Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cress by Marissa Meyer

(5/5 stars)

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.
 

I'm incapable of making coherent thoughts right now, I loved this book that much. It definitely pulled me out of this weird book slump I was in. Wow, I love books, I love this book, I love this series!

What I liked: Cress. Cress is a great character. She's like the Rapunzel version of Felicity Smoak. Genius hacker, unapologetic fangirl. She's the perfect amount of adorable, socially awkward, character development-filled person (oh, um, Lunar). Her relationship with Thorne is perfect, OTP for life, and she brings out a whole new side of him that we only saw glimpses of before. The story is full of heart-stopping action scenes and tender moments of love and loss, it has everything I could ever ask for. Also, Levana is scary evil and one of the best villains by far. As always, our favorite cast of characters were back and I loved seeing them all work together in the end. All of my favorites in one place! Thank you! And we got to see a little bit of Princess Winter and I'm crazy excited for that book because she seems like all kinds of insane greatness. Lastly, I've said this before but it's important to repeat: This dystopian isn't just set in one place. The whole world is involved in this crappy situation. The setting is constantly changing and bringing its own conflicts into the central plot and that's brilliant writing right there. 

What I didn't like: I needed more Scarlett. I needed more of the book in her POV, but for reasons (I enjoy being cryptic), that wasn't possible. So I'm going to pout for a second and then get over it. And demand more of her in Winter. Plus, I don't want to wait a whole year for that book, waiting is a special kind of torture itself. 

So if you haven't read this series yet, how have you gone this far in life? Seriously, it's great, the whole thing is great. It constantly reminds me just how amazingly written books can be. Team KaiWolfThorne for life!

-Annie

P.S. Sorry guys, but I'm not planning on posting a review or entry next Thursday (aka Christmas). I plan on spending the day relaxing with my family and *hopefully* reading new books. I hope you all have a lovely holiday season, no matter what you celebrate, and it's full of happiness, love, and books!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

(3/5 stars)

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings… 

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

I'm kind of all over the place with this book, my opinion is completely split. So for the sake of defining my opinion, I'll have to say that I'm pretty neutral when it comes to Afterworlds. I didn't like it but I didn't dislike it. 

What I liked: Without a doubt, this is one of the most interesting and original ideas for a novel. It's a book within a book (which is why it's so incredibly long at 600 pages) and it's always clear which storyline is which. Round of applause for that. I was fascinated by Lizzie's story, and it got my attention right away. It's a cool concept--psychopomps--and you don't see a lot of that in fiction. The world building in that specific story was way cool. Darcy's story had my attention because it's a subject that fascinates me: the publishing industry in NYC. Basically, that's my dream. So I loved all the parts that were set in New York and it was an accurate glimpse into the industry which I appreciated.

What I didn't like: I'm all for long books. They're my favorite. But this one dragged. It was almost a bit painful. Though, I'm pretty sure the reason it felt so slow was because of the two different story lines that were going on and how they never crossed or anything to keep your attention. I found myself getting really into Lizzie's story, but then it would switch to Darcy's pov and that annoyed me. There were just a lot of parts that made it hard to get through and it lost my interest quite a bit. 

So I don't know if I would really recommend it, only because I can't device for myself how I feel about it. There were parts that I loved and that were cool to me, but then all that would change with the next chapter. 

-Annie 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

(4/5 stars)

Natalya knows a secret.
A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.
But it's not in the right hands.

Anyone who knows me, knows how obsessed I am with the Romanovs. It's borderline unhealthy. But completely acceptable because it's such a fascinating subject. So this book, though it took some liberties (mainly changing Alexei's age and giving him a love interest) had me hooked from the beginning.

What I liked: As far as historical fiction goes, this is pretty historically accurate based on the skeleton alone. I believed the facts and that made the fiction story within the world seem so real and interesting. I loved Alexei and Natalya, even though they were only physically together for the first three or so chapters. Their relationship felt so real and loving, and it made me sad for the real Alexei who never got the change for anything like that. Okay, so now to the actual make up of the book. Natalya is great. She's awesome. She's a true Russian in all senses of the word--so incredibly patriotic, loyal, and fearless and I could really respect her as a character. Leo is pretty great too, he's a good antithesis to Natalya. The scenery and culture was vivid and true to the time. I'll say it again, the research that was done on this novel was extraordinary. Throughout the whole book, I felt like I was there with the characters. I was as scared for the tsar and his family as Natalya was. I loved Russia like Leo. You really felt like you were in the story.

