Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas Review

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Bloomsbury USA Children's; 2013. 432 Pages. Ebook.

I loved this book.

I loved the characters, the setting, the plot, the writing - everything. In Throne of Glass, Maas has created an entirely unique and exciting new fantasy world that draws you in and ensures that you will want to keep reading.

I am such a sucker for some good, witty dialogue. It brings such life to the story and the characters, and makes them appear much more real to me. Maas provides excellent banter between Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol, and it's wonderful. And you know another reason I love witty dialogue? It keeps me hooked. It keeps me reading page after page without realizing I'm reading that much. To me, that is the sign of a good book.

But it was more than just dialogue that kept me hooked on Throne of Glass. It was the setting and the plot, also. This had such a unique premise to me, and I think that is also what really enticed me with this book. I enjoyed reading about the various challenges that the champions had to perform in, as well as reading about Celaena's own personal life and struggles with herself, the people around her, and the political frustrations. Everything melds together and provides a very harmonious plot and conflicts.

The characters are also wonderfully portrayed. They have extreme depth and undergo a vast amount of development. Celaena herself undergoes so much change in just this novel alone. She arrives from a prison camp, where he has been brutally kept and beaten, forced to work hard with little to eat, and no shelter from the elements. Understandably, she is cold; she is emotionless, and she does not want to be at the palace. However, as the novel progresses, so does Celaena. We begin to see more sides of her. She does not ever completely lose her outer shell of protection that she has formed, but we learn understand her and her need for such protection. Another wonderful thing about Maas' portrayal of Celaena is that even though she is an extremely powerful, terrifying assassin who could kill you before you even know what's happening, is that she's relatable and realistic. She loves books, for goodness sake! She loves food, she whines and complains.

And then we have Dorian and Chaol, the two men that are most prominent in Celaena's life. (That is, if you aren't counting the King, who is technically the entire reason why Celaena and this story are even happening). These men are very different, yet very similar. They both have extremely different roles in the palace - Dorian is the King's son, and Chaol is the King's Guard. There also is, of course, a slight love triangle that is begins to bubble in the love-triangle cauldron, but it does not ever take center-stage in the story. In fact, it's almost more of a side-thought. Celaena is not a typical man-obsessed character, and has better things to worry about than any man. (Although, I'm not sure how you couldn't not think about Chaol or Dorian all the time...)

Overall, I immensely enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to just about everyone. It will receive the magical five-star rating from me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Anticipated Spring 2015 Releases!

I've been looking around at some of the upcoming book releases for Spring 2015 and found so many that I am really excited about. I have thus compiled a list of the ones that I am most looking forward to share with all of you. The list is a large mixture of young adult, fiction, and some nonfiction, so hopefully there's a little something for everyone! :) I tried to narrow it down, but as you'll see... that didn't really work out too well.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings;. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip an Carol Zaleski.

This particular book is a combined biography of the authors mentioned in the title who belonged to an Oxford writing club called the Inklings. The Inklings met in C.S. Lewis's Oxford rooms and a nearby pub weekly for three decades. Together, they read from their current workings, maintained lively discussions about nearly anything, and gave one another priceless companionship , criticism, and inspiration.

Release date: June 2nd (also my birthday, just in case you were wondering)

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey. Young adult, fantasy.

The Girl at Midnight is to be the first novel in a new series by Melissa Grey.

"Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever know.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the border of her homes, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen."

Release date: April 28th

Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer. Young adult, historical fiction

This young adult novel follows the true story of Anastasia Romanov and the fellow grand duchesses of Russia. In 1914, the Romanovs find themselves sailing to Romania to meet the Crown Prince Carol, which appears to be an almost fairy tale-like journey - unfortunately, it is no fairy tale.

The girls and their family face a variety of struggles once inside the palace, and find that life there is not like anything they imagined. When Germany then declares war on Russia, Anastasia knows that her life will never be the same.

Release date: April 7th

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Young Adult, fiction.

"Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspiciious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch... she's falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. 

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all."

Release date: May 12th

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin. Young adult, historical fiction.

"It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four front. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of the Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies - plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy and war. 

After accidentally setting her father's stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. but Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible - until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads - or their hearts..."

Release date: May 19th

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon. Fantasy.

The summary for this book is brief, but it gives just enough to intrigue me into needing to know more:

"Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then - as every good adventure begins - the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he's a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations - or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly enveloped parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own."

