Saturday, August 31, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (43)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the new books that we've acquired.

One of my most anticipated releases came out this week—Crown of Midnight! And as you can see, I went on a tad of a buying spree over the last two weeks with the eBooks now that I own an eReader. I must remember that a dollar or two here and there does add up quickly . . . .

For Review:

Steel Lily by Megan Curd
Thanks to Megan Curd!


Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins


Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

eBooks Bought:

Shooting Scars by Karina Halle
Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan M. James
Click to Subscribe by L. M. Augustine
The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link me up!

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Forgotten Ones Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Laura Howard's The Forgotten Ones, organized by Xpresso Book Tours! I have a review for you today, plus there's a giveaway for you to enter below. Also be sure to follow the rest of the tour by checking out the tour schedule.

The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard
The Forgotten Ones (The Danaan Trilogy #1)
By Laura Howard
Publication Date:
April 30, 2013
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

* A copy was provided for review for the blog tour.

Synopsis: Allison O’Malley’s plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she’s been in love with for as long as she can remember.

What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison’s mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn’t trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother’s sanity.

Review: At first glance, The Forgotten Ones is a poignant story about Allison O’Malley, a young woman who’s resigned herself to a life of caring for her schizophrenic mother. There’s much more to Allison’s mother’s condition than meets the eye, though, and it involves the Tuatha de Danaan, also known as fairies. The novel is a deft mix of contemporary and Celtic folklore, with the latter element introduced in a gradual manner that smoothly bridges the two facets of the book.

Even if the novel hadn’t incorporated fantasy into it, I still would have found Allison’s story compelling. Being a caregiver for a parent was something that I could completely relate to, and I really felt for her because of everything she was sacrificing, including a potential relationship with her longtime mutual crush, Ethan. Allison is determined to put her mom before anything and anyone else, and it was sad watching her try not to grow too attached to Ethan.

Luckily for Allison, she has the support of a close-knit family. Her strong relationship with her grandparents was especially moving. They’ve been looking after both her and her mother for years, and Allison wants nothing more than to ease their load. Allison’s family life becomes even more complicated, however, when Liam, the father she’s never met, suddenly shows up, claiming that he can help her mother.

It’s at this point that the fantasy aspect picks up, and, having Irish roots on both sides of my family, I really liked how the book went with a Celtic take on fairies. Allison quickly learns that not all of the Danaan are harmless, and one jealous, vengeful Danaan in particular has had a large hand in what happened to Allison's mother, Elizabeth. We get to meet quite a few Danaans as well as travel to their realm, Tír na n’Óg, and both this world and its inhabitants are fascinating. Despite some of the fairies seeming to bear no ill will toward humans, they don’t give off the sense that they’re entirely trustworthy, either. By the sound of the novel’s open ending, it appears that Allison isn’t finished dealing with them, which made me happy in a way because I’d definitely like to revisit Tír na n’Óg.

From the outset, Allison was a very relatable protagonist, and that initial connection with her drew me into her story quickly. The fantasy element was also well done, with a fresh, Celtic twist to it. The Forgotten Ones is a reminder that, though fairies can be cunning and wreak all sorts of havoc for the humans some of them enjoy preying on, they certainly add spark to a narrative.

All in All: If you’re looking for something a little different in a fairy book, try this one. It’s neither a straightforward contemporary nor a straightforward fantasy but rather a nice combination of the two.

About Laura Howard

Author Laura Howard

Laura Howard lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of 6 when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and other girly novels were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn’t until the release of a little novel called Twilight, 8 years later, that she rediscovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known. The Forgotten Ones is her first published novel.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (10): Favorite Teacher

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Favorite Teacher

This is quite a hard topic! There are so many great and badarse teachers at Hogwarts! I love almost all of them. The first person I thought of automatically when I heard about this topic was Remus Lupin. Even though his stay as a teacher at Hogwarts was short, he was so important to Harry's success. For crying out loud, he taught Harry how to use his Patronus, which is arguably the most useful spell he ever learned. It saved him and his friends numerous times. Harry even passed it on to Dumbledore's Army. Remus was a great man with a dark past; he was a tortured soul, if you will. He even gave his life for the greater good of the wizarding world! What more could you ask for?

As I continued to ponder this prompt, however, I discovered that no matter how much I absolutely love Lupin, there is only one man that was a better teacher. Hagrid. Hagrid was there for Harry from the very beginning to the very end and everywhere in between. He has the biggest heart and his loyalty never wavered. When Hagrid was finally given a teaching position at Hogwarts, I couldn't have been happier for him. He deserved it so much! Hagrid always did what his friends needed him to do, and he never thought of himself. He loved any creature he saw; Hagrid never judged anyone or anything based on appearance. He taught us that what's on the inside is what truly counts and that loyalty and love are the greatest things you can give.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Of Poseidon (The Syrena Legacy #1)
By Anna Banks
Square Fish

To Sum It Up: A trip to Florida that ends in tragedy is only the beginning of a series of life-altering events for Emma McIntosh. She’s not aware of it yet, but she possesses a rare gift that marks her as one of the Syrena, undersea beings who can also take human form. Emma has already caught the attention of Galen, a Syrena prince who hopes that she will be able to maintain the peace between the two royal Syrena houses. But Emma won’t be so easily persuaded to just drop her life on land for one in the water, especially since she’s spent all these years not knowing who—and what—she really is.

