May 22, 2017

The Midnight Queen: A Rambling Review (Adult)

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

20821047This book was enjoyable enough, but not amazing. I liked the Regency-plus-magic setting (as I pretty much always do!), but I would have appreciated more knowledge of how this alternate version of Britain came to be (and a little more political/geographical explanation would also have been good). The main characters of Gray and Sophie were cute together, but I didn't feel a whole lot of chemistry between them; their relationship was an it's-so-obvious-it's-staring-everyone-in-the-face-so-why-can't-you-see-it kind of romance. Basically, you could see it a mile away and know it was inevitably going to happen at some point. The plot consisted of a LOT of conversations, and in my opinion, not enough action/suspense. There was some intrigue, of course, but it wasn't really the sort the reader can try to figure out, because we weren't given enough information. Things do get more eventful right towards the end, but even then, I thought the climactic scenes were a little confusing and didn't provide the pay-off I wanted considering the less-than-eventful lead-up to them.

In terms of characterization, Gray and Sophie were both a little too good, in a way, for my taste. They are both intelligent, loyal, well-liked, and (generally) well-meaning individuals; perhaps it was just that they weren't given enough weaknesses to make them feel more authentic. The third-person tense may also have made it a little more difficult to really get inside their heads and understand them as people.

I also think the villains could have been more villainous (they didn't seem that sinister, except perhaps by sheer number of them) and their characters expanded upon. I had difficulty keeping them straight, there were so many!

That said, it was a pleasant, comfortable, familiar kind of read. The language used evoked an older era, and yet was usually not particularly dense or archaic, making for fairly easy reading.

May 13, 2017

Cruel Beauty: A Rambling Review

15839984Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I found this one super easy to just fall into and keep reading. I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings and this one was no exception. The world-building was really interesting and different from previous BatB retellings I've read; I liked how it involved Greco-Roman mythology. I'm not usually big on traditional demons so this version of demons – no horns or tails involved, no smoldering sulphur pits or whatever – more or less worked for me. I do wish some of the plot points, particularly the climactic scene, were a little clearer, as I am still confused about what happened (spoilers, highlight to read: what was the Kindly Ones' riddle, and why was 'a handful of happiness' the answer? Was Ignifex or Shade the prince's anger?). Also, I distrusted Ignifex through a large part of the story because we really aren't given much insight into his thoughts or feelings; this compromised the romance aspect somewhat for me because I was wary of Ignifex and if we could believe him.

Nyx I found to be a somewhat melodramatic heroine, who was a little too keen on mental self-flagellation ('I'm such a bad person, there's such hate in my heart') without that much evidence to back up that she actually deserved all this criticism. I mean, she wasn't too fond of her family, but who can blame her? Her dad and aunt treated her terribly, and don't get me started on her sister... It also irritated me that Nyx kept changing her mind about things based on how she was feeling in a given moment (this is a common pet peeve of mine for YA novels, and while I can understand it to some extent given the premise, it became repetitive as the novel wore on).

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the fairytale feel to the narrative, and the descriptions of setting (so many different rooms in that castle!) added to the magical flavour. I also liked all the allusions to the original fairytale, which worked while still having the story be entirely its own.

Also, the plot point that happens towards the end that changes everything (being super vague here so as not to spoil, here are more specifics, highlight to read: when the prince opens the box and time unravels all the way back to before the original bargain was made) was quite bold, and made the ending a little less traditional.

April 29, 2017

The Replacement: Read It, or Weed It?

I have a limited amount of space for books, and let's be real: I'm always getting new ones. That means that some of them have to go, hence the reason for my new feature, "Read It or Weed It?" I am turning to you, dear readers, for your thoughts on some of the books I own but have not yet read (or started but not finished). Should I keep them on my shelves...or do they need to move along? I need your input!


The book for this post is The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. I tried it years ago, read most of the way through, and then lost interest and just...never finished. Is it worth picking up again, or should I say adios? Vote below!

April 16, 2017

Cress: A Rambling Review

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)Cress by Marissa Meyer

I wasn't as engaged with the story as I was with Scarlet. The pacing seemed uneven – large slow stretches peppered with short bursts of excitement – and I wasn't the biggest fan of how we kept switching character POVs (there were some storylines I had less interest than others). I think part of it was just that I don't really have the time/energy to read during the week, so I kept just reading a little bit each weekend, then waiting a whole week before reading another chunk...but still, I found it easy to put down, and it wasn't strongly compelling me to pick it up again.

