February 12, 2018

Stalled Series #1: the Chemical Garden trilogy

Image from: https://vectortoons.com
This is a new feature on my blog, as I have discovered that there are a bunch of series I have read the first one or two books in but have not finished. (I'm not the only one, right?) I'd like to decide for sure if I really want to complete some of these series or not, so I'm turning to you, faithful readers, for your advice.

First up on the chopping block: the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano.

I've had mixed feelings about the Chemical Garden trilogy right from book 1, as you can tell from my review of Wither. The writing style made it difficult for me to connect to Rhine, and I found Gabriel very boring. In the sequel Fever, I had some issues with inaccuracies/implausibilities in the scientific basis of the world-building.

So why am I even considering finishing the trilogy?

Well, there's just one more book, and I admit I'm a little curious to see how it all wraps up. I thought the "sister wives" premise was an interesting one that was well-executed. And I found Linden to be a far more complex and intriguing character than Gabriel.

So, what I need to know is, is it worth it to read the final book Sever? Does it provide a gripping conclusion to the series? Is it at least somewhat plausible? Will fans of Linden be pleased with his character development? Or should I just let the series stall forever?

Advise me, please!

January 16, 2018

2018 Reading Challenges

I'm joining a few different reading challenges this year! I'm hoping that in 2018 I will read more 4- to 5-star books and fewer 3-star ones. Maybe I need to DNF more? Or perhaps I just had bad luck in 2017.

Anyway, here are the challenges:

1.) Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge - hosted by Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy

Rather than a genre-specific challenge, this one is a more holistic challenge aimed at helping readers find amazing books to read in 2018. And considering my 2017 felt a little bit lacklustre in terms of reading... maybe this will help me discover more of those take-my-breath-away reading experiences. Here's hoping! *crosses fingers*

The challenge categories are:

Anne also provides some printables when you sign up, including a bookmark to track how often you're reading.

(If anyone has any recommendations for a book in translation or a memoir, let me know!)

2.) 2018 Finishing the Series Reading Challenge - hosted by Curly Carla and Lenoreo at Celebrity Readers

Guys, I have a number of series that have just... stalled. I've got to either finish them up or decide for sure that I'm going to quit on them.

Series like:

- the Matched series by Ally Condie — I have Reached, I got most of the way through Reached, and then... I dunno, it really wasn't doing it for me at that moment so I put it down. It may have been my mood, though, as I was in the midst of an intense Master's program and my reading for fun just fizzled. I liked Matched and Crossed, so I feel like I should give Reached another try.

- the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers — I've read the first two. I really liked Grave Mercy but was more kinda lukewarm on Dark Triumph. I have a copy of Mortal Heart so I need to get to it!

- the Birthmarked series by Caragh O'Brien — I read the first book forever ago. I think I'd need to re-read before I started on Prized, but I do have a copy of both of those so I could do that. How I feel about Prized will probably determine if I keep going with the series.

- the Razorland series by Ann Aguirre — I read Enclave AS AN ARC, that is how long ago I read it. And I've had Outpost sitting on my TBR shelves for... an embarrassingly long time. This is another one where I think I'll need to skim the first book as a refresher first.

- the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano — I've read and have copies of Wither and Fever, but it's not my favourite series. Still, I kinda want to know how it ends... thoughts?

- the Nevermore series by Kelly Creagh — I read Nevermore so. long. ago. But I did enjoy it and although I'd need to get the first out of the library to refresh my memory, I own the second now, so... yeah, I need to get to that already.

Huh. 4 out of the 6 I listed are dystopian series. Shows you what I was reading a ton of like....6 years ago! :P

I'm picking the lowest level "C-List Series Finisher," as I really doubt I will finish reading more than 4 series this year.

3.) Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018 - hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block 


This is a challenge for reading books that you already owned before January 1, 2018. I have so many of these that I badly need to just get read, already! I'm going to just pick the lowest level, Pike's Peak (12 books) to start with, although I'm hoping I might get to Mount Blanc (24 books).

