August 3, 2017

The Midnight Rose: A Rambling Review (Adult)

18143789The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

I quite liked Anahita's voice and the historical chapters; in particular, the sections set in India felt fresh to me (I've read very few books with that setting). However, the modern-day sections dragged and I just found the conversations so boring and wordy. The dialogue seemed stilted and inauthentic at times. Generally, I think the book could have been pared down a lot more, to streamline the plot and avoid needless repetition.

I also found the story took a weird turn into the Gothic at the climax (spoiler, highlight to read: the whole scene where Rebecca is abducted by Lord Astbury) — I enjoy Gothic atmosphere and storytelling when that's what I'm expecting, but here it seemed a little out of place. There was also a psychological element that was explained in a confusing and potentially inaccurate way (
spoiler: Lord Astbury was referred to as having schizophrenia, but then Dr. Trefusis kept mentioning his alter ego/personality, which sounds more like dissociative identity disorder. They are two very different disorders!).

Overall, the historical chapters told through Anahita's voice felt real and compelling, but the story was let down by the modern-day counterpart. Given that I picked this up since it's a similar style of storytelling to Kate Morton's novels, I have to say: this book suffers for the comparison. 

3 shooting stars.


August 1, 2017

Flights of Fantasy 2017 Reading Challenge

Okay, so I've decided to join the Flights of Fantasy 2017 challenge! (Better late than never, right? I know I am too late to officially sign up, so this is just an announcement of unofficial participation, lol.) This challenge is hosted by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and Rachel from Hello, Chelly. I participated in this challenge last year but failed to reach my goal :(

This year, I've already read about 15 fantasy books, so I figure, if I sign up now and aim for 25, that's achievable... *crosses fingers*

Books on my shelves already that could qualify for this challenge include:

- Red Queen
- Defiance
- Stray
- Strange Sweet Song
- Shadows on the Moon
- Monstrous Beauty

July 27, 2017

The Crowns of Croswald: Unboxing Video!

I was contacted by author D. E. Night's publicist the other day about her upcoming middle-grade fantasy The Crowns of Croswald, with an offer to send me a "magical book surprise." Of course, with that description, how could I resist?

So without further ado, here is the unboxing that I filmed! Thanks very much to D. E. Night and her publicist for sending this my way :)

July 24, 2017

The Fault in Our Stars: A Rambling Review

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

11870085I'm no longer practically the last person on Earth to have not read this book! This is one of those books that I think is objectively quite well-written, but I just didn't emotionally connect with, personally. (No, it did not make me cry.) Hazel was a likeable protagonist who felt human and distinctive, and since she is the narrator we get to know her the best; yet even so, I still didn't feel as close to her as I would have liked.

A lot of this book is composed of conversation and Hazel's musings, so not that much really happens plot-wise (except for a few key events). I knew going into it about the spoiler ending (has anyone managed to escape that spoiler by now?) so that was not a surprise.

I found some of the philosophical observations on life a tad lofty and pretentious at times (which at least the characters are aware of), but I did find a lot of them true to life, acknowledging human reactions that often get swept under the rug or covered up by our society. That was one of the things I liked best about this book, that it was quite blunt about how it cut through the "socially acceptable" layer of human responses to get at how people actually think and feel.

3.5 shooting stars.

July 17, 2017

My Life Next Door: A Rambling Review

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

12294652This contemporary YA novel has gotten quite a bit of hype and I know a lot of people loved it, but unfortunately I didn't fall head-over-heels for it. I mostly liked the main character Samantha, whose voice was relatable and felt realistic as a teen's. Jase, on the other hand, while sweet and rather mature for a teenage guy, seemed a little too perfect; he never made mistakes and always appeared to know best, and it came off as a bit holier-than-thou at times (especially when all the other teens were making mistakes left, right, and center). I did enjoy the general dynamic of the Garrett family and the contrast to Samantha's, and found it interesting how entrenched she becomes in their life, which is unusual to see in a YA novel.

I felt kind of like this novel was split into 2 different parts: the lighter, bubblier, falling-in-love section that spans the first two-thirds of the story, and then the darker, heavier, angstier section of the last third. It was a little strange to suddenly have the story change direction and tone, and become much more serious. I thought Samantha's conundrum was a difficult one to face, and I liked the fact that the book was posing some moral questions and forcing her to think about what she believed in, but I also felt like it didn't exactly fit with the rest of the story that had come before.

