Monday, June 30, 2014

This Is Sarah Blog Tour: Excerpt

Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for Ally Malinenko's upcoming contemporary novel, This Is Sarah! Read on below for an excerpt from the book, and be sure to add it to your TBR list!

This Is Sarah by Ally Malinenko
This Is Sarah
By Ally Malinenko
BookFish Books

Synopsis: When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin's world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that could change everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so, how far will he go to bring her back?

As Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister, Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape of life without her sister. While her parents fall apart, Claire remains determined to keep going, even if it kills her.

THIS IS SARAH serves as a meditation on loss, love, and what it means to say goodbye.

** Excerpt **

I get up early to run, because it’s easier in the morning. There's no one up yet at five am, and the streets belong to me. I don’t even bring music anymore. I only want to hear the steady thwack of my sneakers on the pavement, the rustle of leaves in the breeze and the huff of air coming out of my lungs. It sets up a rhythm that allows my brain to shut off for a while so my mind stays empty.

Not thinking feels good. It’s one of the few things that still feels good.

I crest the hill at the top of Cedarhurst and pick up speed going down. My lungs feel clean and clear, and I think about sprinting the last five or six blocks back to my driveway. My energy seems a little low, but I figured I can probably push it.

The sound of my feet hitting the pavement intensifies and I pump my arms hard, small tears forming in my eyes from the wind. I clear my mind. I am no longer Colin. I’m just muscle, tissue and bone; a complex and delicate machine pushing its way against gravity and inertia, covering distance on this rock floating in the darkness of an ever-expanding space.

When Claire pulls her bike alongside me I nearly jump out of my skin. Where the hell did she come from? She pedals hard, riding off the seat, her blonde hair whipping back. She passes me and looks back and smiles. As the distance between us grows, I’m overcome with loss, and a sort of panic, like I need to catch up to her. I’m not sure what it is, but I watch her move away from me, her blonde hair streaming, her legs working the pedals and every muscle in my body screams to catch her.

Suddenly Claire is everything in the world, everything beautiful, alive, peaceful, and good, and it’s all getting away from me.

The farther she gets from me, the closer she gets to the monsters and all I want in the world is for Claire to always be safe.

Jesus Christ, I just want to be able to save one of them.

She looks back at me once and smiles before pumping the pedals again. In that moment, that small bright moment, her hair and her smile reflecting the early morning sun, she looks just like Sarah. Just like Claire looked that day in the hallway.

Suddenly I feel so hollow and empty, carved out like the husk of some dead cicada. I watch her get away from me and feel more lost than ever before. She rounds the bend and disappears from my line of sight, something inside of me snaps and I stumble forward. My feet now clumsy, my balance thrown off, until I stop, bent, heaving, coughing, spitting foam, my heart wild inside me. In my head, an image forms of Sarah when I made her laugh so hard she nearly choked on her sandwich at the diner.

That was Sarah.

Sarah and me, in a moment we won’t have again. A moment that was once real but now feels like it belonged to another life. Neither of us foresaw it ending this way.

The year before or the week before or the day before. We never saw it coming.

If I knew when she stood on that driveway, staring up at me, with me hanging out of the window looking down at her, if I knew, I would have told her everything.

About Ally Malinenko

Author Ally Malinenko

Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press) and the children's fantasy Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books). She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Website | Twitter | BookFish Books

Sunday, June 29, 2014

2014 Mid-Year Rewind

Well, my friends, June is just about wrapped up, and so is half of the year. I have no idea where six months have gone, and I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that way.

I know I do a bookish look back at the end of the year, and I still plan to, but I thought it'd be interesting to do one now, too. So far in 2014, I've struggled almost constantly to squeeze in time for both reading and blogging. But going to UtopYA has really woken me up to the fact that there is never going to be a perfect time when I have absolutely nothing else to do and can just sit down and read or blog. I have to make time for those things, just like I make time to do laundry or go grocery shopping or clean (ugh, ugh, and ugh). So really the goal of this post is to take a hard look at the bookish stuff I set out to accomplish at the beginning of 2014 and still haven't so that I can do it and be able to proudly say in the year end recap that I did it.

I've only read 21 books so far this year, 3 of which were rereads. I've fallen behind on my Goodreads challenge goal of 50 books, and I've read 0 towards the Australian Women Writer's Challenge. Those are some pretty depressing stats. I also can't say that I've been utterly blown away by most of the books I've read in 2014, the notable exceptions being Ignite Me (Warner, Warner, Warner!), The Darkest Minds, and Never Fade. Divergent and Shadow and Bone both surprisingly didn't cut it for me.

But I'm ready to finish this year out strong. Since UtopYA, all I've wanted to do is read and write. It's finally dawned on me that of course there's always time for both. So what if I put off the cleaning for another weekend? Everyone constantly tells me that I obsess over it too much, anyway. There are too many awesome books that I want to read, and they're not going to get read if I keep brushing them aside for stuff that's not really urgent. And now that I've reexamined the priorities in my life, I've discovered that lots of things aren't in fact urgent, thus freeing up more time for reading—yay!

