Monthly Archives: October 2015

Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge — Update #9 & Other Challenges

October was an up and down month for reading. Life was just crazy busy, so a lot of my reading got done on my train ride to and from work. That being said, I made some more progress on my Book Riot Challenge. I can confidently say, I have four books left to read. Four is a pretty good number, and I think I can complete it all either next month, or do two and two for the rest of the year. Here’s what I tackled…

#13: Read a Romance Novel

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Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen

This was surprisingly cute, and definitely not something I’d normally read. I generally dislike pure romance novels, but this one made me laugh out loud numerous times. It’s cute, with a touch of angst, and if you are a huge Disney fan, then this book will actually appeal to you ten times more. The way the Disney references were woven in? Genius! Really, this is a surprisingly genuine and funny romance novel. I’m actually glad I read it, ’cause romance like this is always super out of my comfort zone.

#21: A Book Published Before 1850

13628336 The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas

So this finally happened. I started this book at the beginning of September and finally completed it. I’ve actually had this book on my shelf since high school, and I’ve always been intimidated by the size of it. It’s crazy huge and over a thousand pages! But it’s actually a really fantastic novel full of revenge, intrigue, politics, identity and self-discovery. It’s a favourite of my husband’s that I’ve just been afraid to read and I wish I had gotten to it sooner. It’s really a great classic, but one that you definitely need to be patient with.


I’ve decided for the month of November that I am going to play catch up on some of the series I’ve started over the years. There’s just so many sequels on my shelf and for some reason, I just haven’t bothered picking them up and completing them. My goal is to try and complete as many sequels by the end of November. Here’s the a few I’m looking at catching up on or completing:

  • The Lair of Dreamers (The Diviners #2), by Libba Bray
  • A Week without Tuesday (Tuesday McGillycuddy #2)
    by Angelica Banks
  • A Red-Rose Chain (October Daye #9)
    by Seanan McGuire
  • Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #7)
    by Kevin Hearne
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5)
    by Brandon Sanderson
  • Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #4)
    by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Shadow of Death (The Chosen Chronicles #2)
    by Karen Dales

And who knows what else…

Also awhile back, you’ll remember I was doing a shelf challenge. I had River pick a shelf on my bookshelves, and it would be the shelf I would try to knock a lot of books off. So it’s been two months, let’s see the progress!

shelfchallenge

Before

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After

Not bad if I say so myself! How was your reading in the month of October? I’d love to know.

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ARC Review – Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray

17234659Title: Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2)

Author:  Claudia Gray

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents’ invention, to cross into alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurting the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked and his consciousness scattered across multiple dimensions.

Marguerite has no choice but to search for each splinter of Paul’s soul. The hunt sends her racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each world brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with each trial she faces, she begins to question the destiny she thought they shared.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

OMG THAT ENDING!!!!!!!

I have no idea how I’m going to make it until the next book comes out. Jesus. Guys. This book is SO GOOD. I really really liked the first one, but I LOVED THIS ONE (apparently it has the UMPH that the first one was missing). I couldn’t put it down! It’s a fairly fat book (at least it was one of the fatter ones in my review stack) and I finished it in like five seconds.

This one picks up where the first book left off and I was happy that I didn’t have to stretch my memory too much because there is a little recapping but it’s not like INFO DUMP, so we’re good. It quickly gets moving though (actually it gets moving and then lets you know what’s going on) and we find out that Paul’s consciousness (his “soul”) has been split into 4 pieces. This was done basically so that Marguerite is forced to work for Triad. She goes around to different dimensions to sabotage Firebird research. I loved the new dimensions! We get to see NYC and a scary ass Paul, war-torn California (which was my favorite) and then back to Russia (this time the Duchess is in Paris) and OMG! I also liked the last dimension she visited and the things that both Paul and Marguerite discovered about themselves. There were a lot of touching moments and I liked how Marguerite kept questioning people’s motives and eventually started to question the ethics of what they’re doing.

Since I found Paul kind of boring in the first one I was actually glad that it was Theo accompanying Marguerite while she hunted down the pieces of Paul. I really enjoy Theo and I was glad to see a lot of him in this. I liked how he kept pushing Marguerite when she would start to see the possible bad in him. But it was nice to see Paul and Marguerite’s relationship develop in the flashbacks.

AND THE ENDING HOLY SHIT I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING AT ALL.

ARC Review – Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul

18336982Title: Underneath Everything

Author:  Marcy Beller Paul

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Mattie shouldn’t be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason. But now Mattie is a senior, and she’s sick of missing things. So here she is.

And there’s Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know; she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.

But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can’t figure out where Jolene ends and she begins.

Because there’s something Mattie hasn’t told anyone—she walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

I went into this book expecting to love it and it was just okay for me. I’d heard it was a little like Dangerous Girls and while I noticed a few parallels between the MC and her BFF, that’s it.