Release date: May 19th

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. Young adult, fantasy/fairy-tale retelling.

After Hodge's wild success with Cruel Beauty, she has come up with another novel that is sure to be a wonderful follow-up.

Where Cruel Beauty was a tale inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, Crimson Bound is based upon the classic Little Red Riding Hood.

As a fifteen year-old, Rachelle was apprenticed to her aunt in order to protect her village from dark magic. Rachelle strays from her regular path, however, which results in an illicit meeting that causes her to have to make a terrible decision.

"Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand - the man she hates most - Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a lave that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?"

Einstein's Dice and Schrodinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unnified Theory of Physics by Paul Halpern. Nonfiction.

I love incorporating some nonfiction books into my regular reading, as there are some extremely fascinating topics that would be otherwise unlikely to make it into my topics of reading.

In this novel, the relationship between Einstein and Schrodinger is examined. They begin as collaborators before turning into competitors over their attempts to a create a grand unified theory to eradicate "quantum randomness" and make the universe more understandable.

Release date: April 14th

Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure by Cedric Villani, translated by Malcolm DeBevoise. Nonfiction.

This is another nonfiction book that really piqued my interest.

Cedric Villani, a French mathematician, received the Fields Medal award in 2010, an extremely coveted prize in the field of mathematics. This book allows readers to follow Villani's years leading up to his receiving the award, giving us an inside look at the mind of a groundbreaking mathematician as he works with the most important work of his career.

Release date: April 14th

Invisible: The Dangerous ALlure of the Unseen by Philip Ball. Nonfiction.

The notion of invisibility has enthralled and intrigued people for centuries. But why, exactly? In this book, Philip Ball investigates the subject of invisibility and how it has driven curiosity, science, and various discoveries throughout time. Invisibility has shown up in countless books, movies, and even games; it is an idea that has sparked much research and debate. But again, why are we so fascinated the unseen? "Ball shows that our fantasies about being unseen - and seeing the unseen - reveal surprising truths about who we are."

Release ate: April 8th

Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartonning, Comics, and Grapic Novels, edited by Tom Devlin. Graphic Novel/Comic Book.

This 800-page comic book features some of the best works by Drawn & Quarterly cartoonists, with a plethora of rare company photographs, correspondence, and comics. There are also a variety of biographic, interviews, and personal reminiscences with staff and cartoonists of those associated with Drawn & Quarterly.

The Boys of Fire and Ash by Meaghan McIsaac. Children, fantasy.

"Abandoned at birth, the Brothers of the Ikkuma Pit know no mothers. They fend for themselves, each training their Little Brother to survive until they turn sixteen, when it's their Leaving Day. No boy knows what's beyond the forest. But when Urgle's Little Brother, Cubby, is carried off by troll-like predators, Urgle and his Brothers embark on a quest to rescue him from a place from which no one has ever returned."

Release date: May 12th

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker. Young adult, fantasy.

"Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. When she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to die at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can track down the person who laid a deadly curse on him.

As she's thrust into the world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and all-too-handsome healers, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate."

Release date: June 2nd

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Young adult, fantasy.

"Laia is a scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire's greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

Elias is the academy's finest soldier - and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he's ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias's paths cross at the academy, they find threat their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself."

Release date: April 18th

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua. Graphic novel/Comic book.

From Publisher's Weekly: "Early computer visionaries Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace are re-imagined as boisterous crime-fighters in this witty, meticulously researched romp."

Need there be more said?

Release date: April 28th

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan Book Review

Robin Sloan. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2012. 304 Pages. Hardcover.
**I read this book and wrote it's review about a year ago, but for some reason never posted is. So, now here it is.**

This book was truly a lively and delightful read. It wasn’t filled with an overly dramatic or heavy subject matter, but was simply  a wonderfully entertaining book. I would actually say this book was the definition of entertaining.
This story follows the journey of a young man named Clay Jannon who finds a job at a quaint and quirky bookstore. While working the nightshift at this bookstore, Clay encounters a variety of unique and eccentric customers. The strange thing about these customers, however, is that they never buy any books; instead, they merely ‘check out’ the oldest books in the store. Clay soon discovers that there is much more to this bookstore and some of the books inside it than he thought. We, the readers, then follow Clay on his journey to decode the mysterious books and everything that goes along with them.