What I didn't like: Honestly, I feel like nothing really happened. Mostly, because I think our antagonist was a bit weak and not very threatening. Our main characters just seemed to bounce from one location to the next without anything major happening. I also think that everything could have been avoided if Natalya had used her head and kept the Constellation Egg a secret in the first place. I'm not a super big fan of plot lines that run based on miscommunication or the stupidity of a character. Lastly, I had a lot of problem with Natalya and Leo's sudden romantic relationship. Maybe it has something to do with my bias, but I never felt like they really connected emotionally. Sure, I can see them being acquaintances or even friends but they want two completely different things. Major different things. The opposite of what the other wants. It doesn't make sense. Also, I never felt any romantic tension between the two of them.

I still enjoyed this book a lot. It was fascinating and I loved the background and lifestyle that Natalya led. I also saw some character development in her that I appreciated, though she kept her passion for her country the whole time which I loved. If you enjoy historical fiction, I definitely recommend this one.

-Annie

Thursday, November 27, 2014

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

(5/5 stars)

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it... at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Well, this is the last week of Sci-Fi November. I know, I know, I'm extremely sad as well, but what a successful month it was! So much lovely sci-fi things happened and I'm so thankful that I was able to participate yet again. So, to finish the event, I thought I'd end with a book recommendation that I discovered from last year's Sci-Fi Month. 

I was recommended All Our Yesterdays last year by the lovely Rinn, and sadly, it took me a whole year to read it. I want to add that it was totally not my fault that I couldn't find it anywhere! But eventually I found it and ohmygoshyouguysthisbook. 

What I liked: This plot was so completely intricate and convoluted and I have no idea how the author weaved it all together. I bow down to you, Cristin Terrill. I love that there was the two different points of view, one that was so completely in the present and the other that technically was as well, but just as equally in the future. There was such a HUGE difference between Em and Marina which was awesome character development. The emotions the characters faced, that I faced, were raw--I cried and hurt and loved like no other. Wow. The action scenes were intense, and there were times when I found myself holding my breath, waiting for what was going to happen next. It's deliciously action-packed and full of sci-fi goodness. 

What I didn't like: I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how the doctor became so crazy evil. I understand that he's incredibly ambitious and I can see how that would backfire into antagonist land, but so evil as to torture and even murder...eh, I'm only like 95% convinced on that front. 

Regardless of that, I loved this book, and I'm totally ready to run out and buy myself a copy. And recommend it to every sci-fi fan. With that being said, I hope you all had a wonderful Sci-Fi November and picked up some recommendations on the way. A big thank you to Oh, The Books and Rinn for organizing this great event and making it possible--you guys rock all kinds of awesome! 

-Annie

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful readers. Whether you read my words via Tumblr, Twitter, or this blog right here, I am forever grateful for you all. Have a lovely day!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

(4.5/5 stars)

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Happy week 3 of Sci-Fi November!

At this point, I'm kinda obsessed with dystopian fairy-tale retellings. Once upon a time, I wrote a review of Cinder--a book I really enjoyed and was pretty interested in reading the rest of the series. But, why did I wait so long? Man, if I knew the sequel was going to be as awesome as Scarlet was, I wouldn't have put it off for a second!

What I liked: Again with the world-building. I sound like a broken record, especially coming from the Cinder review, but this book has such a fascinating world. It keeps getting bigger with each book, and it answers that super important question: What happened to the other countries during a typical YA dystopia novel? Craziness, that's what happened. I enjoyed the multiple points of view. I feel like it really worked with the story and gave me a more satisfying grasp at everything that was going down. Especially since so much happened, it was easy to keep track of everything based on the characters. Speaking of characters, hello Scarlet. She's an absolute rockstar. She's fiery and independent and all kinds of fierce. She's a really great balance to Cinder's character because they're the same but different. I also kinda sorta love Wolf and Scarlet's weird relationship...

What I didn't like: The story itself is still a bit predictable, but hey, that's what happens in a fairy-tale retelling. I saw certain events (oh, I don't know, things like betrayal or whatever) coming from a mile away, but I got over it fairly quickly.

This is a great Sci-Fi/Dystopian/Adventure series and I definitely recommend it, especially if you like a little bit of Fantasy mixed in every so often. It's a hodgepodge of greatness. And it definitely should be celebrated during a fun event like Sci-Fi November because it has something that I believe anyone will enjoy!