Review: This was my first foray into reading mermaid books, and let’s just say that I think I’ve had my fill of them for now. It’s tough enough mustering enthusiasm for a book when you don’t like any of the characters, even more so when you struggle with the writing, too. About all Of Poseidon had going for it was the novelty of mermaids/mermen, or Syrena, as they’re called here. Otherwise, it was yet another Awkward Girl Meets Super Hot Guy Then Gets All Melodramatic Over Him type of read. And I’m kind of tired of those.

I probably should have taken the book’s beginning as a sign that we weren’t going to get along very well. If you and your best friend are floating around in Florida’s waters on a surfboard and your friend suddenly becomes alarmed because something brushed her leg, you at least take a quick look at your surroundings. You don’t dismiss your friend’s distress as her just joking around because she’s always been a prankster. You don’t do that because that’s a shark there in the water with you, ladies. And so began my frustration with Emma, the protagonist who thought her best friend, Chloe, was simply acting like her hilarious self.

It wasn’t only Emma’s failure to realize that Chloe was in trouble until it was too late or her frequent exclamations of “Ohmysweetgoodness” that tried my patience. So many of her actions made me want to sit her down for a long chat about the benefits of exercising good old-fashioned common sense. When the hot guy you literally ran into down in Florida suddenly shows up as a student at your high school in New Jersey AND is in all the same classes with you, that’s when you run to file a restraining order. When you get a concussion, you don’t lie to your mom about being okay to drive then proceed to get behind the wheel of a car. Uh, how about some consideration for the safety of other motorists and pedestrians? And first you’re outraged (rightfully so, actually) over the Syrena custom that allows a male to be mated to a female without her consent, and then later, you’re giving the same male Syrena whom you disdained so deeply for forcing a female to be his mate advice on how to play hard to get with her? I could go on with the list of Emma’s mind-boggling behavior, but I’ll stop now.

Given the male Syrena’s attitude toward their women, I can’t say I was fond of Galen, a prince of the House of Triton who believes that his royal title carries the same weight among humans as it does with the Syrena. At one point, Galen bemoans Emma’s refusal to listen to him and wishes that he could find a nice female who doesn’t answer back to look after him and pretty much cater to his every need. And that, right there, is why you’re alone, buddy.

The book is written in both Emma’s first person perspective and in the third person whenever the focus shifts to Galen’s thoughts, and the two formed an odd combination. The first POV change was jolting; it took me a minute to figure out who was telling the story. I never did get used to the narrative style, either. I wouldn’t have minded alternating POVs if they’d been in the same person—first or third, not both. I hate to sound like I’m nitpicking the writing, but there were also some phrases that just seemed awkward to me. “He played me like an Xbox” rang with a certain dissonance to my ears. Toss in some refrains of “Ohmysweetgoodness” and, well, the prose really distracted me at times.

The story of how the houses of Triton and Poseidon fell out with each other was interesting but all too brief. It might have made for a more fascinating tale than Emma trying to find her inner mermaid. And I’m fine with not knowing if she ever does or not because this series just isn’t for me.

All in All: Sadly, Of Poseidon was disappointing all-around. But, like I always say when a book and I don’t see eye-to-eye, this was merely my experience with it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Ally and I did our Shadowhunter duty on Sunday and went to see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. We both had somewhat mixed feelings going in because 1) we're much bigger fans of The Infernal Devices series than TMI and 2) we haven't been blown away by most of the YA book-to-movie adaptations we've seen. But, we couldn't pass up the chance to see Shadowhunters on the big screen, so off we journeyed to the movie theater on Sunday afternoon.

I'll start with the biggest question that had been on my mind—could Jamie Campbell Bower pull off being Jace Wayland? I was definitely one of those people for whom the actor didn't fit the image of Jace that was in my head, but I really tried to give him a fair shake at the role. I think he tried to give Jace a dry sort of wit, which wasn't a bad approach, but our Mr. Wayland is also a seriously arrogant young man, and I felt that side of his character didn't come across enough on the screen.

I've never been a big Clary fan, so I felt neutral about her onscreen counterpart. Movie Clary has about as many mini-meltdowns as Book Clary does (AAH! I spent all night plastering my walls with drawings of the Angelic Power rune! AAH! There's some strange blond guy stalking me!). I just waited for them to pass. I loved Simon—perfect casting there, and I loved that he and Isabelle shared some scenes, even going up against some demons together (Sizzy foreshadowing? Yes, please!). Alec's character was also very true to the books, especially his blatant dislike (um, that may be phrasing it mildly) of Clary.

Ally wasn't too impressed with Magnus Bane, but I thought he was okay. With so many characters to introduce, he didn't have a whole bunch of screen time, and I missed that he didn't really get to show off his snarky side. I had a total Infernal Devices moment during the party scene when Magnus made a comment about Alec's eyes . . . .

