Friday, May 30, 2014

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray
By: Ruta Sepetys
Between Shades of Gray
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions. Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.
To be honest, I wasn't completely sure what this book was about going in. I knew that it was World War II from a different angle than it is typically seen, I knew that it the main character was Lithuanian, but that's all I knew. And that's a big part of why this book is so important, why it is so unique. There are atrocities that were hidden for years, a people who suffered in silence and in anonymity.
These stories are important and this story is important. On top of being important, it is beautiful. All these characters made their way into my heart so quickly, and it tore me apart to see them suffer. All the worse that these atrocities are very seldom talked about and very seldom make their way into fiction.
I love how real Lina is. She gets angry at the hand she's been dealt. She hates as well as loves, and she wants to protect what she can't protect. She felt emotion and expressed it. I loved how vital art was to her, and how it wasn't written as a vague interest. She was passionate about her art, and she felt strongly about other people's art.
I loved Andrius, too. He wasn't always perfectly pleasant, but neither was Lina and neither was Jonas. That's what made them feel so real, because their circumstances were horrific and they had no preparation for them. They felt the unfairness of life more than anyone that young should. I also loved his relationship with Lina and how so utterly genuine it was. It changed quickly from acquaintances in suffering to friends to in a relationship. But I never doubted it for a second, because their was always a sense of connection.
If I had to nitpick one flaw, it would be the ending. Not that I disliked the ending, I just wish there was a little bit more of it. It felt slightly incomplete, and I sort of wish there had been more transition between the end of the story and the epilogue. I would wish for more resolution about her father, rather than a vague sort of hope. But, again, that's really my only half-critique.
This book broke my heart over and over again. Through this book the reader is witness to the worst and the best of mankind and it is beautiful and horrific and heartbreaking. I want more historical fiction like this. I want more YA historical fiction set in times that don't get much attention. Times that are interesting and uncovered and raw.
I will read everything Ruta Sepetys writes after his, she's won my trust completely.
"I wondered if there was a moon out, and if so, what it looked like. Papa said scientists speculated that from the moon, the earth looked blue. That night I believed it. I would draw it blue and heavy with tears."
"I clung to my rusted dreams in the times of silence. It was at gunpoint that I fell into every hope and allowed myself to wish from the deepest part of my heart."
"They didn't ask for anything. They were happy to help someone, to succeed at something, even if they weren't to benefit. We'd been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean. I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we'd get a little closer."
"In 1991, after fifty years of brutal occupation, the three Baltic countries regained their independence, peacefully and with dignity. They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light."

Monday, May 26, 2014

TTT: Favorite Authors

Top Ten Eleven Favorite Authors:
Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they have a different Top Ten list topic that a bunch of bloggers take and make their own list of those things.
These are authors that I love for their books specifically, because if I were to choose my favorite authors on social media or that I've met in person, that would be a very different list. These are the authors that I trust to always deliver, whether or not I've read every single one of their books so far. This means that I am fully intending to read them.

1. Rick Riordan
He created Percy Jackson. He is a genius. Also, he's hilarious in a cruel sort of way (I mean, did you see the dedication in The House of Hades?) I've read all of his stuff, and in my opinion, it just keeps getting better. For the rest of my life, I will read whatever he writes. Every single book.

2. J.K. Rowling
Harry Freaking Potter. Nuff said. She's just brilliant. (Also, she gives a crap ton to charity, which is pretty dang awesome.

3. Brandon Sanderson
Working my way through his books this year has been a blast. I can't wait to keep reading his books, both those that are already out and those that will come out in the future. This is fantasy at its finest.

4. Jane Austen
Written magic. I'm spreading out her books, but she's already made my favorite list twice over. I'm sure she'll make it again and again.

5. Gail Carson Levine
She infused my childhood with magic, and I am forever grateful for that. She gave me heroines like me, flawed and weird, strong-willed and insecure. Her books changed me, and I'll be rereading them forever.

6. Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park is beautiful. Attachments is freaking adorable. And Fangirl touched my soul and made me "Awww" very, very hard. Rainbow Rowell knows how to craft excellent stories. I can't wait to read Landline, too. I just know it'll be a new favorite.

7. Catherynne M. Valente
When I think of beautiful writing, my mind instantly goes to Catherynne M. Valente. Her Fairyland series is magical and enchanting and full of some of the best writing I've ever encountered.

