Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Reading Wishlist: November 2015

 Nov. 3

Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray
Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird, #2)

Genre: YA Science Fiction

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Genre: Horror/Short Stories

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
The Grownup

Genre: Short Story
Not a new novel by Flynn, unfortunately, but one of her earlier short stories being published in hardback for the first time. 

Traffick (Tricks #2) by Ellen Hopkins
Traffick (Tricks, #2)

Genre: YA Contemporary

Black Wolves (The Black Wolves Trilogy #1) by Kate Elliott
Black Wolves (The Black Wolves Trilogy, #1)

Genre: Fantasy

The Girl With Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson
The Girl with Ghost Eyes

Genre: Historical Fantasy Fiction

The Builders by Daniel Polansky
The Builders

Genre: Fantasy

Nov. 10

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer
Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Soundless by Richelle Mead

Genre: YA Fantasy

For the Record by Charlotte Huang
For the Record

Genre: YA Contemporary

Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott
Da Vinci's Tiger

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

November 9 by Colleen Hoover
November 9

Genre: New Adult Contemporary

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
Six-Gun Snow White

Genre: Fantasy

Nov. 17

Skyborn (Seraphim #1) by David Dalglish
Skyborn (Seraphim, #1)

Genre: Fantasy

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) by Richelle Mead

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, #4) 

Synopsis: Guardian Rose Hathaway's life will never be the same. The recent attack on St. Vladimir's Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. 

But only one victim matters...Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life's vow to protect Lissa - her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess - or dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She'll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved? 

Date Published: August 25, 2009 
Published By: Razorbill
Number of Pages: 503
Rating: 4/5


Making Dimitri a Strigoi was the best decision Richelle Mead has made so far in the Vampire Academy series. Blood Promise was full of danger and intrigue, twists and turns, and romantic conflict that was actually interesting. 

Rose has to travel to Russia to track down Dimitri so she can kill him and save his soul. She meets a lot of interesting characters along the way, including Sydney, the Alchemist who stars in the Bloodlines spin-off series. I'm glad Sydney has her own series because I definitely want to know more about her and the mysterious Alchemists. She doesn't stick around for very long but it was nice to see her and Rose form a tentative friendship - very tentative, seeing as Sydney believes all vampires (Moroi, Strigoi, and half-vampiric dhampirs) are evil, soulless creatures of the night. 

The first half of the book was interesting enough, with Rose meeting Dimitri's family and having to tell them what happened to Dimitri. But the book didn't really get going until Rose finally runs into Dimitri and he kidnaps her and holds her captive in some sort of Strigoi manor. I liked how the rules of being a Strigoi applied to Dimitri. For a moment, I was worried that he would realize how much he loved Rose and he would miraculously be cured by the Power of Love, like in a Disney movie. 

That doesn't happen (thank God.) Dimitri has turned into a completely evil bastard, who loves killing people and his thirst for power is just as strong as his thirst for blood. He still wants Rose but is no longer able to feel love. He wants to turn her into a Strigoi so they can rule together for eternity. This makes Dimitri a far more interesting character than he was before and Rose struggles between wanting to save him and wanting to be with him. There are moments when she can still see the man she loves lurking beneath the monster Dimitri has become and it leads her to make some stupid decisions. 

Thankfully, she snaps out of it and kills him (or at least thinks she does.) In the end, it is revealed that Dimitri is still alive (of course) but now Rose has a shred of hope that she can actually restore him to his former self. This, I'm guessing, sets up the main plot of the final two books in the series and I really can't wait to see what happens next.

Blood Promise is the best book in the Vampire Academy series so far. Here's hoping the next two books are just as good (if not better!)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

 The Casual Vacancy 

Synopsis: When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

Date Published: September 27, 2012
Published By: Little, Brown, and Company
Number of Pages: 503
Rating: 4/5

After reading The Casual Vacancy, I can understand why critics tore it to pieces when it first came out. It is the complete opposite of the beloved Harry Potter series: cynical, depressing, and there is not one likable character in the entire book. Okay, that's not totally true - there is one decent character but he dies within the first five pages. The Casual Vacancy might as well be called A Parade of Assholes. 

