Friday, May 22, 2015

Two Minute Review: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

Title: None of the Above
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Genre: contemporary
Series: none
Pages: 352
Published: April 7th, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating: 4 out of 5

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex... and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

There aren’t enough books with LGBT main characters, much less the less well known I for intersex. So when I heard debut author I.W. Gregorio was not only writing one, but writing from their perspective as a Yale school of medicine graduate? I could have done a jig. I feel Gregorio handles a difficult subject with aplomb, though as I’m not intersex it’s not really my opinion that matters.

Gregorio has built a realistic world where people don’t react well to the sudden announcement that their homecoming queen and star runner has testicles. This does include slurs against both trans and intersex people. The language is never condoning and the author’s note at the end gives a very fair explanation as to why the author felt the language was necessary, but I know these words are still deal breakers to some.

And yet, I didn’t feel enough conflict in the story. There are bullies and some misunderstandings between friends, but I didn’t feel any real threat or urgency to explain Kristin’s extended absence. The end does have a violent, sexual assault-y climax, but it’s written in the same laissez-faire style where I couldn’t believe anything bad would actually happen. In the end, the character actually has a great, diverse support system, which is what we want in real life but makes for a less impactful read.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Tour Review: Under the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Title: Under the Same Blue Sky
Author: Pamela Schoenewaldt
Genre: historical fiction, general fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Published: May 5th 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

From the USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Strangers and Swimming in the Moon comes a lush, exquisitely drawn novel set against the turmoil of the Great War, as a young German-American woman explores the secrets of her past.

A shopkeeper's daughter, Hazel Renner lives in the shadows of the Pittsburgh steel mills. She dreams of adventure, even as her immigrant parents push her toward a staid career. But in 1914, war seizes Europe and all their ambitions crumble. German-Americans are suddenly the enemy, "the Huns." Hazel herself is an outsider in her own home when she learns the truth of her birth.

Desperate for escape, Hazel takes a teaching job in a seemingly tranquil farming community. But the idyll is cracked when she acquires a mysterious healing power--a gift that becomes a curse as the locals' relentless demand for "miracles" leads to tragedy.

Hazel, determined to find answers, traces her own history back to a modern-day castle that could hold the truth about her past. There Hazel befriends the exiled, enigmatic German baron and forges a bond with the young gardener, Tom. But as America is shattered by war and Tom returns battered by shell-shock, Hazel's healing talents alone will not be enough to protect those close to her, or to safeguard her dreams of love and belonging. She must reach inside to discover that sometimes the truth is not so far away, that the simplest of things can lead to the extraordinary.

Filled with rich historical details and intriguing, fully realized characters, Under the Same Blue Sky is the captivating story of one woman's emergence into adulthood amid the tumult of war.

Thoughtful and contemplative are two apt descriptors for Pamela Schoenewaldt's newest historical fiction novel, Under the Same Blue Sky. This is largely the story of Hazel Renner, a first-generation American-born German, and takes place before, during, and after WWI. Hazel grows up with the worldwide tension and the tumult, felt all the way from Europe to her homes in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in the US.

Hazel and her family are "hyphenated Americans," meaning that they are immigrants or directly descended from someone who was. Like other minority and hyphenated groups such Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, etc, whom have experienced bigotry and xenophobia in this country, the German émigrés in New York during this time were exposed to harsh prejudice and ill-conceived judgments. Suspicion against "Huns" and "Krauts" are leveled against Hazel and her family due to propaganda and news, and Schoenewaldt shows how that unrelenting rhetoric looks and feels from the other side. This a constant pressure exerts itself on various characters in several affecting and emotional ways.

Under the Same Blue Sky is a solid novel, where characterization is subtle but felt and plot is minimal. For the most part, it's a thoughtful and introspective look at WWI from an unexplored and unlikely point of view. When it concerns itself with those aspects of the plot and storytelling, this worked really well as a novel. With the introduction of Hazel's "gift", I felt the seams of the story start to fray. This is possibly due to how open-ended the author leaves the interpretation of that element. Is this a magical realism novel? Was it a placebo effect?

A strong introduction to this author, Under the Same Blue Sky was a satisfying historical read that left me curious about the author's other works. Hazel's story and perspective feel fresh and new; focusing on WWI rather than WWII was also a smart maneuver that served to keep this book and characters both original and memorable.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Discussion Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Title: Black Iris
Author: Leah Raeder
Genre: new adult, romance, thriller
Series: N/A
Pages: 368
Published: April 28th
Source: publishers via NetGalley

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

Joining me are Lyn and Kara from Great Imaginations!

