Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Epic Recs: February--Shadow and Bone

I don't know how many of you have ever heard of "Epic Recs" but it is an amazing and super fun feature where Amber @ Books of Amber and Judith @ Paper Riot force each other to read a certain book a month.  Check out Judith's page here and sign up for a partner!  They are really kind and spend time matching you with someone of similar interests.  That's how I met Andrea from the Youtube Channel BookStalkers.  Last month she made me read this book...  This month she made me read the following book… Stay tuned for more updates on "Epic Recs".

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Format: Library Copy
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Rating: ✎✎✎✎✎✎


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?

My Thoughts and Reflection:
*Spoilers May Be Found Lurking in The Shadow Fold*

When Andrea recommended this book to me for February I was really excited.  Shadow and Bone had been on my to read list for EVER and I was anxious to read it.  Although I'd forgotten completely what the premise was… So I picked it up from the library and forgot about it until earlier this week when I realized, oh jeez, the month is almost over gotta go!
So I picked it up Tuesday night and started reading.  And I kept reading all the way to the end because this book was fantastic!!!

I love the beginning of this book.  The glimpse into Mal and Alina's childhood gives the reader a good sense of their relationship dynamic and their personalities.  Being thrown right into the story after that was exciting.  Bardugo had the perfect balance of starting the plot movement with giving background information.  
The plot of the book was exciting, and of course had a good twist that I didn't see coming.  I was pleased with the ending, because while it wrapped up the story, it left wiggle room for a sequel.  (And this book is part of a series… so you know…)

I liked Alina as a character.  She was brutally honest, a little shy, endearingly awkward, but mostly humble.  She denied wearing the Darkling's colors so that she would be equal with the regular Grisha.  (Of course that plan of her is later overtaken by the Darkling, but still.)
I also loved Alina's love for Mal.  Deep down she knows that she loves him, and that's what makes it so painful for her to give up on him.  Later, Mal's relationship with Alina makes her apprehensive with the Darkling.  This apprehensiveness is necessary and appropriate.
The bitter betrayal that Alina later feels is raw, as well as the white emotion of joy when she is reunited with Mal.  Alina's emotions go on a roller coaster after that (and rightly so).  She was a wonderful protagonist.
Mal was, as always, an oblivious boy.  Not only oblivious to Alina's feelings, but also to his own.  He proves himself to be a man of honor and also admits his love for Alina.
The Darkling was such a, well, dark character.  He was seductive, ominous, and of course, incredibly powerful.  The way he plays Alina is painful to read, but in the end he was a perfectly crafted antagonist.  He was not obvious, nor was he completely secretive.  This blend made the reader question everything, and kept us on our toes.

Shadow and Bone doesn't have a love triangle, per say, because while there are two love interests, it becomes apparent that one is completely evil.  Alina has no trouble choosing between the two men, and I think that's what makes this not a love triangle book.
This book had everything, magic, romance, well developed background characters, detailed but not overly wordy descriptions, and of course an amazing plot and characters.
Shadow and Bone was the book that made me wonder why I don't read more fantasy, because I love it.

Anyway, yes, read this book.  I loved it so much that it is now one of my favorites… which is quite an exclusive list.  :)


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gone: A Complicated Multilayered Dystopia

Title: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Series: Gone #1
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 24th, 2008
Format: Library Copy
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Paranormal
Rating: ✎✎✎✎


Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents-unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers-that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…

My Thoughts and Reflection:

I tried to read this book sometime last year, but DNF'd it because the first couple of chapters weren't grabbing.  After several friends rated the book poorly, I decided to not try it again.
And yet here I am, having invested several days into this book, once again.  I'm not sure what prompted me to pick it up, maybe because I read somewhere that the series got better?  Anyway…
The premise of this book is peculiar, but it was poorly executed.  The first couple chapters were painfully awkward, but eventually Grant found a writing rhythm.  
The cast of characters is so long and wide that it was hard to decide who exactly was our protagonist.  Eventually I decided that it was Sam, who the main plot of the book focused on.  However, for a good three quarters of the book there would occasionally be a chapter about a girl named Lana.  It was obvious that she would eventually meet up with the main plot, but it was slightly annoying to follow her parallel plot for so long.  
This book was not short on antagonists.  At first it seems that Orc is the worts, then Caine comes into town and everything go nuts.  Sam and his enterague are on the run, then they finally meet Lana.  Around this time we find out that Drake is someone to be feared, along with the mutated coyote pack.
There are several mentions of this Darkness, but the true details of this are never explored.  A quick paragraph at the end of the book leads us on to hope for more explanation in the sequel.  
I liked the concept of all of the powers, and how Little Pete actually created the FAYZ (what the teens call their new world).  Also the Coates Academy kids mixing with the townies.  The plot was surprising and grabbing, never too slow.  It was just the enormous multitude of characters and overlapping plot lines that made the book slightly hard to follow.
I hope that in the sequel our characters will be more developed and defined.  I also hope that we will have less to focus on.  :)

