Top Ten Tuesday: Top Hiatus Books

Hello from Boston! I mentioned in my last post that I would be moving to Boston in March and here we are. Three weeks later, I’ve moved, started my new job, and settled in, so it’s high time I get back to blogging.

It turns out that my lazy blogging streak actually started several months ago. Though I’ve been reading even more than usual, I haven’t posted a monthly wrap-up since November. I openly admit that’s absurd. So I thought for this TTT (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish), I would adapt the topic to be the Best Books I Read During my Hiatus (December-February). On we go, in order of when I read them.

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The Young Elites by Marie Lu (December 3): Marie Lu sets up her world so well. Adelina is such a great character, and I like when I can’t pick out who’s right and who’s wrong. Who doesn’t love some moral ambiguity?

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (December 10): This isn’t my favorite from this list, but still a great read from the past few months. The angst is too real with this book, and I expect it only gets more intense as the series goes on.

Scarlet / Cress by Marissa Meyer (December 16/January 31): I love this series. I’ve enjoyed each book and I’m honestly super angry that someone wrote a huge fairytale scifi series before I got a chance to. This series is so much fun and larger-than-life. I just love it. If this doesn’t become an enormous movie franchise, I’ll be livid.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (December 22): This was exactly as charming as everyone says it is. And I finished it just as they announced that Dumplin’ would get a sequel.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (December 27): This was bizarre. It’s such a strange, otherworldly book. But if you don’t mind a little surreal flavor in your books, it’s worth a read. It has been months since I read Bone Gap and I still think about it at least once every couple of days. It stays with you.

Graceling / Fire by Kristin Cashore (January 6/January 14): I have a friend who has loved this series for years. I trust her taste in books so I really don’t know why I didn’t read this series sooner. I was a little surprised when Fire was such a deviation from Graceling, but both were amazing. Such perfect fantasy.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (January 27): I’m honestly so surprised that QoS makes it onto this list. While I enjoy the Throne of Glass series, I never think it deserves the amount of hype it gets. I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed by this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. I still don’t think it’s worth the hype and there are certainly aspects of this series I can’t stand (like I can’t bring myself to care about Rowan and Aelin), but I did enjoy this installment.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (February 5): I resisted reading this book for so long because I don’t actually know anything about the eighties or video games. Nevertheless, it was a great read, and one I was able to recommend to my boyfriend when I was done. (Unfortunately, our reading tastes rarely overlap.)

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (February 28): I love when a cover for a book matches how good the book is, and this cover is incredible. The concept was great and full of high stakes and suspense. I couldn’t stop talking about it.

Let’s hope it won’t be another three weeks before my next blog post. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Interesting Yet Unread 2015 Releases

It’s Tuesday again, which means I’m obviously participating in Top Ten Tuesday (from The Broke and the Bookish). I may not be a super consistent blogger, but my TTTs are always reliable. This week we’re discussing 2015 releases we meant to read last year, but never got around to. I struggled with this week’s topic. It turns out that I read most of the 2015 releases that caught my eye, but here’s a list of the sneaky ones that managed to evade me. It would appear that there are two different kinds of books I’m interested in but still don’t read: the kind I don’t go searching for, and the kind I just can’t get my hands on. The first three on this list are the latter type, while the last three books on this list are of the former type.

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Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas: I spent much of 2015 reading the first 3 books of this series, then I requested QoS in ebook form from my library. I finally got it in the last week of December, but had to return it unread thanks to a couple of unlucky coincidences.

The Rose Society by Marie Lu: I read the first book in this series a month or two ago, towards the end of 2015. I’ve been on my library’s wait list for The Rose Society ever since.

Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch: This was another series I started towards the end of 2015. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t yet have the ebook available for this sequel.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: Moving on to the books I didn’t even try to read. Everyone loves this book, so I hope I get around to it in 2016.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman: Another book with good buzz. Another book I may have neglected to look for.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen: I’ve been following Sarah Dessen on Twitter for years, so sometimes she feels a little like an aunt. She seems like the sweetest woman in the world and I feel almost like I know her. I would like to read her newest book at some point, to both support her and indulge in a little high school nostalgia.

 

There were an awful lot of books by Sara/Sarah’s in this post, weren’t there? Thanks for stopping by and be sure to leave me your TTTs in the comments.

November Wrap-Up

I learned how to download ebooks from my library this month and it made all the difference. When I went on a business trip in the beginning of the month, downloading ebooks was the most practical way to make sure I had enough reading material while traveling. I read a whopping 11 books in November! I think this is my record.

Added bonus: Snow Like Ashes was my 60th book for the year, which completes my goal! Since I’m at 66 now, I’m hoping to read at least 4 in December so I can hit 70 and read over double my original goal for the year, which was 35.