-Annie

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Parallel by Lauren Miller

(I have such a hard time rating this because it was a solid 4/5 stars until the end when it became 2/5 stars)

Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She'd go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she's in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it's as if her past has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby's life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby's senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby's never even met.

As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn't choose, Abby must let go of the Plan and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that's finally within reach.

In honor of Sci-Fi November, I thought I'd start off the month long event by reviewing a book that I discovered thanks to last year's Sci-Fi month. This premise intrigued me so much, and while I was reading it, I was super into it. Like so super into it I finished it in a day and stayed up way too late reading. And, I really liked it...UNTIL THE FREAKING END! I didn't know that I was able to have this kind of reaction to a book: I had tears in my eyes because I was so mad at how it ended, and then proceeded to throw the book down. Hard. 

What I liked: The science and astronomy behind this book was fascinating. I was nerding out in the extreme. The whole sci-fi aspect was handled really well without being cheesy--like something of this subject matter (parallel worlds) could be. The organization of the novel worked out well too, and I had my doubts at the beginning. It flowed and made logical sense. I loved seeing how the little details and decisions in Abby's parallel life affected her actual life--even if it did have me pulling at my hair at some points. It was a coming-of-age story without the normal contemporary coming-of-age scenes. The tropes were still there, but they had a cooler, sci-fi twist to them. 

What I didn't like: Let's start with the smaller things. So, I wasn't a fan of the fact that I didn't care about either love interests until it was too late. To me, it hardly felt like a love story, I was too wrapped up in the Abby-has-no-idea-what's-going-on-in-her-life story. That being said, I was a big fan of Caitlin and Tyler and so I'm a little peeved at how that was handled (no spoilers, just passive aggressiveness). Now, can we talk about the end? Because I refuse to accept it as a legitimate ending. Without giving anything away, all I can just say is that 1) I feel like the whole book was a waste and 2) I'm pretending like it ended a page or two before it actually did. Anger--so much anger. I'm mostly so sad about the ending because it completely changed my view on the book. I almost feel like the author was trying to pull one over her readers, like it was supposed to be this monumental twist that was shocking and wow and stuff, but I wasn't a fan. 

-Annie

Edit: After having time to stew over this book, and believe me, I spent a lot of time thinking about it, I'm moving the rating up to 3 stars. I kind of get the point the author was trying to make at the end (kind of), but that doesn't change that it twisted my whole perspective of the book with only a couple sentences. I'm stilly annoyed, but whatever.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What are YOUR favorite sci-fi tropes?

In continuing with this great month full of sci-fi deliciousness, I thought I'd start my posts off with a fun little discussion on Sci-Fi tropes.

First things first, what is a trope? A trope is a reoccurring theme, in this case in literature, that has significance. For example, in fiction, one of my favorite tropes is boarding schools. If a book is set at a boarding school, I'm already a little bit obsessed! Everyone has a couple tropes that really work for them, so I figured I would explore some common ones in Science Fiction.

I recently posted a poll on GoodReads asking my followers to vote on their favorite tropes, or they could write one in. Here are the results:


  • Utopias/dystopias
    • Stats: 15 votes/49 total, 30.6% of voters chose this
    • What it means: A world where society is either perfect and ideal or horrible and failing
    • My thoughts: I can't get enough of dystopias, even though it feels like it's a bit overdone these days. I still think the idea is fascinating.
    • Book examples: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Superpowers
    • Stats: 13 votes/49 total, 26.5% of voters chose this
    • What it means: Characters with special abilities--mind control, invisibility, mutations, etc.
    • My thoughts: I've read some interesting ones, but this trope, to me, has the potential to come off corny sometimes. 
    • Book examples: White Cat by Holly Black, Maximum Ride by James Patterson
  • Time Travel
    • Stats: 8 votes/49 total, 16.3% of voters chose this
    • What it means: travel into the future, travel into the past, time machines, all that jazz
    • My thoughts: Super fun! Very Doctor Who-esque, and something that I sometimes wish we had the capabilities of doing. 
    • Book examples: Tempest by Julie Cross, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
  • Parallel universes
    • Stats: 6 votes/49 total, 12.2% of voters chose this, as did I!
    • What it means: alternate universes where life is different from what we know in ours, sometimes better, sometimes worse
    • My thoughts: I love this idea and I'm desperately searching for more books with this trope
    • Book examples: Parallel by Lauren Miller, Pivot Point by Kasie West
  • Space travel
    • 5 votes/49 total, 10.2% of voters chose this
    • What it means: traveling among the stars to different planets, space ships, Star Trek-y
    • My thoughts: I've read a couple of great books with this trope, and I feel like it can work out very well
    • Book examples: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  • Alien invasion
    • 1 vote/49 total, 2% of voters chose this
    • What it means: aliens have come to earth, most of the time to take over, and humans are constantly interacting with them
    • My thoughts: I'm split on this trope. I like it in some books and then hate it in others, it really depends on how well the author can pull it off
    • Book examples: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Honorable mention to the write-in: Star Trek-style cultural interactions between different cultures
So these are some of the common tropes in Sci-Fi and my thoughts on them. What do you think? Is your favorite trope missing from the list? If so, I'd love to hear about it!