Lyn: I have to admit, this is my first New Adult novel, and I have been very excited to read this author’s writing.  Everyone gushes over her style, and I can see why it is a big hit.  Is this anyone else’s first NA novel?

Jessie: This was my first official NA read! I pretty much have refused to recognize NA as a label or a genre or anything. Buuuuut… it’s Leah Raeder. She has built a strong fanbase and I do love pretty prose…

Kara: Definitely not my first. I mostly edit NA novels and Karina Halle writes a lot of NA and I read those as well. I mean, I work for her, but I would read those if I didn’t because I love her work. Outside of that, not really. I don’t read much NA romance, but I have a feeling Black Iris isn’t categorically like most of that either.

Lyn: So things came as a shock to me when I read this.  I screwed up and thought this was YA, because I’m illiterate or something. Anyways, I am no longer a NA virgin.

Jessie: I have to say that I was interested in this book due to the writing. The plot wasn’t that alluring to me as a reader, but even seeing Leah Raeder quotes on Goodreads was enough to convince I wanted to read this. I was right; the writing is gorgeous and the highpoint of the novel for me.

Kara: I liked MOST of the writing. It was definitely pretty, but there were places where it got a bit weird for me. Why did she keep saying “skull” when she meant “head?” Little odd things like that yanked me out of the narrative. But yes, it was poetic and beautiful and atmospheric, so I definitely see where you are coming from there.

Lyn: The writing was my favorite part. I enjoy an author who can put a twist on her words and her theme. This is a novel that would make for a great study for showing instead of telling.  Kara, I think she kept using skull for head to show that things were deeper than outward appearances, and dealt more with what was lying underneath.

Kara: No, I understand that she had a reason for this, but it was a stylistic choice that didn’t work for me. I liked most of it, but it got a bit purple in places. Which is really weird for me because I generally LOVE super thick writing that describes everything. IDK.

Jessie: I should specify – I loved the writing when it wasn’t about the romances/love interests. When Laney is just thinking or planning or existing, the writing is gorgeous. When she describes Laney’s various attractions, I get bored. I can only take so many descriptions about Armin or Blythe.

Lyn: I have to agree with Jessie on the writing portion.  When it was outside the beat-you-over-the-head romance, it really worked, and worked well. It was like candy. But when it returned back to the too in-depth intimacy, it was very tedious.

Kara: Speaking of Armin and Blythe, what did you guys think about the characters? This is where I suspect the conversation will get interesting. As a surprise to no one, I am sure, I LOVED Blythe. I am guessing lots of other readers hated her, but not me. Why? Because I basically am her. At least I once was. How did you guys feel?

Jessie: I loved her as a character and liked her as a person. I loved what she did to the plot, to Laney, etc, and I loved how complex and unconventional Blythe was. She wasn’t perfect, she wasn’t easily defined, and she wasn’t even all that nice, but she felt so real. That’s my real complaint about the remaining characters. Blythe feels so real, so realized, and then Laney comes across… overwrought and overdone, and Armin feels shallow.

Lyn: Character wise: yes, you guys, I freaking LOVED Blythe. For me, I wish I was more like her. I admired her devil may care attitude and her intensity. There was nothing held back. She didn’t hold herself to someone else’s standards. By Odin, she flat out states that a slut is a girl who likes sex, and cuts through the chorus of bullcrap all around her, the sexism, the anger, the lies, all of it. She was amazing.

Kara: Agreed. She was just so out there and so real, and so confident in who she was, I think. But also, she had no filter and just stated whatever the hell she felt, whenever she felt it. Laney, on the other hand, I didn’t much care for at all. I kept trying to pinpoint WHY that was and I think you might have nailed it, Jessie. There was just so much going on with her that I could never stick with her for long. Her personality was all over the place, and yeah, maybe she was overwritten. To me, Armin was a non-entity. I am having trouble remembering portions of the book and he is one of them. He’s completely unmemorable and generic.

Jessie: He’s the background noise to Blythe’s rock and roll. He’s overwhelmed by both the plot and the other characters because his whole function is that of “boy.” While I love the center stage for two such disparate women, Raeder never really develops Armin into more than a list of virtues and a few vices. He doesn’t breathe life the way Blythe does, and so he fades into a set piece instead of a main character.

