Thursday, January 30, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (28): Deathly Hallows: Wand, Cloak, or Stone?

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:
Deathly Hallows: Wand, Cloak, or Stone?

Out of all the Deathly Hallows, the one that I would want to have is the invisibility cloak. This preference comes more out of avoidance of the other two Hallows than anything else. The wand comes with a huge target. Who would want that? I would be too paranoid to have the wand in my possession. The stone is no better. Why would you want to mess with the natural order of things? In my opinion, that is just asking for trouble. The invisibility cloak would be a very cool thing to have. You can see how useful it was for the Golden Trio, and it didn’t even come with any sort of consequences.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1)
By Leigh Bardugo
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Company
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

To Sum It Up: Orphaned as a child by the wars that have plagued her homeland of Ravka for years, Alina Starkov is now a mapmaker in the army. Her life is nothing like that of the Grisha, who, with their powerful abilities, are an army of their own, led by the enigmatic Darkling. Alina never images being a part of the elite group, but everything changes when an army mission goes horribly wrong. Alina’s actions shock everyone, including herself, and draw the full attention of the Darkling. Alina is then taken to the royal court to be trained, and not only must she deal with the pressure of possibly being the only person who can save Ravka, but there’s also the separation from her childhood friend, Mal, who’s always been there for her.

Review: January is not shaping up to be a good month for really, really popular YA books and me. I am now 0-for-2 in that department, with another greatly anticipated read pulling up short. Shadow and Bone was on my to-buy list when it was first released to so many glowing reviews, and finally having read it . . . well, I’m glad that I borrowed it from the library instead.

World-building is everything in fantasy, and I just wasn’t all that impressed with the world of Shadow and Bone. It seemed rather rudimentary, with everything revolving around the concepts of light and darkness. That in itself wasn’t an issue; the lack of depth to the clash between the two was. The novel also utilizes italics for a bit of Russian-inspired lingo, and again, this in itself was not a problem. Where it became distracting was in encountering words like kefta (the official garment of the Grisha) repeatedly. I think supplying context clues for kefta and other terms specific to the world would have been sufficient. I know I’m nitpicking over italics, but it was as though they were telling me I needed to pay special attention to these words long after their meaning became clear.

I was also disappointed with the plot. It lacked the kind of drive that makes a book impossible for me to tear myself away from. The novel essentially follows the journey of humble orphan Alina as she learns that she’s not so ordinary after all. To me Shadow and Bone adheres to the standard Meek Girl Develops Amazing Power template, and it needed some variations on that theme to make it compelling.

Alina has a very big self-esteem problem, and that was both very troubling and very frustrating. She’ll never be pretty enough for Mal, her friend since childhood, to see her as more than a friend. She’s not as pretty as the other female Grisha. Repeat self-confidence crushing thought pattern. Really, I wanted to shout, “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH HOW YOU LOOK!” at her. Despite discovering that she possesses an incredible power that could be the salvation of her people, Alina never grows into the role of heroine. When she’s not hung up on her inferiority to everyone else, she’s pining for Mal. And I didn’t find Mal, who’s not particularly distinguishable from other YA love interests, pine-worthy.

I admit to being a little intrigued by the mysterious Darkling (as one always is by guys who have titles for names) until I realized that there wasn’t much more to his character than shooting darkness out of his hands. He also ended up really creeping me out.

I really wanted to love Shadow and Bone, and it had some promising ideas, but alas, the world, story, and characters didn’t cut it for me. Plenty of other readers have thought otherwise, however, so with this book, it’s probably me and not the book.

All in All: Not really caring for this or Divergent back-to-back has me feeling rather stumped over exactly what it is that I’m looking for in a book at the moment. So I wouldn’t immediately cross Shadow and Bone off your TBR list; I just didn’t feel the love for it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cover Reveal: Evil Red by Nikki Jefford

Evil Red by Nikki Jefford
Evil Red (An Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter Novelette)
By Nikki Jefford
Genre:
New Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: February 2014
Goodreads

Synopsis: L.A. is one tough city, especially while sharing a trailer with four thieving sisters.

