takes more than one chapter to get into a book sometimes, but I'm not sure this one is for me.
The Ring and The Crown
The Ring and the Crown - Melissa de la Cruz
This book has gotten quite a few not-so-flattering reviews from people who I typically agree with. Plus de la Cruz doesn't have the greatest history of delivering books I like - I tried Frozen recently and was seriously put off by it. But look at that cover! It's so beautiful! And the synopsis sounds fascinating! I just want it to be great, but from what I've heard it doesn't deliver in the slightest.
#scandal - Sarah Ockler
I've heard this book is pretty frivolous and soap opera-y. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm not sure I want to read it. I'll hopefully check out Ockler's other books first and get a feel for her writing style.
We Were Liars
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
I read about a third of this book shortly after it came out, and it just wasn't working for me. I wasn't incredibly fond of the style or of the characters. I mostly want to try it again to find out what that damn twist everyone hints at is!
Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)
Siege & Storm - Leigh Bardugo
I wasn't a big fan of the first book in this trilogy for many reasons, but I'm intrigued enough to want to know what happens in the next book. Such a dilemma. I may grab it if I spot it at the library, but I'm not sure whether or not it's a book I particularly want to read.

Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? Do you think I should give them a shot? What books were/would be on your list?

Monday, 11 August 2014

Review - Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

Silver Shadows (Bloodlines, #5)

Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines #5
Published by Razorbill on July 29 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Vampires
Pages: 380
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives. 
In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists. 
Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.  
For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . . 
Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where all bets are off
I’ve never written a review of a Vampire Academy or Bloodlines book, and I’m not sure how to go about it because I’m so infatuated with this series and, moreover, this world in general. I suppose a good place to start is to confess that I walked around town for an hour and a half on a hot, sunny Wednesday afternoon (the day after the book was released!) searching for a copy of this book. I had to have in my hands. Immediately. I also paid far more than I should have for it ($21 plus tax! Ouch!), but it was totally worth it.

This is the only series that I drop everything for. I have to read the newest books the moment they are released and no later. I’m lucky that Mead produces books so quickly, otherwise I’m not sure my sanity could handle it.

Unlike most people I know, I actually prefer the Bloodlines series to its predecessor, the Vampire Academy series. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Vampire Academy books. But there’s just something about Bloodlines that makes me absolutely elated. Richelle Mead’s books give me a high like no one else’s. Maybe it’s all of the Adrian. Maybe it’s how much I love Sydney. I’m a die-hard Sydrian fan in a way that I just never quite got behind Rose and Dimitri as a couple. I liked Rose and Dimitri, but I love Sydney and Adrian.

That said, I found this book a bit difficult to read at times. I spent most of the first half (or so) of the book wanting to smack Adrian upside the head and tell him to stop feeling sorry for himself. Sydney needed him and he wasn’t there for her because he was too busy drinking and partying all night long. He’d shown so much growth, and to see him regress to his old ways was painful. But not as painful as what Sydney was going through in re-education. I swear, that girl is the most strong, resilient young woman. It’s frightening how well she keeps it together. I’d have been utterly and completely broken by what she endures, but Sydney is far stronger than I could ever hope to be.

I think what I love most about Sydney Sage is just that: she is incredibly strong, but not in a psychical sense like Rose was. She possesses a mental fortitude beyond my wildest imaginings, and I truly respect her for that. She has so many things stacked up against her, but she never lets them break her. Yes, she has the odd moment of weakness, but she believes in her convictions with every fiber of her being and I think that’s amazing. I aspire to be more like Sydney Sage. It’s clear towards the end of the book that Sydney has been emotionally scarred by her experiences in re-education and possible PTSD is hinted at, and I think that Mead made an excellent choice by including that. Even someone like Sydney can’t escape that kind of torture without serious emotional baggage.

Depiction of mental illness in a paranormal series is something that I commend Mead for. It’s quite clear for anybody who has experience with it that Adrian suffers from bipolar disorder, not to mention Lissa’s depression throughout the Vampire Academy books. With the addition of Sydney’s potential PTSD, I’m really impressed. It’s all been handled so beautifully, and more importantly respectfully. I don’t think I’ve read any other books that have achieved such a complex look at the entanglement between psychic ability and mental illness in paranormal stories (I honestly can’t think of any paranormal books that even include mental illness in any capacity). I think that what Mead has done with these books and characters is brilliant.

