Thursday, December 31, 2015

New to the TBR Pile (45) - December 2015

Freebie from
City In Embers (Collector #1)
by Stacey Marie Brown

Zoey Daniels has been tossed from foster home to foster home, where she grows up fast and tough. When she is placed in her “last-chance” home, she finds a reason to stay and turn her life around: her foster sister, Lexie, who is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Zoey will do anything to keep her safe.

After high school, Zoey is hired by a special government agency, the Department of Molecular Genetics (DMG), where she meets the other reason to remain: Daniel, her co-worker. The man she loves.

But there is something unique about Zoey. She can see fae. Because of this, the DMG hires her to work as a Collector: catching, researching, testing, and using the fae to save human lives. The work never registers on her sympathy radar. She was raised to think of fae as beasts that feed on humans and want to destroy them.

When devastation hits Seattle, Zoey's whole world is turned upside down. The electric storm connects her to a ruthless fae, a Wanderer named Ryker, whose dealings expose them to even more trouble and danger. They embark on a journey, running and hiding from both the government and fae, both of which threaten their lives and those they love.

Clockwise (Clockwise #1)
by Elle Strauss

Casey Donovan has issues: hair, height and uncontrollable trips to the 19th century. She accidentally takes Nate Mackenzie, cutest boy in the school, to 1860. Protocol pressures her to dub Nate her brother. Does he spark with romance or protectiveness, when a handsome, rich, unwanted suitor intervenes?

Back in the present, the social ladder is as before: Casey at the bottom rung, Nate at the top. But now her heart is broken, her best friend is mad, her parents are split up, and police escort her younger brother home. The only thing worse would be taking Nate back to the past again.

Which of course, she does.

Girl Unseen
by Kate Ellison

Olivia Tithe has lost everything. Her best friend Lucas Stern, the boy she loved—murdered. Her mother, the woman accused of killing him—imprisoned. And now, she’s losing her mind—because she’s seeing Stern’s ghost, and he has a message: find his true killer, before it’s too late.

With her mother’s trial only days away, Olivia must follow her heart to the answer, no matter how painful—but can her mind survive being haunted by her past love, or will it unravel completely?

Gone (Parallel Trilogy #1)
by Christine Kersey

What if everything you knew was suddenly gone?

Sixteen-year-old Morgan Campbell runs away from home and when she returns the next day her world is turned upside-down. Not only is her family missing, but another family is living in her house and claims to have lived there for weeks. As Morgan desperately works to figure out what has happened, she finds society has become obsessed with weight in a way she has never seen before. The more she searches for answers, the more she begins to wonder if she has somehow ended up in another world—a world she doesn't want to be a part of.

Can she survive in this world until she can get home?

Never Never (Never Never #1)
by Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen.

Complete strangers since this morning.

He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.

The Ripple Trilogy (Ripple #1-3)
by Cidney Swanson

Get all three books about a girl who can turn invisible, the boy she's crushing on, and the neo-Nazi geneticists after them both. Includes bonus content: Will's Killer Pizza Recipe and a sneak peak at Cidney Swanson's Saving Mars series.

Book One: Rippler When Samantha Ruiz turns invisible in front of team mates while rafting, she knows something's wrong. According to her knowledgeable friend Will, she's got a rare genetic disorder. Fearing a lifetime sentence as a lab-rat, Sam wants to keep her ability secret. But she also wants to know if there's a connection between dark Nazi experiments on others like her and her own mother's death eight years earlier. At the same time that Sam is sleuthing, she's falling hard for Will. And soon, she'll have to choose between keeping her secrets hidden and keeping Will safe.

Book Two: Chameleon Sam's troubles are growing. The crush who kissed her seems to have changed his mind. Her BFF thinks Sam is in an abusive relationship. And the evil geneticist who wanted Sam dead now wants her ALIVE. When Sam learns of Helmann's Nazi-like plan to re-establish a Thousand-Year Reign, she's determined to fight him. Along with Will and Mickie, Sam flees to France to meet Sir Walter--their best hope for stopping Helmann's brave new world. But someone invisible follows her to Paris, and now Sam must figure out how to hide from an enemy she can't even see.

Book Three: Unfurl Against all expectations, Sam has survived attacks by two of Helmann's deadliest assassins. She's alive, but she's far from safe. Helmann is planning a second Holocaust and wants Sam to play a starring role. Will, now separated from Sam by an ocean, seeks a way to prevent Helmann's apocalypse. Along with Sir Walter and Mickie, Will plays a deadly game sneaking into Geneses' facilities, discovering unsettling clues as to Helmann's plans. The clock ticks down as Will and Sam discover just how much they must be willing to sacrifice to stop Helmann. UNFURL, the powerful conclusion to The Ripple Series, will leave fans breathless.

