March 21, 2018

The Uncertain Places: A Rambling Review

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein

I feel like this book started out strong and then in the second half it got messy and kind of ridiculous. I liked the initial mystery surrounding the Feierabend family, but I think the source of the mystery was revealed too soon and lost some of its appeal. Also, the romance between Livvy and Will really isn't shown to the reader much at all; since this isn't a romance, that's okay, but the fact of the matter is that Livvy's wellbeing is Will's primary motivation for a good chunk of the book, which was hard to care about when we hadn't watched their relationship grow (and plus, I was kinda wary of Livvy for quite a while).

And then when they end up in the other realm everything just went Alice-in-Wonderland-y with bizarre, random occurrences happening and everyone being cool with them and going with the flow. That surreal sort of vibe tends to rub me the wrong way, as the logical part of my brain keeps yelling, 'Why would you go and do a thing like that?' It felt rushed towards the end, too, like the author was scrambling to tie up a whole bunch of storylines, without giving them enough time to breathe and feel like they were fully developed. Some things really weren't explained properly at all. Spoiler, highlight to read: Like why was Nell keeping the queen in that locked room? Was the queen Nell's prisoner? Or was she a guest in her house? I think the second half of the story definitely could have used some more editing.

I did like the whole notion of sacrifices and bargains, and the fact that these were an integral part of the other realm. I think the main villain, though, could have been made more cunning; she makes a pretty stupid error at one point that lowered her somewhat in my estimation. Spoilery details: The queen of the Fae doesn't realize that Will picks the sack so that he can conjure up Lizzy from it? I can't believe she wouldn't see that coming.

Overall I feel like this book had potential, but the slapdash execution of the second half of the story let it (and me) down.


3 shooting stars. 


 

February 12, 2018

Stalled Series #1: the Chemical Garden trilogy

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

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



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

So why am I even considering finishing the trilogy?

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


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

Advise me, please!

January 16, 2018

2018 Reading Challenges

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

Anyway, here are the challenges:

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

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

The challenge categories are:



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

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

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


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

Series like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

Books I could possibly read for this challenge include:

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

...and so many more. 

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

January 4, 2018

The Forgotten Book: A Panoramic Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




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

January 2, 2018

2017 Challenge Check-In

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


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

http://theyabooktraveler.com/index.php/2016/12/07/rockmytbr2017

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

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

http://www.passagestothepast.com/2016/12/2017hfreadingchallengesignup.html

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

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


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

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

How did you do on your reading challenges in 2017?



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