Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 2014 Recap

It's just about time to say goodbye to 2014! December was pretty quiet around here with all of the holiday stuff going on. I hope that everyone's enjoying the season, and Happy New Year!

Reviews Posted:

Featured Posts:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge

This will be my third year participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge! I've already got my eye on two 2015 releases: Shaming the Devil by Melina Marchetta and Shimmer by Paula Weston. My challenge goal for 2015 is:

Stella: read 4 – if reviewing, review at least 3

If you'd also like to sign up for this challenge, just click on the image above!

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Rewind

The thing that sticks out the most in my head book-wise about 2014 also irks me, so I'll get that out of the way first, like ripping off a Band-Aid. I failed my Goodreads reading challenge. I only missed by a few books, too; I would have rather missed big than by a small margin. I know that not reading a certain number of books in a year is far from tragic, but as a perfectionist, failure on any scale is still failure. I think my biggest enemy in trying to fit reading into my life this year was letting too much stuff that wasn't really a priority take over. I don't break out of habits like that easily, but looking back on how many times I put off the very thing that's such a huge source of happiness in my life, I've realized that I shouldn't feel guilty about sitting down and doing nothing but reading for a while. So, more guilt-free reading time is in order for 2015.

The bookish highlight of the year for me was meeting Maria V. Snyder and getting my copy of Poison Study signed. It was a moment of pure book nerd heaven.

My list of favorite books that I read in 2014 is rather short given that overall I didn't read as many books as I have in years past. But let me tell you, I loved the following books with all of my heart. They're the crème de la crème for me, the titles that left me awestruck and consumed by thoughts of nothing but these books and their characters. Yes—they were all that good.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

That this would be my favorite read of the year required zero thought on my part. I'm practically crying just thinking about this book and Blue and the Raven Boys.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Another wrecker of emotions, but in the best way possible. I will not think about that ending, I will not think about that ending . . . .

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

To my friends who haven't gotten to this one yet, you really need to. If you've read The Infernal Devices, then you really need to read CoHF. Posthaste!

The Darkest Minds Series by Alexandra Bracken

I read the whole trilogy this year, and it was freaking awesome. One of my all-time favorite dystopian series.

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

Goodbye, Warner. I shall never forget you because that's just. Not. Possible.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

I just read this a few days ago, and how I loved it! It's funny, it has an amazing heroine, it's set in Victorian London, and it has a hot, Scottish werewolf. Do you really need more convincing?

I say this often, but that's because I can't say it enough. It's been another fantastic year talking about books with you, and I wish you all the best for 2015!

❤ XOXO ❤

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Anything Sunday (2): Non-Bookish 2014 Favorites

In the spirit of Anything Sunday, I figured I'd write about some of the non-bookish things that I loved about 2014. Or, at least, the ones I remember at this moment, lol, because I feel like this year went by extraordinarily fast. So, in no particular order, here we go:

  • Elvis Costello Concert in Nashville: Easily one of the highlights of 2014 for me. I hadn't been to one of his concerts in six years, so this was long overdue. I'm still in a bit of disbelief over how perfectly the timing aligned for this: we were already set to be in Nashville that weekend for UtopYA Con. I'm psyched to be going to see him in concert again in March 2015—this time much closer to home though, lol.
  • Tampa Bay Comic Con: This was my first experience at a comic con, and it was a lot of fun—seeing all of the creative, and often clever, costumes and checking out all of the cool merchandise. This nerd was in heaven.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: I saw this for the first time a few weeks ago, and I can't stop watching it. Groot rocks!
  • Outlander: This superb adaptation of the novel blew me away, though Game of Thrones will always be first in my heart when it comes to book-to-TV-adaptations. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser—I freakin' love you.
  • Game of Thrones, Season 4: Justice was finally served to that sh*t Joffrey, literally, hahaha! And how badass was Episode 9, "The Watchers on the Wall?" I think I even liked the battle between the Night's Watch and the Wildlings better than Season 2's Battle of the Blackwater.
  • Seeing the Yankees Play: I technically went to Tampa to see them play the Tampa Bay Rays, but I was really there to support NY all the way. I went to a few Yankees games as a kid when I lived in NY, but I never went to any during their late 90's championship seasons. So, 2014 marked the first time that I was in the stands to see Derek Jeter bat (he was the DH that day and didn't play shortstop). Of course it was also the last time I was in the stands to see him, since he retired at the end of the season. I watched his last home game at Yankee Stadium on TV, and I'm not ashamed to admit that it brought tears to my eyes.
  • Glee: At Ally's persistent urging, I binge watched the first four seasons this past summer and mentally berated myself for not tuning in sooner.