I hope to meet my Goodreads number for 2014 and even surpass it, but you know what? I've decided that the final tally isn't going to matter; what's going to count is being able to say that just reading those books made me happy. Being back in the reading groove has made me realize how long it's been since I read purely for fun. There are a bunch of amazing looking titles releasing later in the year (Blue Lily, Lily Blue, anyone?), and I'm confident they're going to contribute to an awesome second bookish half of 2014.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Adventures in Nashville: Elvis! (Costello!)

Today we're venturing off the bookish path for a more musical one, though this journey would not have been possible if I hadn't already been heading to Nashville for UtopYA.

I've been an Elvis Costello fan for about ten years now, which is not all that long considering that his first album, My Aim Is True was released in 1977 (the year I was born). I first began really listening to his music after catching some old music videos of his on VH1 Classic, back when they played videos twenty-four hours a day. One of my favorite EC songs ended up being, appropriately enough, "Everyday I Write the Book."

I attended my first Elvis concert in 2005. I was living in New York City at the time and was fortunate enough to see him perform live twice that year, and twice again in 2006. You could say I was a little spoiled, since he played NYC often, and still does. The next time I saw him live was in 2008, the year I moved to Florida; he opened for The Police on their reunion tour.

I knew when I moved that one of the things I'd probably be giving up was going to an EC concert practically every year. In the grander scheme of life there are far worse things one could be without, but this was a big one for me, and I freely admit it because I love his music. About two years ago, and my mind is a little fuzzy on the exact date because this tale ends unhappily, Elvis was scheduled to play in the Orlando area. Not only that, but the shows were going to feature a giant wheel that audience members were going to be invited up on stage to spin. Whatever song the wheel landed on was the song that was going to get played next. Pretty neat, right? (Elvis did a similar tour in the 80's).

Of course I had to go to this show. I scored third row center seats and all was well until I received an email from Ticketmaster saying that the show was postponed. Tickets would be honored on the rescheduled date, but in a stroke of supremely bad luck, this particular show could not be made up when he returned to Florida for the other gigs that had been postponed. The venue was not available at the time because the touring production of The Lion King had taken up residence at the theater for about a month. I had never hated Simba and his pals so much in my life.

Fast forward to a few months ago. Ally, The Melissa, and I already had our road trip to Nashville for UtopYA booked. Then I happened to see a Facebook post announcing tour dates for some solo EC shows. I could not, and still sort of don't, believe that one of those dates coincided with the Saturday that we were also going to be in Nashville. If this was the universe's way of making up for the Cancelled Due to The Lion King Thing, I was seizing the opportunity.

And that's how Ally and I (The Melissa is not a fan of The EC and relaxed back at the hotel) found ourselves at the Ryman Auditorium last Saturday. The venue is renowned for its place in country music history and stellar acoustics. Although you're assigned to individual seat numbers, you actually share a long church pew. I didn't care if I had to stand on my head for two hours; I was prepared to enjoy this evening to the fullest.

At all of the shows I've been to, Elvis has been a punctual man, and at exactly 8:47, following a half hour set by opening act Larkin Poe, he took the stage. I know I had a goofy smile on my face; I hadn't been deliriously happy in a very long time. I mean, I was about to burst from happiness. Elvis opened with the fantastic "Jack of All Parades," and then, and then, and then . . . he sang my favorite song of his EVER.

At first I didn't recognize the opening notes to "King Horse" because I'd never heard it acoustic before, but when I caught on, I flailed. I think I may have even punched Ally in the arm. I never thought I'd get to hear that song live just because Elvis's song catalog is so vast. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I can now die a happy person for having heard "King Horse" live.

I'm not going to bore you with a song-by-song recap of the evening (although I'd be more than ecstatic to do so for anyone who'd like one!). Elvis rocked for over two hours with an eclectic setlist that ranged from early compositions like "Cheap Reward" to the very, very recent "The Last Year of My Youth" to an absolutely electrifying "Watching the Detectives." He also did an awesome mash-up of his own "New Amsterdam" and The Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." He sang "Alison," which made me very happy for our own Ally, because she's an Allison (with two L's).

Needless to say, this concert was the highlight of the trip for me. It also goes without saying that I fangirl hard over Elvis, really on a par with my book fangirling. So to tie Elvis and books together, here's a clip of him and his band, The Imposters, performing "Everyday I Write the Book" live. ;)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (44): Best Hogwarts Secret

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:
Best Hogwarts Secret

The best kept secret at Hogwarts is most definitely the Marauders being animagi. No one had a clue. The Marauders were not only unregistered animagi, but no one even fathomed that the three young wizards possessed enough skill to accomplish that kind of magic. Because of this well kept secret, the Marauders were able to help Remus with his werewolf problem, Peter was able to remain in hiding for years, and Sirius was able to escape from Azkaban. If their animagi abilities had ever been revealed, the Harry Potter series would have been completely different.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Adventures in Nashville: UtopYA Con 2014

It's good to be back! Last Thursday, in the very, very wee hours of the morning, Ally, The Melissa, and I set out on a nearly 700 mile drive from Central Florida to Nashville, Tennessee for four days of bookish and some non-bookish fun. Our primary destination was UtopYA Con 2014, with some ambling around Nashville thrown in.

