Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous books in the Bloodlines series.

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead
The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)
By Richelle Mead
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: As Sydney strays further and further from her Alchemist beliefs, the danger that she’ll be found out becomes increasingly real. Sydney finds herself needing to keep more and more secrets, an especially challenging task now that her younger sister, Zoe, is shadowing her on her assignment in Palm Springs and is very eager to prove herself as an Alchemist. Sydney has always excelled at foreseeing potential problems and heading them off, but under this much pressure, including keeping a forbidden romance under wraps, not even Sydney may be immune to making an extremely costly mistake.

Review: The Fiery Heart brings a significant change to the Bloodlines series. For the first time, there are two POVs, and of course the big news is that one of them belongs to none other than Adrian Ivashkov. I remember when this was first announced and how I had a mini-freak-out because . . . Adrian. POV. Reading from Adrian’s POV! Yes!

Perhaps I went into reading The Fiery Heart with a tad too much anticipation because I needed a few chapters to really get into Adrian’s side of the story. I know, I know—what the hell is wrong with me? I’ll try to explain my thinking as best I can. The trademark Adrian Ivashkov snark is there, but maybe I just expected more of it since we had direct access to his thoughts. Instead, a lot of his pages were devoted to his feelings for Sydney, and while I’m 100% Team Sydrian, I also still wanted Adrian to just be Adrian, the guy who always has a smartass remark armed and ready.

As I read, though, I started gaining more of an investment in his chapters. Something that may not have been as apparent in the previous books is the extent to which spirit can torment him. It gives him dizzying highs and alarmingly despairing lows, and when he’s experiencing a low, he’s consumed by thoughts of worthlessness. This is the same Adrian whom everyone often perceives as arrogant and carefree. What’s really heartbreaking is that he’s reluctant to give up using spirit because he believes he won’t be able to help people anymore. His biggest fear is not being able to help Sydney if she needed him. Commence swooning now!

The other POV in The Fiery Heart belongs to Sydney, naturally, and she’s breaking just about every Alchemist rule now. She has evolved into quite the rebel; one of her story lines follows her research into developing an ink that resists the type the Alchemists use to enforce loyalty among their ranks. In addition to her super secret project, she also has to carry out her regular duties, namely keeping her other “family members” out of trouble. This job, which is already tough at the best of times, is made much more difficult by the presence of Sydney’s actual sister, Zoe, at Amberwood Prep. Do not get me started about Zoe; she’s every bit the heap of trouble I expected her to be. I suppose it could be argued that Zoe is the product of some terrible parenting/brainwashing by her and Sydney’s father, but I’m really not in the mood to scrape together some sympathy for Zoe.

Although I thought The Fiery Heart started a bit slow compared to the previous Bloodlines novels and once again went into a rather lengthy recap of the series thus far, it did find its groove eventually. The action toward the end was intense, and Eddie got to demonstrate some serious guardian badassery. Waiting so long to read this has actually worked out for me because I can proceed straight to Silver Shadows now and pick up where the head spinning ending of The Fiery Heart leaves off.

All in All: I liked The Fiery Heart a lot, but maybe not as much as the other books in the series, despite being able to read from Adrian’s perspective. The pacing felt a bit leisurely for a while, but I did think the novel finished strongly.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
The Piper’s Son
By Melina Marchetta
Candlewick Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Tom Mackee’s family fractured after the death of his uncle, and Tom himself is at a low point. He’s exhausted his friends’ patience after their repeated attempts to help him have been to no avail. His family members don’t have much support to offer him, either, as they’re all dealing with various issues in their own lives. So it’s up to Tom to pull himself together—if that’s what he wants.

Review: The Piper’s Son is unique in a couple of ways. First, it’s not quite a sequel to Saving Francesca, although characters from the latter make appearances. The Piper’s Son takes place five years after Saving Francesca and focuses not on Francesca Spinelli this time but on one of her friends, Thomas Mackee.

Tom is 21, which I suppose technically makes him a few years older than the typical YA protagonist, but then, I think Melina Marchetta’s novels transcend intended audience age groups anyway. Another intriguing aspect of The Piper’s Son is the narration, which occasionally shifts from Tom’s POV to that of his 42-year-old aunt, Georgie (although the entire novel is written in the third person). If you asked me to nearly categorize this book, I couldn’t, and that’s a huge part of what makes it stand out.