First, I love books (obviously). Because of this, I loved that this was one of those "books about books" and that the overall focus and aspect of the novel was... well, books. The bookstore itself was so entertaining to read about, with its huge, towering bookshelves and different varieties of books it contained (i.e. "regular books," the "Waybacklist").
When I first started this book, however, I don’t think I realized how much of a role modern technology would play in it. I feel that most authors who try to incorporate advanced ideas and technologies are either really successful at it, or fail miserably. Luckily, I found Sloan to be extremely successful in this endeavor. I found the topic itself to be very interesting, and I found myself intrigued by the programming and coding that was used throughout, no matter how accurate or inaccurate it may be. I think all of it added a really nice touch to the story.

There was also a very unique array of characters that each had an extremely distinct and entertaining personality; they brought such life and excitement to the novel. One of my favorite aspects of the novel was Clay himself. He had such a witty and refreshing narrative that truly captures you and transports you into the story.

The pacing of the novel was spot-on; I never felt that the story was too rushed. I also did not find myself getting bored from the  novel moving too slowly either. And yes, this book does seem a bit far-fetched at times, but it is fiction, afterall, and that is extremely understandable.

Overall, I found this to be an extremely well-written and exciting novel that I would definitely recommend to anyone. Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore will receive a nice four stars from me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. Random House; 2009. 309 pages. Ebook.

"May and I are sisters. We'll always fight, but we'll always make up as well. That's what sisters do: we argue, we point out each other's frailties, mistakes, and bad judgment, we flash the insecurities we've had since childhood, and then we come back together. Until the next time. ” 

To me, this quote perfectly sums up the story of Shanghai Girls, which heavily focuses on the relationship between two sisters, Pearl and May, and their struggle to find and create their own lives. This quote also, in my opinion, perfectly captures the bond formed between any siblings. 

I am fascinated by cultures other than my own. It's incredibly interesting to me to learn the traditions of other countries and peoples, as everyone has their own unique beliefs of life and methods of living. I have a particularly deep interest in Asian literature, which is largely what led me to read Shanghai Girls. About a year ago I finally read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and I loved it with a fiery passion - and no, I'm not exaggerating. I loved it so much that I was able to easily convince my mom to read it, and she loved it as well. Since then, I have been trying to find a book that could even come close to being as good as that. Well, Shanghai Girls has come the closest to doing just that. 

Lisa See does a truly marvelous job of capturing the struggles and plight of sisters Pearl and May. The girls begin their lives living in Shanghai, posing as models for a well-known painter, and are stunned when they discover that they are to be married off to two unknown men because of their father's large debts. Thus begins their dangerous journey throughout Shanghai as they try to avoid moving to the Unite States, as they struggle with moving through the immigration process to enter San Francisco, and finally as they try to develop of life for themselves in a new country. See writes with a purpose. She explains current events and descriptions of places thoroughly. No words are wasted with unnecessary information, and I really liked that about her writing style. 

I loved the contrasting personalities of Pearl and May. They are incredibly different, yet both are able to use their unique personalities to find their own inner strength to keep fighting for a better life. Throughout the story, each has to make numerous great sacrifices throughout for the good of both each other and their families. I loved how See made the girls so realistic; they were certainly not perfect. They had flaws; they were at times selfish, greedy, and liars. But they also had an underlying sense of loyalty to one another that, no matter what happened, could not be removed. 

The cast of supporting characters that surrounded Pearl and May were also very skillfully portrayed. See was able to create development in each and every one of her characters, allowing for extremely well-rounded and realistic characters. For instance, we can see Pearl's husband transition from someone who barely speaks and hardly acknowledges his wife, appearing to be cold and uninterested, to someone who is, at heart, a kind man who has faced a harsh life, and who would do anything to support his family. We see people who were once strong become completely broken down from the hatred and harshness that is thrust against them. 

I also thought that the author did a wonderful job of depicting China and its culture. I can sense that she did very thorough research and spent a lot of time making sure she was able to accurately portray China and her characters. She also did remarkably well at depicting the discrimination and hatred that those in the United States felt towards the Chinese and other ethnic groups. As I grew attached to the characters, I felt as if I was being discriminated against as well; I felt like I could understand what they were experiencing, even though I know that I never have and I probably never will experience anything even remotely close to what they endure. 

This book is not lighthearted. It is not a happy read, and there are not a lot of positive things that happen to the families portrayed. That being said, it is still wonderful; some of the best books are the saddest ones. It is heartbreakingly beautiful, and has many bittersweet moments throughout. 