Valerie’s plans for a better life and Hollywood grandeur are interrupted after a fateful stabbing lands her in Anchorage, Alaska where government agents expect her to play the role of a vampire hunting La Femme Nikita.

The redheaded vixen is back in her own Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter novelette.

**Novella is approximately 18,000 words**

** Excerpt **

As the door closed behind the agents, Valerie snatched a knife off the table and stuffed it into her back pocket. She picked the handgun back up, opened the chamber, and checked for bullets. It was fully loaded. She snapped the chamber into place and unlocked the safety. With that she walked over to the far wall of the room, spread her legs shoulder width apart, and aimed at the door.

Valerie glanced at the mirror.

“Ready.”

There was no reply.

She kept her arms steady. The gun weighed on her arms as she waited, but she didn’t waver. There was a sudden knock right before the metal door screeched open. A twenty-something man stumbled in as the door slammed shut. The dude was skinny and a bit pale, but who wouldn’t be in a place like Alaska? He righted himself and faced the door. And there he remained standing, staring at the door as though it would open if he waited long enough.

Some vampire. Valerie lowered the gun slightly as her arms relaxed.

“Hey, you,” she called out.

The man turned more suddenly than she’d expected. His eyes sparked to life when he saw her.

Blut,” he said. “Ich brauche Blut.”

“I don’t speak vampire,” Valerie retorted.

The man started walking toward her.

Valerie raised her gun.

“Stop! Stay where you are.”

The man kept advancing.

“I said stay where you are!”

Ich brauche Blut,” the man said back.

When he was three feet away from her, he reached for her neck.

Not again. Valerie wouldn’t be a victim a second time.

She pulled the trigger.

About Nikki Jefford

Nikki is the author of the bestselling SPELLBOUND trilogy and AURORA SKY:VAMPIRE HUNTER. She's a third generation Alaskan who now lives in the not-so-tropical San Juan Islands (WA) where she is, once more, neighbors with Canada in a town without a single traffic light.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (50)

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

It's an all eBook, virtual stack this week! I think I may have a bit of a developing problem resisting Amazon Kindle deals . . . .

For Review:

Tower of Obsidian by L.T. Getty
The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Thanks to L.T. Getty & Random House Children's Books!

eBooks Bought:

Panic by J.A. Huss
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris
A Tale of Two Centuries by Rachel Harris

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (27): Best Weasley's Wizard Wheezes Product

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 Weasley's Wizard Wheezes Product

The Weasley twins are true geniuses. All their tricks and jokes are quite terrific, but their best product has to be, hands down, the pygmy puffs. Those creatures are so adorable. They have no other purpose than to look cute and fluffy. I love all kinds of animals, especially creatures from the Wizarding World. You can’t help but want your own little pygmy puff.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent (Divergent #1)
By Veronica Roth
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: As the day approaches when Beatrice Prior must decide whether or not to remain with the faction she was born into, she worries that she does not possess the selflessness that embodies Abnegation. When the time arrives to make the choice that will determine her future, Beatrice opts for a life that is vastly different from the one she knew. Now calling herself Tris, her initiation is grueling, and she carries an extra burden—a secret about herself that is so dangerous, it could get her killed.

Review: Heavily hyped books bring high expectations, and Divergent is one of the most talked about titles I can think of in recent memory. I am extremely late to the Divergent party, despite the fact that I purchased a copy of the novel not too long after its release, having been persuaded to do so by said hype. I always get a little nervous before reading books with massive fandoms; I know it’s silly, but when an ├╝ber popular book doesn’t work out for me, I think, “But everyone else loved it!” Unfortunately, Divergent left me questioning what I missed that so, so many other readers adored about it. So if this happens to be one of your favorite books, you might want to skip the rest of this review.

At first I found the social structure of the world intriguing; there are five factions, each associated with a particular attribute: Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peace), Erudite (intelligence), and Dauntless (bravery). I also thought it was interesting how faction members could be identified by how they dressed (plain gray garb for Abnegation, for instance). As I continued reading, however, I found myself looking for more depth to the world-building than clothing descriptions and the characters acting a certain way depending on their faction (Abnegation willingly give up their seats on the bus, Dauntless jump on and off moving trains, etc.). The world never seemed fully fleshed out, and I also had a lot of trouble buying that it ever came into existence in the first place.

