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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 End of Year Book Survey

2014 Reading Stats:

Number Of Books You Read: 125!

Number of Re-Reads: 10

Genre You Read The Most From: Fantasy, definitely.

Best in Books:

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?
Without a doubt, it has got to be Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. 2014 was the year I fell head over heels for all things Anne, and I've been obsessed ever since. So yes, as you will likely notice from the rest of this survey, 2014 was definitely "The Year of Anne" for me!

2. Book You Were Excited About And Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne. When I first read the synopsis for it, I thought it screamed ME. But no, this one didn't quite work for me.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014?
I was pretty blown away that Jo managed another stunning mystery with The Silkworm, and I was surprised by how intensely gory this book was!

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?
Probably Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Especially the audiobook narrated by Colleen Winton. I know I was regretful that I had waited until 2014 to read this Canadian classic, and I wish someone had pushed this one on me sooner!

5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?
Best series started: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Best sequel: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith (Jo)
Best series ender: Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2014?
L.M. Montgomery and John Green.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I tried out some non-fiction reads for the first time in 2014 and was surprised by how much I enjoyed them! Especially, Steve Jobs, the biography by Walter Isaacson - surprising how fascinating I found this book!

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas.

9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Oh, let's just say Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery because even though I've already read it twice in 2014, it's the perfect pick-me-up book and I could definitely see myself reading it yet again in 2015!

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2014?
Loooove these new covers for the Anne of Green Gables series from Tundra Books!
11. Most memorable character of 2014?
Well, Anne Shirley of course! I want to be bosom friends with her.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. My first ever Melina Marchetta read and I am definitely going back for more.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?
Just One Day by Gayle Forman. This one resonated very deeply with me. AND gave me a major case of wander-lust!

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan! People had been telling me for ages that I needed to read it!

15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?
Again, Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables says some real gems in that melodramatic way of
hers that is just so endearing:
"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
"My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes."
"It is ever so much easier to be good when your clothes are fashionable."
"Red hair is my life long sorrow."
... and I could go on and on. Oh that Anne!!

16. Shortest And Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Shortest has got to be some novella - I read quite a few of them this year. Longest was City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare coming in at 733 pages.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
The end of Shadow Kissed, the third book in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead - did NOT see that coming!! Total game-changer.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe FOREVAR!!

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacot from The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (Jo) - love the dynamic here.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Scarlet and Cress by Marissa Meyer were fantastic follow-ups to Cinder, which I read in 2013.

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - okay so, Sara of Just Another Story has been trying to get me to read this one for YEARS! And I'm so glad I finally did!!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Augustus Waters of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

23. Best 2014 debut you read?
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
The Glade in The Maze Runner by James Dashner was pretty intriguing!

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - Anne's melodramatics never fail to coax a smile out of me!

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?
Somehow, my answer to this one is also the book that made me smile the most this year: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - I stayed up quite late to finish this one, and near the end a certain scene nearly KILLED me (you know the one I'm talking about if you've read this book!).

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
Guys, I am WAY overdue for a reread of Harry Potter. I'm thinking I'll finally try out the audiobooks!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?
Very curious about A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas!

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
I have my eye on The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey and Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?
Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?
Well now, I read 50 books in 2011, 75 books in 2012, 100 books in 2013, and 125 books in 2014. Dare I challenge myself to read 150 books in 2015??! Errrmm, probably not a good idea considering 2015 is the year I will have to write my thesis. So I guess my #1 Goal for 2015 is just to read WHAT I want and WHEN I want and have FUN doing it! Ditto with blogging.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

November and December Recap: Berlin and the Holidays

It's been two months since my last post and that is officially the longest I have gone without posting on this blog... It's too bad, but it couldn't be helped either. School always seems to be busiest nearing the end of the semester and this year was no exception. I miss blogging a lot though so I'm hoping to get back into it and start posting more regularly in the new year! First though, a brief recap of what I was up to these past two months:

As I mentioned in my last recap, in November I travelled to Berlin for a palaeontology conference where I gave a 15 minute presentation to 200 people in my field on the research I have been doing for my master's thesis. Yikes. All I can say is I did a fairly good job and I'm glad it's over! My presentation was scheduled for near the end of the conference so I found it a bit hard to relax and enjoy myself for much of the time I was in Berlin, sadly. Plus there was very limited time for sightseeing. Still, I did manage to find some time to slip away and here's some bits of Berlin that I got to see:

The Reichstag (The Parliament Building)
Brandenburg Gate
The incredibly moving and powerful Holocaust Memorial. I very much appreciated that such a horrific part of Germany's history wasn't hidden away or downplayed, but kept in the forefront as a tribute to the millions of Jews that were brutally murdered and as a reminder - never again.
A completely unremarkable parking lot. Also the site of Hitler's Bunker, which has since been filled in.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, before and after the war. I liked the completely bizarre mix of super modern architecture in Berlin with the still-standing ruins of the war spread throughout the city. You could even make out bullet-holes in a lot of the ruins. Completely surreal.