One character who really surprised me was Clary's mother, Jocelyn. I've never had a lot of sympathy for her in the books, despite her having to run away from a psycho husband (more on Valentine in a minute), but I found her a much warmer figure here. Lena Headey (Cersei from Game of Thrones—YEAH!) was just awesome in the part, and she fought like a badass. When Valentine's henchmen turned up demanding the Mortal Cup and Jocelyn showed off some mad skills beating the crap out of them with a frying pan, I couldn't help thinking, I bet Cersei's always wanted to do that to Joffrey!

Jonathan Rhys Meyers made a suitably insane Valentine, but what was UP with his hair? It didn't bother me that the color didn't match Valentine's in the books, but the stuff hanging out of it did. Was his do some sort of homage to those little braids Jedi apprentices wear?

I normally don't geek out over special effects, but I must say that these were very well done. The demons were quite terrifying and didn't look cheesy at all. The Institute, both its exterior and interior, looked amazing. The library in particular was breathtaking. In general, I thought the movie did a great job bringing the Shadowhunters to life; the runes looked fantastic, and you even saw some of the older ones in the process of fading, like they do in the books. The fight scenes were incredible, especially the one with the vampires at the Hotel Dumort. You really got to see the Shadowhunters' enhanced agility and badass fighting skills in action.

My favorite scene was Jace and Clary's trip to the Silent City. The atmosphere was perfectly creepy throughout, and the Silent Brothers were as mysterious and eerie as they are in the novels. I wasn't too keen on the effect used for Brother Jeremiah's voice, but it didn't detract from the power of the scene.

If you've read City of Bones, then you know all about the crazy ending. It was slightly altered here, though its essence remained the same. I must be getting used to movies taking creative liberties with the books they're adapted from because the changes here didn't really faze me.

While there were a few wince-worthy lines of dialogue and I'm not sure how easy the movie would be to follow for those who haven't read the books, I quite enjoyed this. Definitely worth the movie ticket and repeat viewing on Blu-Ray/DVD when it becomes available.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hold Tight Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour for Cherie Colyer's Hold Tight, organized by AToMR Tours! I have a review of Hold Tight for you today, and you can enter the giveaway below for your chance to win a print copy of Hold Tight and the previous book, Embrace, (open to U.S. and Canada) or an eBook copy of Embrace (open internationally). Also be sure to follow the rest of the tour by checking out the tour schedule.

Hold Tight by Cherie Colyer
Hold Tight (Embrace #2)
By Cherie Colyer
Omnific Publishing
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

* A copy was provided for review for the blog tour.

Synopsis: What’s one little spell?

When you’re new to magic, one spell can be the difference between getting what you want . . . and ruining the lives of everyone you love.

Sixteen-year-old Madison has just embraced her magical powers. The trick now is learning how to control them. She and her boyfriend—and fellow witch—can’t even enjoy a simple kiss without getting shocked when their powers collide. Instead of mastering her new skills, though, Madison is stuck watching her kid brother and doing chores.

But being a witch does have its benefits. With a simple spell, Madison instantly conjures the help she needs around the house. Or so she thinks. Her idea of “help” invites trouble of its own as a pair of dangerous yet enticing beings enter her life. When a classmate disappears soon afterwards, Madison discovers she's the next victim of a threat she's powerless to resist . . . and there’s nothing it won’t kill to make her surrender.

Caught in the crossfire between two dashing but deadly creatures, Madison must figure out which one to trust and how to rid her world of the other—before one of them destroys her and everyone she cares about.

Review: I really enjoyed reading Cherie Colyer’s Embrace last year, and I was thrilled when I heard that there was going to be a sequel. Embrace was such a fresh take on witches and magic, and I loved how the book slowly revealed what sort of paranormal activity was going on. The mystery element was so much fun, and I looked forward to seeing what kinds of surprises awaited me in Hold Tight.

Madison, Isaac, Kaylee, and Josh are all back, and I really love the friendship between the four of them. Just as Embrace did, Hold Tight presents a balanced portrait of these characters; sure, the supernatural is very real for them, but we get to see them as regular teenagers, too. It’s the latter side of her life that ends up causing trouble for Madison. When juggling school, helping out at home, and dating Isaac start becoming overwhelming, she secretly borrows Isaac’s fae book and summons a faery to help her around the house. At first the arrangement with Brea, the faery who appears, seems fine, but all too soon Madison learns that one has to exercise extreme caution when dealing with these creatures.

The faeries depicted here are more the type who’ll trick you into abandoning the human world for theirs than the kind who grant wishes with no expectation of something in return. One faery in particular has an ax to grind with Isaac and is determined to exact revenge. The fae are a welcome addition to the series as adversaries, and pretty formidable ones at that, yet they don’t steal the book away from the witches. There’s still plenty of spell casting and other witchcraft, and it’s a thrill watching it go up against fae magic.