Dust Jacket Ramblings:

Can I just talk about how much I dislike this cover?  The models pretty much give you no clue about the content of the book.  It's about teenagers.  And….
Moving past the models, it's obvious that the boy on the front is Sam, and that the girl is Astrid.  The boy on the back is probably Caine, while the girl is probably Diane.  However, what are they wearing? If you're going to use models, at least show some sort of setting hint with tattered clothing…Ugh.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Reasons That I Love Being a Reader/Book Blogger

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

This week's Top Ten is "Top Ten Reasons That I Love Being a Reader/Book Blogger".  

1. Reading is Magical

The fact that twenty six letters can form words and sentences that take me to different worlds is fascinating and a blessing.

2. I Love Books

Being a reader isn't necessarily about reading books, but that's what people usually assume.  I, do love books, so it works out for me.  And I love books a lot.

3. Reading Has Always Been There For Me

I'm a pretty introverted person, but there are times when friends have abandoned me and I'm lonely.  In those situations, I could always find companion ship in a book.

4. Reading Brings me Knowledge

I have learned so many things from reading.  Not just vocabulary, but also things about places that I've never been, about people that I've never met.  I've also learned different social skills and honestly, how to be a better writer myself.

5.  Feeling Connections to the Characters

I would say that the most meaningful stories are the ones where you can connect to the characters.  When you know how they are feeling, because you've felt it too.  Suddenly these made up people are just as real and valid as you are, and that is extraordinary.

1. Talking About Books is Fun

And my family gets sick of it!  So now I talk about books on my blog, and to my family! :)

2.  The Blogsphere is Fun

Discovering new books, reading well written content, and having discussions is just the beginning to what the blogsphere brings.

3. Creating Content is Satisfying

  Personally, I put a lot of effort into all of my posts, not just the reviews.  Creating graphics and additional posts is handwork, but totally worth it.  

4. ARCs

There definitely is a thrill to getting a book before it is released.  I would almost describe it as being part of an "in" crowd, and you kind of are.

5. Readership/Comments

Knowing that someone is reading and enjoying what you spent time on is really nice.  I write because I want to, but to think that someone likes reading my ramblings is a run feeling.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Shiver: Another Paranormal Romance

Title: Shiver
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: August 1st, 2009
Format: Library Copy
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: ✎✎✎


For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

My Thoughts and Reflection:

This is not a new book.  This is not a new author.  This is not a new, unexplored genre.  I consider Shiver to be pretty traditional Paranormal Romance.
Yes, back to the "This is not a a new book" part.  I tried to read this book a couple of years back.  Even then, I wasn't one to put a book down.  Yet, there were some things that very quickly turned me off, (I'll talk more about them a little bit later).  So I gave up on the series.  
Now, several years later, I've discovered my love for Maggie Stiefvater through some of her other books, like The Raven Boys.  Also, through a recent read I've discovered that I don't totally hate paranormal romance.  When I saw this book at the library a couple of weeks ago, I thought to myself, "Yeah, you should probably just read that." So I picked it up, and here I am, having finished it.  
Let's just say that my annoyances were the same the second time around, I just pushed through.  
I suppose the first thing I should talk about is the concept.  Werewolves are wolves when it's cold, humans when it's warm.  Except their human years dwindle away until they don't become human ever again.  That was a cool idea, I guess.  Not the most exciting.  I think the exciting part is that the pack leaders were kidnapping kids so that the pack could continue on.  How messed up is that?
Grace, our protagonist, is the main thing that I had a problem with in this book.  I found her to be completely unrealistic Her ENTIRE life was based around these wolves, which, by the way, were not there for half of the year.  That was the main thing that made me put this book down in the first place.  So yes, Grace.  She was just so BLAND.  Even when it was acknowledged in the book, it still didn't come across as attractive.  
Sam, well, Sam was certainly more interesting than Grace.  The fact that he was a werewolf aside, his dark family past and his love of music/writing song lyrics made him have more depth.  He also wasn't quite that brooding bad boy that we see to much of in this genre, which was a relief.
The plot wasn't the most interesting either.  Sam is stuck as a human, he knows that if he turns back he'll never become human again.  Then there is the whole Jack/Isabel plot line, which was unsatisfying.  He died in the end?  Really?  That just seemed like a lazy way to wrap up that story.  
The last page was cliche and unsatisfying.  I wish that there had been more meaning to this book.  The most beautiful and well written moments were when there was threat of losing on the of the characters.  I think that if Stiefvater had taken this route the book would have ended on a more fulfilling note.
Overall, I wasn't impressed with this book.  I have no desire to pick up the sequels, I'm sure that it involves Grace becoming a wolf too and then some love triangle with Shelby (this other wolf in love with Sam).  
However, my dislike of this book is not a dislike for Stiefvater as an author.  I figure that these books were just written early on in her career, so now her writing is better. Also, maybe she felt some pressure from her publisher when paranormal romance was at it's height of popularity.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