-Annie

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Sci-Fi November!


It's back. It's finally back. After waiting a whole year--whew, and what a year it was--Sci-Fi November has officially started! And if you thought last year was full of awesomeness, this year is even bigger. There are a ton of bloggers participating, so many posts and giveaways, it's crazy up in here.

A huge, ginormous, out of this world thanks and love to Oh, the Books and Rinn Reads for hosting it this year. This seriously wouldn't be what it is without all your hard work. Sci-Fi November has built up a reputation and you ladies are the driving force. Thank you.

So, the schedule has been posted and you should definitely check out all the posts that are going on this month. Over here at Books, A Novel Idea, I have some exciting stuff coming up. Here's what our little schedule will look like:

  • Thursday, November 6- What are YOUR favorite Sci-Fi tropes?
    • I'll be discussing the different tropes in science fiction and which ones seem to be the most popular
  • Thursday, November 13- Book review of Parallel  by Lauren Miller
  • Thursday, November 20- Book review of Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Thursday, November 27- Book review of All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Feel free to hop in on any of these discussions and get excited for what's ahead. What are you looking forward to most? 

A happy Sci-Fi November to you all!

-Annie

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

(4.5/5 stars)

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

So my thought process before I actually read this book was like "hey, I'll read this and post a review right before Halloween because monsters are scary" or something along those lines. Not the case. Not the case at all. I was very wrong. I went into this book looking for something kind of scary and came out pondering about life and loss and everything in between.

What I liked: The book is beautifully written; hauntingly so to say the least. The illustrations are stunning and are a perfect companion to such a tale as this one. The plot is one that really makes you feel. I didn't expect to cry, but I found myself sobbing until the very end. I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts into words right now, it affected me that much. The story is so real and alive, it's practically a monster itself. The quotes are beautiful, every single one of them, and they relate to life so profoundly--and not in a trying-too-hard way. The words come naturally, and that's why it's so hard to separate fiction from reality in this case. Beautiful, just painstakingly and honestly beautiful. 

What I didn't like: The only reason I docked this book a half star is because it took me until about the middle to really get into the story. But once I did, my attention was fully captured and I couldn't put it down. It's a bit of an open-ending, but that's how life is. We don't always get the answers to all the questions we're looking for. And yes, this might be a first in which I defend an open-ending. 

So read this book, you won't regret it. If anything, read it to feel more alive, more human, because that's how I felt when I was finished. Just for one moment, the whole world has changed for me because of this book. It wasn't a long read, but it affected more than many other books ever have or will.

-Annie

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

(4/5 stars)

Powerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

Breathe, Annie, just keep breathing. I'd been waiting a long time to read this, and you'd think all that time would be enough to prepare me. But, judging on my lovely interaction with Sarah on Twitter, nothing could have gotten me ready for this book!


What I liked: First off, I'd like to dub Kami Glass the Sass Queen-- babe, you've got the crown. Everything she says is my favorite. I want a wall of motivational posters with her witty comebacks on it. I admire her fierce independence, her incredible optimism, and her bright confidence. Next, I'd like to take a couple seconds to talk about how much I love these characters. The Montgomerys are my favorite (Rusty, Rusty, oh Rusty, I'm speechless), and the character development that goes on with each character is a beautiful journey that I'm so glad we got to see. We've also got the active family members, and you guys know how much I adore that! Kami's father wins Parent of the Year award. The action in the story is constantly going, and there was never a time for anyone to catch their breath (including me as a reader, whew!). And the big showdown that we were expecting was epic. Sarah pulled out all the elements--literally--and it was so vividly written. There was fire and death and I still feel the tears running down my face. Y'all, I'm still sad. But there is also heroic sacrifice, teamwork, and bonds that surpass friendship and turn into love and family and that gushy stuff. 

