Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Series Challenge: January Checkpoint

So it's time for the first check-in of this series challenge. This is actually everything read since I posted the intro post, which I think was all the way back in November. So these are reads from the end of November, December, and January. (And if you don't know what this challenge is, go here)

Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune were re-reads, but I hadn't yet read The Mark of Athena or The House of Hades, so now I'm all caught up. Now I just have to sit back and wait for Blood of Olympus to come out in October...

Abandon series by Meg Cabot
Abandon and Underworld were rereads, because I had basically forgotten everything that happened. This wasn't the best series I've ever read (in fact, rereading probably made me like it even less) and Awaken took me a while to get through because I couldn't hold interest. But it is one series finished for the challenge! 

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Angelfall by Susan Ee
LOVED both of these books, and can't wait to continue on with the series. Actually, both my siblings read Enclave before I did, even though I'm the one who owns it, and they loved it just as much as I did (I think). In fact, they've already read Outpost, and my sister is currently on Horde. I just haven't had time to read them as well.

January/total year count= 1 complete

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cruel Beauty {by Rosamund Hodge}

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I loved this book. It was a beautiful, imaginative, different, gorgeous retelling. Of course, having my two favorite things (Greek mythology and fairy tale retelling), I was probably destined to love it. Add in that gorgeous cover, and I was sold.

First off, I will say that this book may not be for everyone. I know many people who love it as much as I do, some who were torn, and some who don't like it. (Guess which category I fall into.) If you are going to read this book, you must go into it with an open mind. I think the problem is, people see that this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and they go into it thinking Belle. You can't do that. Belle is kind, caring, compassionate, loving, and sweet. Nyx is not. I mean, just think about the fact that her name is Nyx (and what it means), and realize that she is the exact opposite of Belle. If you can get past that, you'll be fine.

I am a huge sucker for Greek mythology in anything. This story was full of it, and that's what made me love it from the start. (Actually, the beginning of this reminded me less of Beauty and the Beast and more of Cupid and Psyche. Or am the only one here nerdy enough to get that?) I will say that the beginning might be a little slow, because of all the world-building. But every name, reference, or anecdote that was mythology-inspired just made me happy. (I have a problem. And I'm perfectly okay with it.)

Nyx is...different. She isn't your normal heroine (and definitely nothing like Belle). She resents her family, but she hates herself for it. She wonders if maybe she has a little bit of evil inside her too. She knows she is imperfect, flawed. In fact, she doesn't even think she's that good of a person. And that's completely different. I realize that this is where some people had problems with her, but I didn't.

All the characters were written beautifully. Each had their developments, their own personality. I loved Ignifex, and the relationship he and Nyx have. It's rocky in the beginning, and I realize the build-up didn't make complete sense (as in, there wasn't really much of it), but I did like it. The love triangle, if that's what it can be called, was well-done. It didn't make me want to hurl the book or hit the characters over the head. It was resolved in a way that worked beautifully for the story and the characters. 

The writing was just beautiful. It was flowed perfectly with the story. I loved how she made the house come to life, the magical elements, and the mythology seamlessly ingrained into the story. It was just really amazing, especially for a debut author and I can't wait to read more from her.

I will say, the ending had me...well, like this.

Because everyone needs some J-Law in their life.
I was kind of confused at the last part. Nyx suddenly finds out everything out and understands all the things, except we don't really go with her. It climaxes and ends pretty quickly, and I was confused as to what was happening. But that would be the only criticism I have for this book.

So would I recommend this story? Absolutely. It is such a beautifully written, different retelling. In fact, I know that's what it claims, but it was so unique that it almost doesn't seem like it was a retelling. I loved it. Hopefully you do as well.

I received an ARC as a gift from another blogger, because she's awesome.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Rosamund Hodge:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, January 27, 2014

{Cover Reveal} The Fine Art of Pretending

Hey guys! Today, I am excited to help share the cover for The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris! If you have not read any of her books, you definitely need to check them out. I've only read A Tale of Two Centuries, but I loved it, and will definitely be checking out more of her books. Including this one!