Despite all of these seemingly negative factors, I really enjoyed The Casual Vacancy. But I couldn't really put my finger on why I liked it until I was about a third of the way through. I was taking a break from reading and watching Pride and Prejudice when it hit me - The Casual Vacancy is a modern day Jane Austen novel.

Not in the sense that it's romantic - pretty much all of the married couples in the book are unhappy. But in the sense that The Casual Vacancy is a pitch-perfect satire, a parody of small-town society. Jane Austen is famous for her sharp eye for societal hypocrisies and exposing them in her writing. J.K. Rowling does the exact same thing here, using her knowledge of psychology and human relationships to reveal just how petty, small-minded, and self-important people can be. 

All of the characters in The Casual Vacancy are ridiculous in some way - but they are still so genuine and believable that they are totally recognizable. (It's actually a bit depressing, seeing as I've met people like this in real life.) They may not be likable, but at least they're not boring. 

Some people call The Casual Vacancy a black comedy, and I was tempted to call it that, too - until I read the ending. There is nothing funny about it at all and it made me realize that this book is a tragedy - a tragedy of people who live inside their own bubbles, too depressed, too bitter, too cynical to imagine or hope for better.

I can understand why fellow Harry Potter fans may not like The Casual Vacancy - and that's okay. I'd prefer to read about Harry and Co. than about any of the people in this book. Reading Harry Potter is inspirational and full of hope and wonder. It has plenty of characters that you can aspire to be like. The Casual Vacancy is the complete opposite - but there's still something to be learned from it. We can look at these characters and see the kind of people we don't want to be like. And even if it's cynical and depressing, there is a small bit of hope at the end. 

Love it or hate it, The Casual Vacancy is an accurate depiction of small town society - and maybe a warning about living a life without imagination or intention. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray

 A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1) 

Synopsis: Marguerite Caine grew up surrounded by cutting-edge scientific theories, thanks to her brilliant physicist parents. Yet nothing is more astounding than her mother's latest invention - a device called the Firebird, which allows people to leap into alternate dimensions.

When Marguerite's father is murdered, all the evidence points to one person - Paul, her parents' enigmatic star student. Before the law can touch him, Paul escapes into another dimension, having committed what seems like the perfect crime. But he didn't count on Marguerite. She doesn't know if she can kill a man, but she's going to find out. 

With the help of another physics student, Theo, Marguerite chases Paul through various dimensions. In each new world Marguerite leaps to, she meets another version of Paul that has her doubting his guilt and questioning her heart. Is she doomed to repeat the same betrayal?

As Marguerite races through these wildly different lives - a grand duchess in a Tsarist Russia, a club-hopping orphan in futuristic London, a refugee from worldwide flooding on a station in the heart of the ocean - she is swept into an epic love affair as dangerous as it is irresistible.

Date Published: November 4, 2014
Published By: Harper Teen
Number of Pages: 368
Rating: 4.5/5

A Thousand Pieces of You is one of the most unique YA science fiction stories that I've ever read. I've dabbled in time travel fiction before but I've never read a story that deals with parallel dimensions.

Claudia Gray really pulls off the tricky science involved in the story. Not too technical, but not too dumbed down either, the author shows the reader what it might be like for a person to travel to another dimension. We see a world that is far more technologically advanced because the computer was invented earlier and we also see a world where computers haven't even been invented yet. We see the pros and the cons of these alternate universes as Marguerite struggles to adjust in each one. It makes for a fast-paced, interesting story that is nearly impossible to put down.

I thought the romance was handled well, with some sweet moments balanced with enough conflict to keep things interesting. The love triangle is not your typical one - Marguerite has feelings for two different versions  of the same guy. It has the potential to become confusing but it never does. Claudia Gray has a masterful control over her story, and if there are any plot holes, they're not easily detected.