Lyn: I really thought I was the only one who couldn’t stand Armin. My biggest issue with him was his broken record lines: “Trust me, trust me, trust me.” “I’m in love I’m in love I’m in love.” “Let me buy your affection.” He was such a terrible attempt at a white knight, and he drug down the storyline. He was a prop: the ATM, the doctor, the head shrink, and next to all of the women, including his sister, he was a whiny, sniveling cardboard cut out. Yes, he was overshadowed, and I understand it was on purpose, but I never found anything redeeming about him.

Kara: Yeah, agreed. He was completely cardboard, and a device to move the plot along. To me, this was a bit unfair to his character on the author’s part. I loved all the strong female characters, and I wish the same attention would have been paid to Armin. Make him horrible, make him shallow, I don’t care, but give me a fully fleshed-out character. He was so BLAH.

Jessie: Boring, Thy Name is Armin. (How you manage to be so in a diverse revenge novel I do not know)

Lyn: Yes, just so flat. Even Zoller had a personality. I just gave me a taste that the writer didn’t know what to do with him until he was needed.

Jessie: Petition that we pretend Armin was really Hiyam all along?
Lyn: Yes, please.

Jessie: What about plot, guys? I admit, I wasn’t impressed for much of the novel. It’s got a new angle with Laney, but this revenge plot is pretty formulaic. That said, Raeder does get pretty creative with it. That twist? I further admit I wasn’t fully prepared for the reveal that came after or the eventual fallout. That did a lot to renew my interest in the last parts of the novel. I wasn’t sold on eeeevery part of the final twist, though. Part of it seemed to come out of nowhere and just serve to make the finale less believable.

Lyn: The plot. This is going to be such a tangled web. Like the rest of the book, I either loved it or hated it. I thought that the plot, the twists, the intentions – all of it was way too clunky. It needed to stick to a love triangle, a mystery, or a slow reveal on the backstory. It was all just too much for me. Maybe I am a black sheep here, but I was so ready to give up when the big shocker came. I sat there, thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me?? Where did THIS come from?” It was too much on the twists for my tastes. And don’t even get me started on the ending of this one. Not impressed.

Kara: It was just too much for me, guys. I loved the writing, I loved the characters, but there was just simply too much going on for me in this novel. And on top of that, I just found the way the plot unfolded was just too hard for me to believe. It turned into a freaking action movie of a sort, and it was just all a bit too corny.
As for the twist, that did reel me back in again a bit, but it wasn’t enough to save the novel for me. It felt rushed and slapped together a bit at the end too. I feel so black sheepy saying this, but this novel didn’t work for me like it did so many other readers I trust. It felt like a book that still needed a lot more editing. *shrugs*

Lyn: I think this could almost have been a series, give us more clues about what is happening. Yeah, lead up needed a bit more bait, instead of pages and pages of drugs and sex. Which are fine, but I feel that they got more than their fair share of spotlight, when there were other way more interesting things happening. Coupled with an ending that was just beyond cheesy and rather goofy for the theme, I slowly lost interest in this one. It was pretty much downhill.

Jessie: It wasn’t a complete win for me either. The things about this that I liked, I REALLY LIKED. The other aspects? Well, they aren’t dealbreakers for me reading this author but they may end up being dealbreakers for how I rate Black Iris as a whole.

Kara: Agreed. I rated it fairly high when I finished it, but the more and more I keep thinking about it, the more my rating keeps dropping. Like I wanted to love it, but where were the consequences for Laney’s actions at the end? Bad plotting, man. That was just so hard to believe.

Jessie: The ending was a mess, especially compared to how great the beginning of the book was. And it also felt….. rather open-ended? I wasn’t a fan of that. Nor of the ahem… committee?… forming at the end. DO NOT TRY TO SERIES THIS SHIT, OK.

Lyn: I agree with Kara. I was really disappointed by the conclusion of the novel. Look, I understand wanting to bring balance to the world, but if you have to turn into a monster to do it, is it even justice at this point? That ending was corny, and considering how well the novel held some heavy issues with grace, I was feeling a bit let down by the last page. Why did it go from NA to MG in the last chapter? Why? Totally pulled a Nolan there.