We had a pretty straight route from Florida through Georgia and then into Tennessee. This was the first road trip for my car, which Ally christened "Ronan" along the way, after Ronan Lynch from Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys. Poor Ronan had to endure a lot on this trip: boiling outside temperatures, some bumpy roads, and lots of bug splat. Fortunately it rained a few times, otherwise I was going to have to manually clean the windshield. And I so did not want to do that.

View from the passenger side window

The drive ended up taking about 12 hours with breaks and getting stuck in traffic through Atlanta and once we got into Nashville. I think we were all very grateful to see the hotel. After dinner, we checked out Downtown Nashville for a little bit and then passed out for the night back at the hotel.

Friday was the first day of the con. Gennifer Albin was scheduled to give the opening keynote speech but had to spend the night in an airport, so Sylvia Day, who was set to speak on Saturday, spoke on Friday instead. She was fantastic and delivered an extremely insightful speech about the business of being an author. After the keynote, we got to meet the lovely Ali from Ginger-Read Reviews and the lovely Carmen Jenner, author.

We checked out the author tables, where I basically wanted to buy every book I saw. Alas, some unfortunate luck right before the trip prevented me from buying any books during the entire con. My car required some necessary repairs before departing that totaled over $500, thus completely obliterating any notion I had of buying books. I bought exactly one souvenir during the whole trip (and which will be featured in the next Book Loot post). I was really down about my book budget going bust before I even left home, but there was this one thing, which I'll get to later, that cheered me up considerably . . . .

We squeezed in a little sightseeing, the highlight of which was the Belle Meade Plantation:

We also had the best lunch ever on Friday:

I had not eaten a White Castle hamburger from an actual White Castle restaurant since moving to Florida six years ago. Because there are no White Castle restaurants in Florida. I still buy them frozen and microwave them, but it's not the same. Eating one of these unhealthy babies steamed fresh off the grill was heavenly.

Saturday's keynote speaker was Gennifer Albin. Something she said that really resonated with me was how you have to make time to write. I'm not writing a book, but I applied it to writing blog posts and even to reading. I'm always going to think of a million other things that I should be doing instead of reading and blogging, but sometimes, those other things can just wait.

We attended the blogging panel, which was inspiring. I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, but at the end of the con, I really felt a renewed passion for reading and blogging that I hadn't experienced in a while. And I still feel that way, which is why I'm sitting here at night writing this post when I should be grabbing some sleep, lol.

On the tourist-y side of things, we paid a quick visit to Nashville's replica of the Parthenon, which is also an art museum:

I had a rough day on Saturday. Like everybody else, I was exhausted, but unlike everybody else, I let it get to me. I'm also not the best traveler. I mean, I love visiting new places, but I also get homesick very easily and quickly begin missing the comforts of home, like my own bed, softened water, being able to microwave a snack (White Castle hamburgers!) whenever I'm hungry, etc. So I was longing for home on Saturday, too. My GPS was also having trouble navigating Nashville, rerouting us quite often. The frustration of not being able to get from Point A to Point B without an unintentional detour, plus the heavy traffic, just pushed me over the edge. So I did the only logical thing I could do: cry. Who cries on vacation? I do. That was an eye opener, in that I was stressing out while on vacation, and I definitely need to get a better handle on my stress.

And now for the thing that cheered me up: Ally and I went to see Elvis Costello at the Ryman Auditorium on Saturday night. I am a HUGE fan of his, and when I found out he was playing Nashville the same weekend we were going to be there, my heart nearly raced out of my chest. Everything: the drive, the expense, even the tears, everything was worth it for this moment. I'm actually going to write about the concert in a separate post, because it totally needs its own space.

And so Sunday, our final day in Nashville, arrived. As much fun as I had, all I could think about was how wonderful it was going to be to sleep in my own bed that night. The trek home took another 12 hours, and by the time we reached the home stretch, I wanted to kiss the sign welcoming us back to our county. When I walked into my house, I wanted to hug its entire contents. When I finally went to sleep that night, hitting the pillow was more like falling into a coma.

Road tripping was tougher than I'd anticipated and I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but I'm glad we did it, if only because it's something I wouldn't ordinarily do. We're setting our sights on attending BEA next year, especially since it'll be the last one in NYC for a while. At least I know my way around the city and can pretty much go anywhere without having to drive. :D

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (43): Best Hermione Moment

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:
Best Hermione Moment

This is an easy pick for me: Hermione literally socking it to Draco Malfoy in Prisoner of Azkaban! I prefer the punch in the face she gives him in the movie over the slap in the book because Malfoy deserved to feel as much pain as possible.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Loot (2)

It was only last week when I did a book haul post and also said that I didn't foresee frequent ones in the future, yet here's another one, lol. But I got a few lovely bookish birthday surprises last week, including an Amazon gift card, and I finally splurged on these prettifuls:

I've wanted a Shadowhunter bookmark from Hebel Design for ages, and at last, I decided to get one. Well, two. I couldn't make up my mind between a Will quote or a Jem quote from The Infernal Devices. Getting one of each seemed the only logical thing to do in this case.

Ally, The Melissa, and their brother, Denis, gifted me with these beautiful bookends that they hand painted and decorated themselves! The bookend on the right has a little drawer that pulls out, which makes it the perfect place to store my bookmarks!