One of the biggest and only issues I had was that how the book just sort of... ended. I was at 90% on my Kindle, and I could tell we were reaching the end, but there were still issues that had to be dealt with. I turned the page, expecting to find a new chapter - instead, acknowledgments. It was over. I was confused. I didn't realize that Lee is continuing the story in a second novel, and I had absolutely no idea that the book would just end with so many loose ends. Because of this, I am moving the rating to 4.5 stars. I know it’s not much, but I simply was not prepared for the ending, and I think it could have been executed in a much better manner.

Overall, I say check it out! From reading this book, I feel that I have a better understanding of the struggles that many people faced during those hard times in America, and I realized many important things about the strength and importance of familial bonds – especially between siblings. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

On the Beach by Nevil Shute Book Review

On the Beach by Nevil Shute. Vintage; 1957. 320 pages. Paperback.

First,  I am aware that I'm about 50 years late in reading and reviewing this book, but I just picked it up Saturday and finished it the next day, and it was oddly extremely interesting and I really think I liked it.

This is one of those books that's not so much about the story and its plot as it is an analysis and  curious look at how people handle an impending and inevitable apocalypse. After a severe World War III with vast amounts of nuclear warfare, the entire world is basically destroyed, and all that is left is a portion of southern Australia. The inhabitants of this area are aware that the cloud of radiation will reach them in a matter of months, - or sooner - and are basically just sitting around living their lives, waiting for their death.

We know how this book ends just by reading the back cover. What's interesting is how these people handle the information. Some embrace it and are able to freely talk about it, while others are in strong denial and refuse to acknowledge their impending doom.

The book focuses on the four main characters of Peter Holmes, Mary Holmes, Dwight Towers, and Moira Davidson. Peter and Mary are a lovely young couple with a baby, Jennifer, who attempt to go on leading their regular lives. Mary, for one, is extremely passive, and prefers to live in denial about the radiation. She is always asking Peter if their is any way to avoid the radiation, and doesn't seem to grasp the fact that everyone is going to get sick no matter what. Peter is much more practical, and realizes that they are likely going to want to take some pills that will allow them to die without suffering too much from the radiation. Mary, however, finds this morbid and horrifying - understandably so.

Dwight Towers is a commander of the last American submarine and has basically attached his vessel to the Australian Navy. Dwight is a very engaging character, and I really enjoyed his personality. He's an extremely logical, astute man, but prefers to pretend that the entire world has not been destroyed, and that his wife and daughter in American are still alive and anxiously awaiting his return. It's both heartbreaking and endearing, and immensely interesting. Moira Anderson, whom Dwight meets through Peter and Mary, eventually shares this same view, and pretends that Dwight's family is also still alive. She is a compulsive brandy drinker, and spends a majority of her time doing just that. Moira, however, unlike Mary, realizes that her life is being cut extremely short, and is depressed and upset at the realization that she will never have the opportunity to get married or do half of the things she has ever wanted to.

One of this "high action" moments of the novel occurs when a Morse Code signal is heard coming from Seattle, a place believed to be completely destroyed and devoid of all people, which prompts a very dangerous submarine expedition to find out if there is actually any life there. Again, the ways in which people respond to the danger and reality of their predicament is what really carries the story.

What I found most fascinating about this novel was just how different each person handled the situation. I understand that this is all fiction, but I can easily see many people doing these things if this were a real situation. It really makes me think and wonder if people would actually act in such a pleasant, calm manner when they know that their world is ending, or if they would become violent, crazy, and rash, as many modern apocalyptic movies and books portray them?

I'm giving this book four stars because of how thought-provoking and fascination I found it. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for something different. For the content of the novel, it's a surprisingly pleasant book with amusing characters, but is also subtly marred with despair, grief, and overarching atmosphere of resignation.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Centurion by O.C. Shaw Book Review

Centurion, by O.C. Shaw. Smashwords; 2015. 247 pages. Ebook.

***I was provided with the opportunity to read this novel courtesy of NetGalley***

Release Date: March 26th, 2015.

"After witnessing his mother’s death, Gabriel Smith finds himself orphaned and surrounded by strangers. Under the guardianship of an uncle he had never heard of... Gabe struggles to deal with the loss of the life he knew, and embrace his new life with the 'Centurions'. Thrown into the centre of a prophecy, only his friendship with Emma gives him the strength he needs to face his future. "

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was extremely unique, detailed, and interesting. On the other hand, I felt the writing itself lacked overall emotion and character.