8. Stephanie Perkins
The brilliant woman who gave us Etienne St. Clair AND Cricket Bell. I have a thing for nice boys in contemporaries, for me they're just better. And she writes some of the nicest. She also created Anna, a realistic and awkward girl that I related to a whole lot. I can't wait to read Isla this summer.

9. Sarah J. Maas
The Throne of Glass series rocks my socks off and has become my go-to recommendation for YA fantasy. I'm more than excited for the next four books in this series, because I just know it's only going to get better.

10. Leigh Bardugo
Speaking of the very best of YA fantasy. Miss Leigh Bardugo is so amazing. Her grisha is vivid and beautiful, as well as terrifying. I am so excited about her new series, because I know it will be just as freaking fantastic.

11. Melina Marchetta
Another wonderful YA fantasy author. Though I haven't read her contemporary books, I'm hoping to read them soon. Still, The Lumatere Chronicles is easily one of my favorite series of all time, because they are beautiful and touching and so well told. I really hope she writes another fantasy series in the future, because she is brilliant at it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Hero of Ages

The Hero of Ages
By: Brandon Sanderson
The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)
To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness---the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists---is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.
I can't. I cannot articulate. But I'll try dang hard to get this across. This series is rightfully lauded as a brilliant and groundbreaking work of fantasy. It deserves every bit of that praise. The world gets better with every book, expanding further and further until the very last pages of this book. I loved that there was never a moment when you knew absolutely everything about what was going on, yet it was never confusing either.

One of my favorite things about this series is the deconstruction of the world followed by the reconstruction. Not often do books show the build up of what it just spent a whole book tearing down, because I think people tend to believe that reconstruction doesn't make an interesting story. BUT IT CAN BE. And this series makes it incredibly interesting, through all of the slow political build-up and all of the slow reconstruction. It's brilliant!

Sanderson is a genius. He's shown himself to be very good at characters who contrast each other, and he uses his foils extremely well. But this time he took it up a notch, and in this book he has whole cities that foil one another. Fadrex with its leader who worships the Lord Ruler and Urteau with its leader who worships Kelsier. And both places are awful to live in and the leaders are not all that different. IT'S BRILLIANT.

Okay, now on to characters. I don't want to talk about characters individually or extensively in the non-spoiler section (particularly because I don't want to spoil previous books in the series either), but I'll say something about their journeys as a whole. These characters are so realistic and believable because even after all these pages they all have struggles that they are still dealing with and growing through. Sazed has a beautiful arc in this book, full of loads of falling action and self-doubt. Vin and Elend face the challenges of a world falling apart. Spook grows  out of his own cowardice. It's all so brilliant and touching and important to the story. I loved every page of it.

The plot was crazy, too. There were so many twists and so much action. I love that the feel was so different from both of the other books. The Final Empire is a revolution story, The Well of Ascension is a political story, and The Hero of Ages is basically an apocalypse story. It takes crazy talent as a writer to make all three of those work in the same world and on the same story arc, and even thinking about this blows my mind.

I cannot say this enough times: READ THIS FREAKING SERIES. You will not regret it even the tiniest bit ever. There is no regret only your mind blown to pieces and a piercing sadness that it's over. But it's still much more than worth it. This has made it onto my top series of all time list, as well as containing some of my favorite characters of all time.

"The nature of the world is that when we create something, we often have to destroy something else in the process."

"What kind of monsters are we?" Fatren asked in a hushed voice. "The kind we have to be," Elend said."

"She could love Elend for his desire to do the right thing, even when she thought he'd done the opposite."

"Somehow we'll find it. The balance between whom we wish to be and whom we need to be...But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are."

"I don't have much time for stories," Vin said.
"Seems that fewer and fewer do, these days...It makes me wonder what is so alluring about the real world that gives them all such a fetish for it. It's not a very nice place these days."

"Actually...I said that a story itself shouldn't be a cost. That is a very different from the story itself costing something. And, while some will argue, I believe that a story without cost is one considered worthless."

"I had to realize that I could be both people... I had to acknowledge that the new person I'm becoming is a valid extension of who I am. But for you, it's opposite! You have to realize that who you were is still a valid part of you. That person makes silly comments, and does things just to provoke a reaction. But, he's also lovable and kindhearted."