I've been quite good lately about not buying books and only added these 2 eBooks:

Dirty Angels by Karina Halle
Love, in English by Karina Halle

Dirty Angels = more Javier = very happy Lee. :D

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Children & Final Thoughts on Season 4

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “The Children.”

It’s the end of another season! After the epicness that was last week’s episode featuring the battle at the Wall, I really didn’t know how that could be topped. In the past the season finale has typically been a mellower affair than episode 9; in some ways this one was compared to all of the action sequences in the previous episode, but there were still several significant events. It is with great sadness that I present the last GoT recap for a while:

Jon Snow: Man with a Mance Mission

Jon heads to the Wildling camp to find/kill their leader, Mance Rayder. We haven't seen Mance in a while, and he notes that Jon is back in Night's Watch black. They talk about all the stuff that's happened, including Ygritte dying. Mance just wants to take the Wildlings south, away from the White Walkers; if the Night's Watch lets them through, they won't put up a fight. As Jon puts on his skeptical look, a horn blasts. Mance immediately thinks Jon brought reinforcements, but that's not who's knocking on the tent door. These troops carry Stannis Baratheon's banner! He actually listened to Davos (well, after Melisandre chimed in that it was a good idea and all) and went to the Wall. There was a cool aerial shot, showing the might of Stannis's forces compared to the Wildlings. When they meet face-to-face, Stannis is not impressed with Mance; Mance feels likewise about Stannis and won't kneel before him. Jon reveals to Stannis that Ned Stark was his father and advises Stannis to burn the bodies around them before they rise as White Walkers.

GoT Meets Frankenstein

Pycelle and Qyburn confer over the Mountain's critical condition. Oberyn Martell poisoned the tip of his spear, and now the Mountain is dying a horrible death (and rightfully so). Pycelle declares the Mountain a goner, but Qyburn thinks he can "save" the Mountain using the methods that lost him his maester's chain. Pycelle is outraged, and Cersei dismisses him as Qyburn gets to work.

Happy Father's Day

Cersei and Tywin are back to arguing about her marrying Loras Tyrell. With Joffrey dead and Myrcella in Dorne, Cersei won't leave Tommen for anything or anyone. She threatens to publicly acknowledge that the incest rumors between her and Jaime are true if Tywin continues to demand that she marry Loras. Cersei then tells Jaime what she said to their father, and then it gets all awkward . . . .

Bad Drogon, Bad!

In Meereen, Daenerys listens to disturbing back-to-back accounts from two of her subjects. The first is an elderly gentleman who actually misses his old life and wants to return to his former master. The next man brings the charred remains of his dead daughter, who was killed by Drogon. Reluctantly, Daenerys chains up the two dragons that haven't flown away.

And Now Their Watch Is Ended

Maester Aemon speaks at a memorial for the fallen Night's Watch brothers. The bodies are burned, Grenn among them. Jon and Melisandre make some eerie eye contact over the flames. Next Jon goes to see Tormund, who wants to know how he's going to be killed. Jon says that's Stannis's decision now, and he lets Tormund know that they're going to burn the bodies of all of the dead. Tormund tells Jon that Ygritte belongs in the real North, and so Jon builds a pyre for her away from the others.

The Children

Bran, Hodor, and the Reeds are struggling to journey on in the harsh weather. Jojen in particular is very weak and doesn't look too good. Bran is relieved to see the tree they've been searching for when suddenly these skeletons start popping up out of the ground and attack. Meera fights them with help from Bran warging into Hodor, but these skeletons mean business. A creepy looking girl rains down some fire on the skeletons and beckons Bran to follow her. Jojen gets stabbed, and the girl says they must leave him behind if they want to live. She is one of "The Children," beings who are really, really, really old. Bran finally meets the three-eyed crow, who is a man sitting on a tree throne. Bran is hopeful that he'll regain the use of his legs now that he's reached his destination, but creepy dude is like, no, but you'll fly!


Brienne and Pod are on their way to the Eyrie and who do they bump into? Arya and the Hound. I repeat: Brienne MEETS Arya. The Hound thinks Brienne is here to collect him for the Lannisters and draws his sword. They engage in an extremely NASTY fight, no holds barred. The Hound tumbles off a cliff, and Arya, meeting him where he's landed, is like, are you gonna die? He wants her to put him out of his misery, but instead she walks off with his money bag. Oh, and Brienne and Pod fail to figure out where Arya has gone. As crazy cool as the fighting was between Brienne and the Hound, I'm still not sure how I feel about this departure from the books.


Tyrion is lying in his cell when Jaime bursts in to bust him out, with help from Varys. Yeah! There's an "Awww" moment between the brothers which I loved despite the fact that in A Storm of Swords, Tyrion and Jaime part on very, very different terms. Anyway, Tyrion can't leave without paying his daddy one last visit. When Tyrion walks into Lord Tywin's chamber, guess who's occupying Tywin's bed? It's Shae! The two get into a physical fight that ends with Tyrion strangling her. Then he seeks out his father, who is uh, taking care of some business in the privy. FYI, that actually happened in the book. Tyrion aims his crossbow at his father, who doesn't believe Tyrion has the guts to kill him. But Tyrion does, and Lord Tywin dies on the toilet.