I’d hoped that there would be a twist in Hold Tight à la finding out that Isaac was a witch in Embrace, and Hold Tight didn’t disappoint in delivering one. A certain character totally caught me off guard; it was apparent that this individual was hiding something very important, but I never would have guessed what it was. I did try to puzzle it out, but I wasn’t all that upset over my lack of sleuthing skills because I really liked being surprised.

The tone of Hold Tight grows quite serious in places, and Madison faces some of her biggest challenges to date. Her trials, and she does undergo a lot here, only strengthen her, though. That’s precisely the sort of character development I like to see with a series, and this series moves forward very nicely.

All in All: Hold Tight is a strong follow-up to Embrace that deftly adds some troublesome faeries to its existing paranormal element. I’d love to see the series continue, especially with this book’s introduction of an intriguing new character who wasn’t at all what I’d thought.

About Cherie Colyer

Author Cherie Colyer

Cherie Colyer is the author of YA paranormal thriller/romance, EMBRACE (available now), and HOLD TIGHT (August 2013), from Omnific Publishing. Check out her website and blog for news on her books and bonus material. Follow Cherie on Twitter and/or Facebook for updates on writing, book and special offers.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The White Queen Recap: The Storm

* Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Episode 3, "The Storm."

Hooray for this week's episode not fast forwarding a few years into the future, unlike what happened last week. Three episodes in now, I'm finding the series more of a soap opera with fancy costumes and sets than period drama, but to me, it's still better than most of the fare TV has to offer on a Saturday night. I've also noticed that the show tends to skimp on battle scenes, though we did glimpse the Lancastrian and Yorkist army camps in this episode. For the most part, however, characters discuss rebellions that need putting down and we see them ride off to fight, but that's the end of it. I suppose budgetary concerns restrict the number of epic battle scenes that can be staged, but this series does take place during the Wars of the Roses.

Being a Hostage Isn't So Bad

Warwick is holding Edward in his castle, though if one had to be held captive, a castle that looks like Warwick's isn't the worst place one could end up. Edward and Warwick bicker a lot, with the Earl angry that he's been pushed aside in favor of the Woodvilles and Edward angry about, well, the whole being held hostage thing.

Jasper Says . . .

Margaret Beaufort is all giggly over a letter she's received from Jasper Tudor saying that Edward is about to be dethroned by his brother, George. Just about every sentence on Margaret's side of the conversation with her husband, Henry Stafford, begins with, "Jasper says . . . ." Way to be subtle about your feelings for Jasper, Margaret.

We Three Queens

Anne Neville marvels over the arrival of Queen Elizabeth's coronation furs for her sister, Isabel Neville, who'll be queen to George's king. Isabel worries that too many women are being called queen: Elizabeth, Margaret of Anjou (looks like we'll see her in the next episode), and soon, if everything goes according to her father's plan, Isabel herself. Poor Isabel thought she was marrying for love but now realizes that she was just a player in her father's game.

That's a Big "Nay" to King George

Parliament says no to putting George on the throne, and Edward gets to go home to Elizabeth, who is all set for Edward to punish Warwick and George for their treason, Warwick especially for the executions of her father and brother. She gets a nasty surprise when Edward says that he can't afford fighting among his own house and will make peace with his brother and cousin, and what's more, Princess Elizabeth will be married to Warwick's nephew. Needless to say, Elizabeth is one unhappy queen.

No More Pen Pals for Margaret

Henry Stafford receives a letter of his own, informing him that he's no longer the king's sheriff. Edward has learned that Margaret wrote a letter in which she threw her support behind George; Stafford is getting the blowback. He forbids Margaret from writing to—who else—Jasper Tudor.

An Awkward Christmas

In the spirit of letting bygones (including holding your king captive) be bygones, George, Warwick, and Warwick's family are all invited to court for the holidays. Elizabeth is livid, her mother-in-law, the Duchess of York, is delighted, and Warwick can't resist provoking the queen with his presence.

Fishing for Fate (Again)

With George and Isabel expecting a child, Elizabeth is desperate to produce a male heir. So she goes to Jacquetta, who digs the fishing line out again for Elizabeth to reel in her destiny. Good news—it's a boy.

Being Elizabeth's Lady-in-Waiting Is the Worst Job Ever

Edward and Elizabeth tumble into their chamber as Anne tries to make a hasty exit, but Elizabeth demands that Anne help her with the laces of her gown. Talk about awkward. Anne practically becomes a human clothes rack, then goes to her father to talk out her traumatic experience. Warwick actually seems to be acting kind toward Anne for once, until you realize that he's hatching another plan to unseat Edward. Poor Anne—she really does want to marry Richard.

You Are Such a Liar, Margaret

This really had me laughing. Margaret promises her husband that she's going to be a good wife from now on and wants to make up with her mother, too. What's really going on is, she needs to go see her brother, who lives with their mother, and convince him to join up with Jasper Tudor and other Lancastrians in creating a diversion so Warwick and George can turn on Edward—again.