What I didn't like: Honestly, I was a little frustrated between Kami and Jared's relationship. It's so hot and cold and I just wanted to yell "Just proclaim your love to each other already!". You can't keep getting together and then deciding that you shouldn't be together...multiple times... it hurts my head.

I stand by what I said about this series from the very beginning. You don't want to miss out on these amazing books. They'll make you feel and they'll make you laugh. What a wonderful (albeit, emotional) conclusion!

-Annie

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater

(5/5 stars)

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

*I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Since I first picked up The Raven Boys, this has been one of my favorite series. So the fact that I was able to receive an arc of this book literally made my day. I was all smiles. And then I read the book and went on an emotional journey full of every feeling imaginable, so there's that. Our story picks up where we left off in The Dream Thieves (this is a spoiler free zone), aka all emotions are heightened and everybody's feeling just a bit drained. But would we want it any other way? I think not.

What I liked: I want to give a quick shoutout to this gorgeous cover. Favorite cover of 2014? Yes, yes, yes! Now, the book, wow. I love how well Maggie develops her characters. I feel like I know them, like they're my friends, my Raven Boys. And Blue is still one of my favorite characters in YA fiction right now. Maybe even of all fiction. I love how much depth these characters have and their loyalty to one another is beautiful to see. As always, I love that the adults work together with the teens to figure out what's going on. It's important to see involved families because it's not a common situation in YA. The plot of this book is just as wonderful as the last two, but this time, the focus is more on Blue. We do see the others' POVs which is great because it brings more to the story and makes it more character driven. I could rave and race about this wonderful book, but here are some of the little things that I liked: the squash song (I want to know the actual melody so that I can annoy everyone with it), the great Blue/Gansey scene of her driving the Pig (I love how you can see how much they love each other without them physically having to show it), and the relationship specifically between Adam/Ronan/Gansey. 

What I didn't like: There wasn't anything specific that I didn't like in this book. The only thing I was a bit confused on was what the title actually meant. Like, I know the song/rhyme thing, but I'm still trying to piece it all together. But like I said, it just confused me, not made me not like the book or anything dramatic like that.

I've found now that the only bad thing about reading this arc is the fact that I'm only going to have to wait even longer for the next book in the series--the book I'm fondly calling When Everything Bad Happens. So for all the tears that I cried during this one (and yes, many a tear was shed), I'm already mentally preparing for the final installment. Counting down the days!

-Annie

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

(2/5 stars)

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity

I've always had a morbid fascination with abandoned mental hospitals, and this cover is super creepy, so I figured it would be a no brainer that I would enjoy this book. I expected darkness, scary insanity, and maybe something that was bit disturbing, but I was sadly disappointed.

What I liked: There were two things that I liked about this book, and they can be summed up in two short bullet points.
  • The premise- like I said, insane asylums are one of my favorite literary tropes. 
  • There was a Peeta Mellark reference that I thought was cute and witty and I even snapchatted it to my friend.
  • That's it.
  • No more bullet points.

What I didn't like: This book was cheesy and shallow and the characters were unbelievably flat.  Dan was, to say the least, lame. There was nothing special about him. His awkwardness and curiosity felt forced, and I hate to say that I didn't care for him one bit. And not in a good way. Basically, the writing was immature and undeveloped. The plot line was painfully in your face predictable, and though there were some moments when I thought it was going to go somewhere, it took a turn back towards an unconvincing narrative that almost made me put the book down for good. Honestly, I'm only giving it two stars because I at least had a small part of me that wanted to finish the book. Oh, and the pictures looked photoshopped and did nothing for the story.

I hate giving bad reviews, but there was no way around this. I had such high hopes at the beginning so you can see just how disappointed I am. So much potential was wasted; it really is a shame. Now, somebody go find me a good insane asylum story, pretty please!

-Annie

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Infinite Sea, by Rick Yancey

(4/5 stars)

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

After such an intense cliff-hanger in the first book, my patience to read The Infinite Sea was practically nonexistent. Especially since The 5th Wave was the very first review I ever did for this blog. The series has a special place in my heart because of that. But, like the first book, I had my ups and downs throughout the story.

What I liked: The darkness. This book is so much darker than the first, and you can see that through the setting, conflict, and characters. The character development is really well done. They still feel the same, but they're also so much more. They've grown into themselves and their situation without losing those traits that we love the most. Ringer has become my favorite. There's so much going on internally with her loyalty to Teacup and distrust and tension in her specific plot line. I still love Cassie, I will always love Cassie (but I will say, she did not get enough page time for my liking). The writing is well done, just like the first book, and there are moments when I had to put the book down and consider the depth to what Yancey was saying. Very impressive. 