That said, I enjoyed spending time with the characters; I'd say characters and dialogue are Marissa Meyer's strengths. Perhaps because the plot was getting more intense, I think there was less humour in this one than in Scarlet (everyone was too busy trying to stay alive to crack a lot of jokes). I liked that Cress was not a "perfect" sort of character, but I did wish she'd been given a few more attributes to make her a little less one-note; it seemed like she was used for all technology-related needs and not much else (and she turned into a liability in any physical fight, although at least she couldn't be mind-controlled). I really enjoyed finally getting to see Kai and Cinder meet up again, and how that scene played out. I'm also intrigued by the introduction of Winter, and interested to get to know her better in the next book.

March 28, 2017

The Winner's Kiss: A Rambling Review

25526307The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

An excellent final book in the series! Marie Rutkoski was not afraid to put her characters in dark, dangerous situations with the odds stacked against them. She certainly didn't make things easy for Kestrel and Arin. I also really appreciate the way she showed how relationships are not neat, black-and-white, clean-cut things, but full of uncertainty and emotions that don't necessarily make sense, and that one may not want to even acknowledge.

I did think that the book could have been tightened somewhat; the first half became somewhat repetitive in its exploration of Kestrel and Arin's relationship, and the second half had a few too many battle (and battle preparation) scenes for my liking. (Battle scenes are always quite hard for me to picture, and so they don't do all that much for me as a reader.)

I thought it was clever the way the climactic scene was structured, split between what Kestrel was involved in and what Arin was up to (and plus, I liked how Kestrel's plan involved an element introduced earlier in the book). Also, the opening part of the book, detailing the treatment of Kestrel in the mines (and the psychological toll of that), really made me feel for her and was a way to create conflict in the Kestrel/Arin relationship without relying on a cliche such as a love triangle or "star-crossed lovers."

One thing I would have liked would have been more discussion of the whole issue of slavery; this largely seems to get dropped from the narrative, given the pressing issue of the war going on, but given how very recently the Herrani had been slaves to the Valorians, I think realistically that tensions surrounding that would have been high.


March 11, 2017

The Wrap-Up List: A Rambling Review

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson

13429646This was an odd, quirky little story. It has a fantastical premise (creatures called "Deaths" are responsible for 'departing' certain individuals), and is set sometime in the future (no year is given, but the US is on the brink of what sounds like another world war) and yet it is centered very much on protagonist Gabriela's teenage concerns and daily life. There really isn't much world-building going on, but given this book seems to be more of a contemporary novel with a fantastical premise, I don't know that it really needs a ton of world-building.

Despite the fact that Gabriela's wrap-up list (what she wants to have happen before she departs) is centered on first kisses, romance really doesn't play that large a role in the story. Her "love interest," if you can call him that, is a sad specimen and I honestly don't know why she wanted him as her first kiss. He seemed like kind of a jerk, to be honest. Gabriela's taste in guys aside, however, she was a likeable enough protagonist, although her voice sounded a little younger than her specified age -- more like fourteen rather than sixteen. I enjoyed seeing her Mexican heritage highlighted in a natural, organic sort of way.

My favourite character without a doubt was the Death Hercule. He had attitude. I wish we could have seen even more of him. Just generally, I think some of the side characters could have been fleshed-out more; I would have liked to have seen more of her relationships with friends and family. It felt a little like the basics had been sketched out, but not completely filled in.

Plot-wise, there weren't many "big events" before the climactic scene, and then the ending itself was fairly predictable (highlight for spoilers: for one thing, I totally guessed that the "wait for Gabriela" hint could refer to after Sylvester's departure).


January 7, 2017

2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

This is a new challenge for me, but since I normally read at least a few historical fiction books a year, I figured why not join a challenge for that?

This challenge is hosted by Passages to the Past, and I'm choosing the Victorian Reader level of 5 books, which is both:

a) attainable (I hope!), and
b) appropriate since the Victorian Era is one of my favourites.

Here are a few books on my shelves that would work for this challenge:

- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
- Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
- In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
- The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
- The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
- The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
- The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

If you'd like to join in, you can sign up for the challenge here, and tweet about the challenge using #2017HFReadingChallenge!

January 5, 2017

2017 Rock My TBR Reading Challenge

Okay, so last year the #RockMyTBR challenge was the ONLY one that I actually completed! Over-achieved at, actually, since I ended up reading 16 books off my shelves instead of just 12. *pats herself on the back* I am actually super pleased about this.

However... in the meantime, I'm afraid that some more books have joined my shelves. (Shocking, isn't it?) So, I am going to join in with the 2017 #RockMyTBR challenge! It is once again hosted by Sarah K from The YA Book Traveler.