Lots of Praying This Week

I also thought it was kind of funny how Elizabeth prayed for Edward's safe return from battle. Wasn't there some kind of spell for that? Of course, pious Margaret prays for Edward to be killed. If I had a dollar for every time Margaret said, "It's God's will . . . blah, blah, blah" I'd have enough for a year's subscription to Starz. Edward isn't killed, but Margaret's brother is, after warning Edward about Warwick's trap.

Witch-y Wind

Foiled again, Warwick hightails it out of England for Calais on a ship, with George and the ladies, including a very pregnant Isabel, in tow. Elizabeth is at her wit's end with Warwick and calls upon some supernatural help in getting him out of her hair for good. As the show would have you believe, she summons an extremely powerful wind that batters Warwick's ship, which ends up being turned away at an Edward-supporting Calais.

Everything Is Peachy Keen. Well, Not for Everyone

As he promised Elizabeth, Edward arrives home safely yet again, with a cartload of peaches. Isabel loses her son, and all George has to say is that it's important they have another one. Heartless, much?

The Richard Watch

Richard, i.e. pretty much the reason why I watch this show, had like two lines all episode, one of which was kind of muted (the Parliament scene, where he basically calls George a traitor). I think young Henry Tudor had more lines than Richard did this week, and that is really, really, really sad.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (9): Favorite School Subject

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Favorite School Subject

I'd love to study every subject at Hogwarts, but the one I'd be most interested in is Defense Against the Dark Arts. First, I believe it's very important to be able to protect oneself against dark magic. Reading the HP books, I was always fascinated by the different creatures the students studied, too. I'd be curious to know what my boggart looked like, plus I'd be very happy for the opportunity to freeze some Cornish pixies as vengeance for how annoying they are in the Lego Harry Potter video games. Finally, I'd just love to be in Professor Lupin's class because he's such an awesome teacher.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

* This review contains spoilers for the previous book, Shatter Me. *

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2)
By Tahereh Mafi

To Sum It Up: Juliette, Adam, and Kenji are safe for the moment at Omega Point, the hidden base of a resistance movement against The Reestablishment. Juliette is among others who, like her, possess a gift. Being at Omega Point—and out of Warner’s reach—isn’t without its challenges, however. Juliette struggles with her training to control her power, and she’s also troubled by the growing distance between her and Adam. Warner is still out there somewhere, too, searching for Juliette because, even though she put a bullet in him, he’s more determined than ever to have her by his side.

Review: Is it okay to give five stars to a book in which: the story starts rather slowly; the heroine frustrates you at times with her self-pitying whining; one-third of the love triangle has a fairly low profile this time around; and you inexplicably love the other, utterly deranged third of the triangle, and you know you should know better but you can’t help yourself and you’re pretty much basing the entire book’s rating on your love for him though it completely defies sound judgment and maybe your reviewing principles? I’m going to say yes. Yes, it is.

What a steaming bowl of insanity Unravel Me was! That is, once its momentum got going. I thought the first few chapters, which oriented you to Juliette’s new life at Omega Point, were kind of slow-moving. The pacing at the beginning wasn’t helped by Juliette’s moping, either. I’d expected her to be, I don’t know, at least a tad upbeat about escaping with Adam and discovering that there were other people who possessed special gifts. But no. Juliette is gloomy because she can’t yet wield her power at will, and she’s also gloomy because Adam is so gloomy for reasons he won’t share with her. If it hadn’t been for Kenji calling these two out for their angst fest and exhorting them to snap out of it, I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate them as much as I did. I love Kenji; he’s hilarious and to the point.

I was surprised to see Adam with a diminished role here. I mean, he’s there, but considering how he’s supposed to be a love interest and all, his presence is rather muted and is even eclipsed by Kenji’s. My feelings for Adam have always been neutral—I neither love him nor hate him—but aside from his part in a bombshell revelation, he’s not given much to do in Unravel Me.

I’m going to attempt to keep the requisite Warner paragraph from turning into an essay on how much I love him, but if you’ve read my reviews of Shatter Me and Destroy Me, you know that may not be possible. I didn’t think Warner could dominate the series any more than he already does, but once again, he’s pulled off the unexpected. Warner completely messed with my head in Unravel Me. Completely. And I loved it. I have abandoned all efforts to figure this guy out. When he told Juliette that he loved her in Shatter Me, I thought he was just raving like a madman. After reading Destroy Me and Unravel Me, though, I believe him. He truly feels that Juliette is the only person in the world who could ever understand him. As much as the novel may be about Juliette joining the resistance as it prepares to take on The Reestablishment, it’s also about finding out that there are many layers to Warner’s character. I’m not sure that he lets all of his walls down here because I think he’s too cunning for that, but he certainly allows Juliette to see him a lot less guarded than he usually is. And that right there is why I loved this book.

I wasn’t at all prepared for the plot twists in Unravel Me; they were so shocking that I needed some time to process each one. They also more than made up for the quiet opening that had me wondering if this was going to be as amazing as Shatter Me was. My concern was totally unfounded because Unravel Me was a head-spinning sequel that went in every direction except the one I thought it would go toward. My imagination is way too limited to make any predictions for the final book. As long as Warner is okay, I’ll be happy.