Books I could possibly read for this challenge include:

 - Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
 - Where I Want to Be by Adele Griffin
 - Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart
 - Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer
 - Sold for Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins
 - And Again by Jessica Chiarella
 - Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
 - Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville
 - Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik
 - Stray by Elissa Sussman
 - Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith
 - Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
 - Defiance by C.J. Redwine

...and so many more. 

What challenges are you participating in this year? Which books do you think I should read for the challenges I've signed up for? Let me know your recommendations!

January 4, 2018

The Forgotten Book: A Panoramic Review

"A Jane Austen-inspired YA tale about a sixteen-year-old girl who finds a magical book—and discovers that anything she writes inside it comes true.

Emma is used to things going her way. Her father is headmaster of her prestigious boarding school, her friends take her advice as gospel, and she's convinced that a relationship with her long-time crush is on the horizon.

As it turns out, Emma hasn't seen anything yet. When she finds an old book in an abandoned library, things really start going Emma's way: anything she writes in the book comes true.

But the power of the book is not without consequences, and Emma soon realizes that she isn't the only one who knows about it. Someone is determined to take it from her—and they'll stop at nothing to succeed.

A new boy in school—the arrogant, aloof, and irritatingly handsome Darcy de Winter—becomes Emma's unlikely ally as secrets are revealed and danger creeps ever closer.
" (from Goodreads)
The Forgotten Book by Mechthild

My reaction: I was on the fence for the first 5 or 6 chapters of this book, but really ended up enjoying it (and polishing it off in a day!). Initially I kept trying to figure out which character was supposed to represent which Austen character (as I knew the book was Austen-inspired) and I was seeing all the parallels. This was kind of distracting for me, especially considering that it pulled from both Emma and Pride & Prejudice, which seemed discordant, since it wasn't following one story or the other, but a mishmash.

However, once the magical book was introduced, this became its own story (just with elements of Austen). 

Best aspect: The fantastical, magical aspect of the story. The premise of a book that makes whatever is written in it come true was explored in interesting (and sometimes bittersweet) ways. I loved the connection to fairy tales and folklore, and the messages in this story about the power of words, and the danger of trying to make wishes come true (that could end up having unforeseen consequences!). It certainly showed magic to be a double-edged sword. Plus, the whole idea of this magical book totally gave me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets vibes!

If I could change something... I'd flesh out some of the side characters. Charlotte and Hannah seemed very similar to me, and apart from their alignment with their Jane Austen counterparts (spoilers, highlight to read: Charlotte as Jane from P&P, Hannah as Harriet from Emma) I didn't feel like they had much personality. I also felt like Darcy fell into stereotype, and could have been explored more. I was okay with the romance but I wasn't crazy about it — while I liked their initial bickering dynamic, I thought it moved quite suddenly to an "Oh, I'm in love with him" realization without a smooth transition.

I'd also tighten up the middle of the story; it felt a little drawn-out, where for a while they kept getting clues but not getting any closer to solving the mystery! (However, I liked the mystery itself, which was very intriguing and kept me hooked, and when the reveals happened, they were well done and unexpected.) 

If you haven't read it: and you want to read a story set in a boarding school with magical elements (a la Hex Hall or Vampire Academy), but tinged with a haunting, bittersweet mystery, then this book could be what you're looking for.

If you have read it: did I miss something, or did the storyline involving (spoilers: the niece Marie) get totally dropped?

Just one more thing I wanted to mention: I liked Emma's voice. She was a little immature and made mistakes, but she wasn't irritatingly immature; she realized when she made mistakes and was willing to admit it.

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. This is the sort of book that both makes you want to believe in magic and fear it at the same time. Definitely recommend!

Disclaimer: I received this as an ARC for review from the publisher. 

January 2, 2018

2017 Challenge Check-In

I joined 4 reading challenges (including the general Goodreads challenge) in 2017. How'd I do?

