Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read.  After a few less-than-pleasant experiences with over-hyped books, I've become a little hesitant when it comes to reading books with lots of hype.  That's not to say that I'll never read any of these; I'm just a little wary of them:

Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read:

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

This book (and its companions) seem to make it onto lots of people's "favourites" lists... but I've yet to try it.  I'm not a huge fan of contemporary, so that may be why.

City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare

I haven't read any of the millions (?) of books by Clare, so I can't speak to their quality.  I've avoided this author for other reasons.  Her books seem to be quite popular in some circles, though.

A Court of Thorns and Roses
by Sarah J. Maas

I do like fairytale retellings, and this one has been getting a lot of buzz.  However, I didn't like Throne of Glass, and I've read some things in reviews of this book that I find a little concerning.  I might read it one day (especially if I really feel like reading yet another "Beauty and the Beast" retelling), but I'm in no rush to do so.

The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown

I tried to read this one years ago, but I just couldn't.  That scene where they were trying to escape from the Louvre in the first part of the book?  Yeah... that's as far as I got.  Because they were escaping... and escaping... and escaping... and OMGjustdoitalready!  Ahem... sorry.  In other words, I was very bored.

Divergent
by Veronica Roth

When the third book in the series came out, there were spoilers everywhere about the ending... so I already know how the trilogy ends and I haven't even begun!  It's just as well; this one doesn't really interest me, anyway.

Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Remember when everyone was reading this book?  I thought it sounded dreadfully boring (I still do).  I guess I'm not enlightened enough to enjoy a memoir on finding yourself through food and meditation...

Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell

Out of all of the books on this list, this is probably the one I'm most likely to read.  I haven't read any of Rowell's full-length books, but I did read one of her short stories, and it was one of my favourites of the collection.

The Fellowship of the Ring
by J. R. R. Tolkien

Okay... I've read The Hobbit.  It's a fun story.  But this?  This is just too long.  I've never been able to get more than a few pages into this first book of the trilogy without completely zoning out.  I even found the movie to be pretty dull.  I'm just... not a fan.  And if I never get around to reading this trilogy (or seeing the entire movie series), that's perfectly fine with me!

Fifty Shades of Grey
by E. L. James

Nope, nope, nope.  This book is a perfect example of how hype does not equal quality.  Or decency.

A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin

I still haven't decided if I want to read the books or just binge-watch the TV series at some point when it's all finished.  I'm unfamiliar with Martin's creation, in any case.  But I am a little wary; I'm afraid my complaints about this series will be similar to those about Tolkien's.






Which hyped books have you not had a chance to read yet?


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review - Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising
(The Grisha #3)
by Leigh Bardugo
Date: 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 267
Format: e-book
Source: library

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!  If you want to read my review with the spoilers hidden, head on over to Goodreads.

Well, that's that.  One more young adult trilogy under my belt.  I can't say that this was the best one I've ever read, though it wasn't the worst, either.  It's sort of in between... and this final book did help salvage my opinion of the series a bit, after the disappointment that was Siege and Storm.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

This book finally took a turn toward the interesting character dynamics and exciting scenes that made me enjoy the first installment so much.  We do get to see more of the Darkling and his wicked ways, and I liked the way that the author was able to give us an ensemble cast in a way that didn't confuse the heck out of the reader.  (Sometimes when there are lots of characters, they can be difficult to tell apart because they're not developed all that well.  That wasn't the case here.)

It's all a matter of taste...

I was disappointed with how predictable this book was.  I guessed at certain things, and my guesses turned out to be pretty close.  The ending also played out pretty much how I expected it would (although I'd hoped for something a bit different, and I wouldn't have minded a few surprise twists).