First off, I must say 'bravo' to the author for creating a world that combines fantasy/magic and reality in a very fluid manner. Her writing style is really quite flowing and engaging, and the back story that she has created for the Centurions and how they interact with the non-magic humans is extremely interesting (although, I won't lie, I did skim a few parts that seemed to drag on just a bit too long...). I found it extremely fascinating how she relates that mass deaths in history, such as earthquakes, are actually the result of "Feeders" that have wreaked havoc. 

However, one area that could use some work is the setting of scenes. Where Shaw did a marvelous job of describing the history of Centurions and other details, she fell short on describing the actual location where events were taking place. What I mean by this is that it was sometimes hard for me to picture exactly where they were or what was going on. There wasn't much movement or life brought into these scenes (this notion is further expanded upon when I discuss the characters). Despite this, the novel truly soared in areas of action and imagination, and I truly enjoyed the story itself. 

Now, on to the characters: I really feel that the characters could use a little work. While they all maintained a fairly unique personality, they were still just a bit too generic. There wasn't very much development, and they just seemed to lack that little spark that really brings a character to life. They had moments of great charm and personality, but also many moments where they turned somewhat mechanical. In reference to my earlier remark about a lack of movement, the characters did not have much.. reality in their conversations. I personally enjoy reading conversations and seeing characters "glance down shyly" or move their arms about. I'm not sure if this makes much sense, but there just wasn't enough personality and life given to these characters. 

Overall, I'd say give it a shot. It took a little while to get started, but once it gets going it really is quite entertaining. 

It was hard for me to decide how many stars to give this one. At times, I really enjoyed it, but there were also a lot of things that bothered me about. Because of that, I'm going to go ahead and give it three stars.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up 3/1-3/7 (#2)

Well, it's been another fun week of reading. I actually didn't get quite as much finished as I wished, but that's okay.

I finished up Centurion by O.C. Shadow, an ebook granted to me from NetGalley. I should have a review up by Sunday. It turned out to be much better than I expected!

I'm still reading Throne of Glass and Snow Like Ashes, but am very close to finishing. I'm really enjoying both of them, so I think I'm subconsciously making myself take longer to finish them... oops. I have a few new books on NetGalley that I'll be starting as soon as I finish these, so I'll anounce those once I begin.

Sadly,  I don't have much more to announce for this week, but next week should (hopefully) be much more exciting. Stay tuned!

What books did you guys read this week? Feel free to share! :)

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Sea of Shadows, by Kelley Armstrong. HarperCollins; 2014. 406 pages. Hardcover.

Sea of Shadows was a book that I stumbled onto on BookOutlet when they were having a huge sale and it was only $1.99. It seemed interesting, it was cheap, I was on a book-buying spree, and how can you say no to $1.99?

I must be honest, I don’t quite understand why this book has so many low reviews. I can understand a few, and even not having really high ratings, but not necessarily the really low ones. Many people seem to believe it was boring, and while I guess I can understand their view, I politely disagree. It was very engaging, and full of exciting action, folklore, and entertaining characters.

In brief, Sea of Shadows follows twin sisters Moria and Ashyn, the Keeper and Seeker, respectively, of a town called Edgewood. When their entire village is destroyed, they must venture on a journey to find out what has gone wrong.

The characters were very appealing, however I do think that each character needed to have a more defined and unique voice. Twin sisters Ashyn and Moria were lovely, entertaining characters, but not too different. Their personalities are described as being extreme opposites, Ashyn being shy and gentle, and Moria being much tougher and more outgoing. This is evident at times, but overall I think they had similar voices that sometimes made for little distinction between the alternating chapter viewpoints. However, I could also see their similar voices as being a method of showing how close both girls are; since they are Seeker and Keeper of Edgewood and twin sisters that have grown up very close together, it only makes sense that they might share similar voices or qualities. Supporting characters Ronan and Gavril were also quite a delight, but again, shared many similar traits, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure if I can even remember who accompanied each girl on their journey. Entertaining, but not overly memorable. I’m getting a wee bit tired of every single boy/girl pairing in a book ending up with some romantic setting.

I do feel that the story lacked adequate description and worldbuilding. While certain aspects were described in great detail (particularly violence), I did feel a bit lost in where exactly things were takig place, and what the culture of these places was. Another issue was the mirroring and repetitiveness that occurred throughout the story. It seemed like everything was the same: Moria and a companion travel and fight forces against them, Ashyn and a companion travel and fight forces against them. Perhaps this is a plot device trick for Armstrong, or perhaps it’s just a small lack of originality.