This Star Won't Go Out

Title: This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl
Authors: Esther Earl (With Lori and Wayne Earl)
{Introduction by John Green}
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: January 28th, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction, YA
Rating: ✎✎✎✎✎


A collection of the journals, fiction, letters, and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther’s story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.

My Thoughts and Reflection:

I heard about Esther Earl early on in my journey as a nerd fighter*.  I read about her story and friendship with John Green and thought that it was one of the most beautiful things in the world.  I also learned that John Green dedicated his acclaimed novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.
For those of you who don't know, The Fault in Our Stars is a book about teenagers with cancer, which  is exactly the situation that Esther was in when she died.  The Fault in Our Stars focuses a lot on the romance of the characters.  That detail became increasingly meaningful as I read This Star Won't Go Out, hearing the wishfulness in Esther as she dreamt of having that sort of relationship.
Anyways, besides the connection with John Green, This Star Won't Go Out was an incredibly impressive book.  I'm not one to be a fan of nonfiction typically, but of course I was going to read this book.  Every nerd fighter would. I preordered it around Christmas and was absolutely delighted when it arrived in January; it was so long!!
This Star Won't Go Out was a fantastic mix of the words of Esther, along with the words of her parents, her siblings, her friends, and other people in her life.  The personal narration and emotion in the book brought me so close to Esther that even though I did not know her, I feel like I did.
The pictures, poetry, stories, simply everything about this book was fantastic.  It seemed to gather everything that was Esther and bring it altogether on these pages.
I was brought to tears towards the end of the book, when the narration began to focus on the time when Esther was nearing her end.  Those pages and words were so meaningful, so heartfelt.  I felt all of the grief and shock that the people knew her must have.
My favorite part of the book was at the very end, where there were several unfinished stories of Esther's.  She had a raw talent for writing, and it's a shame that those stories were never finished.  However, she did get her dream of being a published author, and the fact that I supported that makes me smile.
Read this book if you love true stories.  Read this book if you love John Green.  Read this book if you love the internet.  Read this book if you love amazingly happy people, who, even in the darkest of times, still love Harry Potter and can see the light.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: The Word Exchange

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where bloggers can showcase books that we eager for!

What I'm Waiting For:

 In the not so distant future, the forecasted "death of print" has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers and magazines are a thing of the past, as we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication, but have become so intuitive as to hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order take out at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called The Word Exchange.
     Anana Johnson works with her father Doug at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the final edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or video-conference) to communicate--or even actually spoke to one antoher for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices leaving a single writen clue: ALICE. It's a code word he and Anana devised to signal if one of them ever fell into harm's way. And thus begins Anana's journey down the proverbial rabbit hole. . .
     Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague (who is secretly in love with her), Anana's search for Doug will take her into dark basement incinerator rooms, underground passages of the Mercantile Library, secret meetings of the anonymous "Diachronic Society," the boardrooms of the evil online retailing site Synchronic, and ultimately to the hallowed halls of the Oxford English Dictionary--the spiritual home of the written word. As Ana pieces togehter what is going on, and Bart gets sicker and sicker with the strange "Word flu" that has spread worldwide causing people to speak in gibberish, Alena Graedon crafts a fresh, cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller, and a throughtful meditation on the price of technology and the unforeseen, though very real, dangers of the digital age.

Why I'm Waiting:

I read about this book on another blog, I don't remember exactly where.  Maybe Snuggly Oranges?  Anyway, it was such a delight and I was instantly hooked to the premise.  I surprised myself, because I'm not usually interested at all in adult books, (or non-ficion, and I'm reading some of that right now…).  
The only dilemma, is that this book doesn't come out until APRIL!!!!  How on earth am I going to wait that long to read bout the the end of the printed age.  (Which might be the most terrifying dystopian setting yet!)

What are you waiting for this week?