The more I thought about this society, the more its plausibility bothered me. The formation of the factions has supposedly resulted in years of peace, and I struggle to see how that’s possible. I just don’t think it’s so easy to compartmentalize people like that. Tris’s conflict is that she doesn’t neatly fit into any one faction, and it kind of boggles my mind that this isn’t a much more common occurrence. I can’t imagine my life revolving around a single trait, and maybe that’s why I couldn’t wrap my head around the way this world operated.

Beatrice/Tris presented another problem for me; her character seemed all over the place, sometimes lacking confidence and other times arrogant. I never felt any sympathy for her troubles; I never connected with her, period. I thought the book tried too hard to portray her as a badass heroine, and I’m sorry, but it takes more than getting a few tattoos and leaping from a rooftop to convince me that you’re a badass heroine. Something that I think contributed to the distance between Tris as a narrator and me as a reader was the prose. It just sounded choppy in my head, and it was almost as though the book had an aversion to using contractions, not so much in the dialogue but in Tris’s narration.

Some of Tris’s fellow initiates, like Christina and Will, fared slightly better in the character development department, but in the end, none truly stood out. Tris’s attitude toward them sometimes really annoyed me; one minute she’d consider them her friends, the next she’d be thinking not-so-friendly thoughts about them. As for the famous Four, he has a rather compelling backstory, but like the rest of the characters, he just didn’t make an indelible impression.

I will give Divergent credit for some intense action scenes, especially during Tris’s punishing initiation. Those were quite engrossing to read; if only the rest of the novel had been that engaging. Overall I was not wowed by this, as much as I tried to give it a chance to awe me the way it has its legion of devoted fans.

All in All: At last I can say that I’ve read Divergent. It didn’t go as I’d hoped, though, and at the moment I’m really hesitant to continue the series.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (26): Favorite Sweet Treat in the Books

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 Sweet Treat in the Books

I love the food in the Harry Potter series; it always sounds so delicious. It would be a dream to be able to dine in the Great Hall and to help myself to some sweets in Honeydukes. My favorite sweet is a bit of a conventional one in the Wizarding World—chocolate frogs. I love chocolate; chocolate is very good. Chocolate that is in frog form is even better! The collectible cards of famous wizards and witches are also a bonus.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ally Is Alive!

Welp, it has definitely been a while since I posted anything or even interacted with the blog. Now I know some might jump to conclusions, thinking that I have perished, and others probably did not even notice my absence—jerks (just kidding!)—but it is safe to say that Ally is very much alive! She has just been terribly busy. I hate hiding behind excuses, because I think it is cowardly, but I’m making an exception because of these circumstances:

  1. Band
  2. College Preparation

This past year has been full of everything band. Since I became section leader, I had to take on many responsibilities. I wasn’t allowed to miss any of the practices, sectionals, or competitions . . . not even to take my SAT. Anyone who has participated in marching band knows how hellish marching season can be. My section members were another time-sucker. Making sure that they were doing what they were supposed to be doing and being available 24/7 to help them was a huge time commitment.

And then there was college. I am currently stumbling through my senior year of high school, and it is not fun. There are things such as college applications, SATs, and scholarships that have been monopolizing my time. I haven’t read a book for fun in ages, and I am highly embarrassed about that fact.

So I blame them for my lack of reading and blog dedication. With the end of marching band and my shrinking college duties, I expect to be much better off for the new year.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
By Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Publisher:
Alfred A. Knopf
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Bass player Nick has just had his heart broken by his now ex-girlfriend, Tris, and his worst nightmare becomes reality when she turns up at the same club—with another guy. So Nick asks random face in the crowd Norah to pretend she’s his girlfriend for the next five minutes. Norah is going through some breakup issues of her own and happens to know Nick’s ex—and they’re not exactly fond of each other. Norah doesn’t want to catch Tris’s attention, either, and so for five minutes, Nick has a girlfriend. But as the night slowly becomes a new day in New York City, Nick and Norah realize that this very temporary relationship might have a lot more potential than that.

