Wednesday, August 31, 2016

AZ Challenge update 3

Since it's getting to be the last quarter of the year, I filled out the books that I plan to read for the letters I haven't read yet. I also started counting author's name for a few letters that I had trouble finding titles for, like K and Y. For letters X and Z, it was too hard to find titles/authors that started with those letters so I decided to include any title or author that had the letter in there somewhere!

A: And I Darken by Kiersten White (2/26)
B: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (2/8)
C: Court of Thieves by Kate Elliott (1/12)
D: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (4/3)
E: Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce (TBR)
F: Fall of Giants (8/30)
G: A Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (1/22)
H: His Majesty's Dragon (3/30)
I: The Immortal Heights (1/5)
J: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (8/26)
K: Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal (8/23)
L: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (TBR)
M: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (3/21)
N: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (6/18)
O: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine (3/12)
P: Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov (6/15)
Q: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that cannot stop talking by Susan Cain (3/27)
R: Rook by Sharon Cameron (3/7)
S: Shadows of Self (1/3)
T: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights (1/31)
U:  UnBound by Neal Shusterman (TBR)
V: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (TBR)
W: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (5/12)
X: Bird Box by Josh Malerman (TBR)
Y: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (8/19)
Z: Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear (TBR)
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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: This Shattered World

13138734Title: This Shattered World
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Genre: Science fiction, young adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Much better than the first book! Also, fantastic audiobook narrators :)

I wasn't a huge fan of These Broken Stars, especially since I didn't think it lived up to its overwhelmingly positive reviews. I just didn't really like or care about Lilac and Tarver, and Lilac especially seemed remarkably whiny and spoiled despite the authors' obvious attempts at making her seem more resourceful and intelligent than she initially seemed. Jubilee Chase and Finn Cormac, though, I loved both of them when they were introduced and I only grew to love them more as I got to know them throughout the book. I don't know if it was just amazing audiobook narrators doing a great job of bringing the characters to life or if I just found these characters more compelling, but in any case they were a huge reason I enjoyed this book a lot more than book 1. Also, hooray for Jubilee being a person of color! Asians/people of asian descent are hardly ever included in SF/F so that was really cool.

Even though I wasn't a huge fan of Lilac and Tarver in the first book, I did like their cameo in this one. They have obviously grown up a lot since the beginning of their journey, and I enjoyed seeing a new side to them.

Both Jubilee and Finn fight relentlessly for what they believe in. The trouble is that they are on opposite sides of a war, but when the two of them make an unsettling discovery, they realize that the reasons for the war are far more complicated than anyone bargained for. I really enjoyed the suspense and the way the twists were incorporated into the plot; just when you think you know who the bad guy is, you find out about a bigger and more terrifying "villain". I also like how the world and events in this book built off of the events in book one without ever seeming like they were rehashing something that we'd seen before. This book really used book one as a springboard and launched itself into some very interesting sci-fi territory.

I think my biggest problem with These Broken Stars was that it seemed like a romance with a sci-fi end of the world plot thrown in. That's absolutely not the case with this book, it's very much about war and sacrifice and loss with a little bit of romance thrown in. This book is just a lot more complex, with very blurred lines between right and wrong, loyalty and betrayal. There were multiple scenes that had me close to tears. War is brutal, and it tears people apart. That reality is dealt with extremely well in this book, but it also showcases the strength and grace with which people face adversity.

I am looking forward to book 3! I can only imagine the scope of this world and the stakes will just get higher and higher.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Ghost Talkers

26114291Title: Ghost Talkers
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Genre: Fantasy, Historical fiction, mystery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.
Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…

This was a really fun mystery, set in England during world War I. Did I forget to mention that there are mediums and ghosts in this world too?

Ginger is one such medium employed by the British army to conduct seances every day and report the intelligence gathered by the ghosts of the soldiers who died that day. I thought using ghosts as spies was a really unique and clever idea, and I really liked how subtly a supernatural element was introduced as part of the world.

Ginger is awesome! She's really good at what she does, and she's full of courage and tenacity. I loved that she was good friends with the other women in the seance crew, and stood up for them even when faced with prejudice and scorn from superior officers. I also liked her relationship with Ben; it was built on mutual admiration and respect, and the two of them made a great mystery-solving team.