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Title: Heir of Fire
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Date finished: November 2, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Notes: I’m never as into this series as everyone else seems to be, but I enjoyed this more than Crown of Midnight.

Title: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
Author: Marina Keegan
Date finished: November 2, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Notes: It’s a sad set-up for a book, but it was super good. It was clear that Keegan was a clever and talented writer.

Title: Daughter of Deep Silence
Author: Carrie Ryan
Date finished: November 8, 2015
My rating: ☆☆½ (Two and a half stars)
Notes: So blah. The premise was interesting enough but the book was pretty boring. I’m giving it 2.5 stars so I can round it up to 3 (I didn’t hate it enough to justify a 2 star rating).

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Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Date finished: November 8, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Notes: I can get frustrated with characters who seem “too nice,” and if Jenny Han had been any less talented, Lara Jean may have been one of these characters. But I loved her. She was all sweetness and it was an adorable book.

Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
Date finished: November 10, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Notes: This was pretty standard YA fantasy (which is my M.O., to be honest). A weird detail I liked was that winter wasn’t the antagonizing season. I like the cold and winter gets a bad rap!

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Date finished: November 11, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Notes: It was okay. Not my favorite, but solid enough. The twist was pretty upsetting (I started yelling when it happened, you can ask my roommates).

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Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Date finished: November 13, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Notes: This was… cute? This was one of those books where I wish I could have edited it. While I loved that it was about teenage girls working together and exceeding expectations, the commentary was so heavy-handed.

Title: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances
Author: Neil Gaiman
Date finished: November 19, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Notes: I wasn’t a fan of Fragile Things, but Trigger Warning reminded me why I like Gaiman. That said, I was expecting to be more scared/creeped out. Bring it, Gaiman.

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Date finished: November 20, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Notes: I had never read any Patrick Ness before (sacrilege, I know). I was pleasantly surprised by this and I’m now in my library’s queue to download The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

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Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Date finished: November 23, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆½ (Three and a half stars)
Notes: It takes place in my hometown, sort of! It gets an extra half-star for that. This was pretty good, but then again it’s YA fantasy. Like I said before, that’s right up my alley.

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Date finished: November 28, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Notes: Everyone loves this series, but a booktuber I like said she wasn’t a fan and that made me a little apprehensive. I shouldn’t have been apprehensive. This book was so much fun!

 

Here’s hoping I have another great reading month in December. Finish the year strong!

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations

I’m having trouble describing this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, but it is essentially an “If you liked A, you would probably like B” situation. I love this topic, but I had the same idea a few months ago and was thinking about making it a regular series of posts on this blog. So instead of using up all of my recommendations in one go, I’m going to list nine reasons why fans of Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas should read the Lumatere series by Melina Marchetta. You’re all shocked, I’m sure.

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1. The women: How could we start with anything else? Fans love Celaena’s complexity (though I’m not her biggest fan) and the Lumatere books have complicated and fascinating women in spades. There are so many different types of woman, different manifestations of femininity, and great examples of women supporting women.

2. The men: Everyone seems to have their personal favorite ToG man, and I promise you there are plenty of amazing male characters in Lumatere. To provide a little anecdote: my friend was reading the series and texted me “Oh my god, who knew Froi was such a fox?” You will fall in love.

3. The plot twists: Neither series shies away from big reveals. What can I say? I love a good bit of drama.

4. The world: Skuldenore is rich with different countries, languages, cultures, and idiosyncrasies.

5. The characterization: I love when a writer can make me change my mind about a character. It means you’re writing them well. I grew to love several Lumatere characters that I hadn’t originally liked.

6. The relationships: I mentioned this in my Crossover Camaraderie post, but Celaena doesn’t have a great support system (as of the end of Crown of Midnight). I really enjoy seeing people support each other, complement each other, and work together.

7. The writing: I wouldn’t be obsessed with Melina Marchetta if she weren’t an amazing writer.

8. Grijio of Paladozza: Okay, so there’s no ToG equivalent to Grijio, but he’s my favorite minor character. Please read this series even if it’s just so you can meet Grij.

9. POC representation: ToG is sorely lacking in this department, but Lumatere has a pretty good grasp on it.

Anyone who liked Throne of Glass will enjoy the Lumatere Chronicles. They’re both unique approaches to fantasy. The characterization is amazing and there’s something for everyone. Go request it from the library right now. I’ll wait.

Crossover Camaraderie: Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of Crossover Camaraderie, where I find characters from two different books and play matchmaker. Just call me Emma Woodhouse. Or don’t, because she’s a terrible matchmaker. My next set of friends come from two YA fantasy series (and this pair is actually the reason I came up with the idea for Crossover Camaraderie).

Celaena from the Throne of Glass series and Froi from the Lumatere Chronicles.