"A man is what he has passion about," Breeze said. "I've found that if you give up what you want most for what you think you should want more, you'll just end up miserable."

"This isn't about good or evil. Morality doesn't even enter into it. Good men will kill as quickly for what they want as evil men - only the things they want are different."

"People with passion are people who will destroy - for a man's passion is not true until he proves how much he's willing to sacrifice for it. Will he kill? Will he go to war? Will he break and discard that which he has, all in the name of what he needs?"

"We create things to watch them grow, Ruin, she said. To take pleasure in seeing that which we love become more than it was before....The life of a person is more than the chaos of its passing. Emotion, Ruin. This is your defeat."

Spoiler Section:
I'm serious, proceed at your own risk and don't say I didn't warn you. Everything will be spoiled because it's so MIND-BLOWING and I need to talk about it.

Mrs. Vin Venture.
What can I say? She's a freaking beast. And there were so many moments when I was felt like a proud mother or something (despite being younger than her in this last book). Just seeing her grow from the scared girl into this confident warrior warmed my heart. [Then crushed it, of course].
I mean, look at these moments of growth. LOOK AT THEM!

"Somehow, she had grown into a woman between the fall of kings and collapse of worlds. Once she had been terrified of change."
"That's it, she thought, smiling at another curtsying young girl. That's why I always felt that this was wrong. I didn't have to work for it, so I couldn't believe that I deserved it."

"She didn't worry if she'd find acceptance or belief. She'd slain the Lord Ruler. She'd married Elend Venture. And - more remarkable than either accomplishment - somehow in the chaos and mess she'd discovered who she was. Not a girl of the streets, though that was where she'd been raised. Not a woman of the court, though she appreciated the beauty and grace of the balls. Someone else. Someone she liked."

Her character arc is ultimately one of my favorites of all time. I have so much love for her and all that she's done. And I think she got the end she deserved, saving the world with Elend and then getting a rest in the afterlife with Elend and Kelsier. *still cries forever*

Elend Venture.
It's no secret that I am utterly in love with Elend Venture. Scholar, Mistborn, Emperor, and Kindhearted man. He's flawed, but realistically so, correctly so. He struggles in this book, just like he did in the last one, but he makes so much progress. He helps Vin save the world as nothing more than a mortal force. I loved how he learned to identify with all the pieces he is in this book, and how his arc matched up so well with Vin's in this book.

I also loved the return of what I like to call Sassy Elend. I mean, just look at the sass:
"How did a man like you ever end up a table of negotiation?"
"I was trained by a surly Mistborn, a sarcastic Terrisman, and a group of disrespectful thieves," Elend said, sighing. "Plus, on top of that, I was a fairly insufferable person to begin with."

"I'm a bastard," Elend said. "In composition, not in temperament or by birth...I'm an amalgamation of what I've needed to be. Part scholar, part rebel, part nobleman, part Mistborn, and part soldier."

I will never get over Elend Venture. Not in a hundred, million years. Elend Venture is everything. Okay.

Emperor and Empress Venture.
These two. These two are the cutest and mot kickbutt couple to ever exist in the history of all the world. Look at all this adorableness. Juuuuuust loooooooooooooooooook. I can't handle it.

"At that moment, Elend realized something. Vin didn't need another person worshipping her. She didn't need another faithful believer like Demoux, especially not in Elend. He didn't need to be a good member of the Church of the Survivor. He needed to be a good husband."

"Vin frowned. "Do I recognize that title?"
"It was the book that I was reading that night on the Venture balcony," Elend said. "The time we first met."
"Why, Elend! That's almost romantic - in a twisted 'I'm going to make my wife want to kill me' sort of way."


Breeze, Spook, and Sazed.
Have I mentioned that Breeze is my favorite thing AND an absolute genius.

"Breeze smiled, raising his cup of wine. "My ear man, you have, of course, found me out. However, instead of congratulating yourself for noticing my touch, perhaps you should ask yourself why I manipulated you into saying what you just did."

He's also such a kindhearted guy, no matter what he tries to make himself.

"Ha!" Breeze said with uncharacteristic tears in his eyes. "He is waking!"

"For now, I only wish to make a simple acknowledgement of the woman who held the power just before me. Of all of us who touched it, I feel she was the most worthy."


Then with Spook and the book!