Goodreads challenge: met! This the first time I have actually set a Goodreads challenge goal and met it (surpassed it, actually!), so *pats self on back*. I had set the goal of 50 books in the previous year and didn't even come close to that, so in 2017 I decided to be a little more realistic and hey, it worked! (It also was a little less stressful, because usually when I looked at the progress bar on the challenge image, it told me I was ahead of schedule, rather than constantly trying to catch up.)


The "Rock My TBR" challenge: met! This challenge (hosted by Sarah K from The YA Book Traveler) requires you to read a book each month that has already been published (i.e. not published that year). I actually ended up reading 19 books! Plus I only counted books that I already had physically on my shelves that I'd gotten before the start of 2017, because I really needed to make a dent in those. (All this excellent reading of books actually in my possession was kinda counteracted by me buying a TON of books this year from Book Outlet, but let's just ignore that part.)

The books I ended up reading for this challenge were:
- Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
- Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (yes, finally!)
- Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
- Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
- The Wrap-Up List by Steven Armtson
- This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
- Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
- A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
- The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
- Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell
- Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri
- The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
- The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
- Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
- A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
- God Is in the Pancakes by Robin Epstein
- Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
- Ingo by Helen Dunmore


The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge: met! This challenge was hosted by Passages to the Past. I decided to aim for a level I knew was attainable (the "Victorian Reader" level of 5 books), and yep, I attained it! I counted historical fantasy books as well as dual-timeline (contemporary/past) books, which totalled 11 books.

The books I ended up reading for this challenge were:
- Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
- Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
- Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis - Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
- Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri
- The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
- The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart
- The Light-Keeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol
- The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

The Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge: unmet. This challenge was hosted by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and Rachel from Hello, Chelly. I joined this one unofficially midway through the year, when I saw that I already had 15 fantasy books under my belt. I thought I could get to 25 by the end of the year, but sadly, only made it to 20 (and that's stretching the definition of fantasy to include more paranormal and sci-fi types of reads).

The books I ended up reading for this challenge were:
- Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
- Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
- Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis - The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
- Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
- Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
- The Wrap-Up List by Steven Armtson
- This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
- Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
- Ingo by Helen Dunmore- Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
- A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
- The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
- Cress by Marissa Meyer
- Gilded Cage by Vic James
- The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
- The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
- Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
- The Forgotten Book by Mecthild Gläser
- The Power by Naomi Alderman

How did you do on your reading challenges in 2017?

December 31, 2017

2017 End of the Year Bookish Survey

Happy New Year, everyone!!  

I always look forward to reading everyone's end of the year book surveys and seeing what the highs and lows of their reading year were. I'm afraid that although I had a good reading year in terms of quantity (at least relative to recent previous years), in terms of quality it left something to be desired. I feel like 2017 was the year of the "meh" books for me. Not amazing, not terrible, just...okay. Here's to hoping that 2018 brings some knock-your-socks-off books my way!
This fabulous survey is hosted by Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner. If you want to participate, link up your blog post here.

Number Of Books You Read: 45

Number of Re-Reads: 2~3ish? (I re-read bits and pieces and/or skimmed The Bone Season series and Uprooted)

Genre You Read The Most From: I want to say... fantasy, probably?

1. Best Book You Read In 2017? 

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon and The Light-Keeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

I'm seriously glad that I didn't post my end-of-the-year survey before now, because I just finished reading The Light-Keeper's Daughters and was entranced by it. (Why isn't it popping up on more readers' "best of 2017" lists?!)

Also, the Bone Season is hands-down my favourite series at the moment, so it's not really surprising that The Song Rising made it onto here.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Cress by Marissa Meyer — I'd really enjoyed Scarlet, so I was looking forward to continuing with the series, and then Cress just kinda dragged for me. It didn't seem as lively or quick-paced as Scarlet, and honestly I can't really remember what ended up happening in it (apart from lots of wandering around in the desert).

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter — This one just felt flat to me. I typically like "fantasy of manners" style books, but nothing stood out about this one. 