What I didn't like: First things first, I love the title and metaphor that comes with it, but if you use it every other chapter, it loses its meaning. "Infinite sea" was repeated wayyyyy too many times and that bothered me like crazy. Another thing that bothered me was the irregular changes of point of view. It felt like multiple separate books (and yes, it is separated into Book 1 and Book 2), and just when things were getting good, the character's story disappeared from the rest of the book. I also didn't like that we had two characters written in first person, and then the other point of views were in third. It threw everything off for me. Lastly, until the end, I feel like nothing actually happened. Only Ringer's POV at the end moved the plot along. Everything else was just filler. They didn't even move locations. I didn't like reading about the group trying to figure out the next plan, all while these other predictable plot points happened. 

Like I said, I really enjoyed this book. There were so many positives and I'm obsessed with the characters, but I wish more happened. I liked the twist at the end of Ringer's story (ugh and I love Alex) but that could have been figured out in a much different way that made the characters more active. Instead, they're extremely passive and aren't the ones driving the story. In an alien invasion story, I think the characters need to be the one causing the plot to move forward. But I'm still excited to read the next book. Now, I just have to wait...

-Annie

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blythewood, by Carol Goodman

(2.5-3/5 stars)

At seventeen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now she’s on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New York’s mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attended—and was expelled from. Though she’s afraid her high society classmates won’t accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her family’s murky past, discover the identity of the father she’s never known, and perhaps finally understand her mother’s abrupt suicide. She’s also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood.    

But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. Haunted by dreams of a winged boy and pursued by visions of a sinister man who breathes smoke, Ava isn’t sure if she’s losing her mind or getting closer to the truth. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes.    

Vivid and atmospheric, full of mystery and magic, this romantic page-turner by bestselling author Carol Goodman tells the story of a world on the brink of change and the girl who is the catalyst for it all.

So this book has been on my 'to be read' list for a very long time--I think it was recommended to me by somebody but I can't remember who. The cover is gorgeous. It has that creepy, magical, intriguing look to it that I love. But, I'm teetering between 2.5 and 3 stars for this one, and here's why.

What I liked: At times, I felt like this book was written for me. It has all my favorite things: the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, New York City, insane asylum, fancy schmancy boarding school that actually teaches magic, and dun dun dun the Titanic. Woah. Ava is an interesting character, and the mystery that surrounds her makes you think she might actually be going mad. The mythology (especially how the whole school was built around the Bells) and the creatures are great--they're diverse and complicated... yay! And the crows were creepy as hell, just the way I like them. I couldn't put this book down, and when I was into the story, the rest of the world around me seemed to vanish. Yes, it has that kind of affect. 

What I didn't like: Other times, I felt like it was too much. Even with all those great situations (great as in interesting and plot-driving), I felt like the author just kept adding more and more unnecessary tropes. You can't please everybody, so stop going overboard. Also, the dialogue was for the most part, consistently stiff. There were paragraphs of dialogue that were so incredibly info-dumpy and unrealistic. Nobody talks like that, not even in that time period. I also had some issues on following who the villain was. He seemed to jump around and by the end of the book, I couldn't place who/where he was and it rattled my brain.

Even though I gave this book a kinda low rating, I'm still going to read the sequel. I want to see where the story goes and since I'm emotionally invested in the characters, I can't completely abandon them. I guess we shall just have to wait and see how that goes. 

-Annie

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spellcaster, by Claudia Gray

(3/5 stars)

When Nadia’s family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed - and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed. 

Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Shimmering with magic and mystery, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s new novel is sure to draw fans of the Hex Hall and Caster Chronicles series, and fans of the hit CW TV show The Secret Circle.

I've always been a big fan of Claudia Gray's ever since I first read the Evernight series, so when I found out she was writing a series about witches, the books instantly went on my 'to be read' list. And I was not disappointed; for the few problems I had with this book, there was a lot about it that I thoroughly enjoyed.

What I liked: Really, anything with witches and magic. I loved the witch mythology and history in this book. I also liked the fact that curses were involved--curses that drove people to insanity. Yes, please. The small town feel only added to the mysticism and conflict of the book which I appreciated. So besides the plot and subject matter, I really liked the characters. Mateo and Nadia are precious, but my all time favorite was Verlaine. She was just weird enough, but desperately wanted to fit in, to steal my heart. And she has a mysterious backstory that I am desperately curious about.