"I have made you Mistborn, and healed the damage you did to your body by flaring tin so much. I hope you don't mind. It was Kelsier's request, actually. Consider it a parting gift from him."

This book wrecked me, guys. But in the most beautiful way possible.

Monday, May 19, 2014

TTT: Books about Friendship

Books about Friendship
Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they have a different Top Ten list topic that a bunch of bloggers take and make their own list of those things.
1. Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)One of the moments in Harry Potter that I don't feel gets talked about enough, and that made me cry, is Luna's mural. That moment distills everything that these books are, what they started out as. The friendship between these magical kids and how they team up to fight Voldemort. The golden trio have always been wonderful and dynamic because they're different but complementary.

2. The Under the Never Sky Trilogy
Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky, #2)The friendships in this book are beyond wonderful. Perry and Roar. Aria and Roar. The three of them together. I loved every bit of all of it. I love that Veronica Rossi didn't let her characters shy away from all that friendship involves. They fought, and they sacrificed for each other, and they told each other the truth.

3. Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of the Olympus
The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, #3)Both of these series have fan-freaking-tastic friendships. I mean, that's what they're primarily about. In Percy Jackson and the Olympians it's about Grover, Annabeth, and Percy going on quests and fighting monsters together. The Heroes of Olympus is all about the dynamics between the seven who answer the call to kick Gaea in her big stupid face. Riordan handles an assemble cast brilliantly, everyone has a role and a distinct personality that contrast and complement one another.

4. The Book Thief
The Book ThiefOne of the many stunning things in this book is the relationships. Friendship plays a large role in these relationships, particularly between Leisel and Rudy, and Leisel and Max. There so much emotion in the descriptions. There's so much happiness and despair and love. Absolutely beautiful.

5. Dying to Know You
Dying to Know YouThis book has an unusual friendship as its core, but that's what I loved about it. The narrator is an elderly man who befriends a young man and helps him develop his interests and grow his relationships. They learn from each other and grow because of their mutual friendship.

6. The Rithmatist
The Rithmatist (Rithmatist, #1)Joel and Melody are awesome together. I loved when they were on the page together because it was bound to be both funny and realistic. I love that they have different strengths, but they teach each other. The final scene of this book was so freaking fantastic. One of my favorite endings ever, and I can't wait to read more Melody and Joel.

7. Hollow City
Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, #2)Peculiar friends with peculiar, wonderful friendships. This book upped my investment in all of these characters tenfold. Ransom Riggs really hit his stride with this hilarious group of kids. So many times I was laughing at the dialogue between these vastly different characters.

8. The Lord of the Rings
The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)An assemble cast at its finest. These characters are vastly different in personality, in temperament, and even in species. I love every single pairing that happens throughout the books. And the friendship between those four darling hobbits is so iconic.

9. Friends with Boys
Friends with BoysThis graphic novel is freaking adorable. It's about a girl's friendship with her brothers and with a couple of misfits she meets at school. I loved the relationships in this book, and I loved how the threads wove together with all the different characters.

10. Alanna: The First Adventure
Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Friendly friendship of the adorable variety. This is where it all started. Alanna meeting George and Jon and all the other knights. This book was such a blast to read because of these characters and how they interacted. Particularly highlighted in this book are the blossoming friendships between Alanna and George, and Alanna and Jon. These friendships were each different, but I loved both of them so much (though admittedly I love George more).

Bout of Books 10.0 Wrap-up

Bout of Books 10.0 Wrap Up

I announced here that I was going to participate in the Bout of Books 10.0 Read-a-thon. I've never 'officially' participated in a read-a-thon before this, so I wanted to try it out. I LOVED it. I want to participate in more in the future.

My goal was to read 100 pages a day (which is a typical week for me, but I knew that this week I had a lot of other stuff to do). And I exceeded it. YAY! :D I thought I'd give a run-down of how my week went day-by-day.

60 pages Why We Broke Up
30 pages The Hero of Ages
Total: 90

52 pages The Hero of Ages
23 pages Why We Broke Up
Total: 75

70 pages The Hero of Ages
151 pages Why We Broke Up
Total: 221

37 pages The Hero of Ages
40 pages City of Ashes
Total: 77

210 pages City of Ashes
50 pages The Hero of Ages
Total: 260

90 The Hero of Ages
20 pages City of Ashes
Total: 110

100 pages City of Ashes
56 pages The Hero of Ages
14 pages The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

I finished a total of three books. First I finished Why We Broke Up (you can click the title to see my review). Then I finished The Hero of Ages (which blew my mind and I need a few days to collect myself before writing a review). I finished City of Ashes after midnight on yesterday, but that doesn't count as finishing it in the read-a-thon. I just thought I'd mention it.