0914For starters, they’re both assassins. Their situations are a little different, as Celaena is a professional with years of training and experience while Froi is basically in the amateur league. He can fight well, but he didn’t exactly major in Assassin Studies. More importantly, they’re both killers with hearts of gold. In Crown of Midnight, Celaena has more would-be victims than actual kills. In the same vein, Froi heads out to complete a mission and instead forms an emotional attachment to half the kingdom. They have no problem punishing the wicked, but they’re softies.

Furthermore, they’re both intelligent and musically talented. Celaena would definitely try to get Froi to sing along when she plays the pianoforte, even though he wouldn’t oblige. They’re both orphans who were taken under someone’s wing. Froi had much better luck in this area, considering who took in Celaena. But the biggest thing I think they would bond over is their sass. They’re both important figures in their respective stories, but I think it’s safe to say they’re rough around the edges. They’re temperamental, snarky, and irreverent. I’m entirely convinced that they make gross jokes together and poke fun at people.

My favorite thing about this friend pairing is how good they could be for one another. Celaena has a ton of blood on her hands, and I think she could benefit, particularly during Crown of Midnight, from having a friend who is like her in that respect. And Froi knows all about wanting to do good while dealing with your shady past.

Any thoughts on this pairing? Or, if you’ve got a Crossover Camaraderie pairing you’re dying to write about, leave me a link to your post! I would love to read it.

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

After killing a wolf in the woods, Feyre is taken from her home by the High Lord of the Spring Court and made to live in Prythian, home of the faeries, as retribution. As she begins to care for the High Lord Tamlin, she suspects that something is threatening her beloved’s court. Little does she know, the fate of Prythian lies in her hands.

Sarah J. Maas is entertaining, but I’ve never thought of her as the most nuanced writer. As I’ve said before, I enjoyed Throne of Glass but wasn’t crazy about it. A Court of Thorns and Roses, however, was much more up my alley.

Because nothing is perfect and I am critical, I’m going to get the things I didn’t like out of the way. I don’t really understand the whole fae/fairy thing. It reminds me too much of the vampire craze of the 2000’s. And as with vampires, I’ve never really been interested in fairies. Give me a good werewolf or a witch any day of the week. So while Maas may be big into fairies, it’s not a mythology creature I’m into. It seems like the fae just serve to create a powerful, beautiful super-species for the protag to fall in love with because they’re so much better than humans. Which brings us back to Twilight. I couldn’t help but think that this book got a little Twilight-y at times. Normal girl finds a gorgeous, strong, tragic mythological creature and falls in love with him. I’m not saying that Twilight and ACoTaR are the only books to do this. I am saying that after Twilight, I figured we would all be tired of it.

Now onto the things I did like, because this book was blessedly different from Twilight. Firstly, I really liked the relationship between Feyre and Tamlin. They’re both devoted and willing to sacrifice for one another, and they’re actually nice to each other (I’m pained by the fact that healthy, kind relationships are so rare that I’m happy to see them). Unlike in other book romances, Tamlin doesn’t willfully keep her misinformed and he doesn’t manipulate her. Though he knows that she can help save Prythian, he never pressures her into anything she doesn’t want to do.

I can’t help but compare Feyre and Celaena. In comparison to Maas’ previous protagonist, Feyre is more believably flawed. Celaena is too perfect, but Feyre is compassionate, protective, stubborn, and reserved. She is also in charge of her own sexuality, which is especially rare in YA. It was a nice change from the usual blushing and innocence. There’s nothing wrong with virginal YA heroines or with more sexually experienced YA protags, it’s just important to see all ends of the spectrum represented.

A Court of Thorns and Roses follows very much in Throne of Glass’ footsteps, featuring fae and a fierce teenaged heroine. However, this protagonist’s characterization and the strong central relationship puts this book a cut above its predecessor.

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
My rating: ☆☆☆½ (3.5 stars)
Recommended for: anyone looking for a romance that doesn’t sacrifice the characterization of its heroine.

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

After winning the competition and earning a spot as the king’s personal assassin in Throne of Glass, Celaena Sardothien must hide her lack of allegiance in Sarah J. Maas’ Crown of Midnight.

Do you see how short that blurb is? That’s all I’ve got sans spoiling the second half. Despite having read Crown of Midnight less than a month ago, I struggle to describe the plot. At over 400 pages, it isn’t a small book, but I can’t help but think that nothing really happened in it. I can remember enough material to make a book of about 200 pages, so I don’t know where the other 200 come from.

This felt like a filler book, which it very well might be since it is the second in a six-book series. It was all exposition, with just a couple of inciting incidents. While every series has its filler books, the end of Crown of Midnight has me concerned. The end places Celaena far from the conflict between Adarlan and the neighboring nations, which I assume is the overall arc of the series. If Crown of Midnight is setting up the subsequent books, why is she getting further from the main conflict? It makes me feel as though Heir of Fire will also be a filler book.