There were a few things that I wasn’t incredibly fond of throughout the book, but on the whole it was a solid 4.5 stars. If you haven’t read the Bloodlines series, you’re missing out. Trust me. I’m not someone who enjoys books about vampires – I don’t even really like the paranormal genre in general nowadays, but I keep coming back to these books because they’re consistently well written, well-paced, and have excellent plots and characters. I really don’t want this series to end, and there’s only one book left! Maybe we’ll get a spin-off of the spin-off?? About Trey or Angeline or someone else? There are so many parts of the Vampire Academy world that have only been glimpsed so far. I’m not ready to leave.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Review - The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand

The Year of Shadows

The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand
Series: Standalone
Published by Simon & Schuster on August 27 2013
Genres: Middle Grade, Paranormal
Pages: 416
Rating: 4/5 stars
Olivia wants a new life, and it might take ghosts to get it. A heartfelt, gently Gothic novel from Claire Legrand. 
Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year. 
Her mother's left; her neglectful father, the maestro of a failing orchestra, has moved her and her grandmother into the city's dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat. 
Just when she thinks life couldn't get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia's help; if the hall is torn down, they'll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on. 
Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living; and soon it's not just the concert hall that needs saving.

Olivia Stellatella is prickly. She’s stubborn and hurt and sometimes mean, and altogether a difficult twelve-year-old girl. Which makes complete sense, considering her mother left, her father walks around in a musical haze, her grandmother is a bit dotty and not in the greatest of health, and her family has absolutely no money to speak of. Not to mention the fact that she now lives in the rehearsal space of the old concert hall in which her father, an orchestra conductor, works. Someone mentioned that Olivia reminded them of Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice, which I agree with 100%. Olivia is a lot like a younger Lydia, which was as entertaining as you might expect.

Yes, it’s safe to say that Olivia isn’t the most pleasant person to be around. Thankfully, despite her best efforts to the contrary, she manages to snag a host of new friends throughout her year of living in Emerson Hall – Henry, a boy who gets straight As and spends all of his free time roaming the hall; Igor, a grumpy black cat whom Olivia imagines speaks like Cary Grant; Joan, a friendless girl who likes to spend her spare time protesting and talking about solidarity; and four ghosts stuck haunting Emerson Hall until they recover whatever object that is holding them in place and right it.

I honestly can’t think of another word to describe this book other than sweet. It’s not as light as a lot of middle grade books I’ve read, which is something I really appreciated. Olivia’s problems are real problems, and the fact that she’s twelve years old doesn’t negate them. This book really tugged at my heartstrings and made me feel for the characters (even the Maestro!). One smaller aspect of the book that I liked and thought was special was the way that Olivia repeatedly referred to The Economy to explain her predicament. It was clear that it was a term she’d picked up from the adults around her and that she wasn’t entirely certain of what it meant, only that it was to blame for the failure of the orchestra. I feel like many people throw around the term The Economy in a very similar manner – not quite sure what they’re talking about all the time, but thinking that it makes them sound knowledgeable. It was a minor detail, but one that I appreciated.

The ghosts are another notable feature in this book - they are all so interesting and unique. Their backstories are all absolutely heartbreaking (especially Mr. Worthington!) and I thought that the way that Olivia and her friends were able to help them was very creative. I loved being able to glimpse short snippets of their lives, and seeing them move on was bittersweet.

I can’t say that I’d recommend this to everybody, but I’d definitely pass it around to anyone who likes middle grade books or books about ghosts. It gets pretty dark at times, so that’s something to consider. I know that a lot of people who read middle grade like it because it tends to be a bit lighter and fluffier than some of the other options out there. This is not the book for you if that’s what you’re looking for.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

DNF Round-Up (2)

BittersweetBittersweet by Colleen Mccullough
Series: Standalone
Published by Simon & Schuster on August 19 2014
Genres: Adult, Romance, Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
DNF'd at 54% 
This is the story of two sets of twins, Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, who struggle against all the restraints, prohibitions, laws and prejudices of 1920s Australia. Only the submissive yet steely Grace burns for marriage; the sleekly sophisticated Edda burns to be a doctor, the down-to-earth but courageous Tufts burns never to marry, and the too-beautiful, internally scarred Kitty burns for a love free from male ownership. 
Turbulent times, terrible torments, but the four magnificent Latimer sisters, each so different, love as women do: with tenderness as well as passion, and with hearts roomy enough to hold their men, their children, their careers and their sisters.
Bittersweet started off strong, but quickly petered out. Around the 20% mark I started to grow frustrated with the inconsistent pacing and the constantly shifting point of view. At first I thought that it was a book that would follow the four sisters in a limited omniscient third person point of view, but at some point it seemed to shift into a omniscient third person, and far too many pages were wasted on the men in the book, who I just didn't care an iota about. 