Remnants of the Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. It just so happens that I was in Berlin at the same time as the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I felt quite privileged that I got to be there to experience that! Also, the man in the lower right picture with me is my dear dad, who was in Berlin at the same time as me - it was very nice to be able to spend some time with him!

I regret that these pictures really don't do Berlin justice, and also that I only got to see a fraction of the city in the very limited time that I had there. One thing is for certain though: this trip - in combination with my reading of Just One Day by Gayle Forman last month - has given me major wander-lust. I'm already planning my next trip back to Europe - hopefully with more time and freedom - and I can't wait! Much of my trip was stressful and overwhelming on account of my major presentation, but overall it was pretty incredible, and definitely the most momentous experience of the year for me!

December is always a mixed-bag for me: the first three quarters of the month tend to be busy and stressful before the holidays set in, and then the last quarter is restful and festive. I returned home to Edmonton for the holidays and was greeted by family, snow, and generous Christmas gifts from bookish friends:
Clockwise: Meaningful contemporaries that I can't WAIT to read from Sara of Just Another Story; exciting fantasies that I'm DYING to read from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows; gorgeous new Anne of Green Gables box set from the bf; beautiful Emily of New Moon series from Tundra Books; soooo many fantastic, squee-worthy goodies from Ambur of Burning Impossibly Bright; and possibly the most gorgeous book I have ever seen (picture doesn't do it justice) from Alex of A Girl, Books, and Other Things
Soooo yeah, I AM ONE LUCKY GIRL!! And soooo spoiled. THANK YOU!

I hope everyone has had a restful holiday season and has a Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Giveaway (CAN): Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart is the third and final book in the His Fair Assassin Trilogy by Robin LaFevers, and it's coming out THIS Tuesday, November 4 - Who's excited?!

I know I am. I was totally enamoured with the "assassin nuns" concept when I first read Grave Mercy, but I think the real strength of these novels lies in the portrayal of the strong heroines - Ismae, Sybella, and Annith - and the slow-burn romances. They also introduced me to the idea that historical fiction that is heavy on the details doesn't need to be scary - it can be super interesting! I absolutely cannot WAIT to read Annith's side of the story in Mortal Heart.

Here's a peak at Annith's story:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

And thanks to Thomas Allen & Son, I have one finished copy of Mortal Heart to give away! The only restriction is you must be Canadian (I'm sorry, eh. I'll host an international giveaway soon for everyone!).

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October Recap: The Busy Business Continues

...And a month has flown by since I last posted. All the busyness surrounding school and work that I mentioned last month was still in place this month, and it's about to get even busier for me in a bit. But I can't complain too much because life has been pretty good to me on the whole. Here are some non-school-and-work-related things I did in October:

I saw Wicked for the third time!:
(I had really bad seats because the tickets were so expensive, but whatevs because this was my third time seeing it and I know all the words and actions to the songs by heart anyways. The show was entertaining as usual!)

I went to a Toronto FC match for the first time:
(A whole lot less entertaining than Wicked. But I'm always into trying everything at least once and I'd never seen a soccer match in person before [nor on TV for that matter...] so I thought why not. Once was enough though. But who knows, if I ever get the urge to watch grown men whine and fake injuries in a spectacularly bad way, then maybe I'll have to check out another soccer game sometime.)

And I finally - FINALLY - began watching Doctor Who after everyone and their grandmothers had recommended it to me:
First thoughts: not great, unfortunately. I had a tough time getting into it at first. I am just SO incredibly left brained that it took me a long time to get past the cheesiness and the insane plot holes and the crappy science explanations. Plus, I kind of hate Rose (Billie Piper).

BUT once I was able to force my brain to turn off (mostly anyways...) and once they finally got rid of Rose, it was mostly smooth sailing from there on out. Doctor Who reminds me a lot of Buffy (one of my all-time faves) in that there are some misses here and there (episode-wise), but when they get it right, it's GENIUS. Most of all, I admire the creativity that goes into each episode. It's simply incredible that the writers can come up with new episode concepts and creatures that are wholly original every single time. I am genuinely impressed by what I have seen thus far and I'm excited to see what's in store next!