Sailing Away

After committing patricide, Tyrion is whisked away by Varys. Remember last season, when Varys opened up a big box that had a man in it? Well, Tyrion is now a man escaping in a box, with Varys accompanying on the ship. Arya boards a ship, too, this one headed for Braavos. Valar morghulis!

Final Thoughts on Season 4

Overall this season, I thought that the show was maybe feeling a bit of pressure from closing in on where the books are at this point. While there's still quite a bit of source material yet to be covered on the show, I felt like multiple story lines were dragged out, like Daenerys reaching Meereen and the Wildlings reaching the Wall. BUT, Episode 9, "The Watchers on the Wall," TOTALLY made up for everything. Totally. It was unquestionably my favorite of the season, and one of my all-time favorites. That episode made you want to fight alongside the brothers of the Night's Watch.

The other standout for me this season was Pedro Pascal's stellar performance as Prince Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne. He wowed in every scene he was in, particularly in his visit to Tyrion's cell, when he tells Tyrion he'll be his champion in the trial by combat. And, of course, there was the trial itself. Oberyn was so close to pulling off an astounding victory over the Mountain, Gregor Clegane, and then . . . damn. I knew from the books that Oberyn was going to die, and I could not watch that part.

And now the wait for season 5 begins. I take comfort in the fact that the wait for this season flew by. In the meantime, I can always reread the books if I need a GoT fix that badly— Ally has been trying to get me to do a buddy reread with her for months, lol.

Peeps We Said Goodbye to This Season

RIP: Oberyn Martell, Tywin Lannister, Shae, Lysa Arryn, Jojen Reed, Pyp, Grenn, Ygritte, Styr, some giants. (And anyone else I forgot.)

Oh, and Joffrey died, too. May he burn in seven hells.

Friday, June 13, 2014

ARC Review: Underworld's Daughter by Molly Ringle

Underworld's Daughter by Molly Ringle
Underworld’s Daughter (The Chrysomelia Stories #2)
By Molly Ringle
Central Avenue Publishing
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher
Publication Date: June 27, 2014

To Sum It Up: As Sophie continues to regain her memories of her previous life as Persephone, she and Adrian/Hades are soon joined by two more figures from their shared past: Dionysos and Hekate. Sophie and Adrian need all the allies they can assemble, too, because Thanatos, the group that wants to destroy all immortals, is more determined than ever to carry out their lethal plans. Sophie’s own plans to just be a normal college student seem nearly impossible now, since she must devote all of her focus to protecting everyone she loves from Thanatos.

Review: My icy heart is not easily moved by swoony romances, but that’s exactly the effect Persephone’s Orchard had on me. I ended up loving the rekindled romance between Adrian and Sophie, the modern day reincarnations of Hades and Persephone. While there’s no shortage of sweet moments between the king and queen of the Underworld in Underworld’s Daughter, Sophie and Adrian’s relationship in the present hits a bit of a bump. She sometimes longs to just be Sophie Darrow, average college student without all of the baggage that accompanies being a Greek deity. Although this was a perfectly reasonable story development, the part of me that fell for Persephone’s Orchard because of the Adrian/Sophie pairing couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.

Underworld’s Daughter expands its roster of characters, with the series shifting some of its focus to Tabitha and Zoe, friends of Sophie and Adrian’s who also featured prominently in the lives of Persephone and Hades. It’s not that Sophie and Adrian are totally forgotten, but you can expect to spend quite a bit of time getting acquainted with Tabitha, Zoe, and their previous incarnations. The flashbacks to their days in ancient Greece were absorbing to read about; their lives in the present—not as much. I would have liked Tabitha to have had a little more to her character than partying and chasing fame, even if those things were in total keeping with the lifestyle she led in the past. As for Zoe, I thought she let herself get too bogged down in her memories of who Tabitha used to be and how close they once were.

And I think that was my main issue with Underworld’s Daughter: I couldn’t get as invested in the present day lives of the characters as easily as I did their previous ones. There’s clearly a lot of love for Greek mythology here, and that love really shines through whenever the story returns to the past. Kudos also go to the storytelling technique that’s employed in the series; the narrative switches back and forth between ancient and contemporary times without ever causing confusion about where—or when—you are. I do wish that the contemporary plotlines had moved closer to the pace that the flashback scenes did and that my favorite character, Hermes/Niko, had made a few more appearances. Ultimately, Underworld’s Daughter was a satisfying sequel, though I did miss, and I sort of can’t believe I’m about to say this because it’s rather uncharacteristic for me, the sweeping romance of Persephone’s Orchard.

All in All: The Greek mythology aspect continues to be excellent, but the modern day story took a while to build and find its momentum.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Loot (1)

I haven't done a book haul post since . . . yeah. It's been a while. I've been picking up the odd book here and there. For months. Since I do these posts so infrequently now, I've decided to just throw them together whenever I remember/have time and slap on this snazzy graphic that Ally kindly drew for me and to which I then added some color in Photoshop.

Um, so I didn't realize how many books I've accumulated over the past few months? And I haven't had time to read most of them, either. :( That's OK, because I'm planning on going on another book buying ban very, very soon, which will give me plenty of opportunity to get through these lovlies.