I was really surprised by the identity of the traitor, and I usually have a good nose for this sort of thing. I also really liked how everything wrapped up in the end.

There were hints of this book that reminded me of another book I enjoyed, Karen Memory. I really like how both books don't shy away from the ugly realities of their time periods, including racism and sexism, but still celebrate a diverse group of characters with all their strengths and flaws.

I read this book in a day, and I'd definitely recommend it!

A free eARC was provided by Tor via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Have been on my TBR the longest!

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

This week's theme: Top Ten Books that have been on my TBR the longest!

I'm generally pretty good about trimming down my TBR and making sure it never gets over 50 books. I know that if I ever let it grow bigger than that, I'll never actually read all the books on my TBR! I also don't usually include upcoming books in a series I'm reading on my TBR, I kind of just assume I'm gonna read them and they jump straight to "currently reading" on goodreads. So a few of the top ten longest books haven't actually been there for too long...

It turns out most of the books that have been on my TBR the longest are the "classics" or the more "literary" books I've wanted to read but am hardly in the mood for. I love sci-fi, fantasy, mysteries, and historical fiction, so I usually get those books off my TBR pretty quickly!

Added to TBR: June 7, 2013

I've read a bunch of other Murakami books since I added this but never got to this one..,oops
Added to TBR: March 3, 2014

This book is just so long for a non-fantasy book that I'm going to have to be in a very patient mood to pick it up!

Date added: December 17, 2013

I really want to read this still, it's just always been checked out whenever I go to the library! Maybe I should actually put a hold on it.

Date added: April 29, 2014

I liked If I Stay, but I just haven't been in the mood for a contemporary romance...for 2 and a half years, apparently

Date added: June 22, 2014

My friend recommended this ages ago and I wasn't able to get a copy but I finally found one! This will definitely be read by the end of the year.

Date added: July 5, 2014

I believe this is the last Sanderson book left that I haven't read (besides the new graphic novel and a few short stories). I'm saving this for a really bad book slump because I know I'll probably love it :)

Date added: August 9, 2014

Similar situation to Murakami. I never read this one but I did read Prince of Fools by the same author.

Date added: February 16, 2015

I read a different Heinlein book that my friend lent me and it was pretty boring, so my motivation to get to this one has fallen!

Date added: March 15, 2015

This one was recommended to me by one of you lovely blog readers when I did my Super Fantastic Fantasy Flowchart way back when. It sounds awesome, I honestly don't know why I haven't read it yet.

Date added: April 21, 2015

I know, I know, how dare I call myself a VE Schwab fan if I haven't read this yet? I even loved ADSOM! I really should get on finding a copy of this so I can devour it, I'm sure it'll be amazing :)

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

New feature idea: Bookish eats

This morning while I was shopping for groceries, I had an epiphany. I looooove cooking and baking, and I also love trying out new recipes and foods from around the world. I also love books that feature interesting places and cultures, so I figured why not combine both loves?

I'm going to start a Bookish Eats feature, where I cook or bake something that's inspired by a book I've read and loved. It'll probably be really sporadic to start, maybe once a month or so, just to see if it's something I can actually do. I'm really excited to brainstorm recipes that might fit the mood or culture of some of the books I've read recently.

Nevernight was really dark but quite a bit of fun...maybe I'll bake something with dark chocolate?

Orange is the New Black might be a fun book to cook or bake for in Halloween! Think of all the pumpkin recipes, yum :D


ACOMAF featured magical fairies, shadows, and shapeshifting...maybe I should shapeshift some cake into cake pops?

The possibilities are endless! I'm so excited!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: Morning Star

18966806Title: Morning Star
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: Science fiction

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.
Finally, the time has come.
But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

wow, this book was BRUTAL.

When I first started the Red Rising trilogy, I was blown away buy exactly how brutal it was. The story starts with a guy having to watch and even participate in his wife's execution, for god's sake! The thing is, it only gets more and more brutal from there. Just when you grow to love or trust a character, something happens that tears you apart. As strong and resilient as the characters of this series are, sometimes they crack. It's heartbreaking, and you know that not everyone is going to make it out of this war alive, but you can't stop hoping for the best anyway.