Finally, some news that will mean I am not ready to get back into blogging any time soon: I will be leaving for Berlin in a few days to attend a palaeontology conference in which I will be giving a presentation on my thesis research in front of hundreds of expert palaeontologists who all know way more about my subject than I do! So... yay/eek!? Obviously, I'm excited because I've never been to Berlin before, but I do wish I was going there purely for leisure. Ah, oh well, hopefully I will make the most of it and have fun in spite of the nerve-wracking high-pressure presentation... Wish me luck!

Previously, September Recap: A Very Busy Start To Fall.

Best Book Read in October:

What's this? I finally managed to read the book I swore I would read ages ago, but have been putting off for years and years now? Thanks to Sara for forcing me to read it. Jellicoe Road was definitely worth it so I'm glad I finally bit the bullet even if it was difficult to get into at first. Definitely a powerful read, and I'm happy to have finally gotten a taste of what Melina Marchetta has to offer.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

September Recap: A Very Busy Start to Fall

Greetings! I haven't been around much in the blogosphere ever since my move and the start of the new semester simply because I've been quite busy. And sadly, if anything it's only going to get busier for me from here. There's just no time for blogging in between teaching undergrads about animal physiology, marking mounds of papers, doing homework for my own class, working on my research, preparing several presentations, finishing up my latest manuscript, getting audited by the government, dealing with some major health problems, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life (Yikes, I get panicky just writing all that down! Deep breaths...).

But as sad as I am about not having a ton of time to blog lately, it doesn't compare to how majorly BUMMED I've been about not having time to read. I have not had the time to do "just for fun" reading in over a week now! And do I ever miss it. There are so many just-released highly-anticipated sequels that I have been DYING to read, as well as contemporaries that I've been STOKED to read ever since being challenged by Sara, and older fantasies that I have been meaning to read for a long LONG time and was hoping to buddy read with Micheline... Just SO MANY BOOKS and no time to read them! And no sign of this busy grad school life letting up until winter holidays. Bleh.

So I guess what I'm trying to get across here is that I'm feeling quite stressed and overwhelmed with school and work and I have not had - and will not have in the near future - very much time to blog and read. I will do my best to post and comment when I can, but at the moment I'm feeling doubtful that that will happen as regularly as I would like. It sucks, but I guess that's just how it's going to be for the next little bit. I hope to get back into my regular blogging routine soon because I miss it and I miss all of you!

And now that that's out of the way, here's a quick rundown of my busy September:

First, my parents flew to Toronto to help me move and to visit a bit and it was so nice having them around! After a few days of laborious moving, we took in a Jays game...
(They lost, but I still had a surprisingly fun time considering I could not care less about baseball normally)

And I took them on a private tour of my workplace behind-the-scenes at the Royal Ontario Museum...
(There are SO MANY cool things stored away in collections that the public never gets to see)

And I gave them another guided tour of Ripley's Aquarium...
(This was my second time visiting the aquarium, but I swear I will never tire of it. It's SO cool!)

And I took them to Toronto Island for a day...
(We had a very pleasant day! I definitely want to spend more time there)

And while on the island, I got to cozy up to some cute animals at the petting zoo...
(I also got to pretend I was a tiny person)

And then they went back home to Edmonton. It was a good visit while it lasted!

Then I got to meet one of my all-time faves, Lauren Oliver, with my author-event-buddy Zahida:
She was soooo lovely!! I got all my books signed and personalized and had an altogether great night. Delirium was the first book I ever received for review and I LOVED it. I never thought in my four years of blogging that I would ever get the chance to meet Lauren, so I'm feeling quite lucky that I did!

And finally, I also took in a musical this month:
This was my second time seeing The Book of Mormon and it was just as good as the first! You can read my original review from 3 years ago if you want to know my thoughts on the musical in more detail, but suffice it to say, it's the most outrageously funny show I've ever seen. You know you've had a good time when you've laughed so much that your face hurts afterwards!

Blog Posts in September:

The Bookish Seven Deadly Sins Tag
Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog
Review: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo - 4.5 Stars
Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper - 2.5 Stars
My Life in August: Medieval Times, Niagara Falls, and Moving Time

Best Book Read in September:

This should really read "ONLY Book Read in September" because as I mentioned, I have not had a lot of time to get my reading on lately. But there's a good chance Ruin and Rising would have been my favourite anyways because I thought it was a pretty great conclusion. Not AMAZING, but I was altogether satisfied with how the story ended and where the characters ended up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog:

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
Date: February 10, 2015
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The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark. 
Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre. 
Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.
And what he knows will change Kym’s life. 