Bought from
The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

What's new to your TBR pile this month?
Did you get any books you're really looking forward to reading?
Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Ladybug's Top Reads of 2015

I read 37 books this year... although that includes a couple of novellas and short stories. That's not very many books, and I wish I could at least say that all of what I read was of high quality. Unfortunately, those 37 books were kind of a mixed bag. But I did read some highly enjoyable titles in 2015, and I'm still thinking about some of the more memorable stories, even now. So here are my top reads of the year; I'd recommend all of these books. (Click on the titles to read my reviews.)

by Leigh Bardugo

3.38 ladybugs

This is the only one of the companion stories set in the world of the Grisha that I've read so far, and I did enjoy it. It added some more backstory for one of the characters, which was nice to see.


by Octavia E. Butler

by Intisar Khanani

by Stacey Lee

3.5 ladybugs

At first glance, these books might look very different, but they all have a few things in common. Two take place in the past, and one takes place in a fantasy world that sort of resembles the past. All three feature strong female protagonists. And nobody could accuse these particular books of not being diverse!


by Cat Winters

3.63 ladybugs

Historical fiction often seems to feature prominently on my lists of favourites, even though it's not a genre I consciously gravitate towards. This novel, set in 1918 during the Spanish flu pandemic, has a supernatural element that sets it a little bit apart.


by Cynthia Lord

3.75 ladybugs

This middle grade novel about friendship and family is really sweet. It taught me things about settings and situations with which I'm not all that familiar. The characters are nicely developed, and the blueberry industry features prominently in the story. I've still got a hankering for blueberry enchiladas!


by Rosamund Hodge

3.88 ladybugs

I'd seen a lot of hype for this book, so I was a little wary going into it; I don't always like books with a lot of hype (just call me a bookish black sheep). But, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. While it wasn't the best "Beauty and the Beast" retelling I've ever read, it was certainly unique. I really enjoyed the Greco-Roman influences throughout the story.


by E. D. Baker

4 ladybugs

This is one of the cutest fairytale retellings I've read. While it is a middle grade title, I didn't find that that diminished my enjoyment of the story. The characters are great (especially the protagonist) and the way the author incorporated multiple fairytales into the plot was magical. This is just the first book in a series... and I hope I get a chance to read some of the sequels!


by Stephen King

by Thanhha Lai

4.13 ladybugs

About the only thing these two books have in common is that they have coming-of-age elements. But one is gory horror while the other is a sweet, funny story about family. Still, I'd recommend both, as each book carries an important message.


by Holly Bodger

by Leigh Bardugo

by Natalie Babbitt

4.25 ladybugs

In third place, we have a dystopian novel written half in verse, a fantasy, and a historical fantasy. One was released this year, and one many years ago. Two books have beautiful writing. All three tell engaging stories.


by Cat Hellisen

by Markus Zusak

4.38 ladybugs

Interestingly, these books feature main characters of around the same age, as well as emotional family stories (though one is more heart-wrenching than the other).


by Cristin Terrill

by Kate DiCamillo

by Erin Bow

4.5 ladybugs

These books are my favourites of 2015. Time travel, typing squirrels, and enchanted talking cats. What's not to love? I hope that 2016 will bring some reads that I enjoy just as much as these wonderful books.

What are some of the best books you read in 2015?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 End of Year Book Survey

This survey was created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner.  It looks like a good way to sum up a year of reading. (I did this last year, as well. It's a nice way to have a look back at the year from a bookish perspective.)

2015 Reading Stats

Number of books you read: 37
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre you read the most from: fantasy

Best In Books

1. Best book you read in 2015?  All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?  The Here and Now by Ann Brashares. I hoped it would be as good as My Name Is Memory. Sadly, it wasn't.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2015?  I'll have to say Unwind by Neal Shusterman. I wasn't expecting it to be so gratuitously grisly. And after the way people raved about it, I thought the writing and plot would be tighter. There were so many plot holes!

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did) in 2015?  I don't really push people to read books... and I would have no idea if they'd actually read them or not!

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best sequel of 2015? Best series ender of 2015?  Best series I started: The Wide-Awake Princess by E. D. Baker.
Best sequel: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo.
Best series ender: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo. (I wasn't all that enamoured with The Grisha series by the end of it... but those were the best sequels/series enders that I read this year.)