I will admit to not immediately finding the love for The Piper’s Son that I have for some of Marchetta’s other books, including Saving Francesca. It’s hard to say why, too, other than I just wasn’t feeling it for a while. It’s not that Tom, Georgie, and the rest of the Finch-Mackee clan, whose complicated relationships form the heart of the novel, aren’t compelling. Marchetta digs deep into this family, good and bad times alike, and it’s an intricate, mesmerizing portrait painted with the finest detail. When it comes to breathing life into the characters on a page, Marchetta is in a class by herself.

Returning to the question of why this book needed some time to grow on me, well, I’m still working that out. I mean, I couldn’t wait to start it after finishing the superb Saving Francesca. I don’t know. But, The Piper’s Son did grow on me. I started finding myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it, a sure sign that it had made quite the impression on me. Would Tom ever forgive his father for leaving him? Would Georgie ever forgive the father of her unborn child from breaking her heart years before? Would Tom ever see Tara Finke, another figure from his St. Sebastian’s days, again? I developed an investment in these characters that pitted my brain, which needed to know how the book ended, against my eyelids, which very badly wanted to close from exhaustion. (My brain also said that Will Trombal, one of my favorite characters from Saving Francesca, might very well be in those last 60 pages; I managed to stay awake.)

In the end, I think all this book needed was a little patience from me to allow it to tell its story at its own pace. And it turned out to be a powerful story, one that I won’t be forgetting soon, especially since I’ve officially run out of Melina Marchetta books to read. A sad day, indeed.

All in All: Another brilliant character study from Melina Marchetta. I found it slightly slow moving compared to Saving Francesca, but the novel’s final impression is well worth any wait. I also highly recommend reading Saving Francesca first to maximize your experience reading The Piper’s Son.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca
By Melina Marchetta
Alfred A. Knopf
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Francesca Spinelli wishes that she didn’t have to attend St. Sebastian’s, a former all-boys school where Francesca is completely without her friends from her old school. Life becomes even more tumultuous for Francesca when her mother falls into a severe depression and is unable to even get out of bed. It’s school that becomes Francesca’s unlikely haven, as friendships gradually develop between her and some of her St. Sebastian’s classmates.

Review: Add Saving Francesca to the ever-growing list of books I should have read much, much sooner. Melina Marchetta is only one of my favorite authors, and here I allowed one of her works to languish on my bookshelf for nigh on two years. How did that even happen?!

With every Melina Marchetta novel I read, the more awestruck I am by her writing. Contemporary can be a tough genre for me sometimes, but not with Marchetta’s books. I think it’s a combination of her realistic characters and expertly crafted storytelling. Marchetta’s dialogue is also razor sharp, both in terms of wit and sounding natural, not labored. There’s a magic to her prose that I just adore, and I can’t articulate my love for it any better than that.

How could I not love a book that references Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy, Les Misérables the musical, and Macbeth? But I also loved Saving Francesca because it’s funny, sad, sweet, and resonant. My heart broke for Francesca as her outspoken mother, Mia, fell into a deep depression that left the rest of the family at a loss to help her. At the same time, my heart warmed to see Francesca find friendship among a group of individuals who, at the beginning of the book, you don’t quite picture ever hanging out together. There’s the Marchetta magic at work yet again: not only does she bring these characters together, but she does it effortlessly and makes you fall in love with them and their little quirks, too.

At a bit less than 250 pages, Saving Francesca is quick read, but that’s also because it’s such an engrossing one. Don’t let its size mislead you, either; there’s a substantial story, as well as substantial characters, packed into those pages. It’s not often that I find myself wholeheartedly recommending contemporary novels, but there’s so much to love about this one. Like . . . everything.

All in All: I savored every page of this book, and it still ended way too quickly!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Loot (7)

I've been sticking pretty well to my book budget, which, technically, has $0 allotted to it, lol. But there were two September releases which were absolutely necessary additions to my shelves and had been on pre-order for a while, so I did strain my wallet a bit this month. I've finished Heir of Fire, and it's been one major book hangover since then. I also downloaded two really awesome Kindle freebies, and the best part was, they were free! (And therefore in my budget, haha!)


Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Kindle Freebies:

Storm by Brigid Kemmerer
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

* This review contains spoilers for the previous book in the series, Unspoken.