I'm really happy with how I did this Read-a-thon! I can't wait to do another one in the future. The next one I do will probably The Booktube-a-thon this July. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up
By: Daniel Handler
Why We Broke Up
I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

This book gave me so many conflicting opinions. The writing is beautiful in some places, but other times it gets a little bit distracting and convoluted. Maybe that's what it was supposed to be, but I can't say that I always enjoyed it. Though, the places I did enjoy it, it was absolutely beautiful. I love that books can do things like this, they can try different styles, and I appreciate this book for its originality.

The artwork is gorgeous, too. I loved the way it was used, too. It felt very organic for the type of prose and for the way it was arranged. These weren't the aspects where the book dropped me, and in fact, they're the reason I kept reading. Because here is where I start listing my problems with this book.

The characters. I know that unlikable characters are important, and oftentimes I like 'unlikable' characters because they're interesting and realistic. I just couldn't find the motive for any of these characters, and their actions all felt too bizarre. For that reason, I found myself not giving a single crap about any of them. Not Vin, not Al, and especially not Ed. I hated Ed, but not in the way that makes a book more interesting to me. I hated him in a I-really-want-to-stop-reading-about-your-stupid-life sort of way. Maybe it's because I've known guys like him, the jock who feels so entitled, and it made me too irrationally angry. Unfortunately, that made me not connect with Min because I couldn't see why anyone would want to date someone like that. And I know the book is all about them breaking up, but the majority of the story is them dating.

For these reasons, I didn't enjoy a large portion of this book and it was a pretty big struggle to get through. But I hope that more books start taking risks like this in terms of design and format, because this book nails it in those departments. I just wish I could have seen more from the characters.


"I gave you an adventure, Ed, right in front of you but you never saw it until I showed you, and that's why we broke up."

"And then the third night was after we broke up, which was worth a million matches but instead just took all I had. That night it felt that somehow by flicking them off the roof, the matches would burn down everything, the sparks from the tips of the flames torching the world and all the heartbroken people in it. Up in smoke I wanted everything, up in smoke I wanted you..."

"It boomed inside me the whole time, an explosion over and over, the joy of what you wrote to me jumpy shrapnel in my bloodstream."

"All gone, indelible but invisible, not quite everything but everything but..."

"I love like a fool, like a Z-grade off-brand romantic comedy, a loon in too much makeup saying things in an awkward script to a handsome man with his own canceled comedy show. I'm not a romantic, I'm a half-wit."

Monday, May 12, 2014

TTT: Books I Almost Put Down...But Didn't

Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't
Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they have a different Top Ten list topic that a bunch of bloggers take and make their own list of those things.

Typically I try to give books around 50 pages to click with me. And I don't really /choose/ to put books down. I can just feel my interest in it fade until I don't pick it up and I pick up another book instead. Then, I'll either put it back on my to-read shelf because I know I'll want to come back for it, or I'll take it off my list. It's more of a slow fade and a gradual replacement than an actual decision.

That being said, if I reach around 100 pages in a book, I won't be putting it down, I'll keep reading until the end. Sometimes I feel the fading, but resist it for some reason, a certain character I like or one piece of plot that I'm interested in, or even sheer determination that will keep me going.

**Disclaimer: I'm really sorry if I included one of your favorite books on this first list. This is a matter of personal taste, and is not meant to be taken as though I am some overlord of good taste or whatever. You know this. ;)

Books I Wish I Would Have Put Down:
Sometimes, I wish I'd saved my time. Not to say these books were horrible, they just didn't do it for me. I know plenty of people who enjoyed each of these, but for me these books were ultimately either forgettable or frustrating. These are the books that I could have put down halfway through and not missed anything. I couldn't know that when I was reading it, but in hindsight, I would be fine with past-me setting it down and never picking it up again.