I did kind of guess the ending about 50 pages in. Not the entire ending, mind you, and it played out a little differently than what I guessed so there were still some surprises for me. I think the ending set the stage for the next book, Ten Thousand Skies Above You, to be even more epic and awesome. 

If you're a fan of time travel stories or Doctor Who, give A Thousand Pieces of You a try. Chances are, you won't be disappointed. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Review: Obsession: An Arum Novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout


Synopsis: Hunter is a ruthless killer, working for the Department of Defense. Most of the time he enjoys his job...but now he's been saddled with keeping a human from danger, and it's chafing pretty badly. 

When Serena Cross witnesses her friend's murder, she's thrust into a world where her enemies would kill to protect their otherworldly secret. Everything's topsy-turvy, and the Arum who's been sent protect her is totally arrogant. 

Hunter and Serena ignite each other's tempers even as they flee from danger - and yet, despite their differences, it seems they might be igniting one another's passion, too...

Date Published: May 31, 2013
Published By: Hodder Paperback
Number of Pages: 376
Rating: 4/5

Holy hot alien sex, this book is sexy.

Set in the same world as Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux series, this spin-off features a Beauty and the Beast type romance between a human and an alien. Hunter is an Arum, a big bad alien that hunts and kills other aliens - and enjoys it. Serena is your typical romance novel heroine - tough as well as vulnerable, mostly kind-hearted but with a bit of an attitude. 

Of course, Hunter and Serena rub each other the wrong way as soon as they meet - until they start rubbing each other the right way. (HAHAHAHAHA) It isn't long until they're having scorching hot extraterrestrial sex - and I thought the Lux series was titillating. You'll have to take several cold showers after reading Obsession.

As for the plot? Who cares? It was interesting enough, I suppose, but I was tempted to just skip to the naughty parts (and they are naughty.) Think Fifty Shades of Grey but with aliens. And more likeable characters. And sex that is actually erotic.

Honestly, this book is pure, sexy fun. Well, maybe pure isn't the right word. But if you read and loved the Lux series and are looking for something with more of an adult flair, you have to read Obsession. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

 The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall 

Synopsis: Delia's new house isn't just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females - an insane asylum nicknamed ''Hysteria Hall.'' However, many of the inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself. 

But the house still wants to keep 'troubled' girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped. 

And that's when she learns that the house is also haunted.

Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls - truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free. 

But she'll need to act quickly, before the house's power overtakes everything she loves. 

From master of suspense Katie Alender comes a riveting tale of twisted memories and betrayals, and the meaning of madness.

Date Published: August 25, 2015
Published By: Point
Number of Pages: 329
Rating: 3.5/5


I don't know what I was expecting when I first picked up The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall but it wasn't that the author would kill off her main character in the first 60 pages. 

Delia dies and becomes a ghost. Cool, right? 

It actually is a unique take on the old haunted house/ghost story. Delia is forced to witness her family's grief and despair without being able to do anything about it. What's even worse is she can't follow them when they leave the house for good. She's trapped in the house, along with several other ghosts, some friendly, some not.

I thought Katie Alender's portrayal of ghosts was interesting. Delia could do most of the things that you would expect a ghost to do - walk through walls, interact with physical objects - but all of it takes practice. And then there's the fact that time works differently for the dead than it does for the living. Delia bypasses entire years as if they were mere days. It convinces the reader that ghosts are not just dead, invisible people but beings that operate under different laws of time and space. 

The cast of supporting ghosts is full of interesting, slightly twisted characters. There's Eliza, a girl from the 1920s, who helps Delia learn the ways of the afterlife. There's Florence, a southern belle from the early 20th century who seems nice - at first. And then there's Maria, a ten-year-old girl who is a raving, dangerous lunatic - or is she? My favorite is Theo, the handsome groundskeeper who died on the property and can only wander outside. He shares some sweet moments with Delia but their relationship kind of falls by the wayside as Delia struggles to find out how to destroy the evil that infects the house. 

