Friday, January 30, 2015

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest by Marissa Meyer
January 27, 2015
Source: Purchased

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. 

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series. 

First off, I am terribly sad that I am not holding a copy of Winter.

With that said, though, I am still incredibly happy that I read Fairest. It's barely a novel at 220 pages, and it doesn't further the plot, but it does give incredible insight into the villain Queen Levanna. Readers find out who she is, and how she came to be that way.

Do I like Queen Levanna after reading Fariest? Certainly not. She makes terrible, selfish decisions. However, I understand her and I do sympathize with her younger self. Brought up believing she was "second best" to her sister, Levanna is incredibly self-aware. Is her glamour flawless? Does Sir Everet love her? Does her country love her? Her glamoured illusion is all she knows to be true, and's pretty soon you find her spiraling out of control. The woman is crazy and obsessed, but she wasn't always that way. And she's not entirely to blame.

I don't think you have to read Fairest to read Winter. It's a story that stands on it's own, while providing greater depth to the Lunar Chronicles. It amazing to see hints toward the first three books, which is probably why this should be read after Cress.

For those just starting the Lunar Chronicles, read Cinder first. While an intriguing character story, the world building and romance that make Meyer's books so much fun is missing in Fairest. It's a novel for fans, and now I am even more excited for Winter to release.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons

The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons 

Source: Purchased

The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler's armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.

Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana—and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander's impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects—a secret as devastating as the war itself—as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever

The Bronze Horseman is commonly described as an historical romance set in Russia during World War 2. This is true, but the book is so much more than that. It's a story of struggle and survival. It's a story of love and sisterly devotion.

It's also a story that severely criticizes Russians and Communism (something I wasn't expecting).

Despite the fact I enjoyed The Bronze Horseman, I did have some issues. Perhaps my biggest issue had to do with pacing, specifically during the Lennigrad siege. How many times do I have to read read about Tatinana maneuvering around bomb attacks to get her family's ration for the day? How many times to I have to read about her and her family's struggle with starvation and death? Do those chapters have a purpose? Yes. Regardless, I believe that certain scenes and passages could have been left out while still maintaining authenticity.

If there's one thing that surprised me about this book, it's that Simons didn't shy away from the realities and horrors of war. There was a surprising amount of death (and sex in the second half) that caught me off guard. Still, it's a war story. What do you expect? I think Simons did a great job really putting readers into the position of the thousands of Lennigrad civilians, to the point that I felt guilty about the food I had.

My second issue had to do with characters. I liked most of the characters well enough in the beginning. Then Dasha becomes selfish and petty, her father a drunk, and her mother equally selfish and petty. Alexander also begins to show a darker side of him--a side that leans toward possessiveness and brutality. Alexander cares for Tatiana, there's not doubt. War brings out the worst in people, and that's perhaps why I still managed to care for these characters (flaws and all). Tatiana, in particular, showed tremendous character growth by the end. She starts off as a careless, naive girl to someone who

I think it's important to mention that Alexander and Tatiana do harbor feelings for each other, while Alexander was courting her sister. It's important, because I know many readers will be put off by this set-up. I was never bothered by it, though, because I believe Simons handles this issue with great sensitivity and brings to light some difficult questions. Did Tatiana make the right decision? Is it better to tell someone you love a white lie, or to tell them a truth that might ruin a relationship forever. That's up to the reader to decide, of course, but I suggest you don't let this aspect of the story deter you from picking up the book. It's well-writtien with severely flawed character, about a very tumultuous time in history for the Russians. It's bleak, it's romantic, and it's brutal. I was very much invested in the story, and I can't wait to see what happens in the sequel.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Goodbye 2014, and hello 2015

It's a little late, but I just wanted to wish everyone a New Year.  I know I've been quiet for some time, only posting occasional reviews here and there. Hopefully 2015 will be different.

And as many have already done, I just wanted to reflect on 2014 and make some general goals for this year.