For Review:

Haze by Paula Weston
Underworld's Daughter by Molly Ringle
Chase Tinker and the House of Destiny by Malia Ann Haberman
Thanks to Tundra Books, Central Avenue Publishing, and Malia Ann Haberman!


The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
Half Bad by Sally Green
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
The Hollow Crown by Miri Rubin
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

eBooks Bought:

Enjoy Your Stay by Carmen Jenner
Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon
Love, Your Concierge by Jessica Ingro
Stakeout by Nikki Jefford
Evil Red by Nikki Jefford

Note to self: do not wait so long to do a book haul post again. This one took forever to format, lol.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Watchers on the Wall

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “The Watchers on the Wall.”

Whoa! I haven't enjoyed a GoT episode that much in a while! Episode 9 of each season has traditionally become the absolute must-see one, and "The Watchers on the Wall" easily continued that tradition. The entire ep takes place at the Wall as the Wildlings (finally!) attack; good decision to focus the entire almost-hour on this single plotline.

I usually go scene by scene for the recaps because each episode typically follows multiple story lines, but with this one all about the Wall and so much happening, I'm feeling like regular paragraphs without headings fit better this time. I'm also feeling very emotional after this ep, so I think there's going to be a lot of swearing. So let's get started!

Jon and Sam are standing at the top of the Wall, and it's freakishly quiet, all calm before the storm and stuff. They have a little dude talk, with Jon asking Sam about Gilly, and Sam asking Jon about Ygritte, and Jon getting all flustered and declaring that he cannot eloquently discuss such matters because he isn't a bleeding poet. That line made me laugh.

The Wildlings are enjoying a little downtime, too, with Tormund regaling everyone with a classy tale of his exploits. Ygritte is in a bitchy mood, getting her arrows ready for Jon Snooow. Styr, the dude who ate that poor kid's mama and papa earlier in the season, tells her that he doesn't believe she killed Jon or will kill him once they reach the Wall. Ygritte calls Jon's kill for herself, threatening anyone who dares try.

Sam is in the library when Maester Aemon walks in. Sam still thinks Gilly is dead because he sent her to Mole's Town, where the Wildlings rampaged in the previous ep. Wise Maester Aemon says he knows Sam is in love with Gilly, which Sam tries to deny. I loved Aemon's line, "Love is the death of duty."

Pyp is guarding the gate, and guess who turns up there? Gilly and the baby, alive! Sam hears her cries, and he tells Pyp to let them in. Pyp says he has orders not to allow anyone passage, and Sam is like, "Open the fucking gate!" That was awesome. But the reunion is interrupted by horn blasts: the Wildlings are here! The Wildlings are here!

The Night's Watch scrambles to defend the Wall. Douchebag Janos Slynt can't help gleefully bossing Jon around. Jon gets a surprising admission from Alliser Thorne that they should have listened to Jon and sealed the tunnel. But before this can turn into a bro moment, Thorne reminds Lord Snoooow that if they survive, they'll go right back to despising each other.

Sam whisks Gilly and baby to a hiding place, but she doesn't want him to leave and go to battle. He says he has to uphold his vows and do what he's gotta do, then kisses her. A very awwww moment, indeed!

Welp, Mance Rayder promised to light a fire the likes of which the North had never seen, and so he did. Plus, he sent some giants and woolly mammoths and some other scary looking things just for good measure. The Wildlings also launch an attack at one of the gates, and Thorne takes off to fight there, leaving Slynt in charge of the archers. Slynt is useless and later hides while the men who are supposed to be his brothers lose their lives.

Down at the gate, Thorne warns the men there that the Thenns will eat them if they die, so they better not die. Thorne is such an asshole to Jon, but I gotta say, I really liked all of his rah-rah speeches in this episode, and he was right in the thick of the battle.

The fight scenes in this episode were amazing. Did you see the giant put an arrow through one of the Night's Watch and send the poor guy flying? Oh my God! I felt bad for the fallen brother, but seven hells! That was crazy in a very cool way.

Pyp, who was seen earlier with shaking hands before the battle began, kills a Wildling, only to be killed himself by Ygritte. Dammit! Not Pyp, you bitch!

One of the giants attaches a giant hook to the gate and then fastens the other end of the line to a giant mammoth. With that much giant power, that gate isn't going to hold for long.

Thorne and Tormund are squaring off one-on-one in an especially vicious fight, and Tormund ends up slicing Thorne. Even down and bleeding out, Thorne shouts for the remaining men to, "Hold the fucking gate! Hold it!"

Jon is about to jump into the fray, and he puts Dolorous Edd in charge. I love Edd, and I loved his "Light the fuckers up!" line.

Grenn and five other brothers are down in the tunnel, trying to keep the Wildlings from breaching the gate. Guess what's there to meet them? A giant! One guy is particularly scared, and Grenn begins reciting the Night's Watch vows. Soon everyone else joins in, making this scene beyond epic.

Guess who else is about to help defend the Wall? Ghost! Ghost! Ghost! I looooooved that scene!

Styr the Thenn is beating the hell out of Jon as Ygritte secretly watches. Jon manages to kill Styr, and then Ygritte moves in for her kill. She waits too long, though, and that little kid whose mama and papa got eaten by Styr puts an arrow in her. Her final words? Yep: "You know nothing Jon Snoooow."