All in All: No second book disappointment here, especially on the Warner front. I know I’ve let him sway my opinion of this series, but I can’t help it. Besides, he’s not the type of character you can ignore, whether you want to give him your heart or punch him in the face. One thing you never feel for Warner is indifference.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi

* This review contains spoilers for Shatter Me. *

Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi
Destroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5)
By Tahereh Mafi

To Sum It Up: Recovering from the gunshot wound Juliette gave him, Warner plots to get her back—and to punish Adam. Both Warner’s injury and the escape of Juliette and two officers under his command have brought an unwelcome guest to Sector 45: the Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, who is also Warner’s father. When the Supreme Commander reveals that Juliette is nowhere near as important to The Reestablishment as she is to Warner, it becomes imperative for Warner to find her first.

Review: I’m still not sure what I think of between-series novellas overall, having only read one other, Cynthia Hand’s Radiant, prior to reading Destroy Me. I loved Hand’s Unearthly series, and so I purchased Radiant to tide me over as I waited for the release of the final Unearthly book. In the end, though, I didn’t find Radiant to be essential reading. I’d say that I have to be heavily invested in a series and/or one of its characters for these novellas to pique my interest, especially when I have to shell out a few bucks for them (I’m a bit of a cheapskate). When my cousin, a fellow Shatter Me fanatic, informed me that there was a novella written from Warner’s POV, I HAD to have it, no matter what it cost. This is Warner we’re talking about here, people.

I happened to love Warner in Shatter Me, propensity for insanity and all. He was the character who commandeered my attention and never let go of it. And I don’t think he’s going to relinquish it any time soon, either.

Destroy Me picks up immediately after Warner’s been shot by Juliette, and in typical Warner fashion, he loathes looking weak in front of his men. He also can’t quite wrap his head around the fact that Juliette pulled the trigger on him. As Warner recovers from his injury and focuses on finding Juliette—and Adam, whom Warner wants to kill with a ferocity that’s scary even by Warner standards—he reveals an entirely different and surprising side to his character. See, I loved the Warner I met in Shatter Me—arrogant, manipulative, and unhinged—so I can only imagine what reading Destroy Me was like for readers who hated him in Shatter Me. If, like me, you fell in love with Warner just as he was, don’t worry; he doesn’t magically morph into a hero overnight. What Destroy Me does is present him as a complex human being; there are so many facets to Warner than the outward appearance he’s constructed for himself as the Regent of Sector 45. It may be difficult to believe at first, but Warner is capable of feeling human emotions like love and hurt. In Destroy Me, he’s experiencing a lot of the latter.

I admit that it was tougher than usual for me to separate my feelings for a favorite character from my feelings about the book, or in this case, novella, as a whole. The part of me that wanted to rate Destroy Me based on emotion alone said, “Duh. It’s Warner. Five stars!” before I even started reading the Prologue. The more rational part of my brain says that this is an incredibly insightful look into the mind of a character who is otherwise not easy to read. Of course, it’s not as though Warner spills all his secrets here; he still leaves you plenty to speculate about.

And here I was thinking that I was only going to write a mini-review of Destroy Me. Ah, Warner. I do love talking about you.

All in All: If you love this series, and even if you don’t love Warner, you need to read this. Destroy Me just might make you rethink your opinion of him. If you already love Warner, then you’ll probably love him even more after reading this. I know I did.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1)
By Tahereh Mafi

To Sum It Up: Juliette Ferrars can kill with her touch, and it’s the reason why she’s been abandoned by her parents and locked up in an asylum. Clinging to her sanity, Juliette is suddenly taken from her four wall prison and brought before Warner, one of the sector heads for the ruling body known as The Reestablishment. Warner possesses an extremely keen interest in what Juliette can do, and she is horrified to learn that he wants to use her as a weapon. Juliette, however, would rather face the consequences for not cooperating, even death, than become the monster she’s always been labeled as.

Review: Shatter Me is one of those books that I’d seen mentioned everywhere and kept telling myself I was going to read, but other books always ended up jumping ahead of it on my to-read list. It wasn’t until my cousin read this and began nagging me to do the same that I cracked open my copy at last, albeit with some skepticism. I’d heard that the writing style was a little out of the ordinary, with strikeouts throughout the text. Lately I’ve also been laying off the dystopians somewhat, reading the occasional one when the mood strikes. So between the question marks surrounding the writing and whether this was going to be a dystopian that would click with me, Shatter Me had quite a bit to prove, but prove itself it did. Many, many times over.

My chief worry over the text strikeouts was that they were going to come off gimmicky, but I didn’t see them that way at all. They were used to excellent effect, and not so often that they were distracting. I loved the prose; I loved its flow and its imagery and how it sometimes seemed like poetry. It’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t put the book down; I was addicted to the writing and couldn’t read the book fast enough.