I actually wanted to like this more than I did. The writing was really good, but the characters were all trying too hard. It was supposed to be super deep and twisted and I didn’t really feel that much of anything.

Mattie, our MC, used to be one of the four elite in their school. She was chosen by Jolene, a strange, beautiful, fun girl who was always making up stories. Then there was Kris, the brooding journalism student and Bella, the cute bouncy preppy girl who throws great parties. They all have their demons and they spend all their time together being awesome. Then something happens and Mattie walks away from it all, including the boy that she was falling for.

This book starts at the beginning of senior year. Mattie convinces Kris, who s now her one and only friend, to go to their senior year bonfire, and then to Bella’s party. There Mattie reconnects with Hudson, the boy she was supposed to be with but wasn’t, and Kris reconnects with Bella. Mattie also has her first real run in with Jolene in over a year. This is the catalyst for Mattie to start to change. And Kris doesn’t like it. Mattie is suddenly changing herself, dating Hudson finally, and Jolene seems to have fallen to the bottom of the dog pile.

Typical ugly pretty people in YA. Only nothing really connected with me. I didn’t really feel anything when it came to any of the characters. I didn’t feel any of the relationships at all. And Jolene and all of her twisted games and stories was just weird. I’ve never know anyone like that at all. And even when it came down to the big reveal and the whole reason WHY Mattie and Kris had walked away I was just like… that’s it?

Overall, I was very underwhelmed.

Wicked Reads with River and Penguin Teen

WickedReads_Sticker_15_2p2

Guy guys guys HALLOWEEN IS LESS THAN WEEK AWAY. I GET TO DRESS UP ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AND I AM SO EXCITED.

~exhale~

I love Halloween. LOVE it. I used to always dress up. Then I moved to Japan. If you google enough you’ll find some really bizarre Halloween happenings over there. There’s a “Halloween Train” which is basically one car on the Yamanote (which is my fav train, it runs in a circle both ways, it’s awesome and takes one hour to do a full loop yes I’ve done it before… more than once…) where a bunch of crazy foreigners and their friends get drunk and ride around in Halloween costumes. I’m not sure if it still happens because I know that a lot of Japanese people hated it, but if you google you will find. I also just read an interesting article about a prominent Yakuza family who was giving out bags of candy! So that’s a thing. And at the last English school I worked at (in Hitachi) the local community government (like a community watch group) came around and gave all the shops in the area snacks to hand out and then they brought a bunch of kids around and they said something like “Candy please” and we gave them the pre-provided snacks. It was… odd.

SO I am so happy that being back in the USA means properly celebrating Halloween! While I did try to keep it alive in Japan (I once threw a Halloween party for my husband when we were first dating so he could “experience American culture”) it’s so fun to be able to dress up for work and go to Halloween parties.

And of course, READ REALLY CREEPY SCARY BOOKS. Because if there’s something that I love doing in October, it’s scaring myself. And I am the biggest wuss when it comes to horror. Especially movies and TV. But with books I’m okay. Maybe because I can’t actually SEE anything worse than what my own head can create. I love the creepy crawly FEELING that comes with reading freaky book. And read freaky books I have!

Penguin Teen contacted me asking if I’d like to partake in their #WickedReads event and I said OF COURSE I LOVE WICKED THINGS. And they sent me:
surviveSurvive the Night by Danielle Vega

When I first read the synopsis of this book I knew that I HAD to read it! A group of friends gets trapped in an abandoned NYC subway when a rave they’re attending gets busted? And people start dying?! CREEPY! Sadly what was a decent book slowly became a B-class horror show with some weird monster stuff but meh, it was creepy and fun and a quick read. I haven’t read her other book, but I want to give it a try now that I know her stuff can be so freaky!

Along with this I’ve read a TON of other freaky books that I saved just for October. Let me know if you’ve read any of them and if they freaked you out as much as they did me!

mad

A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Ever since Mindy tweeted that this book took place in a insane asylum I knew that I HAD to get my hands on it! I LOVED Mindy’s other books and I love how dark her writing is and how she just isn’t afraid to GO THERE. This book was everything I had wanted and more. I really liked that there wasn’t any romance in it, and the relationship between Grace and the Dr. was perfection! There were loads of dark, creepy moments too!

17Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz

This book was given to me by my #OTSPSecretSister. I found it very fitting that it ALSO took place in an insane asylum, and I decided to read it right after I’d finished MADNESS. Not sure if that was the best idea or the BEST idea… but there was a point where I was home alone in the dark and had to put it down because… yeah… ghost children. This book was really fun because it takes place in Danvers, MA, which isn’t too far from where I live! And it was based on a real place. FREAKY!

curiousThe Curiosities by Stiefvater, Gratton & Yovanoff

This is a book that I’ve been slowly reading and finally just sat down and tore through one afternoon. It’s not really a scary book, but there are tons of freaky stories in this! I mean come on… just look at the authors… hahahaha! There was one that took place on Halloween, but there were so many other dark stories with ghosts and vampires and zombies… I loved this book so much and I’m really glad that I decided to finish it this month.

bsBlood and Salt by Kim Liggett

I went to Boston Teen Author Fest last month and only allowed myself to buy one book… and this was it! I have been so excited to read this and wow was it good! Cults and blood and sacrifices and immortals and ancient rituals… I love all of that and this book had ALL of that! I couldn’t put this down and I am so glad that I grabbed it and had a chance to meet the author as well!

pieceAnother Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

I didn’t read this one this month, but it is one of my most favorite freaky books and I read this for Halloween a few years ago and I will never stop recommending it as a Halloween read. It is twisted and bloody and freaky and mind-fucking and I just love it so much. If you need to read one book to freak yourself out this season… read this!

So tell me what are some of your favorite #WickedReads??? And what are you going to be for Halloween? (I’m going to be Wednesday Addams… there WILL be photos!) Leave me your answers in the comments!

Late to the Party ARC Review – What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

20482713Title:  What Milo Saw

Author:  Virginia Macgregor

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Milo suffers from retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing, and he will eventually go blind. But for now, he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don’t. When Milo’s beloved 92-year-old gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo begins to notice things amiss at the home. The grown-ups won’t listen when he tries to tell them something’s wrong so with just Tripi, the nursing home’s cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill.

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

What Milo Saw is a very odd, yet interesting mystery novel. It stars a young boy with a unique disability called retinitis pigmentosa, meaning he will eventually go blind and can only see out of a small pinhole. Accompanied by his trusty pet pig, Hamlet, Milo investigates an occurrence that is happening at his grandmother’s nursing home.

If there’s one thing I adored about this book, it’s the exploration of elder abuse. Not only is elder abuse uncommon in media, but it’s topic that often goes completely undiscussed. A lot of the actions of Nurse Thornhill are quite vial, and while reading the novel you get this sense that although Milo is an armature sleuth, he still young and in a vulnerable position where he’s trying to understand the world from beyond a child’s perspective. He doesn’t feel like any adult would believe him if he told him what was actually happening, and given that Forget-Me-Not is a Nursing Home for those suffering from Alzheimer and Dementia, it makes for a tougher situation to prove.

That being said, it seemed odd that Milo had a disability in this story because from the perspective of how it’s written, given how little he can see, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for him. Everything came across a bit too easy and it seemed like it was written that he had more sight than was actually let on, and I found that rather disappointing, given that I love to read stories with diverse protagonists, but this aspect just feel very flat to me. What was the point in giving the character a disability if it’s not really predominate to how he views the world in the story? I mean, this is a fairly long novel, and given how little it’s mentioned while he’s attempting to solve the mystery behind Nurse Thornhill, it just didn’t work for me. That and Nurse Thornhill read like a caricature and not a character.

And yet, this novel is really genuine and funny. There’s so many wonderful, heart-warming moments that really make you feel for the characters in the story. I loved the relation Milo forges with Tripi, and I loved how important his Muslim roots are to him. I really adored Milo’s relationship with his grandmother and his determination to solve what was happening at the nursing home. If I had an gripes about Milo as a character, he came across a little too perfect at times. I mean, I understood how naïve, innocent and young he is, but that boy came across like he didn’t have any flaws.

What Milo Saw is an interesting and engaging read. It asks the readers to come face first with a topic that is seldom explored and it’s a pretty horrific one. It’s also a book that will provide so many feelings as your reading it — from anger, joy, frustration, and a sense of justice. What Milo Saw is a book that I think both young adults and adults can enjoy equally, as it asks the reader to put themselves in a very unique set of shoes

 

ARC Review – The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester

23310670Title:  The Boy Who Knew Everything

Author: Victoria Forester

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: There is a prophecy. It speaks of a girl who can fly and a boy who knows everything. The prophecy says that they have the power to bring about great change…

The boy is Conrad Harrington III. The girl is Piper McCloud. They need their talents now, more than ever, if they are to save the world—and themselves.

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Macmillan for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was pleasantly surprised by how sucked in I was while readingThe Boy Who Knew Everything. Forester writes such a gripping middle grade novel full of wonder, whimsy, and action. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I started this book, but I really had a hard time putting it down!

I didn’t realize this was a companion to The Girl Who Could Fly, a novel I admit I hadn’t read. Most of the time, I’m not fond of reading books that are companion pieces to something I haven’t read before, but this was a rare case for me, as the author does an amazing job of making you feel like you haven’t missed anything too huge. Were the descriptions lacking at times? A bit. But considering I didn’t have the first book to work with, it allowed me to perhaps imagine some aspects of the story a bit differently.