Review: Having loved another Rachel Cohn/David Levithan co-write, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, I’d wanted to read Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist for quite some time. Once again, I was impressed with the structure of the authors’ narrative; like Dash & Lily, Nick & Norah is told from the alternating viewpoints of the title characters. Also like Dash & Lily, Nick & Norah rocks this format. Cohn and Levithan are brilliant at making it work and making the transitions between perspectives seamless.

Sometimes the writing in a book just suits me perfectly, like if it were a person, we’d be best friends, and that’s the case here. I loved the prose; it’s smart, sharp, and full of wit. It also made all the difference in my opinion of the book. Contemporaries almost always have to work a little harder to grab my attention, and this one did thanks to the engaging writing. I don’t know if I would have found the novel, which essentially follows Nick and Norah’s adventures through New York City on a single, very eventful night, half as interesting. Fortunately, the pair are both highly entertaining narrators. While I’m going on about the writing, now would probably be a good time to mention that there’s a liberal amount of swearing, including frequent use of a certain word that starts with “f.” I personally didn’t mind at all, but for anyone who may not be so enthused to see this type of language, here’s a heads-up.

If Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is a love letter to NYC at Christmas, then I’d consider Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist a love letter to NYC’s music scene. Nick and Norah actually hail from New Jersey, but it’s New York City that stars as the book's setting. I could not have been happier about that, and I love Cohn and Levithan for writing these two valentines to a place that will forever reside in my heart.

If I was at all worried that Nick & Norah would too closely resemble Dash & Lily (and really, I wasn’t), there was no need to do so. This is an entirely different, unique story that stands out on its own. Now I’m really curious about the movie adaptation and must check it out. I truly hope it captures the novel’s snappy dialogue and overall awesomeness.

All in All: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist featured several elements that are dear to my heart: a New York setting, Dirty Dancing references, and tons of sarcasm. There was plenty here to keep my interest occupied, but I’m not sure what a reader who doesn’t find any of the above as appealing as I do would think of this novel. The plot boils down to whether or not Nick and Norah will stay together for longer than five minutes; if you’re sold on that premise, then you should be fine reading this.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (49)

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

I haven't done an StS post in about a month, and it's been much longer than that since Ally and I did an StS post together! At last, we both had time for a joint trip to the library, and we were even very good about not borrowing too many books at once. I wish I could say that I was also good about not buying too many books, but it was the holidays after all.

Ally's Books:

Borrowed:

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Lee's Books:

Borrowed:

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Bought:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

eBooks Bought:

Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi
Sovereign Hope by Frankie Rose
Eternal Hope by Frankie Rose
In the After by Demitria Lunetta
Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster
Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (25): Favorite Moment in Book 5

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 Moment in Book 5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Order of the Phoenix is one of my favorite books in the Harry Potter series. My favorite moment in Book Five is a bit trickier to say. If I had to pick one though, I would choose the moment when Sirius is explaining to Harry about the Black Family Tree. I tend to favor any parts in the HP series that include Sirius Black, especially when you get to learn more about his history. I also loved how that moment was a bonding time for Harry and his godfather. They do not get to spend as much time together in the series as I think either of them would like, so any moment that they have together is a win for me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi

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

Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi
Fracture Me (Shatter Me #2.5)
By Tahereh Mafi
Publisher:
Harper
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: As the resistance at Omega Point prepares to face the forces of The Reestablishment, Adam is preoccupied with other thoughts in addition to the forthcoming showdown. He fears for the safety of his younger brother, James, who is with him at Omega Point. And then there’s Juliette. So much has changed between the two of them, and a future together looks uncertain. When the battle begins, Adam must decide who is worth saving—and then live with the consequences of his choices.

Review: Disclaimer: I am a Warner woman, 100%. I don’t hate Adam. I don’t dislike Adam (though he did annoy me quite a bit by the end of this novella, but more on that shortly). He’s just not Warner. So while my pulse wasn’t exactly racing to read from Adam’s POV, I was very surprised by Fracture Me. Very. Surprised.

Adam practically seemed like a secondary character in Unravel Me, so getting a look inside his head in this novella was especially insightful. If there’s a single thing about him that you take away from Fracture Me, it’s how much he loves his little brother, James. Adam will do anything to protect him; James is everything to him. So, if Adam’s world revolves around keeping James safe, where does that leave Juliette?