My main disappointment, however, was with the Darkling's character.  In the first book, he's a potential love interest.  In the second book, he's a nearly absent bad guy whose character is neglected for much of the story.  In this book, things get even darker, to the point where he becomes completely unlikeable.  If you're hoping to see a little redemption, you're going to be disappointed... and I think that that was a huge missed opportunity.  By turning the character into something so evil that he's completely impossible to relate to, the author negated the complexity that she'd built into him earlier.  The fact that his motive boiled down to simple loneliness was glossed over, and when he finally got his comeuppance, I really didn't feel anything for him anymore.  Which is sad... because he was a character that I was quite excited about after I'd finished the first book.

Let's get technical...

The writing in this one didn't seem as strong as the other two books.  There were a number of punctuation issues, and some instances of very modern dialogue (which I'm not a fan of in fantasy novels).

The verdict...

I'm really not sure if I'd recommend the entire series.  This last book saved it from being awful, but I'm not sure if that's really a compliment.  The first book is quite strong, though.  Read that one, and then decide for yourself if you want to see what happens next.

Quotable moment:

Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay. I tilted my head back. The stars looked like they were close together, when really they were millions of miles apart. In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 ladybugs


New to the TBR Pile (32)



Borrowed from the library:
Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2)
by Leigh Bardugo

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can't outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling's game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

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

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.


What's new to your TBR pile this week?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review - Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm
(The Grisha #2)
by Leigh Bardugo
Date: 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 448
Format: e-book
Source: library

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Second-book syndrome strikes again!  I'm disappointed.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

This book started off strongly enough, getting into some swashbuckling action almost immediately and introducing some new and interesting characters.  The first part of the story, where we're introduced to Sturmhond and his crew as they head into the northern seas on a special mission, is gripping and exciting.

It's all a matter of taste...

Sadly, after the enjoyable opening, the story grinds almost to a complete halt as we're nearly drowned in chapter after chapter of politics and military strategy.  Alina herself finds it boring; you can imagine what reading about it was like.  Aside from finding out the fate of Baghra and meeting the annoying tsesarevich, there's little in the way of interest that happens for a good chunk of the middle of the book.  Only near the end does the action pick up again, but at that point it was almost too late for me to really care.

So much of the story itself felt forced.  I just didn't feel like things were happening organically.  When the main character starts doing stupid things just so that the story will move forward (like going out for a walk, unguarded, knowing that she's a target for any number of unsavoury characters), I started to wonder if this book was even written by the same author.  The first book felt a lot more tightly plotted.  This one was kind of all over the place, like it wasn't quite sure what it was supposed to be about.

Unlike in the first book, the Darkling -- arguably the most interesting character -- doesn't even show up much.  He's reduced to an ominous presence that skulks about on the periphery of the story, little more than a one-dimensional boogeyman.  I'm hoping that the third book will feature his character more and that the author will have worked with some of the character's complexities that she set up in the first book.

Let's get technical...

The writing is weaker in this book than in the first.  There are a number of misused words, and some nasty comma splices that set my teeth on edge.  It's also too long; so much of that boring middle section could've been cut out and we still would've gotten the gist.  This book did not need to be longer than the first book!

The verdict...

Overall, I was disappointed.  I will still be reading the third book because I want to see how it all plays out.  I just wish this second installment had been stronger and more engaging.

Quotable moment:

I crossed to my room and closed the doors behind me, trying to pull myself together. So far today, I'd nearly died and possibly started a riot. Maybe I could set fire to something before breakfast.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.63 out of 5 ladybugs


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015.  This list will be almost half of the books I've read so far this year!  Luckily, about half of them have been pretty good, so I won't feel like I'm unintentionally recommending stinkers by putting those books on this list.

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015:

Cruel Beauty
by Rosamund Hodge
rating: 3.88

This is one of three fairytale retellings that made my list, but the only young adult one (the other two were middle grade).  I loved the world that the author built; it was almost like alternate history, but with a lot of fantasy thrown in.

The Wide-Awake Princess
by E. D. Baker
rating: 4

Of the three fairytale retellings that made this list, this is the only one that wasn't strictly a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling... although it did incorporate that story, along with many others.  This is actually the first in a series of books about Annie, and now I kind of want to read the rest of them.