I'm sure I'm missing a few more things, but at this point in the year, almost everything that happened up until a few days ago is pretty much a blur. If you have any year end posts, please leave a link so I can check them out! And I wish each and every one of you all the best for 2015!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (65): Best Snape 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 Snape Moment

Snape is such a great character who has a lot of great moments. My absolute favorite moment is one from the movie adaptations though, in Goblet of Fire, when Snape smacks Harry and Ron in the back of the head during study hall. At the time, I thought it was hilarious, and even now, I find myself chuckling about it. I think I like that particular moment because it was one of Snape’s more humorous scenes, and he doesn’t really get the opportunity to show that side of himself.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Review: My True Love Gave to Me sports a cover so pretty, I want to frame it and hang it on the wall. Year-round, because I think it’s that awesome. I’m also happy to say that the dozen holiday-themed stories you’ll find beneath that awesome cover are just as charming.

I don’t read short story anthologies often; I’m more of a full length novel kind of reader. I couldn’t pass up this collection, though, because it features contributions from some authors whose novels I’ve really enjoyed in the past, like Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Holly Black, and the editor of My True Love Gave to Me, Stephanie Perkins. Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf” were two of my favorite stories, along with Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” and Kelly Link’s “The Lady and the Fox.” I hadn’t read anything by the latter two authors before, but I’m definitely interested in checking out more of their works now.

Kelly Link’s “The Lady and the Fox” had a very nice fantasy twist to it, and it wasn’t alone in touching upon the whimsical. These are holiday stories, after all, and is there any time of year that’s more magical than the holiday season? Laini Taylor’s closing story, “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer,” is pure fantasy, set in a world that could only come from Laini Taylor’s brilliant mind. This tale was unlike anything holiday-related I’d ever read, and I got so swept up in the narrative of young Neve that I wished it had been a novella at the very least because I wasn’t ready to leave its world.

Almost every story excelled at drawing you into its characters’ lives quickly and leaving you with a satisfactory sense of resolution within about thirty pages. There were only one or two that I found a little meh, but even those stories still had their moments. Some requisite squealing ensued when Brooklyn, New York and New York University were referenced in not one but two stories (“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”). Overall, this is a winning compilation that’s perfect for reading on a winter night while sipping some hot cocoa.

All in All: Look no further than My True Love Gave to Me for a read to put you in a festive mood. It’s a very well-rounded collection that’s sure to warm your heart over and over again.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Loot (11)

It's been a fantastic week in new bookish arrivals! First, I received two awesome books from the always awesome Micheline at Lunar Rainbows:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Thank you so much to Micheline for these lovelies! ❤

Second, this beautiful art print that I had ordered arrived, just in time for Christmas:

I think everyone knows by now how OBSESSED I am with Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle books, and when I saw her tweet that she was offering some of her prints for sale here, you'd better believe that I jumped at the chance to own a piece of Raven Cycle art. I shall admire this pretty for the rest of my life. ❤

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (64): Best Minerva McGonagall Line

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 Minerva McGonagall Line

I always loved how Professor McGonagall had that stern but caring thing going on, like she wouldn't hesitate to tell you off, but it was for your own good. :D Speaking of telling people off, I think one of her finest moments is in Order of the Phoenix, when Harry has his career appointment with her, and Umbridge objects to the idea of him ever becoming an Auror. McGonagall's response always makes me smile:

"Potter," she said in ringing tones,"I will assist you to become an Auror if it is the last thing I do! If I have to coach you nightly I will make sure you achieve the required results!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge Completed!

This was my second year participating in this challenge, and it's also the second year that I've completed my goal:

Miles: read 6 – if reviewing, review at least 4

I reviewed all 6 books that I read, which were:

I've really enjoyed taking part in this challenge the last two years, and though I think the number of 2015 reading challenges I'll be signing up for will be extremely limited just because I don't have as much time as I'd like for reading these days, I'd love to sign up for this challenge again.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Team Human
By Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Harper Teen
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

To Sum It Up: Vampires are just part of the population of New Whitby, Maine, but Mel Duan has never been fond of them. Her best friend Cathy, however, finds them fascinating and is smitten with Francis Duvarney, the new vampire student at school. Mel does not approve in the least, and she’s determined to prove to Cathy that there is nothing at all desirable about a vampire’s way of life.

Review: This month marks six years since I first read a little novel about vampires called Twilight, so I chose a pretty apt time to pick up and read Team Human, which takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to our fanged friends. If you’ve read any vampire book at all, not necessarily Twilight, you’ll still appreciate the plentiful humor in Team Human that mostly targets all things vampiric.