I didn't connect with the characters. I could feel what the story was trying to do, but the way this story went about it didn't feel like anything new or interesting to me. It felt bizarre most times, but not in the way that makes me more intrigued. It bored me most of the time. The thematic content was too forced and too scattered.

This felt very stereotypical to me. I don't recall much about the characters or their struggles, and the resolution was too flimsy.
Glow (Sky Chasers #1)
I have a review of this one, and you can check out my reasons more in-depth there. Ultimately this book didn't have enough characterization, and it didn't have actions scenes that got across what they were accomplishing.

Brightly Woven
Brightly Woven
I had the same sort of problems with this as I had with Witchlanders. The characters were confusing and not cemented in their characterization. The story was too scrappy, if that makes sense. As in, there never felt like there was a plot, they were just going around doing stuff. There weren't enough stakes for the story that I believe this book was trying to tell. The writing was confusing and odd in places.

Memoirs of a Teenage AmnesiacMemoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
I mean, this makes sense. I have never enjoyed stories with a premise that has to do with amnesia, I just think it's overdone and never fulfills the purpose that it sets out to, but that's just my preference.

I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)
I Am Number Four
This book was so cliché-alien, and not particularly well-written, in my opinion. It felt like faux sci-fi, like it was using the premise as a gimic and the action always felt fabricated, like it never accomplished anything. The characters were 2-D and boring, and I did not enjoy reading this book one bit.

Books That I'm Glad I Kept Reading
This list is why I always give books a fair chance to sway me. The books on this list are some of my favorites and some of the ones that touched me deeply. And the stories on this list are worth every not-so-great book that I keep reading, just to be sure, because it means I might discover how truly wonderful a book is, as well.

Under the Never Sky
Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)The first few chapters didn't grip me. It felt so stereotypical Dystopian techie. It took until Perry went back into the outside world that I realized how interesting this world is. Then I saw how awesome Aria is and how hilarious Roar is, and it was full on love after that. I'm glad I didn't let a slow beginning pull me away, because this whole series is wonderful.

Clockwork Angel
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)The backstory - I put off reading Cassandra Clare for near two years after hearing about her books. I was being stupid and snobby, but there you have it. Anyway, I decided to try The Infernal Devices because I tend to enjoy historical fiction-fantasy more than urban fantasy. I listened to the audio book of this one, and the first few chapters with the Gray sisters just didn't snatch my attention. But I really wanted to give this whole series a try, so I continued. Then suddenly, Will Herondale. That quick and I was in love, so when Tessa transitioned into the Shadowhunter world, I learned how fantastic this series really is. Also. I mean. Will Herondale.

At the time I read this, it was more bizarre for me to read contemporary. Meaning, I went in with some unintentional biases. This story, this writing, won me over, though. This book is haunting and difficult, but so worth the read.

Tiger LilyTiger Lily
Fun story, I actually did put this book down! The first time, I got about a seventy pages in when I felt the slow fade set in. I ended up sending it back to the library, but I kept it on my to-read list. This year I decided to pick it up again in audiobook form, and it worked! I really enjoyed this story, and the ending made me cry. In public (which hardly ever happens)!

And if this list isn't proof that I need to stop being stupid and holding onto preconceived biases about genres and tropes, I don't know what is. I need to give every book a fair chance to wow me, even though some of them just won't. That's what I love about books, the variety, and the fact that everyone can love and hate different ones and it's okay!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bout of Books 10.0

Bout of Books 10.0
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I AM SO EXCITED! I've never -officially- participated in a Read-a-thon before, but now seems like a great time to start. I know that I have another commitment this week that is going to take up a lot of my time, but that commitment is something I love, so I'm okay with that.

I don't know how much I'll get read, but I hope it's quite a bit. I sort of want this to be my last reading sprint before my schedule gets crazy in the summer. So, I thought I'd share which books I'm planning on reading, and hopefully, finishing.

-The Hero of Ages by: Brandon Sanderson (I'm about 130 pages in now, but by Monday I'll be farther than that. I hope to finish it during this Read-a-thon)

-Why We Broke Up by: Daniel Handler

-Between Shades of Gray by: Ruta Sepetys

-Just One Day by: Gayle Forman

-City of Ashes by: Cassandra Clare (I have this on hold at the library, so it depends on whether it comes in or not)

Wish me luck! I have no idea how this is going to go, but let's hope it goes sort of decently.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The One

The One
By: Kiera Cass
The One (The Selection, #3)
America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

I don't know why I expected this series to be anything more than it started out as. Extra light on world-building, weakly written characters, and forced emotion. This review might get a little harsh, so if you like this book then none of this will interest you. And there will be spoilers, but I mean, there's not much plot to actually spoil? Sooooo?