The only saving grace this book had for me was Kitty. At the beginning of the book, I thought that Edda would be my favourite of the four sisters. Boy, was I wrong about that! She ended up being my least favourite of the bunch! She was snobby and judgemental and very rigid. I found it immensely difficult to relate to her, which was troubling due to the fact that she received the most attention of the sisters in the narrative. I found Grace and Tufts quite boring, and didn't particularly care about them one way or another. The only person I even remotely liked was Kitty, due to her salty tongue. She may have the face of an angel, but this girl can throw out some impressive insults! 

The lack of connection I felt to the characters, the impersonal nature of the narrative, and the problematic pacing aside, I made it through just over half of this book. It was a random, lengthy lesson in the history, politics, and economics of early 20th century Australia that convinced me that this book wasn't worth finishing. Despite a promising first few chapters, I was ultimately underwhelmed and often frustrated by Bittersweet, and feel no desire to find out what occurs next in these characters lives.

Eat, Brains, Love (Eat, Brains, Love #1)Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart
Series: Eat, Brains, Love #1
Published by HarperTeen on October 1 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Zombies
Pages: 352
DNF'd at 66%

The first chapter of Eat, Brains, Love hooked me in really well. It was funny and inventive and interesting and it caught my attention. It was the introduction of Cass that threw me for a loop. This is a book about zombies, what do I need a weird psychic girl who works for the government for? I was never enthused or excited when I reached Cass' chapters, and I never grew to like her as a character. I think that this book would have been much more successful if it had been the story of Jake and Amanda. I think there is a romance between Jake and Cass later on, which grossed me out. Not because Jake is a zombie - because Cass has been inside his mind, which is clearly a total invasion of privacy.

I really enjoyed the fact that Jake was the kind of guy I grew up around - smoking weed and playing video games and blowing off homework. I couldn't help but think that I would have liked him a bit more if he'd been gender-swapped - same characteristics and personality and hobbies, but a girl. It's just a little more unexpected and interesting. Aside from that, I thought the tone of the book was a little on the younger side of YA. I liked the inclusion of the badass lesbian zombie couple though. They were fun, and I'd have liked to stick around with them a little bit longer. As the plot became less "zombies on the run" and more "government corruption" I decided to bow out. It's just not for me.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Discussion Post - Book Buying

I've been feeling a lot of pressure lately. And I know that it's all in my head, but it's stressing me out nonetheless. I've suddenly been hit by the pressing desire to own ALL OF THE BOOKS. Which requires me to purchase all of the books. Less appealing.
Dream big, Rose
As a general rule, I don't buy books. 90% of what I read is from the library, and the other 10% is ARCs. I wish I could afford to buy all of the books I want to, but I just cannot afford it. Books are expensive, yo! I'm a poor university student who lives off of student loans and very part time jobs (as in, 8-15 hours a week). I can barely cover my rent most of the time. And if I have to choose between a book or groceries, or a book or a new dress from H&M, the book never seems to win out. The only books I ever seem to buy are school texts. And I hate it.
Bitch, I'm Broke
I've been splurging a bit lately - in the past seven days, I've bought four (FOUR) books. I've been adding and deleting books on my Amazon Wishlist. I've had books on the brain all week and it's driving me insane. I have over $100 worth of books in my Amazon cart and I just don't have the money to purchase them despite how desperately I want to. It doesn't help that there are no used bookstores in my hometown, so if I decide to purchase from a local retailer I have no choice but to hit up the super-overpriced independent bookstore downtown. I like supporting local businesses, but I really don't like the hit my wallet takes.

I think a big part of the problem is seeing people rake in books week to week in their Stacking the Shelves or Weekly Wrap-Up style posts. I get jealous. I don't hold it against them, because I'm happy that other people are able to buy the books I cannot afford, but it makes me feel inadequate. Like I need to cut back in other areas of my life to fund my book habit, but I just don't know where to do so. Why can't I just be rich? That'd be the solution to all my problems. I feel like I need another job just to pay for all of the books I want. Unfortunately, jobs are tough to find in my neck of the woods. Until then, I'll just have to settle for library books. Which is really not a big deal for me - I love the library. I mean, I work there. It's a pretty important thing to me. But that doesn't mean I don't want to hoard all of the beautiful copies of my favourite books and display them on my shelves for all the world (read: nobody but myself) to see. 

Do you buy many books? Are you a library patron like me? How do you fund your book habit? Do you just starve yourself in anticipation of the next big book release so that you can buy that book straight away?