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
Untold (The Lynburn Legacy #2)
By Sarah Rees Brennan
Random House Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: With the magical link between them cut, Kami and Jared no longer know each other’s thoughts. However much Kami believed she might welcome being alone inside her head for the first time in her life is almost entirely dampened by Jared’s anger over her decision to sever the bond. Meanwhile, Rob Lynburn and his followers are ready to revert Sorry-in-the-Vale to its past, in which the Lynburns ruled over it absolutely with their magic. Kami is determined to stop him, even without Rob’s numbers and the combined magical might behind him.

Review: I survived another Lynburn Legacy book! Let me tell you, things were looking pretty dicey following that soul-crushing ending of Unspoken. Never have I simultaneously loved a book and wanted to fling it across the room in such equal proportion. So it was with immense, and I believe totally justified, trepidation that I finally cracked open my copy of Untold.

I’ll get straight to what I wasn’t so keen about in Untold so I can spend the rest of the review gushing about what I loved. Surprisingly, the ending didn’t leave me too wrecked. Oh, it was upsetting for sure, but I’d anticipated much, much, worse. The thing about Untold is, it feels a bit too much like a middle book. It gets off to an awesome start with some homicidal scarecrows (!), but then there’s no real action until towards the end. In between, the novel focuses on the terrible awkwardness , and that’s probably phrasing it lightly, between Kami and Jared now that they’re no longer connected to each other. Jared is very angry at Kami, which sometimes gets to be too much for her and then she gets angry at Jared, and so forth. While I still love both characters and realize that theirs is an extremely unique and complicated relationship because of their now broken bond, I would have been okay with a little less Kami/Jared post-link fallout.

With that out of the way, it’s time for the gushing. This book—the hilarity! I chuckled my way through Unspoken, and I chuckled my way through Untold (Jared Lynburn: tavern wench. HAHAHA!). The characters just have this knack for saying the quirkiest things at the most unexpected times, and I simply LOVE IT. It’s as though this series knows exactly what I find humorous, nay, hysterical. During one exchange between Kami’s father, Jon, and Jared’s aunt, Lillian Lynburn, I couldn’t stop laughing. Out loud. I hardly ever do that while reading, but here’s a series that has made laughing out loud a rule rather than the exception.

I’ve grown very fond of Kami’s little group, and I was happy to reunite with all of them. Her best friend, Angela, is an absolute riot, and she’s in top-notch, nap-loving form in Untold. I also love Angela’s brother, Rusty; he’s so mellow (i.e. the polar opposite of his sister), yet quite observant. We also get a deeper sense of how far from easy life is for the other Lynburn lad, Ash. His father Rob is an evil sorcerer, mother Lillian perceives him as weak, and even cousin Jared isn’t very nice to him. I found myself feeling sympathetic toward Ash, especially given how his ice-queen mother treats him.

Although Untold didn’t quite match the spark of Unspoken for me, nonetheless it was a highly entertaining read. The wit that utterly charmed me in the first book continues to be a delight in the sequel. And in a series that seems to revel in maddening heartbreak, you have to cherish every instance of humor you can get.

All in All: Unspoken is still my favorite in the series thus far, but Untold is not without its moments. I do, however, think that it could have benefitted from some more action through the middle, instead of saving it all for the last few chapters.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

10 Books That Have Stayed with Me

It's time for another bookish tag: 10 Books That Have Stayed with Me. Thanks so much to Charlene at Bookish Whimsy and Alisa at Picture Us Reading for tagging me!

1. Just As Long As We're Together by Judy Blume

My copy of this has seen better days, but then it's about 25 years old and has been read many, many times. I don't have a lot of books from my childhood, but this is one that I've never been able to part with and probably never will. This was one of the first books I truly felt a connection to as a young reader, with one of the characters being Asian and adopted, like me. I also completely related to the book's story of growing up and growing apart from the best friend you thought you'd have forever. This book will always have a special place in my heart.

2. Edgar Allan Poe's Short Stories

I started reading Poe's short stories when I was about 12. They marked a big step away from the Sweet Valley Twins books I'd been obsessed with but had grown out of by this time, lol. I loved how creepy and macabre Poe's stories were, which is pretty ironic because in general, I don't like scary stories or movies.