This is where I get ranty.

UGH. THIS BOOK. I know, I know, this is my own fault for continuing this series, even though I didn't really expect it to get any better. I was vaguely hoping that it might come together in small ways, but nope. *NOPE*

The characters remained RIDICULOUSLY mis-characterized. They didn't have motive. They just did things that were intended to be 'dramatic', but because there was NO build up in the development of the characters, everything fell flat. America didn't change. Ever. The moral was basically, this is why America was always mature all along. The problem is that SHE WASN'T. She was ALWAYS ridiculous and ALWAYS immature. There was never any development, because her characterization didn't make any sense.

Even the one character that - until this book - made a tiny bit of sense characterization-wise (Maxon) lost every last bit of that. He just did things. He just acted without seemingly any thought as to whether his development would actually lead him do that, if his personality was at all like the things that he was doing. 

What I am trying to get at, is that there's no emotional authenticity. The characterization is never steady. The characters just do things to up the drama, not because it's something their character would do. AND THAT'S ANNOYING.

Then there were the tiny things that didn't make any sense. Aspen in this book was basically non-existent except to step in occasionally and conveniently gain a new love interest, just so he could fake this huge emotional development. Maxon and America's relationship being so wobbly - with no change from any of the previous books - was so drawn out. It made very little sense in the context of what was happening and it was so frustrating. It goes back to what I was saying in the paragraph before. Like, suddenly, Maxon became a full-on, raging IDIOT. And it was the worst.

The one part I sort of liked was the friendship between the four girls. I mean, it felt fake and overdone, but I at least didn't mind the concept of it. The execution was thrust into your face so suddenly, with very little build-up of any kind. One minute they hate each other and the next *BOOM* we accept each other and our roles in this competition. Though, that's basically how every moment of "development" went in this book and series.

None of the political stuff makes sense in a this-is-actually-how-politics-work sort of way. Too simplistic, and trying too hard to be 'complex' but it just ends up 'complex ' in all the wrong ways. It is the opposite of how well the political ideology and the functioning of people under a government work in The Hunger Games and in The Final Empire. Like, this book shows no understanding of how a caste system would actually, conceivably work. Not to mention it seems like the people switch their "support" (even though it never had any impact on the actual plot, it was just a vague thing) every few pages.

The world is so weak. We have no idea what they have and don't have any more. Computers? They mentioned Football, but who plays it? How do they have time for it? Is there still religion? A pastor was mentioned, but what kind of religion did he belong to and who follows it? Are there cameras everywhere, because there should be if rebels are breaking in every two pages? Apparently, around all the nice food they eat, they also eat peanut butter, because they talked about it? These are all the random pieces of (and this is a grossly simplistic use of this word) "worldbuilding", but none of it makes even a drop of sense. And this is different than the Shatter Me series, which was very purposefully light on the world-building, but that was always its intent. The world was kept vague so that the characters could take center stage. But this series was trying too hard to have world-building, but all of it was pointless.

Personal pet peeve of mine: WHY ARE THERE TAGS AFTER EVERY LINE OF DIALOGUE. Tags are meant to be used when the conversation needs a beat, and preferably it is not always "said angrily" "said happily" "said gruffly". NO.

Don't even get me started on Aspen needing a woman that he can protect to be happy. EWWW. Or on America's attempts to do politics. Or on the utter and complete convenience of the last few scenes. Suddenly, every single person who stood in the way just died, just like that. Honestly, these deaths were the most stupid I have ever read. Or the complete lack of emotion in the rushed last few pages. I mean, wasn't this supposed to be an emotion series ender? Yet America just went through the last few scenes with barely even scraps of emotion.

None of the plot twists are surprising. I'm pretty sure the reader understands the "twists" whole BOOKS before America ever does. Plus the fact that the "surprise twists" had no bearing on any plot whatsoever. I mean, the whole "These characters are actually part of the good rebels group" *GASP* "And now we're never going to mention it again." It was a plot without any stakes, and there was absolutely no depth.