I loved how rich the world building was, even for a world that was likely well established in the first book. I loved these characters, especially Piper who easily won my heart throughout the novel. I loved watching Conrad grow in the novel, especially because he starts out just so cynical and egotistical because he’s a super genius. His growth is wonderfully developed, quite gradual, and I love the lessons that he learns from the other characters about sharing emotion, that logic can’t solve every problem. The book also has one twist that is done SO WELL that I admit, I didn’t see it coming! The ending was a bit of a non-ending, though for the most part I did like how Forester wrapped every up, especially for Conrad.

Reading The Boy Who Knew Everything makes me want to go back and find a copy of The Girl Who Could Fly, just so I can really truly understand this world and it’s characters more. While I didn’t feel lost per say, part of me just wants to see why that first book is such a cult favourite amongst adults and children. I’m eager to see what Victoria Forester will write next, and part of me is thrilled that I get to go back now and see where everythign began in the first place.

ARC Review – Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

23395680Title:  Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)

Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2 /  ★★★★

Synopsis: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Huge thank you to  Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

 

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

I feel like Illuminae the book that all the bloggers are raving about, and I’m going to be real here: I merely liked it. When you’ve played enough science fiction video games, or watched or read enough classic science fiction, the plot in this story is far from original. Illuminae at times reads like a love letter to old school science fiction, but it also has the problem of style over substance.

I’m going to be real here, I don’t mind books that use an abstract style to tell its story. There’s books that for me did an amazing job such as Blood & Guts in High School and others where I hated every second of it (see House of Leaves). Since the story is told through dossiers, it’s an interesting concept because the story has all this tension and you start to see the growth of the crisis that exists aboard the ship. I’d even argue that the portrayal of space madness through the use of the dossiers is one the best I’ve seen in a long time, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the world building in Illuminae is sadly paper thin.

The reader is forced to accept so much at face value because of the style of the story, but there’s all these larger holes that don’t get filled in, leaving the reader to guess how or why aspects of this story are happening. That’s the main issue here: the use of abstractions in the story don’t allow for real world building to be provided. The format also is somewhat problematic if only because you get pulled into the narrative and then immediately sucked out of it when there’s a picture or a random advertisement. Again, I get why it’s being done, but truthfully I didn’t enjoy it nor did I find it successful.

The first 1/3 of this book for me was just very bland and boring. It took me awhile to get into the story and once the space madness started to hit the ships I found myself on board and the book became a page-turner. I think the way in which Kaufman and Kristoff show tension and anxiety in space is so spot on, and I like the way that through the dossiers you get this sense that everything has gone sour. I also appreciate the two classic science fiction plot twists that were thrown into the story, even if they were predictable both times. I still like that specific plot twist, and I do think it works well here.

I also wanted a bit more characterization. Kady in particular gets so much development, and I adored her character. I loved how sassy, strong-willed and reckless she is, but I found Ezra to be lacking in the character department. I didn’t see what was so great about him, nor did I feel the connection of him as the love interest. There was no pull for me at all. I will say, I LOVED Byron, and I thought he was far better developed than Ezra was. But let’s be real here, there’s not a lot of character development and the stylistic choice is a major part of why it’s lacking.

Here’s the deal: I liked and enjoyed my time with Illuminae. Once I got 1/3 of the way through the story, I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I had to see how it ended. I actually adored the ending, but overall Illuminae is a story I’ve read and seen numerous times before and sadly done better. However, I do think this book is worth checking out, especially if you aren’t the biggest science fiction fan, because I think those are the people who will get the most out of the big reveals and surprises within the story. Still, Illuminae is a fun read, and I will be checking out its sequel, but admittedly I wanted more from it.

River’s Review:

I am SO happy that I didn’t have to read this on my iPad. The format of this book is amazing and I loved it. To be honest the story wasn’t really THAT amazing, and I would have liked a lot more background and world building, but the format blew me away. And that is what I loved about this book. Pages with casualty names. Cute children’s posters with horrific graffiti scrawled over it. Swoops of text illustrating missiles or fights in space. I love some of the empty pages or pages with one word on them best. I did get a little tired of reading chats between characters, but thankfully they were broken up with enough other things. And I did appreciate that there WERE sections that were in more traditional novel formats. The whole mix of everything just worked so well for me.

I did see a few… idk if they were allusions or shout-outs or what, to other popular scifi work. I didn’t mind this, but for some reason I kept picturing this taking place in the Battlestar Gallactica world with a dash of Firefly thrown in. Thus I would have liked some more unique world building.

I really liked the ending and I didn’t see it coming and I can’t wait for the next one now (whenever that will be hahahah).