What I did in 2014:

  1. I met a bunch of authors! 
  2. I went to DragonCon (which was AMAZING) and I met Evanna Lynch (aka Luna Lovegood)
  3. I graduated with my Masters of Science in Nursing!
  4. I made some more writer/blogger friends (shoutout to Jessica, Amy, Rachel, and Karyne!)
  5. I've started some amazing TV shows (Arrow, Reign, The Flash, etc)
  6. I read 68 books (including some graphic novels and adult books). Didn't reach my goal of 75, but that's okay.

Resolutions for 2015:

  1. Go to Dragoncon 2015
  2. Pass my boards/find a Job as a nurse practitioner
  3. Move out of my parents home
  4. Actually finish drafting my current work in progress and begin the querying process.
  5. Start (and hopefully finish) a draft of my fantasy MS
  6. Post more reviews and discussions on my blog (4-5/month if possible) 
  7. Catch up on some TV series (Firefly, Reign, etc.)
  8. Specific Reading Goals
    • Read 75 books in 2015
    • Read 100% of the books that I buy
    • Purchase no more than 30 books 
    • Reread 5 books
    • Read 1 classic
    • Read 50 unread books on my self (currently)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My True Love Gave to Me (Edited by Stephanie Perkins)

My True Love Gave to Me by Multiple Authors 
(Edited by Stephanie Perkins) 

Source: Purchased

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year's there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love. 

This is going to be a rather lengthy review, because I wanted to write about my thoughts on each of the story stories. What do I think of it overall? It's a cute, fun read with some stories I would have rather skipped. Still, it's a nice book to cozy up with around Christmastime, and I might even pull it out to read next Christmas. My favorite stories were by Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman, and Laini Taylor. All for very different reasons. My least favorite stories were by Kelly Link and Holly Black. 

Here are my thoughts on the individual stories: 

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell: I really enjoyed this story--it was cute, short, and sweet. Just what I wanted. I also liked that Rowell used time as a way to tell her story, to resemble the New Years Eve Countdown. My only complaint is that Noel as a guy's name annoyed me. Don't know why. I also never felt like I got enough character development. I didn't "swoon" over him, or understand why she was in love with him.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link: This was an odd story, and one I did not particularly enjoy. I don't mind a bit of "magic" in my holiday stories, but it was just a little too much and overall forgettable. I didn't sympathize with any of the characters, and the pacing felt off. It felt long, especially for a short story. 

Angel in the Snow by Matt de la Pena: This was actually pretty cute! Both characters were flawed, but relatable, and there was definitely some chemistry. It read like a hallmark movie, which is perfect for this time of year. I didn't agree with how the characters handled their situation, but I liked how things managed to work out in the end. 

Polaris is Where You'll Find Me: This was a short story, but nothing special. I think my biggest complaint, is that things felt very unresolved. It read like the beginning of a novel, rather than a complete story in itself. Still, I liked the concept of a girl growing up in the North Pole with elves. It reminded me of a less funnier, and shorter, version of the movie Elf. With a female protagonist. 

It's a Yultide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins: Yes, yes, yes! Stephanie Perkins can do no wrong when it comes to contemporary romance. From the awkward (and curious) opening paragraph, to the end, I couldn't stop smiling. The dialogue, setting, and characters were all spot on. It's one of the highlights, if not THE highlight, of this entire anthology. 

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan: This was okay, but the story felt a little aimless and I didn't connect with any of the characters. Actually, I rather liked the sister. She had quite a presence on the page, and that was probably the best thing about the short story. It's sweet, but nothing super special. 

Krampuslauf: This is my least favorite story, and not because of the writing or the characters. I liked the premise, but was severely lacking in Christmas/Holiday spirit. It felt out of place in this anthology, and I was very put off by it. I'm confused as to why Perkins (as the editor) agreed to use this short story. 

What the Hell Have you Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman. I definitely think, by the time we reach Gayle Forman's book, the anthology has hit it's stride. This short story was super cute, and funny! I liked all the characters, and I liked the message portrayed. After all, I'm sure there are many people who are dealing (or have dealt) with losing a loved one during the holiday. Or perhaps you're simply wishing they were here to enjoy the season. Regardless, this short story was funny and touching at the same with (with just the right among of Holiday spirit). 

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire: I laughed a lot during this short story. It's your typical set up: bad guy and good girl. It actually reminded me of a much funnier version of A Walk to Remember (without the sad ending). After this, I am definitely planning on checking out McEntire's other work. 