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?  Erin Bow! I had Plain Kate in my TBR pile for years and finally read it this past August. Now I want more from this author!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?  I read my first Stephen King novel this year: Carrie. I have to say, I quite enjoyed it... even though I don't read a lot of horror.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?  I really enjoyed All Our Yesterdays and I had a hard time putting it down between reading sessions. Imagine my disappointment when I found out the planned sequel had been scrapped!

9. Book you read in 2015 that you are most likely to re-read next year?  I don't re-read.  And if I did, I'd be more likely to re-read something I read years ago. I'm thinking I might like to read Anne of Green Gables again. I haven't read that one since I was about eight years old!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?  Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai.  Honestly... this author gets the best covers for her books!

11. Most memorable character of 2015? Taggle from Plain Kate by Erin Bow. I don't generally like talking animals or cats. But Taggle the talking cat is one of my favourite characters of 2015! Go figure.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?  There were a few this year that had pretty writing. But I'm going to go with Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, because I love it when books written for younger kids don't shy away from using advanced vocabulary.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2015?  Maybe Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan. It sure made me think. Mostly about how I'm glad that I wasn't born as a girl in India to poor parents who'd sell me off as a child bride so they could feed their worthier, penis-endowed children. (Can you tell this book made me a little angry?)

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?  Plain Kate by Erin Bow. It sat in my TBR pile for (literally) years before I picked it up and finally read it. And loved it.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015?  Finn, in an ill-fitting tux, is waiting for us outside the hotel. He performs an elaborate bow as we climb out of the car. "My Lord Shaw! And Lady Marina of the House of Snobs!"

He reaches for my hand and actually
kisses it, and I snatch it back before anyone can see. Why does he always have to try to make me feel stupid?

"Did you bathe in that cologne?" I ask. The cloud around him is thick enough to choke a cat. "You know, there's this thing called

Eau de Homme," he says, straightening his bow tie. "You know you can't resist it."

I gag.
~ from All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2015?  Well, I did read a couple of novellas, and a couple of novels so short that I'm not sure if they're counted as novels or novellas. Where do I draw the line?
Shortest novel story: The Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo.
Longest novel: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.

17. Book that shocked you the most (because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)?  Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. I'm shocked that it was even published, it was that bad. If you want to see how to butcher a fairytale retelling, read this one.

18. OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!)?  Em and Finn from All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill.

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?  Flora and Ulysses from Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. Their relationship is just adorable.

20. Favorite book you read in 2015 from an author you’ve read previously?  Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai. I really enjoyed Inside Out & Back Again, and though this newer book isn't written in verse, it's just as engaging.

21. Best book you read in 2015 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure?  I had bad luck this year with recommended books. I didn't really enjoy the books that came highly recommended via peer pressure. Heck, I didn't even make it through Crown of Midnight...

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?  I liked all three boys from Stacey Lee's Under a Painted Sky: Cay, West, and Peety. They were all kind of great in their own way.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?  5 to 1 by Holly Bodger.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?  Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. It features a squirrel that can type. Enough said.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015?  All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill. That'll teach me to get attached to characters...

27. Hidden gem of the year?  Kindred by Octavia E. Butler.  Well, it was my hidden gem for the year, since it was just sitting there in my Kindle library, all unassuming and innocent. It's been around since 1979 (the book... not my copy), so I'm surprised I hadn't heard of it before I bought it; it's pretty enjoyable!

28. Book that crushed your soul?  Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I was so bored; I just wanted it to be over. Then I dropped it and it crushed my toe. (Just kidding. I read the e-book. But the thing is pretty thick and heavy-looking in physical format. Don't even get me started on the length of Winter...)

29. Most unique book you read in 2015?  Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. The text was interspersed with comic-book panels. It was a pretty cute book.

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?  Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. I couldn't read more than a few chapters. I'm tired of hearing about how great this series is, with its tired tropes and special little snowflake MC. Maybe one day I'll write a book about a world-famous singer who never even opens her mouth, followed up by a book about a swimmer who never gets wet, and then another about a baker who avoids all kitchens out of principle. They're bound to be super popular. (I mean, this series about an assassin who doesn't assassinate is one of the most popular at the moment. This "tell, don't show" thing must be catching on!)

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?  To be honest, I haven't really sought out a lot of new blogs this year. I have a hard enough time just keeping up with the ones I already follow!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?  I don't know. The snarky ones are always kind of fun. Take your pick!

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?  I didn't really have many of those this year.  That's something I hope to change in 2015 2016. (Yep... I just recycled my answer from last year. I guess I failed with that goal!)