Kelley Armstrong definitely knows how to write. However, I do think I expected more. I’ve heard people rave and rave about Kelley Armstrong, but I had never had a chance to read anything until now. I thought the book was great, but not quite up to par with all the praise I’ve been hearing for Armstrong. I was a bit disappointed that the ending was a bit of a cliffhanger, since I wasn’t necessarily planning on reading the rest of the series, but now I feel somewhat obligated, and I am interested to find out what will befall these characters.

Overall, it’s not the most memorable story. However, I still thought it was a very enjoyable read, and definitely worth a shot for someone that’s just looking for a good book to read. Because of this, I am giving Sea of Shadows 3 ½ stars.

Sea of Shadows comes out on Wednesday, March 3rd!

Empire of Night, book 2 in the Age of Legends series, comes out April 7th, 2015!

Fall 2015 YA Cover Reveals (courtesy of Epic Reads)

Let's just talk for a second about the new cover reveals going on at Epic Reads for fall 2015. I'm pretty excited. It likes there are going to be some really great books coming out this fall, and I know this is only the half of it!

Here are some of the ones that I am most excited for/I know many others will be excited for:
(all books/summaries/information are courtesy of Epic Reads)

1. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, and was extremely saddened when I finished the trilogy. Although Carson's new book is completely unrelated, I am so excited to see what she has in store for us now. I really enjoyed Carson's writing style and character creations.

From what I can gather, the gist of this book is that it's set in the Gold Rush era with a girl who can sense where gold is located. Sounds like a pretty good place to be to me! This is a very unique premise to me; I haven't read many (or any) books set in the Gold Rush era, let alone adding magical elements to it!

Release Date: September 22nd

2. Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
I'm just now reading Snow Like Ashes and so far I am really, really loving it! I love the idea of using the Seasons as a world set-up, and Raasch executes it wonderfully. I am now extremely excited for the release of Ice Like Fire, the sequel to Snow Like Ashes.

Release Date: October 13th

3. Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix
Garth Nix is a personal favorite. I remember reading The Keys to the Kingdom when I was 10 years old, and they really helped to spark my love for fantasy. Since then, I've always had a soft spot for Nix. You can read a summary of this at Epic Reads or Goodreads. It seems to be quite a departure from Nix's past work, so it should definitely be an interesting read.

Also, I am in love with this cover. How could you not love that!? (if you dont, it's really okay, I'll only judge you a little)

Release Date: October 13th

4. Da Vinci's Tiger by Laura Malone Elliot
I love da Vinci, I love historical, and I think this has wonderful potential! Basically, this story follows Ginevra de Benci, who falls in love with Leonardo da Vinci and becomes his muse. (you can find a better summary at Goodreads) Renaissance Florence is such an exciting and vibrant time period, and I think this novel will be an extremely interesting look into the romance between da Vinci and de Benci.

Release date: November 24th

5. Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas
I am such a sucker for fairytale retellings, and this extremely reworked story of Cinderella sounds amazing! What I like about this retelling is it seem as though the author is trying to make the "Cinderella" character much more independent and reliant on herself, rather than a nice young prince. All in all, I'm very intrigued for this one.

Personally, this cover isn't my favorite. I think if they were to just take out the nice woman there and leave everything else, it would be much better.

Release date: September 15th

6. Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown
This is one of those completely unexpected novels that I knew nothing about, and I know just about nothing about the author. The story follows a young British girls who acts as a spy during World War I. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty enticing to me. Who doesn't love a good spy novel?

Release date: October 20th

7. This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
Two words: "reimagined Frankenstein." You've got me. Hook, line, and sinker. A young boy brings his brother back from the dead... and then Frankenstein is published. There's your basic plot. I'm so excited. I know I've said that so much already, but seriously. I haven't read very many Frankenstein retellings, and this is so cool.

Release Date: October 13th

9.  The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas 
And for those of you who are fans of Sherry Thomas' The Burning Sky trilogy... the third and final installment is coming! I read the first one, and while I liked it, I didn't  like it enough to read the second (which wasn't out yet, I don't think), but with so many people talking about it lately it's really giving me the itch to check it out again. The Burning Sky is book 1, followed by The Perilous Sea, and now wrapping it up is The Immortal Heights.

Release date: October 13th

What are you guys most excited for!? Leave a comment below!

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