Also, what an awful example some of the adults in this story set. I mean, just terrible. *shakes head*


July 14, 2017

The Book Lode (25)

I have not been able to resist the siren call of Book Outlet's amazing deals, and this book haul vlog is the result:

Books bought:

Proposal by Meg Cabot
Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery
Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien
Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber
The Time Traveler's Almanac by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer (Eds.)
The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Defiance by C. J. Redwine
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Sold for Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins

July 6, 2017

The Song Rising: A Rambling Review (Adult)

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

So, that was intense. The second half of the book really amped up the stakes and I felt like I was right there with Paige. I was a little disappointed with the lack of development of the Paige/Warden relationship (and that Warden didn't get a larger role, because I love his character). It seemed like they were getting emotionally separated to increase the drama more than because it would have naturally stemmed from the characters themselves (although Paige is, admittedly, rather closed-off, so it wasn't a huge stretch). (Why can those two not just TALK everything out??)

This book feels more like a "stepping stone" book than the previous ones have. A lot of the first half was chasing information down and rehashing conversations; however, things really picked up in the second half. I liked how Paige ended up playing such a pivotal role in the climax. There was also a reveal there that I definitely did not see coming.

Also, I enjoyed getting to see voyant communities outside of London, and it looks like we'll get to see some more of that in the next book! I think I didn't like this book quite as much as the previous two but I'm still looking forward to seeing what happens next.

July 5, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: An Enchantment of Ravens, The Queen's Rising, & The Girl with the Red Balloon

Oh hey look, it's a Waiting on Wednesday post! I haven't had one of those on the blog for what feels like forever.

Waiting on Wednesday features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on! It used to be hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and I will continue to do WoW posts on my blog periodically.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

From Goodreads: "Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There's only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel."

An artist whose paintings have the power to make the fair folk feel? YES PLEASE. Also, look at that stunning cover.  

The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross

From Goodreads: "When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?"

I love the whole notion of passions and patrons that must sponsor you -- I'm hoping for awesome worldbuilding in this one! (Although, does anyone else think the answer to 'who will be that queen?' will be, well, Brienna?)
And again, the cover. Gorgeous midnight blue shade.  

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

From Goodreads: "When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process."

Of course, I immediately think of this 80's song:

Ninety-nine red balloons go by... *hums*

Anyway... Time travel to 1988 East Berlin? Magical balloon escapes? A nefarious attempt to alter history? I am here for that!

What books are you waiting for?

June 29, 2017

The Brainy Book Tag!

So I'm always seeing book tags getting done on Booktube, and I've joined a few of them in the past, but I've never created my own before. However, inspiration struck in a tag idea that combines my love of psychology and books, and the Brainy Book Tag was born! Basically, it goes through the areas of the brain and there's a bookish question for each one.

The Questions:

Skull: Pick a book in your collection that you feel very protective of.
Brain: Pick a book that made you think.

Frontal lobe: Pick a book that you're planning to read soon.

Parietal lobe: Pick a book that enthralled your senses.

Occipital lobe: Pick a book that helped you see something in a new light.

Temporal lobe: Pick a childhood favourite that you have fond memories of.
Limbic system: Pick a book that evoked a really strong emotion in you.

Cerebellum: Pick a book that threw you off balance.

Insular cortex: Pick a book that helped you keep calm and carry on.

I would love if other people joined in! If you enjoy the brain, books, or both, feel free to do this tag (and let me know that you have participated so I can go watch/read it!)

June 23, 2017

Perfect Ruin: Read It or Weed It?

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


The book for this post is Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano. Is this one worth holding onto? It didn't grab me when I started it before (I only got a couple chapters in), but I could give it a stronger try if someone tells me it's worth the effort. Let me know what you think!

June 18, 2017

The Book Lode (24): Part 2

This is the second part of my recent book haul vlog (Part 1 is here), and covers the books I received for my birthday (thanks very much to my parents and my friend for these books!).

Books received:

Speaking in Tungs by Karla Jay
Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Ember Island by Kimberley Freeman
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by Alexandra Petri
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

June 11, 2017

Short & Sweet: Fangirl

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This was a cozy, feel-good sort of read. I liked and related to Cath (apart from her obsession with Simon Snow fanfiction, which I felt was kind of excessive) and just generally, the characters felt real and fully formed. Some great bits of humour throughout, but also some true-to-life issues that gave the story a little more depth. I enjoyed this journey with Cath, and I think this is probably the best example I've read so far of what I had imagined "New Adult" fiction could be like.

June 2, 2017

The Book Lode (24): Part 1

This "Book Lode" comes to you in two parts, because I had a large number of books accumulated from my own purchases (mainly through Book Outlet) and then another bunch that were birthday gifts. I had to split the video since it was too long, so this first part covers the books I bought myself, and the next part will be the birthday books.

Books bought:

Cress by Marissa Meyer
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski
Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
The Good Sister by Jamie Kain
The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

May 22, 2017

The Midnight Queen: A Rambling Review (Adult)

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

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

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

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

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

May 13, 2017

Cruel Beauty: A Rambling Review

15839984Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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

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

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

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

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