With most of the Wildlings dispensed of, the Watch is ready to clean up a little, but Tormund is still fighting like a madman. Jon tells him that it's over, and Tormund is hauled away. Gilly and the baby are safe, Jon and Sam are alive, but Grenn is dead. I'm busted up about both Pyp AND Grenn dying because dude, they were Jon's buddies from the beginning.

The Night's Watch may have fought off the Wildlings this time, but Jon tells Sam that Mance Rayder won't stop here. Jon sets out to find him because it's the only way to put an end to the fighting. He gives Longclaw, the sword Lord Commander Mormont gave to him, to Sam, saying that he promised Mormont he'd never lose it again, and he's not sure if he'll return from his Mance mission. The ep ends with Sam telling Jon to come back.

Next week is the season finale! The scene I'm most interested in from the preview is the one of Tyrion lurking around. Trust me, you'll want to take a huge interest in what he's doing, too.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

That Time YA Saved Me from Giving Up on Reading

So. You've probably heard about a certain online article that basically says adults have no business reading YA books. I'm not even linking to the article because, seriously. Normally I don't chime in on these things; there are always plenty of people who say what I'm thinking a hundred times more eloquently. But this one happened to catch me in an already cranky mood, and I think I'm just done with anything that tells anyone how to read, how to blog, how to review, how to sneeze. You get my point.

I'd like to share a little story with you. I've often previously mentioned the reading burnout I experienced right after finishing college and how hard it was to find my passion for books again. What I haven't gone into detail about was my attempt, and an epic failure of one, by the way, to "read like an adult." As a newly minted college grad, I got the now ridiculous notion in my head that I needed to read age-appropriate books. Not really knowing where to start, I turned to the New York Times bestseller list for some guidance. Of the books that I gave a shot to, and there were quite a few, I can count on one hand how many of them worked out for me. I enjoyed Atonement by Ian McEwan and the first two Bridget Jones novels by Helen Fielding (the movie adaptation of book 1 was in theaters at the time). Those books still sit on my shelves, but most of their one-time shelf neighbors have been donated. There were quite a number of books that were garnering critical praise and selling like mad but which I found unsatisfying, and in some cases, just plain crappy. I can't even remember most of their titles because they weren't memorable reads.

Now, I'm not bashing adult lit. I don't even like making that distinction because personally, I think a good book is a good book and stands on its own merits regardless of who it's marketed to. I just happened to really find my reading haven in the YA section, and even sometimes in the middle grade section. If I hadn’t started reading Harry Potter and Twilight, there would be no blog today because I wouldn’t be picking up any books. And that’s a fact. And if I had continued avoiding YA because I was too old for it or whatever, I would be missing out on authors like Maggie Stiefvater and Melina Marchetta; gorgeous prose transcends everything.

So read whatever the hell makes you happy and take pride in it. I’m turning 37 this week, and I have absolutely zero intentions of giving up YA. Ever. Because you know what? It’s my time and very often my money that I choose to invest in a book, and I have every right to enjoy that book guilt-free.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous book, City of Bones.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2)
By Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: With Valentine very much alive and in possession of the Mortal Cup, the Shadowhunters must race to stop him from acquiring all of the Mortal Instruments. Meanwhile, Jace and Clary are still trying to deal with the shocking revelation of their connection to Valentine—and to each other. Jace also falls under suspicion from the Clave because of his family ties, and he must prove to the Clave’s merciless High Inquisitor that his loyalty still lies with the Nephilim.

Review: I have to say, I really enjoyed this reread of City of Ashes. I still had some of the same issues with it that I did with City of Bones, but overall City of Ashes was a very good (re)read.

I might as well cover the stuff I wasn’t so thrilled about first. Clary may be able to draw powerful runes straight out of her head, but I find her rather blah otherwise. I don’t think she’s a kickass heroine, and she’s probably my least favorite TMI character to read about. That must sound strange considering how much I like the book and The Mortal Instruments series as a whole. Clary just comes across as wimpy to me, despite what she can do with a stele.

I could reread the series ten more times and still not buy into 1) Simon and Clary as a couple and 2) Jace and Clary as anything BUT a couple. (If you’ve read TMI, then you know what I mean; I’m trying not to be too spoiler-y here.) As much as I like Simon, I can’t picture him besting a character like Jace for Clary’s heart, and Simon and Clary’s half-hearted go at moving past the best friend stage didn’t interest me much as a reader. I also had to wince at the Jace/Clary bombshell from City of Bones, which is front and center for most of City of Ashes. Sure, that twist made for one hell of an ending to the first book, but beyond the shock value, I can’t wrap my head around the story going there. Plus, I never, not even for a microsecond, found that plotline plausible my first read through this book.

I realize that I’ve griped quite a bit, and now I’m going to explain why City of Ashes gets four stars from me. The world is just so cool. The Shadowhunters are just so cool—their history, their angelic lineage, their unwavering dedication to ridding the world of demons. And the Angel help me, but I love Jace, even when his sarcasm crosses the line and he’s being a grade A ass.