Kara: I agree, Lyn. That was one of the things I kept thinking while reading. Some seriously HORRIBLE shit happened to Laney. I felt awful and I wanted to make everything better for her. But the revenge rampage she went on, what was that? How do two wrongs make a right? I get wanting to maybe get a LITTLE bit of revenge–that’s human nature–but the shit she did made her just as awful, or maybe not just as awful, but almost as awful? I just don’t see how that was okay.

Lyn: Especially when the police were never contacted in the first place! Look, I can totally understand going a bit Batman on someone’s ass when the authorities do nothing, and look the other way, but the police and the school administration was just automatically discredited, because, you know, this is a book aimed towards college kids, but come on.
In the end – loved the f/f relationship, the writing, and some of the plot, so 3 stars from me.

Kara: Yeah, I’m going with 3 stars too. I agree. Loved the f/f relationship between Blythe and Laney. That was my favorite part.

Jessie: Final rating? Mine is 3.5/5 The writing was fantastic (mostly), Blythe gets a star for her general Blytheness, etc.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book Tour Review & Giveaway: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: fantasy, retellings
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Pages: 416
Published: expected May 5, 2015
Source: received from publishers for review
Rating: 5/5

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

We all know Sarah J. Maas can write. The evidence is abundant if you've read her other series -- you may have heard of it -- a tiny thing called Throne of Glass? Watching her talent improve and evolve through that successive series of books has been a reward in and of itself but even more so when that growth is reflected in her newest authorial effort, the mix fantasy and fae and retelling that is A Court of Thorns and Roses. If Throne of Glass is good, and Crown of Midnight amazing and Heir of Fire perfection, then A Court of Roses is absolutely on par with Heir of Fire. It's brash and bold, dark and twisty, swoony and full of feels. It's the launchpoint of a new series and one of the best series openers I've had the pleasure to read. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses boasts a fantastic premise, tip top execution, masterful characterization and nearly flawless writing. It's moody and atmospheric from the start -- a feeling that only intensifies as the story progresses along with the main characters Feyre and Tamlin. The beginning eases the reader into a fantasyish world that soon emerges as a place of beauty, danger, and unpredictability. This world is entirely Maas's own and her stamp is aaallll over it, from the visual descriptions to the enveloping feel omnipresent throughout the novel.The worldbuilding is clever and well-rendered without verring into info-dump territory. Prythian and its various fae Courts come alive almost as much as the people who populate the island.

Feyre, the first person narrator for A Court of Thorns and Roses, is a far cry from Celaena or Aelin or Manon or any of Maas's other (and deservedly well-loved) female characters. She's prickly and stubborn, foolhardy and clever. Her mix of virtues and flaws easily coalesce into a living, breathing person. She feels -- and reads -- so real; she lives and breathes on the page. Her struggles, from the mundane to the supernatural, may be foreign but they help the reader connect and identify with her. Tamlin, her love interest and counterpart, is just as well-defined. His characterization humanizes him without losing the otherworldly edge that should be present for a High Lord of the Fae.

Apart Feyre and Tamlin are excellent characters;; together, they are even better. The both compliment and challenge one another. They -- and often Lucien -- provide great foils for one another as they try to reconcile their different ways. And the ship in this book -- prepare to board, y'all. This is one hell of a ship. Maas makes the reader work for it. The hints and subtle allusions build and build until you want to yell "JUST KISS!" at the two of them. It's one of the most well-developed romances in YA fiction. It reminded me somewhat of what Rosamund Hodge did with Cruel Beauty. Maas takes these two damaged characters and makes them work together as a unit so veyr well. If you don't ship well before halfway through the novel, I would be honestly surprised.

The side characters are also developed into more than background pieces. Even Feyre's two sisters, who appear somewhat one-note at first in A Court of Thorns and Roses, become much more than that first impression would have you assume. Lucien, Tamlin's friend and Emisssary, becomes far more than what is first assumed. The antagonist, though an off-page threat for a lot of the novel, has a lot of presence despite that fact. When [they] do appear on-page, it definitely lives up the hundreds of pages of foreboding that came before.