3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

I'd read Romeo and Juliet as a high school sophomore and Macbeth as a junior, but it wasn't until I read Hamlet the summer before senior year that I began to think, hey, this Shakespeare dude is pretty good! I don't know—maybe it was all of the stark raving crazy in it that clicked with me, but for whatever reason, Hamlet's the thing that really made me love Shakespeare. My favorite adaptation stars a guy you may have heard of: David Tennant.

4. Persuasion by Jane Austen

This is my most favoritest novel ever. EVER!!!! As much as I love Pride and Prejudice and Lizzy and Darcy, Anne and Wentworth are THE literary couple for me. It's hard not to root for shy, timid Anne who's rather unloved by her snooty, vain family. I distinctly remember reading a certain part of the novel that just blew me away with the sheer beauty of its prose and is in my opinion, Austen's finest moment as an author.

5. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

I don't know where to start with why I love this series. I mean, it's Harry Potter, lol. I was already in my 20's when I began reading the books, but they just transcend age. I wish I could go to Hogwarts. I wish I could be a member of Dunbledore's Army. So basically what I'm saying is: I wish I were Hermione Granger.

6. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

As much as my reading tastes have changed since I first read this back in 2008, I had to include it. I cannot emphasize enough how reading this book marked a huge turning point in my life. Twilight reignited my love for reading, and if I hadn't picked up that book, I might never have started reading again after taking a long hiatus from it after college.

7. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Another life-changing read. About a month before the show premiered, Ally and I were looking for a book to buddy read, and it was a toss-up between this and another epic fantasy. Copies of A Game of Thrones, complete with TV series tie-in cover, were popping up everywhere, so since it was so readily available, we went with it. Good choice, I think. It's also thanks to this series that I discovered Goodreads. I was on an ASoIaF fan board looking for book recommendations, and posters kept mentioning this site called Goodreads. I signed up immediately!

8. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Victorian Shadowhunters! This series for me is the perfect combination of paranormal, fantasy, angel mythology, and a Victorian London setting. It's the realization of my wishlist of elements that I love in books, not to mention that I just LOVE the three main characters. There's just a love-fest between this series and me, and I sobbed when it ended.

9. The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

Truly a masterpiece of YA high fantasy by Marchetta, who's a brilliant author no matter what genre she writes. This series sent me on a mission to seek out other amazing YA fantasy titles after I'd been locked in a paranormal reading frame of mind for so long.

10. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Both The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves gave me severe book hangovers. In fact, I'm probably still recovering from The Dream Thieves. I'm struggling to describe why I connected with this series on such a profound level, other than I did. It's the series that I mercilessly push to other readers. It's the series that I fangirl incessantly about. It's the series that Ally, Melissa, and I could talk about for forever with each other. We read The Dream Thieves together, as a family, and texted/emailed each other our reactions. We're gearing up to do it all again next month for Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

I'm passing this tag along in a general way, as in, if you'd like to write a post, too, go for it! If you do, be sure to leave me your link so I can check it out! :D

Friday, September 19, 2014

Read the Book or See the Movie First?

The idea for this post came from both seeing the big screen adaptation of Gayle Forman's If I Stay last month and my current obsession with the small screen adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. In both cases, I'd read the book before watching the movie/TV show (Although I must confess to only having read the first Outlander book; I have a lot of catching up to do.). I'm the type of person who usually likes to read the book first. I don't really know why; it's just a preference. Maybe it's because I've always been a much more avid reader than TV viewer/movie goer. Also, I think perhaps I like checking out the source material first and then making the inevitable comparisons.

I have extremely fond memories of reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire in 2011, the year that the series debuted on HBO. Ally and I read A Game of Thrones about a month before the first episode premiered, and we continued working our way through the books through that summer. It was one of the greatest reading experiences ever, to simultaneously read about the characters in a book and witness them come to life on the screen.

I also remember being determined to read Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South before watching the BBC miniseries with the very, very, very, very, very swoon-worthy Richard Armitage. Why did I absolutely need to read the novel first? Again, it was just a resolution that had ensconced itself in my brain. Anyway, North and South was the first book that I read after moving to Florida; the memory has stuck with me because it was the only book that I had with me for almost a month because the rest of my books were in storage back up in New York. It was quite a while until life settled down enough for me to have time (and a TV and DVD player) to watch North and South. As just about everyone else who's seen it can attest, the wait was most definitely worth it. I also think that the miniseries features the best-added-scene-not-in-the-book EVER.