What I didn't like: Nobody gives Verlaine the credit she deserves, and if there's a reason for that (which I highly suspect there is) I wanted to know by the end of this book at least. I also didn't like all the point of views jumping from one person to another. Mostly, it was the random time when the POV was from the perspective of a crow and from Nadia's father. They lasted two or so pages and broke the flow of the story in my opinion. I also found myself a little befuddled at the end, the final climax was kind of jumbled and I didn't have a clear picture of what actually went down.

All that being said, I'll definitely read the rest of the series. I have a lot of unsolved questions (in a good way) and I've become emotionally invested in what happens to the characters and town.

-Annie

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas

(5/5 stars)

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

Like, I really don't know what to say about this one; it was just so ugh!! So instead of doing a normal review, I thought I'd include the thoughts that I had recorded on GoodReads while reading the book:


As per usual when it comes to Sarah's books, I absolutely loved it. At first, I was feeling like the book was going to be very filler and not move the overall plot along, but then I was hooked. As you can see, my heart was pounding all over the place--for good and bad reasons. And that end, dear Lord, that end. 

I loved how character driven this installment was. We learned so much more about everyone, and they're all going through a big change right now that we're slowly getting to watch. Also, I didn't think it was possible, but the world got even bigger. This is THE world-building book. If you ever need to want to know how to world-build, follow the example set by this series. The details are exquisite and I love the way it's all weaved together. 

My only complaint is that there was no Chaol/Celaena interaction (I still love them as a couple, regardless of any new characters *clears throat* that might also be perfect for her but we'll see how that plays out), but it's okay because there are going to be 3 MORE BOOKS! Oh, and yeah, I'm not happy about my broken heart at the end...but time heals all wounds?

-Annie


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George

(3.5/5 stars)

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn… 

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above. 

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.

Growing up, my favorite story to read was The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Ruth Sanderson. It was a beautiful story, and the illustrations were to die for. I lived in those illustrations, seeing the beauty of them like it was the first time every time I opened the pages. So when I found this retelling at the library, I knew I had to read it. 

What I liked: The story was very reminiscent to my favorite childhood book. It had all the magic, beauty, and romance that I wanted from it and then some. There was also an added layer of depth to it-the major conflict was darker and imminent, and there was an interesting mythology weaved through the pages. The characters were obviously more flushed out seeing as this one is a bit more intricate than the children's book, but they still had that feel to it--that magic--and I found myself getting emotionally attached to the twelve sisters (I especially loved Poppy). Galen was everything you wanted in a fantastical love interest-he was like the knight in shining armor without the knight part. 

What I didn't like: A lot of things were presented quite conveniently and without question. I also feel like the story could have gone deeper into the myth with more action and intense moments. There were also times, especially at the beginning, when the writing was stiff and bland, but it got better as the story progressed. 

This was a fast, light, but beautifully magical read that I'm so glad I picked up! This story came to life far more than it ever had for me, bringing me individual characters that I could connect with this time around. 

-Annie

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sisters' Fate, by Jessica Spotswood

(5/5 stars)

A fever ravages New London, but with the Brotherhood sending suspected witches straight to the gallows, the Sisters are powerless against the disease. They can’t help without revealing their powers—as Cate learns when a potent display of magic turns her into the most wanted witch in all of New England. 

To make matters worse, Cate has been erased from the memory of her beloved Finn. While she’s torn between protecting him from further attacks and encouraging him to fall for her all over again, she’s certain she can never forgive Maura’s betrayal. And now that Tess’s visions have taken a deadly turn, the prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another looms ever closer to its fulfillment.

This conclusion to Born Wicked and Star Cursed was everything I wanted it to be and then some. Days later, and I'm still not emotionally over it. I want to take a quick second here and thank Jessica Spotswood for such an amazing trilogy. Not only did she write a beautifully heart wrenching book, but did you know that she's also awesome on Twitter? She does a lot of interacting with fans and is super sweet so go follow her. Now, back to the book.