I can never resist a Middle Grade book with a cute illustrated cover! Especially when it has dark undertones and reads a bit more mature than MG normally does. Monstrous is definitely MY kind of read!

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Date: February 24, 2015
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One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale. 
Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. 
As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run. 

A Wicked Thing takes up after the classic story of Sleeping Beauty ends - and it ain't a happily ever after like we thought. I love this idea! I mean, because waking up to find that your family is long dead and your supposed "true love" is a stranger isn't exactly my idea of a happily ever after. Definitely intrigued!

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Date: March 3, 2015
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New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident. 
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late. 
In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

Wooo, new Lauren Oliver! Thank goodness that Lauren is such a prolific writer because that means we get new books from her, filled with her gorgeous prose, pretty regularly. Can't wait for Vanishing Girls!

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
Date: March 10, 2015
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Wilhelmina has a hundred identities. 
She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne. 
She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone. 
She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others. 

High fantasy + magic + espionage?! Count me IN! I'm SUPER intrigued and excited after reading this cool premise for The Orphan Queen!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Winter 2015 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: September 23, 2014
Pages: 416
Source: For Review from Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

In short: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper had a cool and unique concept, but frustrating characters and slow pacing hindered my overall enjoyment.
Salt & Storm called to me the moment I heard of it. How could I resist a book that combines historical fiction and magic? I can't. And while the end product wasn't nearly as satisfying as I had hoped - in fact it was downright frustrating at times - I was at least impressed with the concept and lore developed in Salt & Storm. It's a cool idea certainly, and I love that it was based in history, but there were a few major aspects in Salt & Storm that hindered my overall enjoyment.

Protagonist Avery was probably my main source of frustration in Salt & Storm. She's been given a bad lot in life, definitely, so I would excuse some anger on her part, but this girl frequently flies into these bizarre fits and rages at the drop of a hat. She's also extraordinarily selfish at times, concerned only with wrongs done unto her, and never thinking of the hurt she causes others in turn with her fits of melodrama.

Somehow there's this guy - Tane - who sees through her rages and likes her, and they quickly - and I mean QUICKLY - declare their love for each other. There were a few times that I found their romance sweet, but for the most part it annoyed me. Their hokey professions and their whip-lash arguments were the stuff of soap operas, not a genuine romance that I could root for. I could not take them seriously and so I did not care what became of them and their romance.

Initially the writing drew me in and immersed me in the atmosphere of this small whaling island so beautifully. But at some point I began to fall out of love with it - the prose is descriptive and the sentences are lengthy, sometimes weighing the pacing down, making the reading tedious and uninteresting. And when the pacing is slow and the characters are unlikeable, the story DRAGS and is a chore to get through.

If it weren't for the frustrating characters and slow pacing, I would have totally dug Salt & Storm though. I did really love the concept behind it and I loved the historical backdrop too. It was just such a fresh idea to me and I really appreciated that because I don't get to read books with unique ideas often. I also really admired the fact that debut author Kendall Kulper decided to GO THERE with the ending and that she's left this as a standalone. So all in all, I'm 50/50 in my rating for Salt & Storm.

Other Reviews:
Late Nights With Good Books
Maji Bookshelf
Supernatural Snark

Author Links:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog:

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Date: September 30, 2014
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New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.
Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.
Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

The Nutcracker retelling - OMG!! I used to go see The Nutcracker ballet every Christmas growing up and I absolutely loved it. So to have a book inspired by the story of The Nutcracker?! I can't imagine the feeling of nostalgia it will inspire in me! Can't wait for Winterspell!

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
Date: October 7, 2014
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Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late.
Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.
In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.
But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

I never really got into Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush Series, but I remember thinking the story was fun in that easy, addictive kind of way. I'm hoping the same can be said for Black Ice - it certainly sounds like an exciting thriller!

Sublime by Christina Lauren
Date: October 14, 2014
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When Lucy walks out of a frozen forest, wearing only a silk dress and sandals, she isn’t sure how she got there. But when she sees Colin, she knows for sure that she’s here for him.

Colin has never been captivated by a girl the way he is by Lucy. With each passing day their lives intertwine, and even as Lucy begins to remember more of her life—and her death—neither of them is willing to give up what they have, no matter how impossible it is. And when Colin finds a way to physically be with Lucy, taking himself to the brink of death where his reality and Lucy’s overlap, the joy of being together for those brief stolen moments drowns out everything in the outside world. But some lines weren’t meant to be crossed…

Sublime sounds pretty romance-heavy, which I'm not usually a huge fan of, but I have to say that I am super intrigued by the premise and the cover here. Seems like ghostly love stories never end well, but I'm still pretty curious to see how this couple will work things out.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Date: November 4, 2014
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Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.
Retribution has arrived.