If you love fairy tales, retellings, fantasy, or swoony books, A Court of Thorns and Roses is your next favorite read. It's rich and atmospheric, engaging and horrifying and amazing. Feyre and Tamlin will imprint on your brain and make it impossible to forget them and desperate to find out what happens next for them. Sarah J. Maas has once again proved that she is a force to deal with -- from writing to plotting to execution, there's no beating her. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a magnificent introduction to this world an these characters and I cannot wait to see whats he does (and how she breaks my heart) going forward. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses Blog Tour Stops 

May 5: Perpetual Page Turner – Blog Tour Kick Off with Sarah!
May 5: Lili’s Reflections – Top Five Fairytale Retellings
May 6: Bookish Broads – Lightning Round
May 6: Dark Readers
May 7: Paper Riot – An Interview with Sarah
May 8: Polished Page-Turners – Would You Rather…

The Masquerade Ball!
May 11: Novel Sounds & Alexa Loves Books – The Soundtrack
May 12: Icey Books & That Artsy Reader Girl – The Decorations
May 13: Jenuine Cupcakes & Writer of Wrongs – The Food
May 14: What Sarah Read & Andi’s ABCs – The Clothing
May 15: Fiction Fare & Belle of the Literati – The Casting Call

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: fantasy, retelling
Series: None
Pages: 448
Published: Expected May 5, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption

Mother said,
"Come what may,
Follow the path
And never stray."

Just so, little girl-
Any path.
So many worth exploring.
Just one would be so boring.
And look what you're ignoring…1

Rachelle strayed off the forest path when she was fifteen. She thought she could outsmart the monster she met, but instead she ended up marked, bloodbound to serve the Devourer of the sun and moon. Rachelle pledges her service to the king instead, fighting the monsters that cross over from the Devourer’s realm, the Great Forest that exists alongside her world. She knows she’s destined to end up a forestborn, the same as her maker, and thus beyond redemption, but when she finds out the Devourer is going to return by summer’s end, she’s willing to try to do one good thing in the world.

Instead, she’s assigned to play babysitter to a false saint, the king’s bastard, Armand, who supposedly met a forestborn and survived marked but not bound. This is hogwash, of course, as Rachelle knows what it means to be marked. Armand lost his hands to the Forest, becoming a saint and martyr to the common people. As rebellion swirls, it’s Rachelle’s job to keep him from being assassinated or raised up.

Like Hodge’s first book, Crimson Bound is a lot more than a fairy tale retelling. Rachelle’s story starts very similarly to Red Riding Hood, true, but it ends with far more in common with Persephone. While Armand is a spin on The Girl Without Hands, there’s also a healthy dose of Hansel and Gretel in Tyr and Zisa, legendary twins who trapped the Devourer. Instead of feeling disjointed or derivative, Hodge’s world building and magic system blend them all into something new and surprising.

Unfortunately, also like Cruel Beauty, there are some plot holes that are hard to overlook, particularly in regards to the difference between the bloodbound and the forestborn they become. There’s also a love triangle that I found less than effective.

Hodge’s writes amazing, complex and unlikeable women that I can’t help falling in love with, and Rachelle is no exception. While the love interest is no Ignifex, the world is tighter, the magic more focused, and the action well integrated. The influences are diverse and blend together to build a truly one of a kind experience. Cruel Beauty was one of my best books of last year, but Hodge has outdone herself in her sophomore effort.

1. Sondheim, Stephen. Into The Woods. 1987

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Newest Additions to the Towering TBR Pile

It's been just about five weeks since I've posted a book haul. Don't worry -- it's definitely not because I have somehow acquired some heretofore undiscovered well of self-control and have stopped buying books. Oh noo. I've just been hit with a lot of Real Life Stuff and haven't had as much time for blogging. But that said....

Books I've been sent:

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George.
Many thanks to the awesome people at Bloomsbury for this one!

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.
I have loved the snark and banter of these two for years so a finished review copy is much appreciated. Thank you, Grand Central/Hachette!

Mireille by Molly Cochran.
This thing is a tome but I love that cover and the premise. Thanks to Lake Union and TLC Book Tours for this ARC!

The Predictions by Bianca Zander.
This is about a free-love commune in the 1970s named Gaialand. That's all I needed to know to be interested.
Thank you William and Morrow and TLC Book Tours!


All the Rage by Courtney Summers.
Thanks to B&N Teens for one of my most anticipated 2015 reads.