I’d forgotten how purely evil Valentine was. That sounds so stupid, I know, since he’s the bad guy and all. Seriously, though, his utter disregard for anyone who stands in his way didn’t fully sink in until now. He’s also completely convinced that he’s right and the Clave is wrong—it’s freaking scary.

It’s time to wrap up this review before I go on forever. Before I do, though, I have to mention how much I loved Magnus in this one. Of course he’s awesome in every Shadowhunter novel he graces with his presence, but he was extra amazing in City of Ashes. It also wouldn’t be a TMI book without an epic battle, and the climactic one in this installment doesn’t disappoint. The action in these books gets pretty intense, and I never grow bored of reading about the Shadowhunters taking down demons with their seraph blades.

All in All: The overall badass-ness of the Shadowhunters and Jace’s snark more than make up for that Jace and Clary thing that I try not to think about, even when I have to be repeatedly reminded about it for 400 pages.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Mountain and the Viper

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “The Mountain and the Viper.”

I think the title of this week's episode, "The Mountain and the Viper," should have been more aptly titled, "Eleven Minutes of the Mountain and the Viper," because dammit, the fight we've all been waiting for didn't get underway until 49 minutes into the episode. Instead we had to sit through a multitude of scenes in which Littlefinger acted creepy, and I already came to the conclusion that he's creepy ages ago. I'm also getting rather tired of material specifically written for the show that just feels like filler, like this week's incident between Missandei and Grey Worm. OK, I believe I'm done ranting now.

Mayhem in Mole's Town

Poor Gilly is not enjoying her stay in Mole's Town, and it gets even worse when Tormund, Ygritte, and the Wildlings show up and start killing everyone as they continue heading for the Wall. Ygritte is really, really, really pissed off, but she spares Gilly and the baby. At Castle Black, Jon, Sam, Grenn, Pyp, and Dolorous Edd are discussing the attack. Sam thinks that Gilly and her baby are dead and blames himself. The Night's Watch knows that they're next on the Wildlings hit list, and Dolorous Edd muses aloud that he hopes the last man standing burns all of the bodies of his brothers because he certainly doesn't want to turn into a White Walker.


Grey Worm catches sight of Missandei bathing without um, her bathing suit, which prompts her to relate what happened to Daenerys, who doesn't believe it's possible for Grey Worm to um, regard Missandei in a certain way. Grey Worm apologizes, while the rest of their conversation strongly hints that there's a spark between those two.

Being Theon Greyjoy (Again)

Ramsay instructs poor, brainwashed Theon to be Theon again and capture Moat Cailin for House Bolton. Theon brings the Ironborn who are currently occupying Moat Cailin terms of surrender. If they give up without a fight, they'll be allowed to return home. The leader of the Ironborn doesn't want to deal, but he's no longer a factor when one of the other Ironborn buries an axe in his head and agrees to the terms. Ramsay, of course, has other ideas and kills them.

Getting Away with Murder

The heads of the other houses of the Vale grill Littlefinger about Lysa's death. He claims it was a suicide, but these people are not easily fooled, especially since Lysa's devotion to her son was very well known. Sansa gets called as a witness, and she reveals her true identity and says Littlefinger saved her from King's Landing. She recounts how jealous Lysa was of her and how she tried to push Sansa out the Moon Door. And so Littlefinger is off the hook for homicide!

Special Delivery

Ser Barristan is handed a very damning piece of paper against Jorah—it's the latter's pardon from Robert Baratheon, which he received in exchange for spying on Daenerys. Barristan confronts Jorah privately and lets Jorah know he's getting the heave-ho. In the throne room, Jorah begs for Daenerys's forgiveness, but it's a lost cause and we see him riding away on his horse, looking all forlorn.

No Longer a Snow

Ramsay hands over Moat Cailin to his daddy, Roose, and is rewarded with being officially recognized as a Bolton.

You Think You Know Me

In the aftermath of Sansa going to bat for Littlefinger, he pays her a visit in her chamber. God, this guy is so gross just talking.

Arya Literally Cracks Up

The Hound finally reaches the Eyrie with Arya and is all set to ransom her to her aunt. But the guards outside the Bloody Gate have some bad news for him: Lady Arryn is dead. It's so frustrating to see the Stark sisters so close to each other without either knowing it. Meanwhile, Littlefinger is prepared to start grooming Robin Arryn to act like a true Lord of the Vale, apparently with Sansa's help.

The Main Event

Jaime and Tyrion are hanging out together in Tyrion's cell before the trial by combat. They're both worried about the Red Viper's odds against the Mountain. When Ellaria gets a look at Gregor Clegane, she's also concerned. Oberyn, however, is confident that he'll emerge victorious; he doesn't even don a helmet. And he does fight like a badass with his spear against the Mountain's gigantic sword. Just when it appears that Oberyn is going to pull off a win, his anguish over what the Mountain did to his sister and her children distracts him from realizing that the Mountain is not finished yet. I knew that Oberyn was going to die, and I could not watch. I loved his character in the books and in the TV series, and . . . his end was simply awful. So Tyrion is found guilty, and Cersei grins that horribly smug grin. Boo.

In the Next Episode

Watch out, Jon Snow: Ygritte has arrived at Castle Black, and she totally wants to kill you.