Although you get sufficient details of the world to assemble a picture that’s bleak—iron-fisted rule by a regime that rose to power on promises to make life better for its citizens but has failed to deliver on them—I found the dystopian element on the lighter side. Not that I’m complaining. How can I explain it? For me, the focus of the book was Juliette, her struggle not to lose her mind locked up in an asylum, and then her struggle not to let some crazy guy use her power for who knows what purpose except that it’s probably not good. For me, the world was secondary to all of this, and I had enough knowledge of it to get the idea of what it was like but not be overly concerned about the minutiae of it because my attention was elsewhere. Readers who prefer their dystopian aspects with a stronger emphasis may need a tad more from the world-building, though.

Poor Juliette has been in the asylum for close to a year because everyone, including her own parents, fears her deadly touch. Her despair, not only over her loneliness but also how she perceives herself as a freak, is gut-wrenching. All of her raw emotions—fear, desperation, and later determination not to be manipulated into becoming a weapon for The Reestablishment—are conveyed so vividly by the prose. Two things really struck me about Juliette’s character: how hard she fought to keep herself together in an environment that would have driven anyone over the edge, and her defiance in refusing to hurt others with her power, no matter how cruelly she’d been treated in her life.

Remember the crazy guy I alluded to earlier, the one who had plans for Juliette and her ability? That would be Warner, AKA the majority of the reason for this book’s rating. When a character takes hold of my brain the way Warner did/does, I cannot ignore how much what I felt for a particular character influenced my overall enjoyment of a book. I don’t think Warner and I even had a love-to-hate type thing going on. I loved that he was deranged. I loved how he took over the novel (at least for me) the very second he appeared. I loved that he was calculating and ruthless and didn’t care that everyone knew it. Did I mention that I loved how deranged Warner was? Look, I know that I’m pretty deranged for loving a character with personality traits as winning as Warner’s are. Common sense says that Adam, one of Warner’s soldiers and a face from Juliette’s past, would make a much better fictional boyfriend, but I’ve always been far more intrigued by the bad boys. I’m sticking with Warner.

Shatter Me had me absorbed from start to finish. Any doubts I had about it dissipated quickly. The beautiful prose, the tension, the action, and a certain character all combined to turn me into an instant fan of this series.

All in All: I absolutely loved this. So thanks, Melissa, for all of that nagging!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The White Queen Recap: The Price of Power

* Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Episode 2, "The Price of Power." *

I was a little worried that this post wasn't happening today because a lot of my cable channels, including Starz, weren't working on Friday night and part of Saturday. I checked one last time before I was about to call the cable company and found everything back to normal. Yay!

I thought Episode 2 was better paced than Episode 1, probably because everyone's pretty much been introduced. The part of my brain that wants to watch the show from a purely historical perspective tried to be more open-minded this week, especially toward the witchcraft. This is a TV show, after all, so I did my best to just sit back and be entertained. Which I mostly was. And can I just say that I've always wanted to try on a hennin? You know—one of those headdresses that medieval women wore that looks like a giant cone and has a veil hanging out of the top of it?

It's Coronation Day

Elizabeth is officially crowned Queen of England, much to Warwick's displeasure. The guy looks like he's been whiffing chamber pots all day throughout most of the episode, even going on a full-blown rant to the Countess of Warwick about the Queen's influence over Edward, which used to be Warwick's.

Let's Play the Matchmaking Game

Elizabeth has lots of siblings who need to be married off to well-to-do spouses, and Jacquetta pitches in by literally laying all of the cards, with pictorial representations of the prospective brides and grooms, on the table. I wonder how long it took some medieval artist to illustrate those; it's a pity Photoshop didn't exist in the Middle Ages.

Don't Scare the Kid or Anything, Margaret

Margaret Beaufort goes to see her young son, Henry Tudor, and opens the conversation along the lines of, "Henry, my son, it's so good to see you. THE FALSE YORKIST KING HAS STOLEN YOUR TITLE!!!! I'M COMPLETELY BESIDE MYSELF WITH OUTRAGE ON YOUR BEHALF!!!" I felt kind of bad for the kid, having a mother who's apparently a little bonkers and has mommy issues (with her own mommy, that is).

Fast Forward

There's quite a bit of history to condense into ten episodes, and time moves swiftly along in this one. First four months have passed, and then, according to the note on the screen, three years!

"Kingmaking" Can Be Used as a Verb

After Edward denies Warwick's request for George and Richard to marry Warwick's daughters, the Earl hatches a plan to put George on the throne, part of which entails playing up rumors that Edward is a bastard. George marries Warwick's eldest daughter, Isabel, and the union is also the signal to Warwick's supporters to turn against the king. Edward is later captured by his traitorous brother and cousin.

Damn, These Names Are Long!

A grieving Elizabeth wants vengeance for her executed father and brother, John. Jacquetta tells her to write down the names of those she wants cursed in blood. On a little scrap of parchment, Elizabeth manages to write "Richard Neville Earl of Warwick" and "George Plantagenet." Kudos to her for not only fitting all of that into such a small writing space, but also for not passing out from blood loss.

Richard Speaks!