There are two authors whom you just may have heard of whose works I was introduced to through a film adaptation. The first is Jane Austen. I hadn't read any of her novels prior to watching the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility, but afterwards, I wanted to read all of them ASAP. i was utterly blown away by that film, and I loved Alan Rickman's performance as Colonel Brandon. I went on to read all of Austen's novels, and she's since become one of my all-time favorite authors.

And the other author whose books I started reading because of a single, life-altering film adaptation is . . . J. K. Rowling. Yes—I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone before cracking open a single HP book. Back in 2001, when everyone and their sixth cousin twice removed had devoured the series, I had no clue what all the craze was about other than I wasn't a part of it. I was definitely curious, though, and when my best friend, who had read the books, suggested we go see Sorcerer's Stone, I was totally on board. I left the theater with a singular mission in mind: to buy and read all of the books as soon as was humanly possible. I was in luck because a box set of the four books that were available at the time had just arrived in stores, and by the end of that weekend, that prettiful was sitting on my bookshelf.

I can't think of an instance where seeing the movie first didn't interest me in reading the book. Maybe I should do that more often, since everything worked out so well with Sense and Sensibility and Harry Potter, LOL.

How about you—do you usually like to read a book before seeing the movie/TV show, or does it make no difference?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (53): Best Dumbledore 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 Dumbledore Moment

There was a little mix-up over who was writing this week's HP post, and both Ally and I ended up writing one, lol. Here's Ally's, and then mine:

Dumbledore is one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series. I admire him for so many different reasons, most notably his wisdom. Dumbledore provided answers to almost all of the questions within the series. To me, the best Dumbledore moment was at the end of Deathly Hallows when he appears to Harry after Harry "dies." Dumbledore just being in that scene itself made the moment great. It was very hard for me going into Deathly Hallows knowing that Dumbledore was gone, so I was elated to see him one last time. The reunion between Dumbledore and Harry was also very meaningful. And I was happy to get some kind of explanation for Voldemort's behavior.

I realize that I often end up choosing multiple moments, but this week's topic absolutely demands that I pick more than one, because it's Dumbledore. I love his moment with Harry in Sorcerer's Stone, when he warns young Mr. Potter about the Mirror of Erised and delivers that brilliant line about not dwelling on dreams and forgetting to live. In fact, that's probably my favorite Dumbledore quote ever. Another favorite moment is his unforgettable exit from his office in Order of the Phoenix; take that, Fudge and Umbridge! I also cannot fail to mention the cave scene in Half-Blood Prince, when the Inferi are closing in on Dumbledore and Harry and Dumbledore just ignites the place. Finally, this list would not be complete without the King's Cross scene, again with Harry, in Deathly Hallows. So. Many. Feels.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Haze Blog Tour: Review

Today I'm thrilled to be reviewing Paula Weston's Haze, the second book in her amazing The Rephaim series! You can follow the other stops on the tour by clicking here or on the tour banner above. All of the bloggers on the tour were also given a fun quiz to find out which character from the series they're most like, and you can check out my result below, following the review!

Haze by Paula Weston
Haze (The Rephaim #2)
By Paula Weston
Tundra Books
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis: Gaby Winters' life used to be pretty normal.

She lived with her best friend. She worked in a library. She was slowly getting over the death of her twin brother, Jude. And then Rafa came looking for her.

With him, her blood-soaked nightmares stopped. But now they are reality. She is one of the Rephaim—a wingless half angel, descended from the Fallen. Demons exist and they are hunting her.

She knows she's alive when she's meant to be dead. And that means maybe Jude is too. So why isn't she out there looking for him?

Review: First, can I gush a little about how pretty the cover of Haze is? I could stare at it and admire it for hours. OK, I’m good now!

It’s been about a year since I read Paula Weston's Shadows, and what an agonizing wait it’s been to get more of this story of angels and demons and memory loss/recovery. Shadows had an utterly addictive quality to it, and Haze was just as hard to put down. Like its predecessor, Haze features perfect pacing that sates enough of your curiosity to keep you riveted to the book without revealing all of its cards. For me, a lot of the fun in reading this series has been trying to puzzle out exactly what’s going on right alongside the protagonist, Gaby. These are not the sort of books where you’re ten steps ahead of the heroine and rolling your eyes as she struggles to put foreshadowed clue #1 and foreshadowed clue #2 together. On the contrary, Gaby is much smarter than that, as well as smart enough to know not to implicitly trust all of the faces that keep popping up from a past that she can’t fully recall.