The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley — I was really hoping to love this one, and I did like Anahita's voice, but the contemporary storyline let me down. 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid — I liked the sound of the premise, but in reality it ended up focusing so much on her choice between the two men, and not enough on her figuring out who she was now (regardless of which guy she ended up with). 

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart — I picked this one up on a whim at the library (I'd read other books by Mary Stewart, so it wasn't a total gamble) and was pleasantly surprised by this cozy read!

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I feel like for the past few years I've just been recommending the same authors/books (Kate Morton, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, the Bone Season series). 

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

Best series started: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Best sequel: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

Best series ender: Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis (it was the only series ender I read this year, though. This was not a favourite series of mine, but it was entertaining enough)

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

Vic James, Sally Thorne, Rosamund Hodge, Jean E. Pendziwol

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers — I very rarely do zombie reads, but I'd heard good things about this one so I took a chance on it. I'm glad I did, because I found it quite absorbing!

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Song Rising

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Gilded Cage — I might skim this one to refresh my memory before starting the next in the series.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge and The Forgotten Book by Mecthild

11. Most memorable character of 2017?

I often have a hard time answering this question! I feel like Rapunzel from The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon is a distinct and memorable (although not particularly likeable) character.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

The Light-Keeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol. Her writing puts me in mind of a Canadian Kate Morton.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng — a thought-provoking look at how a family can fall apart because of all the feelings they're keeping boxed inside.
A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge — surprisingly thought-provoking themes (loss of innocence, power of knowledge) explored in this book, underneath its comedic surface.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell -- I had read and really enjoyed Attachments, but I thought I might not like Fangirl that much because of the whole emphasis on fanfiction/fandom, which I'm not that into. But I ended up really liking it! 

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017? 

 "When you dream of change, it shines bright, like fire, and burns away all the rot that came before it. It's swift and inexorable. You cry for justice, and justice is done. The world stands with you in your fight. But if there was one thing I had learned in these last few weeks, it was that change had never been that simple. That kind of revolution existed only in daydreams." – The Song Rising

 16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Shortest: Text, Don't Call by INFJoe (Aaron Caycedo-Kimura)

Longest: Cress by Marissa Meyer

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Gilded Cage and The Light-Keeper's Daughters

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Warden and Paige from the Bone Season series. Always.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The Amalia-Zaira frenemy-ship. These two never quite knew where they stood with each other, which kept things interesting. I'm hoping to see their relationship develop into a true friendship as the series progresses!

Also, the bond of trust and devotion between Emily and Elizabeth in The Light-Keeper's Daughters

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Again, Fangirl -- I got the book as a gift from a friend who strongly recommended it (and she was right!)

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

I don't think I have a new fictional crush this year, sadly...

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

YA: Gilded Cage by Vic James
Adult: The Light-Keeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Best worldbuilding: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

Most vivid setting: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

by Rainbow Rowell -- I got lots of warm fuzzies from reading this one. Also, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and On the Fence by Kasie West.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

I didn't full-on cry at any books this year that I can recall. Probably the closest I got was The Light-Keeper's Daughters.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

God Is In The Pancakes by Robin Epstein

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Light-Keeper's Daughters

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin and A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger -- it didn't make me mad exactly, but I was so frustrated by the choices that the characters made. (A team-wide "sex strike" is the solution to your problems? Really?) Or maybe I just didn't really like the main character. Her self-centred attitude irritated me.

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

Still Gemina. I keep hoping it will pop up on Book Outlet (in hardcover) so that I can get it for a slightly more reasonable price, but so far, no dice!  

Also, I still need to get my hands on Hunted by Meagan Spooner. 

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?

The next (as of ye untitled) book in the Bone Season series. Can you tell I'm obsessed with that series?

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross. I can't resist a Beauty and the Beast retelling. 

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?

The next in the Bone Season series, of course.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?

I'm hoping to pick more books next year that I will love rather than just "like well enough".

6. A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):

The Forgotten Book by Mecthild – this is the only 2018 release I've read, but it's a good one! I really enjoyed it and now I need to check out The Book Jumper.

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