I think that's the mark of a really great book: even when you know that bad things are going to happen and you really shouldn't get attached to anyone, you can't help getting emotionally invested in every character anyway. Even the villains are complex, and while not necessarily sympathetic, you can still respect their cunning and unshakable conviction that they're doing the right thing.

The stakes of Darrow's war are extraordinarily high, and the plot never stops racing forward. There is a lot of complex political maneuvering and big battle sequences, but there are also many intimate moments with the characters as they grow to trust one another or are betrayed by those they loved. I felt like Morning Star really raised the stakes and had me guessing about how everything would turn out even during the final few pages.

Perfect ending to the whole bloodydamn series :)

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

TTT: Top Ten books on the Sea

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

This week's theme: Top Ten Books on the sea

I am a huge fan of nautical-themed books and I love the beach, so here's a list of books that take place in the middle of the ocean or on the sands by the sea! Some of them are favorites from when I was little and some are more recent, and for once my list has a more genres than my usual sci-fi and fantasy :)


Brian Jacques was one of my favorite authors in elementary school. I loved Redwall, but I also really enjoyed his less well-known Flying Dutchman series, featuring an immortal boy and his talking dog as they have adventures with pirates!

The Gentleman Bastards series is one of my absolute favorites, and this book is the most fun of the lot! Featuring everything from a mythical casino to a lady pirate captain who happens to be a badass mother of  two, this book is best described as a romp :)

Like I said, Redwall was a huge favorite of elementary-school me :)

I usually don't read much contemporary fiction, and although I've read quite a few Sarah Dessen books, I usually find them annoying or contrived. Not this one! I really enjoyed getting to know Auden as she spends a summer at a quiet beach town.

This was my first Agatha Christie book, and my favorite of hers (and one of my favorite mystery books, period). It takes place on an island in the middle of the sea, where all the guests aren't quite what they seem...

When my mom was a little girl, she used to read the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. When I was about five or six years old, she bought a couple of them for me and I really enjoyed them! Four kids and a dog having summer adventures was a lot of fun.

This adorable (and sometimes problematic) book mainly takes place at a sleepy beach town in Maine. I would go over to one of my friends' places and we'd read it out loud together, so I have so many fond memories of us laughing together as we read this book :)

What if the whole world was an archipelago? I really enjoyed this portal fantasy book, with its nerdy biologist main character and quirky fantasy creatures.

Black Box is one of my favorite sci-fi short stories. It was originally published as a series of tweets, which is pretty cool, and you can read the whole thing here! At first it's choppy and disjointed but it all clicks together soon enough. There are spies and glamorous parties on the beach and all sorts of cool things :)

The second book in the Shattered Sea series, featuring lots of badass women, political intrigue, and nautical adventures. It's so much fun but also quite brutal!

Any recommendations for any other nautical/pirate books? I'm always up for more pirates :D

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Carry On

23734628Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

I feel like Rainbow Rowell is just not my thing. Sorry friends!

This is the second Rainbow Rowell book I've read, and I picked this up because I thought magical boarding schools would be more up my alley than Eleanor & Park. It also helped that a lot of people I knew were raving about this book, and I've been pleasantly surprised by giving an author a second chance. In the end, I had lukewarm feelings about it.

I did like how this book subverted the usual "Chosen one" trope. Simon is prophecied to save the world, and he has more power than he knows what to do with, but he's an awful wizard and can't really control his powers at all. And for a chosen one, he sure doesn't have a lot of things going his way: an antagonistic roommate and an ex-girlfriend who is infatuated with said antagonistic roommate. I liked that things weren't easy for Simon, and that things didn't neatly fall into place for him (hoo boy, do things get messy with his love life!).

Another thing I really liked was the inclusion and representation of people of color and queer characters. No one is defined by their skin color or sexual orientation, but these characters are prominently featured and it just makes me so happy to see more minorities being featured in fiction.

So why the lukewarm 3-star rating? For one thing, I thought this book was a lot longer than it needed to be. It just took me such a long time to plod through this, and while some of that was important for character development, a lot of the plot was unnecessarily drawn out. The entire plot about the humdrum and destroying the world started to seem secondary to the budding romance, which I found annoying. I also just stopped caring about the characters about halfway through the book.

I probably won't be reading any more Rainbow Rowell books, but I'm glad I at least gave another one of her books a shot. It was a sweet book, just not the greatest book for me.

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