What I liked: Girl power to the max! There is so much rebellion and ignoring of the gender boundaries, and these girls can do anything. I love it. The Brotherhood (our antagonists) are deliciously evil, but I loved seeing that there were some good ones in the midst of it all. Which brings me to our group of rebels. Cate has my heart forever and ever as you all know, as does Finn (don't even get me started on my love for him because it does not end), but I want to give honorable mention to Alistair Merriweather. He starts out as an absolute tool, but totally redeems himself by the end of it. And there's something about him being a truth crusading journalist that adds to my liking of him. Plus, I totally want him and Rilla to end up together (short story epilogue or something like that pretty please?!). Rilla. My hopes that we would get more Rilla in this book were answered. She's my favorite character in the series. There's just something about her, how she speaks her mind and is stubborn and everything.

Now for the plot. Gosh, that plot. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions. I was laughing, and swooning, and crying... and more crying especially at the end. All my questions were answered, and everything flowed so naturally. I was heartbroken at the end, but also a bit happy? Like, I couldn't see it ending any other way.

What I didn't like: Nothing. I liked everything.

I wish I could go on for days about this book. Unfortunately, there aren't enough words to do it justice. So that just means that you have to get yourself to a bookstore and buy it (or start from the beginning) as soon as humanly possible. On your mark, get set, go!

-Annie

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar

(4/5 stars)

He can grant her wishes, but only she can save his life.

Margo McKenna has a plan for just about everything, from landing the lead in her high school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie's ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn't know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else's hands?

But Oliver is more than just a genie -- he's also a sophomore at Margo's high school, and he's on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him.

A whole lot more.

So I've been meaning to read this book since January when it was recommended to me by my friend Rachel. To be completely honest, I wasn't expecting to love it, like it sure, but I didn't know if I could get behind a book about falling in love with a genie. Genies were supposed to be blue and provide comic relief and whatnot (yes, I've watched a lot of Aladdin). But Lindsay Ribar proved my stereotypes wrong and showed me that genies could be...um, sexy. 

What I liked: The authorial voice was flawless. Margo was so relatable with her sass and pop culture references. I felt like I was able to connect to her better because she spoke so realistically. Like, I want to be her best friend and jam out to musical soundtracks together. I also loved her reactions to Oliver. She didn't exactly go with the flow when secrets came out that she wasn't too happy about--she had spunk and spoke her mind, and when she needed her distance, she took it. I also love Oliver, he's adorable and now that I've read this book, I love genie books! He has his hobbies (which sometimes you don't get to see in romantic leads in YA) and gosh, that backstory brings tears to my eyes. 

What I didn't like: There were a lot of loose ties at the end that I wanted to see mended. And I'm sure they'll show up in the sequel (in fact, I'm almost willing to put money on it), but I wanted that instant gratification of knowing what happened to certain characters--namely Naomi and Vicky (I have a soft spot for Vicky, I really do). 

Genie books are cool. They're awesome. They're kickass. Now, if somebody finds a magical ring attached to an attractive genie, feel free to send it my way!

-Annie

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins

(5/5 stars, but I want to give it more...)
Happy Release Day, Isla!

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Sweet baby Jesus, this book. So, I found this book at a bookstore (that will not be named because I don't want to get them in trouble or anything) four days before its release date and my life was instantly changed. Okay, fine, I'm being overdramatic. But I still can't stop raving about this wonderful book.

What I liked: I'm a super big fan of Isla. In fact, I think she's the Stephanie Perkins character that I find myself relating to the most. And that's really saying something (you all know my love for Anna and the French Kiss). Maybe I'm at that point in my life where I feel like Isla; always asking the questions Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want to do? Or maybe it's that we're the same height (strangely enough, I have a fondness for short characters). I loved watching her work out the answers to those questions--and not that she had everything figured out by the end, that's not real life. Her insecurities weren't overdone, she was raw in her emotions and concerns. I loved loved loved Josh. I liked him in Anna, but I feel in love with him in this one. His relationship with Isla is so precious and I was giggling from happiness quite a lot. Ask my cousin, she had to watch this scene go down. 

The book felt so artsy--obviously--and indie in a cool way that made it enjoyable. The fact that we got to go back to SOAP and France was magical. It's the perfect backdrop for a beautiful love story. As always, the Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket cameos were everything I wanted. There's especially a super cute scene between Anna and √Čtienne that might or might not have made me tear up. Just kidding, it definitely made me tear up. 

What I didn't like: I literally can't think of anything that I didn't like in this book. Wow. That doesn't happen often. Maybe once my thoughts settle a bit, I'll think of something, but probably not. 

Here's what I learned: Stephanie Perkins is a genius and her books are perfect. I laughed, I cried, I smiled as bright as the City of Lights itself. 

-Annie