I have the same reservations when it comes to Celaena’s development that I had in the first book. She still feels like a cliché. Too pretty, too talented, too perfect, with just her wrath as a character flaw. Temper is an overused flaw, so I’m not crazy about her characterization.

I was also bothered by the relationship reset trope.* It happens in books and movies all the time, where two characters get together but it’s too early in the series, so they need some contrived reason to break up just so that they can get together or something later on. Why bother investing so much time in Celaena and Chaol’s relationship (400 pages is a lot of reading time), just to have them break up? The reason for their break up wasn’t even good.

Crown of Midnight is exactly what you would expect the sequel to Throne of Glass to be. While this is still an entertaining series and I will definitely be reading on, I can’t say I am entirely on board.

*Not the official name of the trope. I tried looking it up and these three tropes are the closest I could find to the cliche I’m referring to: Third-Act Misunderstanding, Second-Act Breakup, Anchored Ship.

Title: Crown of Midnight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
My rating: ☆☆ (3 stars)
Recommended for: those who enjoyed Throne of Glass. (Sorry I couldn’t come up with anything better, but it’s a series. If you liked the first, you probably like the second.)

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Series I Need to Finish

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Finished Series I Have Yet to Finish. I usually complete a series as soon as humanly possible, so I was only able to scrounge six series that I haven’t finished. I didn’t include any like The Raven Boys or A Court of Thorns and Roses, where I’ve read all the released books but there are still unpublished sequels. Though they aren’t all completed, the series below all have books out that I still haven’t read.
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 4.26.36 PM1. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo: I just finished the first book in this series and I’m in love! Thank goodness it’s a complete trilogy so I don’t have to wait for any books to be released.

2. The Fairyland Series by Catherynne M. Valente: This is another book I recently read and loved. I can’t wait to read the next four books in this series.

3. The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas: I’m not as big a fan of this series as I am of the first two on this list, but it’s still entertaining. I’m eager to read the next books, especially now that Queen of Shadows is out.

4. The Abarat series by Clive Barker: This series I’m a little scared to read. I read Abarat years ago and loved it, but there are supposed to be five books in the series. Only three have come out and the last book was released four whole years ago.

5. The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry: I read two of these books in school, though I didn’t read them in the proper order.

6. The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld: I loved Leviathan, but since I read it soon after it came out, the other books hadn’t been released yet. I need to revisit this series.

Are any of these series not worth finishing? Do we have any unfinished series in common? Let me know in the comments!

August 2015 Wrap-Up

Vacation was good for me. It got me out of my blogging slump by forcing me to queue up posts. It also got me out of my reading slump by giving me plenty of time to read. Even with a bunch of flights and an interview at the end of the month (still waiting to hear back, wish me luck!), I still managed to read seven books in August, which is up from my measly five in July.

902 Title: Love Water Memory
Author: Jennie Shortridge
Date finished: August 10, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Review: Probably not.
Notes: I thought this would be creepy. It was an okay book, but not creepy.

Title: Fangirl
Author:  Rainbow Rowell
Date finished:  August 12, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Review: Maybe.
Notes: I wanted to like this book because I’m part of the fandom generation, but I didn’t think it really reflected that experience.

Title: Crown of Midnight
Author:  Sarah J. Maas
Date finished:  August 15, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Review: Probably.
Notes: I’m still not nuts about this series, but it’s enjoyable enough for me to continue with the next book.

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Title: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Author:  Stephanie Oakes
Date finished:  August 18, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (Four stars)
Review: I definitely plan on reviewing this!
Notes: Love love love love love. I LOVED this one. I’m forcing all of my friends to read it now.

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Author:  Catherynne M. Valente
Date finished:  August 23, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (Five stars)
Review: Also a definite.
Notes: Another love love love book. I’ve already given it to my roommate to read.

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Title: Sisters Red
Author: Jackson Pearce
Date finished: August 24, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆ (Three stars)
Review: Maybe.
Notes: It was okay. I liked the concept well enough, but the romance was totally unnecessary and the writing wasn’t great.

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Date finished: August 30, 2015
My rating: ☆☆☆½ (Three and a half stars)
Review: Probably.
Notes: I definitely liked this better than either of the Throne of Glass books I’ve read, but there were still some things that bugged me. It was a little Twilight-y at times. I’m torn between 3 and 4 stars.

Sorry for being super vague about what books I’ll be reviewing. I want to review a lot of them, but I’m super behind. I have books I read in May that I still haven’t reviewed! I might try doing shorter reviews in an attempt to catch up. We’ll see. In the meantime, tell me what books you’ve read this month or what books I should read in September!