Gaby may be coming to terms with the fact that she’s one of the Rephaim, the half-human offspring of fallen angels, but her life continues to become more and more complicated. Her twin brother, Jude, who supposedly died in the car accident that left Gaby seriously injured, may in fact be alive. Gaby’s ensuing search for him figures prominently in Haze, but the novel doesn’t forget to revisit some unresolved plotlines from Shadows, either. In no way has Gaby seen the last of both friendly and not-so-friendly Rephaim, as well as the demons who once haunted her dreams but are now all too real. Her interactions with the other Rephaim are especially intriguing to read about because all is not harmonious among them, and they’re essentially split into two groups. Of course each badmouths the other, making it difficult for Gaby, and the reader, to figure out who to trust. And then there’s Rafa.

As the Rephaim who appeared out of nowhere into Gaby’s life at the beginning of Shadows, Rafa has been a constant—and most enigmatic—presence in both books. There are things he knows about Gaby’s past and their past that he keeps tucked away in that lovely head of his. He can be so exasperating, antagonistic, hilarious, and swoon-inducing, and I love all of these facets to his character, particularly the snarkiness. Sarcastic guys may not be to everyone’s liking, but they are to mine, and that’s why Rafa and I get along so well. Even if I didn’t already love the series for its deft storytelling, its version of angels, and the clever chapter titles, I’d love it because of Rafa.

Once again, I found myself absorbed by the mystery of Gaby’s past as she worked to reconcile the Gabe whom the other Rephaim knew with the Gaby she believed herself to be. The suspense only deepens in Haze, culminating in a cliffhanger that still pains me terribly when I think about it. You’d better believe that I’m counting down the days until Shimmer arrives in the US.

All in All: I love Paula Weston’s storytelling and characters. The latter are quite numerous, but she gives them such distinct personalities that you never have to stop and sort out who’s who. And you certainly never confuse Rafa with anyone else!

And now to reveal the Rephaim character I'm most like . . . .

We learn quite a bit more about Jude in Haze, and I think my quiz result is spot-on!

Photo Credit: Celia Southcombe, Flow Photography

Find Paula Weston:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Bookish Seven Deadly Sins

I've been tagged to do the Seven Deadly Sins Questionnaire, created by BookishlyMalyza, by my dear bloggy buddy Micheline over at Lunar Rainbows. Her post was awesome, and I couldn't resist joining in on the fun. Thanks, Micheline! :D

1. Greed. What's your most inexpensive book? What's your most expensive one?

I keep an eye out for Amazon Kindle deals; sometimes you catch a really great $0.99 sale or even a really awesome freebie. I've been eager to check out Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental series, and right now you can grab the first book, Storm, for free for your Kindle! Off the top of my head, the most I remember paying for a book is for my copy of Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey. Pricey, but absolutely worth it!

2. Wrath. What author do you have a love-hate relationship with?

I can completely relate to Micheline's feelings toward Stephenie Meyer. I don't know if I ever would have fallen back in love with reading again as an adult if it hadn't been for Twilight, but looking back on that series now, I'm definitely not as in love with it as I once was. I also have a love-hate thing with George R. R. Martin. I LOOOOOOOOVE his A Song of Ice and Fire series but HATE the wait between books and the whole killing-off-my-favorite-characters thing.

3. Gluttony. What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

Micheline and I also have this answer in common: Harry Potter. I read the first four books one after the other, then repeated before the release of Order of the Phoenix. Then I reread those five books before the release of Half-Blood Prince. Then I reread those six books so I was prepared for Deathly Hallows. DH so utterly blew me away that once I'd devoured it the first time, I immediately started it from the beginning, the only time I've ever read the same book twice in a row.

4. Sloth. What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

I've gotten really lazy about continuing Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series. It's not that I don't want to continue, it's . . . laziness, lol.

5. Pride. What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

Probably any of Shakespeare's plays, because I think just saying "iambic pentameter" sounds cerebral!

6. Lust. What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?

For the ladies, I like smart heroines who don't whine about their problems but instead work on solving them. Sarcasm is also very welcome. As for the lads, ditto on the snarkiness. I also tend to like moody, broody boys.