The challenge: read a book a month that has already been published. I'm just going to count books that are already physically on my shelves (or e-books I have).   

You can use the hashtag #RockMyTBR to tweet about the challenge, and updating monthly about your progress on Twitter/your blog/a vlog/etc. is encouraged.

Sarah suggests making a list of books you hope to read for the challenge, to see if anyone else wants to buddy-read them with you, so here goes:

- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (If there is ANYONE left on this planet who still has not read this book, and wants to, let me know so that a) I don't feel so alone and b) we might work out a buddy-read thing.)

- Where I Want to Be by Adele Griffin

- Split by Swati Avasthi

- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

- Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

- In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

- The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

- More Than This by Patrick Ness

- This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

- Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

- A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

- Outpost by Ann Aguirre

- Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

If you're doing the challenge and any of these are also on your list, let me know!!

If you'd like to join in the fun, you can read all the details and link up your blog post here on Sarah's blog.


January 3, 2017

The Book Lode (23): Christmas 2016 Book Haul!

Time again for a vlog of my Christmas book haul! This Christmas was a particularly fruitful one in terms of books. Thanks very much to everyone who gave me these gifts!

Books received:

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Speaking in Tungs by Karla Jay
The Anxiety Toolkit by Alice Boyes
Surprise by Tania Luna and Liane Renninger
A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
Grumpy (Parragon Publishing)

I also received Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell from a friend after I had filmed this vlog.

What books did you get this Christmas?

January 1, 2017

2016 End of Year Book Survey

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

I haven't participated in this survey in the past couple years, in part due to the fact that I didn't read very many books for fun when I was in my graduate program. But I had a better reading year this year (I even completed the "Rock My TBR" reading challenge!), so here I am with the 2016 end of the year book survey! This fabulous survey is hosted by Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner. If you want to participate, link up your blog post here.


1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – this reminded me of some of the traditional, high fantasy types of books I read back in my teen years. Highly recommend!

The Bone Season and The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – The Bone Season is one of those "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" books. I started this book a few times without getting very far; the beginning is confusing, as the book just plonks you down into this world with its strange jargon and expects you to deal with it. However, if you're patient, there's pay-off. The main characters of Warden and Paige, and their relationship, are compelling, and the plot picks up partway through. Bottom line: I'm so glad I gave this series a chance!

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

The Julian Game by Adele Griffin – I've enjoyed and been impressed by most of the other Adele Griffin books I've read. Unfortunately, this one just didn't do much for me; there are so many books now on bullying (including cyber-bullying) and The Julian Game didn't stand out.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton this is definitely my least favourite of all the books I've read by her so far.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – while I could objectively see it was a well-written book, for some reason it didn't really grab me emotionally. I know it won a Pulitzer and is super beloved, and I wish I'd been more affected by it! *slinks away*

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty – I'm sorry to put a Jaclyn Moriarty book in this category, but unfortunately this first book in her new series didn't entirely work for me. It's definitely different from most other YA fantasy, but I never felt really connected to the main characters, and I found the juxtaposition of the modern world–like Cello with the magical elements hard to get used to.

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

I was surprised I enjoyed Scarlet by Marissa Meyer as much as I did! It had been years since I'd read Cinder, and I hadn't been blown away by the first book anyway. But I really liked meeting the new characters introduced in Scarlet, and I've now ordered Cress from Book Outlet!

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

I don't think I did very much book pushing this year, and I really doubt any of it had much effect. But I guess I would say, for fiction, The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon, and for non-fiction (once again) Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan.

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Best series: The Bone Season series (sense a pattern here?). I wasn't expecting to get so enthralled by this series, but somehow (after I got past the initial what's-going-on-with-this-world confusion) it completely won me over.

Best sequel: The Mime Order is a great example of a book series in which book 2 does not suffer from sequelitis.

Best series ender: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski. One of the only series enders I read this year, but hey, it was good. I liked how the author didn't make things super easy for her characters.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

 Samantha Shannon, Marie Rutkoski, and Naomi Novik

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

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I am not a big sci-fi reader but I just got totally absorbed in this book. Loved the innovative format, which made everything seem so real.

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

Illuminae and The Mime Order

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Illuminae or The Mime Order, because I'm hoping to read the next in the series in 2017!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

Favourite dustjacket/hardcover design: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It is hard to get cooler than that dustjacket and how it works with the cover underneath.

Image from a tweet by Jay Kristoff

Favourite cover image: Uprooted by Naomi Novik. This cover just screams classic fantasy, and the medieval-esque font is beautiful.