I’d seen multiple reviews that mentioned how hee-larious this book is, and I’d like to add to the chorus. Francis, the new vampire arrival at school, is old (if you count back to when he was transformed), old-fashioned, and has a penchant for speaking in an old-timey manner. I couldn’t help but think of another fictional teenage vampire whenever Francis appeared on the page, and I also couldn’t help cracking up at the spoof here. Francis isn’t the main character, however; that would be Mel, best friend to the human girl who falls for Francis and vice versa.

To say that Mel does not like Francis or vampires in general is an understatement. She vehemently opposes the budding relationship between him and her best friend Cathy and makes her disdain for Francis very obvious. Although some of Mel’s wisecracks are a riot (she refers to Francis as an “undead love weasel”) and her protectiveness of her friends, especially Cathy, is undeniable, Mel’s methods for helping her friends can be heavy-handed at times. I thought that some of her actions in the name of keeping Cathy from getting hurt were more meddlesome than beneficial to Cathy. Mel does get called out when she goes too far, but that wouldn’t be necessary if she didn’t overstep boundaries in the first place. I still have mixed feelings towards Mel; I really liked her wicked sense of humor but was far less keen on her overbearing side.

With Team Human being very much a plot-driven novel, most of the characters aren’t overly complex. Kit, a character whom I found endearing straightaway, was a notable exception. His backstory is quite interesting, and he’s also quite witty, especially when the subject is Francis (poor Francis). Even six years after Twilight, I still haven’t grown weary of reading about vampires, and Team Human was an enjoyable vampire parody.

All in All: Recommended for anyone looking for a vampire book that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Loot (10)

I went to Barnes & Noble last week to do a little Christmas shopping, and I was ecstatic to discover that they still had quite a supply of signed books left over from their Black Friday event. There was a pretty sizable display, and among the stacks I spotted Atlantia by Ally Condie, Panic by Lauren Oliver, To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, one or two Rainbow Rowell titles, and Ransom Riggs's Miss Peregrine books. I had a mini freakout being surrounded by so many lovelies to choose from, but then I remembered that I was actually at B & N to buy gifts for other people, and I (sort of) came back to my senses. Narrowing down my buying choices was extremely difficult, but I'm very, very happy with my final picks.


Team Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan


Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare


Soul Avenged by Keri Lake
Soul Resurrected by Keri Lake
Soul Enslaved by Keri Lake
Many, many thanks to my soul sister Braine at Talk Supe for these! ❤
I just added Sarah Fine's Marked to my TBR recently, and I was thrilled to find out that it was free to download for Amazon Prime members!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood #1)
By Juliet Marillier
Alfred A. Knopf
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

To Sum It Up: Jena and her four sisters look forward to every Full Moon, when they’re able to cross over into the Other Kingdom, where they dance among fairies and other magical creatures. The sisters may not be able to journey to the Other Kingdom for much longer, however, when their sick father must leave them to regain his health elsewhere, and their cousin, who blames the inhabitants of the wildwood for a childhood tragedy, starts curtailing the girls’ freedom. It’s up to Jena to find a way to stop her cousin from controlling her and her sisters’ lives, as well as from destroying the wildwood.

Review: I first borrowed Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing from the library over a year ago but sadly did not have time to read it before it was due back. It’s taken me this long to pick it up again, and this is yet another case of Why Didn’t I Read This Book Sooner?!

Sometimes you just have to take a moment or two to admire how pretty a novel’s prose is, and there were several such moments while reading Wildwood Dancing. Almost immediately, you’re whisked away into a realm of fairies and other magical folk. The characters from Dancing Glade, and even Dancing Glade itself, brim with so much life. It’s easy to understand why the protagonist, Jena, and her four sisters love their trips to the Other Kingdom at every Full Moon. With the novel set in Romania, Marillier also incorporates vampires into the story. They’re called Night People here, and they’re as chill-inducing and dangerous as they are alluring.

Jena is a great main character, fiercely protective of her sisters and the core of the quintet. Each sister has a distinct personality, but it’s Jena they look to as “the sensible one.” And how could you not be intrigued by a protagonist with a pet frog whom only she can hear talk? Jena and Gogu’s bond was a highlight of the book for me, not to mention Gogu’s snarky side, which might have gotten him into a tad of trouble if everyone were able to hear him.

My only slight issue with Wildwood Dancing was the pacing. A few times I felt like I’d made considerable progress reading for the night, but in reality, I hadn’t read as many pages as I’d thought. I never lost interest or found myself skimming, but a confrontation or two less between Jena and her bully of a cousin, Cezar (it’s been a while since I met a character so desperately deserving of a punch to the face) would have been fine.