Chrismas, USA by Kiersten White:  This has "Hallmark" written all over it. All our main character wants to do is get out of her small town called Christmas. She is working whenever she can to save up enough money, and then a new chef comes to town. He somehow has a knack for knowing the exact dishes people are craving, and it's actually super sweet. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised (and touched) by this story.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter: This story was okay, but you needed to suspend your disbelief. Through a series of events, the protagonist finds herself spending a couple days at a stranger's home. I don't want to give away the little twist, but I guess I was expecting more from Ally Condie. I've heard a lot of great things about her Ghallager Girls series.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: People are either going to LOVE this story or hate it. I, for one, loved it (and not just because of Laini's gorgeous prose). It's a historical tale with a fantastical twist, about and old courting tradition during the first weeks of December. The writing is magical, the story is magical. I just can't get enough of Laini Taylor's words. It was a wonderful short story to end this anthology with.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Best of 2014

I have returned!!! And with my list of best books of 2014. Let me know what books you enjoyed last year. Here's to a great 2015 reading year! There are already so many books I am looking forward to. :)

Honorary #1: Cress by Marissa Meyer

(I read this book in 2013/2014, thanks to Macmillian for sending an ARC my way. And I LOVED it. The romance was spot on, the action was spot on, and CAPTAIN THRONE. He's my new ultimate book boyfriend now.)

1. Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

(I had to fortune of meeting Sue Monk Kidd briefly, but I honestly didn't have too high of expectations. Maybe it was my low expectations, or perhaps it was the phenomenal audio book narration. This book topped my list for many reasons, but it also managed to ignite my love for audiobooks. I've been trying to listen to more ever since).

(I can't choose between either finale, because Cassandra Clare has weaved both stories together so effortlessly. It took some time to get into Cassandra Clare's books, because I wasn't a huge fan of City of Bones, but I stuck with it and I am so happy I did!)

3. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

(This was probably one of the best conclusions to a dystopian trilogy that I've read in a long time. There were tears of heartache and tears and joy. I can't remember being THIS satisfied with a dystopian conclusion).

4. Never Fade By Alexandra Bracken

(I admit, it took some time to get into this book. I was confused for the first 50 or so pages, but then things started kicking into gear and I LOVED this book. The new characters introduced (specifically Vida) had me howling with laughter. By the end, I was nearly in tears and desperate for book three. Why haven't I picked up book three yet?!)

5. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

(Victoria's writing is absolutely stunning. And the premise for this series was killer. Imagine a world where the dead rest on shelves? Yes, please! This sequel delivers, and really shows Mackenzie's struggle with the events of the first. And then there's guy liner, who's stole my heart. I can't wait to read the short story, so I can finally know his real name.

6. Iron Queen by Julia Kagawa

(This is another series that had a slow start for me, but this book was a game changer! I really connected to Megan and I admired her choices and her strength by the end of the book. It had me in tears.)

7. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

(This is a book that "grew" on me as months passed. It's not as compelling as Crown of Midnight, but I really appreciate the book's character development--for both old and new characters. And how can I NOT love Rowan? I might love him more than Chaol, but don't tell him that.)

8. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

(I was conflicted about the ending, at first, but I added this book to my list because it still sticks with me to this day. And I can't deny how much I identified with Lousia. Is it a perfect book? Perhaps not. But there was something about the story that rang true for me, and I eagerly anticipate reading more of Jojo's work.)

9. Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard

(I liked Susan's first two books in this series, but THIS BOOK. I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. She took a risk with the ending, but I think it paid off. Again, I cried and I was left in shock. How could Susan do that? The more I think about it though, the more I appreciate her boldness. If you haven't picked up this series, do it now!)

10. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

(Some people had issues with this book, but I found it to be a thrilling adventure. It was a roller coster ride, and while I would have done things differently, I was satisfied with the ending. This isn't true for everyone, so I would approach this final book with 'lower' expectations.)

Honorary Mention: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

(I mainly included this because of the fantastic TV series. I enjoyed the book, and the TV show has only heightened my love for the first book. I plan on continuing this amazing series in 2015.)