And Mara Dyer is finally back for the final instalment of her exceptionally trippy psychological mindf*ck of a story. It's always fun getting caught up in her strange and confusing mind, so I'm looking forward to The Retribution of Mara Dyer!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Published: June 17, 2014
Pages: 417
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

This review is spoiler free

In short: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is a largely satisfying finale worthy of the series we all love.
And so yet another beloved series of mine comes to an end. It's always hard to say goodbye to a favourite series once you've come to respect and/or love the characters and enjoyed spending time in the beautifully developed fantasy world (although in this case, it seems as though we don't have to say goodbye to this world just yet - Leigh Bardugo is planning another series set in the same universe!). But thankfully the goodbye process is a bit easier when the finale delivers an ending worthy of the series you love - which Ruin and Rising largely did.

Siege and Storm left off in dire straits so it came as no surprise that Ruin and Rising was at times a very broody, dark read. Thankfully, Leigh Bardugo is an expert at weaving in humour even in the darkest of times, alleviating gloom and creating great character moments all at once. Speaking of characters, all of our previous favourites are back, and others that weren't previously favourites surprised me with their charming personalities in Ruin and Rising. The hero's journey is often a lonely one, so it was so nice to have a large cast of characters behind Alina, supporting her cause at every step and playing a critical part in protecting Ravka.

The story is well paced and yet still allows for some important character histories that we have been waiting on, and these backstories finally bring the story together. As for the finale - it was good though not quite as grand and breathtaking as I was hoping it would be, especially because the set-up to the final battle was lengthy. But overall I was pleased with how the story was wrapped up and where the characters ended up - those that survived anyway. I'm sad to see The Grisha Trilogy come to an end, but the ending felt right for the story and for the characters, and I'm sure before we know it we'll have the new Grisha spin-off series from Leigh Bardugo in our greedy little hands.

Previously, my reviews of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm.

Other Reviews:
Alice Marvels
Courtney Reads A Lot
The Daily Prophecy

Author Links:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog:

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien
Date: September 16, 2014
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The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

While it is true that I am a bit over dystopians at this point, I still can't help but feel drawn to premises such as the one in The Vault of Dreamers. I feel like I just need to know this ghastly secret that the school is hiding! And I've heard great things about Caragh M. O'Brien's Birthmarked, so I'm definitely curious about this new book of hers!

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Date: September 23, 2014
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French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...
After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.
Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Wooo Rapunzel retelling!! Of course I loved such retellings as Cress and Tangled so I feel like I have to read this! Bitter Greens sounds amazing and I love how real history is worked into the story. It's already received a lot of buzz from readers as it was originally released a couple of years ago in Australia, so that's pretty exciting!

Lailah by Nikki Kelly
Date: October 7, 2014
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The girl knows she’s different. She doesn’t age. She has no family. She has visions of a past life, but no clear clues as to what she is, or where she comes from. But there is a face in her dreams – a light that breaks through the darkness. She knows his name is Gabriel.
On her way home from work, the girl encounters an injured stranger whose name is Jonah. Soon, she will understand that Jonah belongs to a generation of Vampires that serve even darker forces. Jonah and the few like him, are fighting with help from an unlikely ally – a rogue Angel, named Gabriel.
In the crossfire between good and evil, love and hate, and life and death, the girl learns her name: Lailah. But when the lines between black and white begin to blur, where in the spectrum will she find her place? And with whom?
Gabriel and Jonah both want to protect her. But Lailah will have to fight her own battle to find out who she truly is.

Okay so, there's definitely a love triangle at play here - which could be disastrous - and it sounds pretty romance-heavy - which is not my kind of thing - and there are vampires and angels - which I'm kind of over at this point -, BUT! Well, Lailah has been getting some pretty smashing early reviews and I have been wrong about romance-heavy paranormals before (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I'm looking at you), so I'm definitely curious about this one. I'll wait for more reviews to come out though before making the decision to read it.

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp
Date: October 14, 2014
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In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, goblin attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….

OMG how can you not love that title and accompanying beautiful typography-laden cover?! The Accidental Highwayman sounds like it will follow in the vein of the classical fairy-tale fantasies that we all know and love, so of course I'm ALL over it.

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Macmillan Fall 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?