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?  I always enjoy participating in Top Ten Tuesday.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?  Finally getting around to books like All Our Yesterdays and Plain Kate... and then really enjoying them.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?  I have no idea.  Blogger doesn't exactly make it easy to track these things.

8. Post you wished got a little more love?  I can't think of one post in particular.  I do wish my review posts got a little more attention, though.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?  BookBub. My Kindle app is getting clogged with freebies now.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?  Yes. My Goodreads Challenge had 25 books on it. I finished that easily. I also did the Fairytale Retelling Challenge and the TBR Pile Reading Challenge. I almost didn't get that last one done! (And I added more books to the TBR pile this year than I read from it. Darn.)

Looking Ahead

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2015 but will be your number one priority in 2016?  The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. I've been wanting to read it for a long time, but haven't gotten around to it. Most reviews I've seen have been pretty favourable, though, and that just makes me want to read it more!

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut)?  The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare by M. G. Buehrlen. (This was actually my answer from last year. But the book isn't coming out now until 2016!)

3. 2016 debut you are most anticipating?  I don't really know. I haven't been keeping up with what's coming out.

4. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2016?  The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. But... um... I still need to read Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2016?  Read more books that look interesting to me... and not necessarily ones that are heavily hyped.

6. A 2016 release you’ve already read & recommend to everyone?  I haven't read any 2016 releases yet!

So that was my bookish year!
How was 2015 for you?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review - Homeless Bird

Homeless Bird
by Gloria Whelan
Date: 2000
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 196
Format: e-book

Leaving Home...forever. Like many girls her age in India, thirteen-year-old Koly is getting married. When she discovers that the husband her parents have chosen for her is sickly boy with wicked parents, Koly wishes she could flee. According to tradition, though, she has no choice. On her wedding day, Koly's fate is sealed.

In the wake of her marriage, however, Koly's life takes an unexpected turn, and she finds herself alone in a strange city of white-sari-clad windows. Her only choice seems to be to shed her name and her future and join the hopeless hordes who chant for food.

Even then, cast out in a current of time-worn tradition, this rare young woman sets out to forge her own exceptional future. And a life, like a beautiful tapestry, comes together for Koly-- one stitch at a time.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the type of story I usually end up liking. I find it fascinating to read about other places and cultures. While this book definitely had strong settings and a good backdrop of cultural traditions, it wasn't as engaging or as complex as I wanted it to be.

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

I've read a couple of books now that are set in present-day India (well, this one is sort of current; it was published in 2000, so while we do get glimpses of some modern-day features, it does seem a little bit dated). I thought the author described the setting quite well. I could easily visualize Koly's parents' house, and then the house of her husband's family. The city was a little harder to picture, but I guess all one really needs to know is that it's noisy and crowded (a stark contrast to Koly's earlier village life). Unlike Padma Venkatraman's A Time to Dance, which really could've been set anywhere, Homeless Bird has a very definite Indian flavour to it... especially when it comes to the cultural traditions and social customs. Some of these made me quite angry, as they seemed so old-fashioned and rather sexist. But they are an integral part of the story.

It's all a matter of taste...

I had a difficult time connecting with the characters. I'm not sure if it's because this is a middle-grade title, but I found Koly's narration to be a little bit simplistic and too detached. She's also difficult to relate to. For most of the story, things just happen to her. She doesn't do a lot for herself, and when she does try, she's thwarted by the backward institutions of her society (which she completely buys into, I might add).

I also wasn't impressed with the resolution of the story. Things just fall into place, one by one, and all Koly has to do is just go with it to get her happily ever after. Yes, she had it rough in the first part of the story... but I was expecting a bit more in the way of complication in the last part. As it was, it all seemed a bit too convenient.

Let's get technical...

The writing is simple and a bit too simplistic in places. There are a number of typos and mistakes throughout the text. It wasn't the worst I've read (not even close!) but there were still enough errors to bother me.

The verdict...

I might recommend this one to its intended audience, as it depicts a very different sort of life for a teenage girl, one that Westerners might not be familiar with. But I'm afraid that the pat resolution and the way the main character just floats along on the currents of fate will probably be unsatisfying for older readers.

Quotable moment:

After the ceremony was over, and the celebration began, there was no chance to see Hari. The women were on one side of the courtyard and the men on the other. The guests seemed interested only in the food. There were potatoes with cumin, chickpeas cooked with onion and ginger, several kinds of curries, and platters of melons and mangoes. Best of all, there was my favorite sweet, coconut cakes. The men ate first, and when it was the women’s turn, the coconut cakes were all gone. I thought it very unfair that a bride should not have a coconut cake on the day of her own wedding.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.13 out of 5 ladybugs