Books I shamelessly bought myself/manipulated the fiance into buying for me:

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (Seraphina #2). Having read the ARC, I knew a finished copy was a must for my shelves. And that blue? GORGEOUS.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (The Keeper's Chronicles #1). Friends' reviews had made me curious about this YA fantasy and THANK YOU FRIENDS. And also, I hate you all for the feelings this book inflicted upon me.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Okay so this is probable the fourth edition of this book that I own, but COVER. LOVE.

Look how pretty:

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I already own this on Kindle but it's such a brick I couldn't resist a hardcover copy for under $5.

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (Orphan Queen #1) so a lot of hype about this made me eager. I've read it and liked it.. but..... it's gotten a bit overhyped.

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas - so I read these online but of course I had to own that cover. It looks so pretty with my other ToG books.

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes. I bought this book for three reasons: Title. Also the author lives in my home town. And he is often very funny on twitter.

The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray - this has earned some pretty good reviews and I cannot resist a bargain... especially for a hardcover!

I went on a very specific binge at B&N.

Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn (Mistress of Rome #3)
The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn (The Borgias #1)
The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn (The Borgias #2)

I have already raced through these and Katw Quinn is fast becoming a favorite author for me.

Half-Price Books Haul (aka my reward for doing Adult Responsibilites with Ryan):

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville. This had completely snuck under my radar but then Nafiza read it and talked about it. I was intrigued.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is slow moving but quite lovely. The diamond plotline was the only thing keeping it from being a full five-star read for me.

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black, et al. With all the WWII seriousness of the previous two, I thought this anthology was the perfect pickerupper.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Another bargain for another magical realism book I've been curious about for ages.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein. I will read anything this woman writes.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I have been a fan of this author for over 10 years. Her work is creative and often hits me right in the feels.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. I had read and loved this as an e-ARC. I am so glad I waited to buy a paperback copy because that cover is perfection.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (The Mockingbirds #1). This is an older title I only know about thanks to twitter. It sounds like a book I will love and that will make me righteously angry about patriarchy. Bring it on.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. This is often called the first feminist novel. How have I not read it yet?

and, lastly:

Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (Daughters of the Nile #3). Last in a series about Cleopatra Selene. That cover is hard to look away from.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Challenge: Burn, Rewrite, Reread

We were tagged by Lyn at Great Imaginations. The video for the challenge can be found here.

We used a random number generator to pick three books from our "read" lists and, like FMK, pick which to burn, rewrite, and reread.

First Round


Burn: King's Dragon (Crown of Stars #1) by Kate Elliott. This wasn't even hard. I detested this series when I first read it and remembering it now does it no favors.

Rewrite: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon. So much potential with this combination of Snow White and Rapunzel inspirations but it failed at characterization and/or making me care about the story.

Reread: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. Let me introduce you to Monza Murcatto. Monza is the definition of antihero and I could not love her -- or this dark, gritty fantasy book about revenge -- more.



Burn: WHYYYYYY? Two of these are from my favorite series, so I have to, by default only, pick How to Date a Henchman.

Rewrite: Cinder. It certainly doesn't need rewritten, but I think the writing and plotting have gotten tighter as the series has gone on and Cinder could be just a smidge more focused. 

Reread: Catching Fire. Five star book in a five star series. 

Second Round


Burn: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. Second-person. SECOND. PERSON. And other reasons. But I rest my case.

Rewrite: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. This was so aggressively average. It was the John Smith of novels. The egg white of books.

Reread: India Black and the Widow of Windsor (India Black #2) by Carol K. Carr. Great series, great character, great ship. I can reread that anytime.


Rewrite: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. I really liked the idea of this book, but there were some execution issues both with the characterization of the girls and the red herrings in the mystery. 

Reread: The Blade Itself . I actually really do need a reread of this book so I can continue the series!

Third Round


Burn: From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas. It was a cute idea but the execution left something to be desired. I liked it okay-ish, but not nearly as much as the other two.

Rewrite: Inamorata by Megan Chance. This was a nearly perfect read, expect for the spoiler: maybe incest? I would like that element clarified, so I know to what level I should be squicked out spoilerre: the siblings.

Reread: Doubleblind (Sirantha Jax #3) by Ann Aguirre. I will reread this series forever, but this is my favorite in the entire six-book series. Jax and March forever. READ THIS SERIES OKAY.


Burn: The Princess of Nowhere. Do we need more mediocre historical fiction?

Rewrite: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Hear me out. Two words: Albus. Severus.

The defense rests.

Reread: Cruel Beauty

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