Monday, 4 August 2014

Review - Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)
Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Henry Holt & Co on June 5 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 358
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka. 
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free? 
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him. 
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him? 
And the hype machine strikes again. For a book that has received as much hype over the past two years as Shadow & Bone, I really expected something much more impressive. I’m not sure why I even bothered, as it appears that the blog hype machine is built to fail, at least for me. The only book I’ve read based on the hype surrounding it that I actually liked was Daughter of Smoke & Bone. This was no Daughter of Smoke & Bone, people.

Let’s start things off by quickly discussing the immensely irritating use of Russian culture in the worldbuilding of Shadow & Bone. It’s clear that Bardugo set out to write a fantasy novel set in a less expected locale – rather than writing about a pseudo-Europe, she chose to create an alternate universe Russia. This would have been great, if it had worked. The problem was that it was completely half-assed. The first clue that this book would piss me off was the disregard for Russian naming practices – namely the misuse of surnames throughout the book. It’s pretty common knowledge that in Russia, 'ov' surnames are masculine and 'ova' is the feminine variation. So it was rather frustrating to continually read about a main character called Alina Starkov, knowing that her name should in fact be Alina Starkova. There is also an instance in which a female character is given the male first name Ilya. And then there’s the fact that the book is chalk full of Russian stereotypes – bear rugs and squirrel hats and constant imbibing (on a drink called kvas, which is in fact a non-alcoholic beverage. Why not just call it something else??). I was also perturbed by the mixed use of real Russian words and made-up Russian-sounding words, not to mention the use of Russian words to mean completely different things. I have read some of Bardugo's defence of her decisions, in which she claims that these were conscious decisions that she made for the book, but I honestly don't think that excuses them. You can't just hide behind artistic license when it comes to things like this. There are few things that irritate me more than disrespecting other cultures, and this book does just that at every turn. I can’t imagine how I might react to it if it was my culture that was being butchered, but I can’t imagine I’d be impressed with Bardugo’s hack job.

The characters and plot were also quite lackluster. They were very reminiscent of things I’ve read a million times before – stock figures more than real individuals. This story is told in first person POV, yet I never really felt like I knew who Alina was at her core. She was constantly being manipulated and she completely lacked a backbone throughout the story. I’m getting pretty sick of the whole “chosen one” plotline, and Shadow & Bone is a good example of why. Alina discovers that she’s a Sun Summoner – the ONLY Sun Summoner – and then she does absolutely fuck all with her newfound powers. She doesn’t even try. She just sits around twiddling her thumbs and doing what people tell her to. What a waste. I was also really annoyed by the fact that the throughout the first half (or so) of the book, such a big deal is made of the fact that Alina isn't pretty - she's described as sickly looking, too thin and pale and sleep-deprived. Of course, as soon as she learns to accept & use her magic, she becomes beautiful. Because god forbid we have a main character who is anything but perfect.

I think that it would have made for a much stronger (or at least more memorable!) story if Alina had consciously decided to side with the Darkling. Not to be his slave, but to be his partner. I would have been interested in reading that book. It was impossible for me to connect with her, nor did I think that any of the other characters were any better. The only character I was somewhat interested in was Alina’s friend Genya, whose story I found quite fascinating, though we weren’t privy to many of the details of her life. 

I was unimpressed with the Darkling both as a villain and as a love interest. He was neither scary nor sexy, not to mention the fact that the dude is 120 years old. Ew. I didn’t particularly like Mal either, though. He was very hot and cold – one minute he was furious with Alina, the next distant and cold, the next thing I know he’s professing his undying love for her and willing to die to save her. Double ew. 

The plot was simply pedestrian. It was a traditional been-there-done-that light fantasy wrapped up in a bad Russian disguise. It lacked depth, and nothing shocking (or even really interesting) happened. It felt like it was just going through the motions of Typical Fantasy Novel – orphaned teenager, catching up at weird pseudo-boarding school, traveling by foot for a very long time and not getting enough to eat, big climactic moment, the end. Now, I don’t usually mind this – I’ve loved a lot of books that contain most of these elements – but there was just something forgettable about Shadow & Bone.

The one thing I enjoyed about Shadow & Bone was the writing. It was well paced and moved quickly and steadily (though that ending was just stupid). Bardugo’s use of words was simple but effective, and despite all of the frustrations I had with it, I couldn’t seem to put the book down. I’m even contemplating requesting the second book from the library, though I truly don’t know why.

It did have a very pretty map though. I like maps. It gets half a star for the map.