More often than not, fairytale romances miss their mark with me, but I absolutely fell for this one. It suited this story perfectly, and I unabashedly loved it. There’s quite a bit to love about Wildwood Dancing in addition to the romance, and I will definitely be reading more of Juliet Marillier’s novels.

All in All: I really do regret not reading this sooner. The fantasy aspect is so well done—it’s as though you’re there with Jena, Tati, Paula, Iulia, and Stela in the Other Kingdom. This is very much recommended if you enjoy reading fairytale-type fantasy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (63): Favorite Magical Pet

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

This week's topic is:
Favorite Magical Pet

Although I find all of the creatures in the Harry Potter series adorable, my favorite pet would most definitely be Buckbeak! He is the cutest hippogriff out there! I thought it was so sweet that he and Sirius became best buddies at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, and I would love to have a camaraderie like that. If Buckbeak was my pet, I would spoil him rotten. I would be giving him treats all of the time and I would let him come indoors, lol. It would be pretty awesome being able to fly on Buckbeak, too.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3)
By Alexandra Bracken
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Ruby’s world has been rocked by tragedy, but she can’t give in to her grief because she and her friends are still trapped in Los Angeles, surrounded by government forces who’ll show no mercy to any kid with psionic abilities. After a risky escape from the city, Ruby and her companions plan their next move: to free the kids still imprisoned in horrific “rehabilitation” camps. Ruby and her powers are at the center of the operation, one that will force her to confront her worst fears and possibly require her to make the biggest sacrifice of her life.

Review: I’ve said goodbye to several incredible series this year, and The Darkest Minds is one of them. Parting with characters whom you’ve grown to love like they were real instead of fictional, particularly this group that’s been to hell and back more times than you can count, is so bittersweet. On the one hand, the ending of Never Fade left me desperate for In the Afterlight, but once I started reading the latter, it was all, “No, no, NO! I can’t bear for this story to end!”

I’ll cut straight to the single thing that I felt held In the Afterlight back a little: not enough Liam, Chubs, and Vida, especially not enough Liam. Let me explain myself. You can rest easy that these three are, indeed, in the book. I think my nitpick is a matter of personal preference, and I just wanted to see these characters make more appearances. I’m so used to Ruby going out on ops and witnessing the action firsthand, but in In the Afterlight, she sees more time at the makeshift headquarters. Liam, Chubs, and Vida go off on different missions and then return, with the action taking place off-page. After everything that this group, including Ruby, has endured together, I just would have liked to have seen an additional bonding moment or two.

I’ve had the good fortune to read about some amazing, kickass heroines in 2014 (Heir of Fire’s Celaena Sardothien, Blue Lily, Lily Blue’s Blue Sargent), and Ruby easily falls into this category as well. What she’s been through—it breaks your heart when you sum up all of it. But she’s also survived; she’s demonstrated her strength time and time again, even when it seems like she should have nothing left to give. I mentioned before that Ruby isn’t a part of every op in the novel, but that’s not to say that she’s lolling around HQ. She’s grown into quite the leader, often discussing strategy with Cole, another Children’s League agent—and Liam’s older brother. Ruby also goes tête-à-tête with the reprehensible Clancy Gray, now the League’s prisoner, in the hopes of gleaning a clue to the whereabouts of his mother. Dr. Lillian Gray may not only know the cause of IANN, the disease that gave some children powers while killing others, but she may know how to cure it. Clancy won’t volunteer anything, of course, and a tense battle of the minds between him and Ruby plays out over the course of the book.

I was absolutely riveted to the final third of In the Afterlight. I power read even through sleepy eyes because I could not go to sleep for the night without some small sense of resolution until the next time I could pick up the book again. The biggest op of Ruby’s life took a few years off of mine because my heart pounded in fear on her behalf. Everything that has happened in the previous two books has led up to this—and the moment is delivered brilliantly.

I can’t tell you how many feels this series has given me, ranging from gut-twisting heartbreak to a severe case of melt-y heart every time Liam said “Darlin’.” This may be the end of the trilogy, but I’m not ready to let Liam, Ruby, Chubs, and Vida go. Nope, not ready at all.

All in All: I feel a twinge of guilt for giving the series ender 4.5 stars instead of 5, but so much of the series for me has been about the chemistry between Ruby and her friends, and I just felt that it wasn’t as much at the forefront like it had been in the previous books. In the Afterlight was still a super good read, though, and obviously not to be missed if you’ve read The Darkest Minds and Never Fade.