The ending I found to be a bit messy. There was so much going on that it was hard to keep track of and I can't really remember what exactly was making the house so evil in the first place. It's all wrapped up with a cliched 'blood sacrifice' that I found to be underwhelming. Still, I admire the sacrifice that Delia made in the end - it really showed her growth as a character.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall may not be a scary ghost story but it is a suspenseful one. I recommend it to readers looking for a horror story that provides thrills, not chills. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: The Vagrant by Peter Newman

 The Vagrant 

Synopsis: The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

Date Published: May 1, 2015
Published By: HarperVoyager
Number of Pages: 400
Rating: 4/5

The Vagrant is a story that defies easy categorization. Part fantasy, part science fiction, part horror it all adds up to a unique tale of questing heroes battling monsters and misery along their journey.

Our main hero in this story is The Vagrant, a lone Knight wielding a magical blade and traveling with the most unlikely campanion - a baby girl. It is not revealed until the end how The Vagrant came to care for the child but the bond between them is remarkable. The baby acts as The Vagrant's moral compass - whenever he is tempted to walk away from someone in need of help, the baby gives him a gentle kick in the ribs. It is clear The Vagrant cares for the baby and he does everything he can to protect her. It is incredible to see a traditionally masculine character also be nurturing and gentle. Along the way they encounter Harm, a lonely rebel once tainted by demons. He joins them and the three of them form a loving family. Can we please see more male characters like this? I'm getting pretty tired of the stoic, unemotional antihero.

The Vagrant also sets itself apart by making the reader really work to understand the world. Peter Newman doesn't reveal all of the secrets right away. There's no handy prologue explaining How the World Came to Be. This is an author that Shows rather than Tells. It does make for slow reading at first. It wasn't until I was about 50 pages in that I really got a grasp on the writing style and the story but after that, I was completely sucked in. It is beautifully written, with a surreal, dreamlike quality to it. And you only realize that you care about the characters when you find yourself thinking 'Man, I really hope this character doesn't die.' 

My one critique:  I found some descriptions of the monsters and the demons a bit vague, so it was sometimes difficult to picture them. Also, this book could use a map! Those are small quibbles, though.

The Vagrant is one of the best fantasy books of 2015. I highly recommend it to fantasy fans who are looking for something that will challenge them and has a different take on traditional gender roles and gender dynamics. 

Reading Wishlist: October 2015

Oct. 6

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan
The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Carry On

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3) by Ann Leckie
Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch, #3)

Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus
Romancing the Dark in the City of Light

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
The Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale Retold (Hogarth Shakespeare)

Empire Ascendant (Worldbreaker Saga #2) by Kameron Hurley
Empire Ascendant (Worldbreaker Saga, #2)

Sing Down the Stars by L.J. Hatton and Josin L. McQuien
Sing Down the Stars

Oct. 13

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu
The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)

Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes #2) by Sara Raasch
Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes, #2)

The Immortal Heights (The Elemental Trilogy #3) by Sherry Thomas
The Immortal Heights (The Elemental Trilogy, #3)

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
City on Fire

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
Black Widow: Forever Red

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix
Newt's Emerald

The Dread Wyrm (The Traitor Son Cycle #3) by Miles Cameron
The Dread Wyrm (The Traitor Son Cycle, #3)

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam
Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator

The Bestiary edited by Ann VanderMeer
The Bestiary

Oct. 20

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith
Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin
Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf, #1)

Oct. 27

The Iron Warrior (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #3) by Julie Kagawa
The Iron Warrior (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #3)

After Alice by Gregory Maguire
After Alice

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
What We Left Behind

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
The Witches: Salem, 1692

Wake of Vultures (The Shadow #1) by Lila Bowen
Wake of Vultures (The Shadow, #1)

Undernath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul
Underneath Everything