Listen, Slowly
by Thanhha Lai
rating: 4.13

I really enjoyed the author's other book, Inside Out & Back Again, which was written in verse.  I thought this one would be, too... but it was a regular prose novel, and I was a little disappointed when I first started reading it.  But then I got caught up in the story and really enjoyed it.  I haven't read any other books set in modern-day Vietnam (that I can recall), so this one provided a refreshing change of scenery.

Carrie
by Stephen King
rating: 4.13

I read my first Stephen King novel this year!  I went with this book mainly because it was short and not so intimidating.  But I actually really enjoyed it.  I'm not quite so afraid of trying some of his other books, now that I have an idea of the way he writes.

Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt
rating: 4.25

I hadn't read the book, nor had I seen the movie... even though the former has been out since before I was born, and the latter is already more than a decade old.  I can see why this one is a modern classic, though; it's a simple story, but it has unforgettable characters.  Fantasy combines with serious questions to make an intelligent and thought-provoking read.

Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
rating: 4.25

This is my most recent read.  I didn't know much about it going into reading it, other than that it was a Russian-flavoured fantasy.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was fairly well written and had an engaging story... as well as some characters that are very intriguing.

5 to 1
by Holly Bodger
rating: 4.25

I like to read verse novels, but I haven't had a chance to do much of that sort of reading this year.  This book is not strictly a verse novel; it switches back and forth between free verse and prose.  I really enjoyed this dystopian look at an Indian city in the future, where there are so many boys that the girls have now become the precious commodity.

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
rating: 4.38

I had this book in my TBR pile for years... and I only just got around to sitting down and reading it (partly because I wanted to watch the movie, but only after I'd read the book).  It was different from anything I've read... but I can definitely see why it's so highly regarded.

Beastkeeper
by Cat Hellisen
rating: 4.38

This middle grade retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" puts an interesting twist on the story with a multi-generational curse.  Don't let the fact that the main character is young turn you off, though; it's an intelligent, well-written fantasy that will appeal to older readers as well.

All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
rating: 4.5

What can I say about this bittersweet time-travel story?  It was one of the first books I read in 2015, and I'm still thinking about it.  I was quite disappointed when the author cancelled the sequel, but I guess I'd rather have no sequel than one that's a disappointment.  This book would be difficult to live up to!


What are the best books you've read so far this year?


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Unpopular Opinion Book Tag

I was tagged by the lovely Cait @ Paper Fury.  Unpopular opinions?  Aren't all of my opinions unpopular?  I seem to dislike the books that everyone else loves, anyway...

1. A popular book or series that you didn't like.

The Fault in Our Stars.  It's one of the most overrated, pretentious books I've ever read.  I'm also not the biggest fan of Harry Potter.  I know, I know... sacrilege!  My interest waned at around book #4; after that, I was more annoyed than entertained.  (I'm still glad I finished the series, though.)


2. A popular book or series that every one else seems to hate but you love.

This is a tricky question.  I don't think I love any truly hated books.  It's not like I'm a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey (that would make answering this particular question super easy)!

3. A love triangle where the MC ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with.

Um... all of them?  I'm not sure I've ever read a love triangle where the main character ended up with the person I wanted them to end up with.  Then again, I rarely ever finish series, so it's kind of hard to tell.  For this question, though, I'm going to have to go with The Hunger Games trilogy.


4. A popular book genre that you hardly reach for.

Young adult contemporary.  I'm just not that interested.  Maybe if I was a teenager it would interest me more.  (I do want to read something by Sarah Dessen one day, though; I've heard her books are really good.)

5. A popular or beloved character that you do not like.

Daemon Black from Jennifer L. Armentrout's Obsidian.  I read that book partly because everyone was gushing over how hot this guy was.  He's just a jerk... and I'm not into jerks.  Also, Celaena Sardothien, Sarah J. Maas's assassin who doesn't assassinate (at least, not in the first book).  Celaena's kind of a twit (which is why I might read the second book in the series, just to see what stupid things she ends up doing).