The answer to that question is kind of hard to answer without spilling all the details of Adam’s thoughts. If you’ve read Unravel Me, then you know that Adam and Juliette aren’t exactly enjoying their very own Happily Ever After. What I did not expect, at all, were some of his feelings toward her, and I don’t mean in the romantic sense. During those times when he was so quiet in Unravel Me, he was apparently having these . . . illuminating musings.

Before reading Fracture Me, my opinion of Adam was neutral; he simply didn’t stand out. Now, though, I’m seeing him in a rather unflattering light, and I have to wonder what this means for everyone in the upcoming series finale, Ignite Me. Is the portrayal of Adam in Fracture Me designed to make you think that maybe he isn’t the right guy for Juliette after all? I mean, I was already rooting for Warner way back in the series (um, probably from the second he appeared on the page), so I didn’t need any convincing. What I’m afraid of is that I’m being led to believe that Warner might have a chance, only to have Adam sort out his heart and make a last minute comeback. Am I paranoid? Yes. It’s why I relate to Warner so much. And I swear, if things should end badly for him, I shall be writing a rant!

I know this review is on the scattered side, but that’s a pretty apt description of my feelings after reading this. Although I don’t think too highly of Adam now, I still very much enjoyed reading Fracture Me. Kenji gets in some good wisecracks, and Tahereh Mafi’s writing is top-notch, as usual. Am I glad I forked over the $2.99 for this? Absolutely.

All in All: Whether you love/hate Warner/Adam, if you love this series, you should read this.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Reading and Blogging Resolutions for 2014

I really enjoyed making a list of bookish goals last year, so I thought I'd do it again for 2014. First, though, I thought I'd give a short report on how keeping 2013's resolutions went.

I'm proud to say that I didn't go overboard with my library borrowing last year. I only took out what I could reasonably read in a few weeks. It's actually been a long time since I went on a library spree, so now I feel like I've earned one. Just one, though.

I did so-so with tackling my unread books at home. I read a few, but I could have read more. Quite a lot more. Reading what I already own is going to be my focus for 2014, and it's the main reason why I signed up for the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.

In 2013, I reached a point where I was so busy with non-book related stuff that I just didn't have time to stress out over whether the blog had x posts for the week or if it had gained any followers or how many page views it had in a month. For the sake of my sanity, I really needed to quit worrying about those things, so having less time for blogging has turned out to be a plus in a way. While of course I'd love to see the blog continue to grow, I've pretty much stopped thinking along the lines of, "the blog needs to have this stat reach that number in blah blah months." I've found I'm much happier reading and blogging at my own pace, whatever that may be at the moment.

Moving on to what I hope to accomplish this year, the big blogging goal is switching to WordPress. I know I've been blathering on about it for ages now, but if I can only get one blogging related task done in 2014, it's this one. Making the jump scares me a bit, and part of me is probably holding back out of fear of something going terribly wrong, but I need to just set aside some time entirely devoted to this and do it.

Reading-wise, there are a couple of series that I'd like to reread. It really bothers me that the archive only contains a review of City of Lost Souls and not the first four Mortal Instruments books, which I read pre-blog. With the last book coming out this year, I think this is a good time to revisit books 1-4. It's been so long since I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, another pre-blog read, that I think a reread is in order before attempting Days of Blood and Starlight. I'd love to do a reread of the Harry Potter books, too, but with these other rereads taking shape, HP might have to wait a bit before I end up doing an entire year of rereads . . . .

I'm really excited to begin a new reading/blogging year. I may read fewer books and write fewer blog posts this year, but I'm okay with that.

Have you made any bookish resolutions for 2014? I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (24): Favorite Temporary Teacher

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

This week's topic is:
Favorite Temporary Teacher

Just for her name alone, I'm choosing Professor Grubbly-Plank, the substitute Care of Magical Creatures teacher. I'll always remember her for tending to an injured Hedwig in Order of the Phoenix, plus she seemed to be a very good teacher (no offense to Hagrid, of course).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! We hope that you all have a fantastic 2014 filled with lots of amazing reads!

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