I am sincerely sorry if you liked this series and this review made you angry. Please don't hate me, this is merely my opinion.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Graphic Novels #1

Graphic Novel Reviews #1
Recently, I decided I wanted to start reading graphic novels. I knew I'd love them, because most of them are gorgeous and are a great way of telling a story. There are things that you can do with Graphic Novels that you can't do with other storytelling media.
Each time I read one in the past few months, I had things I wanted to say about them, but never enough for a full review. So periodically I'm going to do these group review format things, because that way I still get to recommend them, but I don't have to slog my way through a whole review.

Friends with BoysFriends with Boys
by: Faith Erin Hicks
This is the first graphic novel I ever read. Rainbow Rowell recommended this via twitter, and said that Faith Erin Hicks is going to be the artist for a graphic novel they're working on together. So I had to check this out. I LOVED this one. The characters were well characterized and there were a lot of them. I loved how many storylines there were moving their way through this graphic novel. The art is beautiful.

5 out of 5 stars 

Anya's GhostAnya's Ghost
by: Vera Brosgol
As soon as I finished this one, I went looking for ones like it. The most popular choice, and the one that kept popping up, was Anya's Ghost. I liked this graphic novel, but it didn't feel as developed as Friends with Boys and the plot was sort of cliché. I didn't have much feeling toward any of the characters, and the art was pretty good, but didn't strike me as much as Friends with Boys. I still liked it, it just didn't wow me.

3 out of 5 stars

The War at EllsmereWar at Ellsmere
by: Faith Erin Hicks
Then I decided that I wanted to try more of Faith Erin Hick's stuff. This one had an interesting premise. I liked the setting, and I'm excited to see where it goes. Though this story didn't wow me either, and neither did the characters. It felt sort of cliché as well, but that might just be how I personally approach most boarding school stories.

3 out of 5 stars

The ArrivalThe Arrival
by: Shaun Tan
This art. THIS ART. Absolutely, mind-blowingly stunning. Now, this book doesn't have any words, but it still finds the perfect way to tell its story. This art is shades of brown and gray, and it is some of the prettiest things I have ever seen. I loved this story and, like I said, the art is gorgeous, but I felt like some of the buildup was missing for me. But that might just mean that I need to reread it. I would stare at these pages all day long, so I will be rereading this.

4 out of 5 stars

Jane, the Fox and MeJane, The Fox, and Me
by: Fanny Brit
Speaking of gorgeous art, this book. I loved this story, too. It is about a young girl who gets picked on, and it has all these Jane Eyre references because as the girl is going through all of these things, she is also reading the book. I loved the message about how a book can become such an integral part of how you think and how you react to things. The artwork is stunning and the story is touching and beautiful.

4 out of 5 stars

Maus I : A Survivor's Tale : My Father Bleeds History (Maus, #1)Maus 1 & 2
by: Art Spiegelman
Ever since I heard that graphic novels were a thing, I've heard about Maus. It's praised as one of the classic graphic novels, and now I understand why. These are heartbreaking and emotional and realistic. This is the story of Art's relationship with his dad, how his dad was affected by being a Jew in Poland during World War II, and how that plays into his relationship with his son and with the world. This book highlights how the consequences of WWII still play themselves out in our world today. The characters are so human, so flawed and so relatable.
I loved when it went meta. I love that this book is a slanted look at making art, too. Artie takes all of his pain and makes something beautiful, but that doesn't mean the pain gets erased.

5 out of 5 stars

The Encyclopedia of Early EarthThe Encyclopedia of Early Earth
by: Isabel Greenberg
This book is so beautiful, too. It's an almost episodic, as well as epic, story. It capitalizes on what storytelling means to humanity. It's a love story, and an adventure story, and a story of exploration. There are so many pages that I just let myself stare at for minutes on end because they were so, so, so beautiful. I loved this graphic novel, and it's simply wonderful.

5 out of 5 stars

Monday, May 5, 2014

TTT: Covers I Would Frame as Art

Ten Covers I Would Frame As Art
Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they have a different Top Ten list topic that a bunch of bloggers take and make their own list of those things.

Let's just say that these covers speak for themselves. So, I'm going to leave them here for you to bask in their gloriousness. Enjoy. ;)

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)

Eleanor & Park

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)
Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)
The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)
The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)

The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-0.5)

Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)