7. Envy. What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

The Harry Potter 15th anniversary box set, with those gorgeous covers, makes me drool whenever I see it.

So here's the part where I'm supposed to tag some other peeps. I always feel a bit awkward doing that sort of thing, so if you'd like to just go ahead and whip up a post like this one, go for it, and leave me your link below so I can check it out. :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

Half Bad by Sally Green
Half Bad (Half Life Trilogy #1)
By Sally Green
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: For his whole life, Nathan Byrn has faced increasing persecution from the Council of White Witches, ultimately leading to his imprisonment in a cage. Nathan is a Half Code, the son of a White Witch and a notorious Black Witch. Nathan’s prospects for escape are bleak, as the Council has taken every precaution imaginable to maintain its grip on the only possible leverage it may have against Nathan’s father, whom the Council is determined to kill.

Review: Half Bad is not your run-of-the-mill witch book, not when the protagonist starts off the story by recounting how he wound up shackled inside a cage. It’s a story that I quickly became engrossed in and read in every spare moment I could find because the need to know what happened next was so strong. This is not a joke: my head nearly slumped forward onto the book a few nights as I attempted to fight off sleep in order to read a few more pages (I failed, by the way).

The tone of Half Bad is quite dark. Our MC Nathan has been treated with horrible cruelty by the Council of White Witches, which claims to protect its own from the evil committed by Black Witches. Nathan’s late mother was a White Witch, but his father, Marcus, is the most dangerous and vile Black Witch, at least according to the Council. What the Council subjects Nathan to, and this is even before his imprisonment, is abhorrent. Nathan’s maternal grandmother, half-brother Arran, and half-sister Deborah care about him and do their best to protect him, but the Council is ruthless at pursuing its objectives. Nathan is a pawn, a means to a much bigger target, and totally expendable once he’s no longer useful to the Council.

Nathan is a fascinating character. With the nonstop misery he’s experienced throughout his life courtesy of the Council, it’s no wonder he’s an angry, bitter young man. There’s also a part of him, though, that actively seeks trouble and keeps his smartass mouth running when he should have shut it a while ago. Then again, you can’t help but wonder how much of his character has been shaped by his circumstances and how much, if any, is a consequence of being his father’s son. Nathan cuts an intriguing figure, one who also wants to keep the Council and its lethal Hunters away from his family and who feels a genuine affection for his half-brother, Arran. Arran doesn’t see Nathan as a Half Code (the Council’s designation for a witch with only one White Witch for a parent) or a half-brother. Nathan is just his brother, and the relationship between the two is very touching.

The novel’s writing style is a little different from the norm, as well as a little difficult to describe. The book opens in the second person, as though you, the reader, are in Nathan’s shoes. This doesn’t go on long, however, and then the book settles into Nathan’s first person point-of-view for good. His narration has a bit of a blunt feel to it, in that he’s a to-the-point kind of guy and doesn’t launch into a song and a dance with his descriptions. This works very well for the book and gives it a brisk pace that spurs you on reading.

With its complex protagonist, quirky minor characters, and fresh take on witches, I enjoyed Half Bad a lot. The sequel is a must-buy for me, and I can’t wait to have it in my greedy hands.

All in All: A very strong start to a promising new series. I’m extremely eager to see where the story heads next.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Found Around the Shelves: The Simpsons

I've been meaning to write this post for ages, and the recent Every Simpsons Ever TV marathon motivated me to finally do so. We all have our fandoms, and I've been a part of The Simpsons' even before I knew what a fandom was. It's a love that's endured for about 25 years now; sometimes that number just seems crazy to me because really—where have 25 years of my life gone?!

If, like me, you're a Simpsons fan of a certain age, then you probably remember when Fox was a new network and the Simpsons were featured on The Tracey Ullman Show. Even at the age of 10, I thought those shorts were awesome, although the animation wasn't anything fancy. I also remember when the family got their very own half hour Christmas special, and shortly after that, they had their own series.

If ever there was a television show that I was obsessed with, it's this one. Through elementary school, high school, and college, it never mattered how much homework I had; I never missed a first run episode. And those were pre-DVR days! I could have recorded an episode on a VCR back then, but I made it my business to catch the show every week. In more recent times, grown up responsibilities and the convenience that is a DVR mean that I don't always catch the new episodes when they initially air, but if I'm home on Sunday night, you know what I'm watching at 8 p.m.