Ever since I read Sharon Kay Penman's superb novel The Sunne in Splendour, which is all about Richard III and the Wars of the Roses and which I very, very HIGHLY recommend reading, I've had a keen interest in all things Ricardian. That keen interest extends to how he's portrayed in The White Queen, and you can count on there being a mention of Richard in every recap. He hasn't been given too much to do so far except exchange a few awkward glances with his cousin, Anne Neville, and draw a sword on mad King Henry VI when the latter is carted back as Warwick's prisoner. I hope that the series at least touches upon how fervent Richard's loyalty was to Edward, because from what's been shown in the first two episodes, it looks more like Edward's Woodville in-laws were his closest confidants.

And that's it for this week's recap. Barring cable troubles, see you next week!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (42)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the new books that we've acquired.

So I finally got an eReader:

I'd wanted one for ages, but it never fit into my budget, plus I mostly read print books anyway. When I saw the Kindle Fire HD on sale for $159, though, it was way too good a buy to pass up. I'd been reading eBooks using the Kindle app on my laptop and phone, and I have to say, I'm finding it SO much more convenient to read them on the Kindle. I'm loving all of its other features, too. I'd been thinking about replacing my laptop with a tablet eventually anyway, and the Kindle's sale price sealed the decision. I was also excited to see that my library's eBook collection includes several titles that I've been dying to read but the library doesn't have print copies of.

I also bought one print book and one eBook:


Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Catching Liam by Sophia Bleu (eBook)

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link me up!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)
By Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

To Sum It Up: Renowned and feared as Adarlan’s greatest assassin, Celaena Sardothien’s luck finally ran out. Sentenced to hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, she’s been there for a year when she’s offered an unusual bargain for her release. All she needs to do is win the upcoming competition to become the King of Ardalan’s next Champion, i.e. the person who does all of his dirty work for him. The stakes are high for Celaena, as she’ll not only be vying for her freedom, but she’ll also be representing Ardalan’s Crown Prince, Dorian Havilliard, in the contest. Although not entirely pleased with the terms, Celaena cannot let this opportunity escape, but winning won’t be easy, especially when someone begins killing the competitors.

Review: So, after my usual routine of adding a much buzzed about book to my TBR list then waiting months and months to read it, I finally picked up Throne of Glass. In a way, I’m happy that I waited, because I really dig the cover of the paperback. Celaena, the heroine, looks pretty badass, and this is one pretty badass book.

I’ll say off the bat that I’d expected Celaena to show off more of her self-proclaimed super awesome assassinating skills than she did. Celaena devotes a healthy percentage of her thoughts to detailing how easily she can kill someone or escape from the palace, but that’s all they are—thoughts. Sometimes I couldn’t help but laugh at how gargantuan her ego was, while at other times it made me roll my eyes. If it weren’t for other characters like Prince Dorian and Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guard, calling her on her bluster and telling her to back up her bragging with an actual display of what she was capable of, I would have become weary of her high opinion of herself. But Celaena also possesses a vulnerable side of which there’s a glimpse here and there, and that, too, went a long way in helping me look past her self-admiration. By the conclusion of Throne of Glass, I liked the character she’d grown into, flaws and all.

Chaol and Dorian. Dorian and Chaol. I kept wavering over whom I loved more: Dorian, with his irrepressible charm and wit, or Chaol, the quintessential Captain of the Guard who’s equally adept at returning Celaena’s verbal jabs. Chaol gained a slight edge over Dorian toward the end of the novel, but I seriously love both characters. Lucky, lucky Celaena.

This book had a compulsively readable quality to it. While not everything that happened came as a surprise, that didn’t hinder me from becoming immersed in this world. It’s a richly drawn fantasy world, too, rife with court drama and topped off with a coating of magic. In other words, this is everything a fantasy novel should be.

The competition to determine the King’s Champion provides quite a bit of action, not to mention a multi-victim murder mystery. What most absorbed my interest, though, was watching Celaena grow to care for Dorian, Chaol, and Princess Nehemia of Eyllwe, and them for her. Celaena’s friendship with Nehemia, an outsider who’s viewed with suspicion by Ardalan’s courtiers, is particularly sweet; here are these two smart, strong young women who don’t exactly fit in with everyone else at court, and they find a kindred spirit in one another. All four of these characters spring off the page with their depth and realness. I really enjoyed the story, but it was the characters who made this book for me—yes, even Celaena, in all her haughty glory.

All in All: Celaena is kind of the wildcard here with her personality. Some may find it exhilarating, some may find it grating, and still others’ opinions may fall between the two. I wasn’t always her biggest fan, but in the end, she was a heroine I could totally root for.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (8): Favorite Triwizard Task

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Favorite Triwizard Task

My favorite task in the Triwizard Tournament has to be the first task, the task where the champions have to steal a golden egg from a dragon. Why is this one my favorite? Well, besides my love for dragons and all their awesomeness, this task's favoritism is won through the beautiful process of elimination. The second task was awful. Not only is one of your closest pals at the bottom of the Black Lake, but you also have to go face-to-face with ugly-butt mermaids. No thank you. I'd much rather take my chances with a Hungarian Horntail. The third task is no better; it's a giant maze. I hate mazes—they scare me. If I was stuck in one, I'd be lost forever. So, that is why the dragons are my first pick.