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

 The Dragon from Uprooted, and Captain Thorne from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. 

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

Uprooted and The Winner's Kiss.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary by Sonja Larsen — a really fascinating insider's perspective on what it was like to be deeply involved with a particular branch of the Communist Party during the 1980s.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer — I had this book sitting on my shelf as an ARC, and yet somehow every time I'd think to myself, "I really need to read that book," I'd end up reading or doing something else instead. Well, finally it happened!

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016? 


'But happiness... happiness grows at our own firesides,' she said. 'It is not to be picked in strangers' gardens.' - The House at Riverton, Kate Morton

'Princess,' said the guard behind her. Kestrel's muscles went tight. Her shoulders hunched. She couldn't breathe. 'Every new prisoner shines with a little light,' the guard said. 'Your light happens to shine brighter. It's best for everyone if it goes out.' - The Winner's Kiss, Marie Rutkoski

After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this: A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time. - Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

The house is silent now and she feels like a stranger here. 'This life was never ours,' she whispers to the dog, who has been following her from room to room, and Luli wags her tail and stares at Miranda with wet brown eyes. 'We were only ever borrowing it.' - Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel


'So even when I'm washing pots I'm helping the war effort?' said Katie in wonderment. 'Not the way you wash them,' Mrs. Townsend said. - The House at Riverton, Kate Morton

But when people are past a certain age, you sort of stop asking them why they do things. It feels dangerous. What if you say, So, Mr. Penumbra, why do you want to know about Mr. Tyndall's coat buttons? and he pauses, and scratches his chin, and there's an uncomfortable silence — and we both realize he can't remember? - Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

'Do none of you ever walk?' I asked, baffled.

'And how do
you keep from getting all over mud?" she said.

We both looked down. I was a good two inches deep in mud along all the bottom of today's skirt: bigger around than a wagon-wheel and made of purple velvet and silver lace.

'I don't,' I said glumly.
- Uprooted, Naomi Novik


16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

Shortest: The Fairy Lair: A Magic Place by Anne C. Lemieux (144 pages)

Longest: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (599 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

I feel like I didn't read many books this year that shocked me with their unexpected plot twists! I'm going to go with The Winner's Curse for this one, for its interesting twist partway through that really changed things up.

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

Kestrel and Arin from the Winner's Curse trilogy
Agnieszka and the Dragon from Uprooted
Paige and Warden from the Bone Season series

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Cinder and Captain Thorne in Scarlet. They were awesome as frenemies. Also, Roshar and Arin from the Winner's Curse series (also kind of frenemies).

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

 Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

 Well, Illuminae is a book I might not normally have asked for, but I put it on my Christmas wishlist last year based on all the fantastic reviews it was getting... does that count? 

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

Warden from the Bone Season series.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

I don't think I read any 2016 debuts (I read very few books even published in 2016!).

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

Best worldbuilding: The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon, and Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Most vivid setting: shout-out to The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell. I had some issues with this book in terms of characters and plot, but I have to give credit to the author for excellent description of the cottage and its grounds.

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

Remembrance by Meg Cabot – this put a smile on my face just because it was so much fun to revisit the characters of her Mediator series.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

I don't think I read any particularly heartbreaking books this year!

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovernI found this to be a heartwarming story of friendship and first love between two characters who have issues, but are more than just those issues. As a speech-language pathologist, I appreciated reading about a main character who communicates with an AAC device. The writing style was very readable, and the emotions portrayed felt genuine.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

None of the books I read this year was particularly soul-crushing. Perhaps Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, in a bleak, post-apocalyptic, you-are-all-doomed sort of way...

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

Most unique format: Illuminae

Most unique premise/world: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

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

Lies Like Love by Louisa Reid – the mother in this book does such unspeakably AWFUL things, so I was angry at her on behalf of her daughter. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

Getting my hands on and reading Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff will definitely be a top priority in 2017!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon – I pre-ordered the collector's edition hardcover that matches the first two covers, and it will be signed by the author, so I'm psyched for that! 

Also, definitely looking forward to Hunted, Meagan Spooner's Beauty and the Beast retelling. 

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Gilded Cage by Vic James – a star-crossed romance between a commoner and a noble in a world where the aristocrats have magic and the commoners do not. Also featuring revolution and a man with mysterious powers. YES, PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

I think perhaps I need to get on board a few more series, because my answer to this one is the same as #2: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

Read more. Blog more. It sounds so simple...

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

I haven't read any 2017 releases yet!

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