I can't even begin to explain how much I love this show. I mean, I have Simpsons Christmas ornaments. That's right—ornaments. Plural. I own the CDs that have been released with songs from the show. I've played the various video games they've starred in. I had a Simpsons screensaver on my computer at one point.

So it's no surprise, then, that there are some Simpsons-related books on my shelves. That giant encyclopedia-looking tome contains summaries for 20 seasons' worth of episodes, plus load of background information about each episode, including every chalkboard and couch gag. These episode guides were originally published in smaller volumes, which you can also see in the photo. With the show still going, it looks like the massive compendium will eventually need an update, which I'll obviously have to add to my collection.

I am an unabashed Simpsons nerd. I have been for a good chunk of my life and always will be. If you randomly approached me on the street and just started quoting lines from the show, I wouldn't think that was weird at all. In fact, you'd be my new best friend! The Every Episode Ever marathon was something directly out of my dreams, although I missed more episodes than I watched. *shakes fist at need to go to work and earn income for things like food* I hope the marathon becomes an annual event; I'd totally take vacation days for it, and it should be quite obvious from all the fangirling in this post that I'm not joking about that.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer

The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer
The Water Mirror (Dark Reflections #1)
By Kai Meyer
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

To Sum It Up: Venice has been under siege by the Egyptian Empire for many years, and the only thing keeping the mummy warriors at bay is the Flowing Queen. But when the Queen is bested by the clever Egyptians and traitors within her own city, Merle, the young apprentice to the magic mirror maker, is the city's only hope.

Review: The title and the artwork on the cover grabbed my attention and the blurb sealed the deal. Who doesn't love magic and mermaids?!

The setting and plot were innovative and eclectic. You have magic mirrors, Hell, stone lions, mermaids, mummies, and Venice all crammed into one story. It was incredibly original and creative. So, it's quite a surprise that this book really didn't do anything for me.

Usually, this would be exactly my kind of read. However, I couldn't make an emotional connection with the characters or their story line. It's not that I hated the characters, but I found them rather flat and hard to empathize with. Additionally, I felt like it was too predictable. I never found myself surprised or getting really invested in what might happen next. I was waiting for it to get better and it never did. The plot felt like it was moving too quickly without ever really explaining anything fully enough for me to latch onto. I'm a really open and go-with-the-flow reader, but it was a bit hard for me to keep up.

I was disappointed because this book had the potential to be great. The biggest flaw for me was the lack of emotional investment.

All in All: I kind of enjoyed this book, but I won't be reading the sequel.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall 2014 Releases I Need to Read

I can't believe that it's almost been a year since I wrote a similar post back in 2013. Some things don't change, though, like how I find myself with another list of must-have titles that are being released within the next two months. Quite a few of these belong to series whose books made last year's list; the kind of sad part is, I still have to read a few of those books from last year's list! That minor detail has not kept me from pre-ordering the following books, however; nope, not at all.

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas
Publication Date: September 2

I'm practically crying with happiness because this comes out tomorrow! The early reviews I've seen have been nothing but stellar, so I'm expecting another book hangover once I'm done reading this, and I had a pretty massive one after finishing last year's Crown of Midnight.

Unmade (The Lynburn Legacy #3) by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publication Date: September 23

Um, yeah. So I still have to read book #2, Untold. But that's OK! I'm totally going to! And soon.

Chaos (Guards of the Shadowlands #3) by Sarah Fine
Publication Date: October 7

Yep, I still have to read the second book in this series, too. I shall get caught up, though. Perhaps that won't happen by the release date for Chaos, but the upside of having more than one sequel on hand is that you can jump right into the next book without delay!

In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) by Alexandra Bracken
Publication Date: October 28

WHAT?! You haven't read The Darkest Minds yet?! This book and its sequel, Never Fade, are FREAKING. AWESOME. I haven't had a lot of 5 star reads this year, but these are two of them, and I expect In the Afterlight to make it three 5 star reads for the series.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: October 21

This. This right here will make my reading year. I have coveted this book from the moment I finished 2013's The Dream Thieves. I love Blue. I love the Raven Boys. I love Maggie Stiefvater. That is all.

Are you excited for any of these upcoming releases, too?