6. A popular author that you can't seem to get into.

Marissa Meyer.  As much as I love the basic premise of her Lunar Chronicles series, I just can't get past the execution.  I've read the first two books, and I can't bring myself to continue.


7. A popular book trope that you're tired of seeing. (examples "lost princess", corrupt ruler, love triangles, etc.)

Ordinary boy/girl realizes he/she has superpowers/is actually a supernatural creature.  (Although, I just finished a book with this very trope and I really enjoyed it.  Maybe I'm just tired of seeing this one done badly.)

8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.

Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy.  I read one of his stand-alone books and hated the way it was written.  So I'm pretty sure I don't want to read a trilogy written by him.

9. The saying goes "The book is always better than the movie", but what movie or TV show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

I usually prefer the books.  But I guess I'll go with any of the number of Jane Austen film adaptations I've seen.  I haven't actually read any of her books from start to finish, although I will watch some of those movies again and again... so that must say something about my media preference!


What are some of your unpopular opinions about books?  If you've read this far, consider yourself tagged!  Let me know about those unpopular opinions of yours in the comments or in your own blog post.

Review - Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone
(The Grisha #1)
by Leigh Bardugo
Date: 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 358
Format: e-book
Source: library

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life--a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha... and the secrets of her heart.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Before I read either book, I used to get Shadow and Bone mixed up with Daughter of Smoke & Bone.  Similar titles, yes... but very different stories.  Still, they have one thing in common: I was late to the party with both series, and when I finally got around to trying them, I was pleasantly surprised.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

I loved the world-building in this book.  Bardugo has taken all these Russian influences and created a fantasy world that's both familiar and alien.  Much of the landscape, some of the politics, and plenty of the food and fashion are taken right out of Russian history... but then there's this whole fantasy element with the Grisha, who work a form of magic by manipulating matter and energy, and the Shadow Fold, a horrible stain of darkness teeming with monsters.  The author describes things quite well, so it's easy to picture what's going on as you're reading the story.

Alina is sort of the typical young adult heroine.  She's plain to look at, but still manages to attract men's attention.  She has a special skill that's been so hidden that even she doesn't know about it.  Despite these tired tropes, she's still appealing as a character.  She seems real, with conflicted (and conflicting) emotions.

The Darkling is one of the coolest characters I've read in a while, simply because he isn't the easiest person to read.  It's not that the author was confused about his character; on the contrary, I think she knew exactly what kind of person she was writing about.  (It's really hard to write about this guy without giving too much of the story away.  Let's just finish by saying that the author handled his development skillfully and believably.)

It's all a matter of taste...

There's not much I didn't like here.  Even though the ending obviously marks this book as the first in a trilogy, it doesn't have an annoying cliffhanger.  I guess my only complaint is that now I have to go read two more books to finish the story!  That's not really a bad thing, though.

Let's get technical...

Aside from a few word choices that I thought were odd (Alina often talks about her mind "whirring", which seems strange, as that word usually indicates a sound), the writing was pretty decent.  Yes, the archers did "notch" their arrows at one point, but they correctly "nocked" them at another.  I'm not sure if the first instance was simply a typo, or something the editor missed... like Genya's hair colour changing from "deepest auburn" to "bright red".  Oops.

The verdict...

This is a very enjoyable fantasy that I'd definitely recommend.  I'm off to read Siege and Storm.  I can't wait to find out what happens next!

Quotable moment:

Alexei was right: things change. Mal had changed for the better. He'd gotten handsomer, braver, cockier. And I'd gotten... taller. I sighed and rolled onto my side. I wanted to believe that Mal and I would always be friends, but I had to face the fact that we were on different paths. Lying in the dark, waiting for sleep, I wondered if those paths would just keep taking us further and further apart, and if a day might come when we would be strangers to each other once again.

Premise: 5/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5 ladybugs