So without further ado, I present............................................

Title: The Fine Art of Pretending
Author: Rachel Harris
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: September 30, 2014

According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.
With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.
But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

Doesn't it sound totally awesome? And that cover is so cute. (Okay, is it totally weird that I want the shirt the girl is wearing? It's just so cute.) If you haven't checked out any of Rachel's books yet, you definitely should! I can't wait to read this one :)

Rachel Harris:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Classics Challenge 2014

Guys. Classics are hard to read sometimes. They're hard enough to read in class as it is, much less on your own. So why am I challenging myself to read them, on my own time, by myself, for now reason? Am I self-masochistic? (Probably) But I also believe in being cultured, educated and well-rounded. And since I haven't read even some of the most popular classics, I have challenged myself to do so.

(So I was going to start this last year, and then decided to forgo in favor of the Sherlock challenge, that I absolutely completely failed. But let's not dwell on that.) I have decided to bring it back this year. My senior year in English, we were given a suggested reading list for the AP test, and let's just say, there's a lot of books on there I haven't read. So I thought it was time to change that.

My progress will be kept in a tab above. I don't think I'll review the ones that I read, because classics are sort of in a world of their own. It's hard to review something timeless. But here some books that I haven't read yet that I probably really should have by now.

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I've tried to start this a million times actually, just don't like it. But at this point in life, I really should have already read something by Jane Austen)
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Actually started this one a few years ago, but never finished)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Because I've owned it for a while now)
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer (I've actually read The Aeneid all the way English and Latin. Maybe its time to give the Greek side a chance)
  • Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe or Faust by Johann Goethe -haven't decided which version I'm going to read and this one is still up in the air. (Lol this one is for the guy at Half-Price Books who told me I should read it. Guess I should ask him which version to read?)
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At least SOME of the stories.
  • Something else by Shakespeare, because we only read 3 or 4 of his plays throughout high school. (Even though Shakespeare is very hard to read by oneself, so we'll see how this goes.)

If you want to challenge yourself, feel free to join me! Pick a few books, and tell me in the comments. And definitely leave me suggestions of books I should add (because this book will grow and change throughout the year).

Oh, and wish me luck ;)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Short Story Sunday: Poison Dance

Title: Poison Dance
Series: Midnight Thief, #0.5
Author: Livia Blackburne
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison. 

So, if you've been here long enough, you know about my complete obsession with love for the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. And because of that, I've been very scared hesitant to read other stories about assassins, for fear that I would only ever compare them to the ToG series, and they would of course never measure up.

Well, I managed to get past that to read Poison Dance, and I am so glad I did. It may only be a short story, but don't be fooled. It is a complex, intricate, complete story all on its own.

James is an assassin, just wanting to do his job without getting into the politics of the Guild. Then, he is approached by Thalia, a dancing girl with a huge and dangerous request.

This is what everyone looks for in a fantasy novel. Although it is short, it was very beautifully written. The building of the world, the Assassin's Guild, and everything that is going on is explained very well, without taking up so much of the already short story. The story is engaging from the start, and will keep you glued to the pages, wanting to know how it ends up and how it plays into Midnight Thief.

James is only a supporting character in Midnight Thief, which makes me sad because I want more of him, his story. BUT this also has made me even more excited for Midnight Thief when it comes out. You're telling me I have to wait until July??

So, basically, I loved this, and you need to read it. Now.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

I received an ebook copy from the author in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way, except for that I need Midnight Thief even more now.

Livia Blackburne:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Promise of Amazing {by Robin Constantine}

Title: The Promise of Amazing
Author: Robin Constantine
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn't know how.
Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn't know how. 
One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

I've talked about how I've been getting more and more into contemporary. This sounded like a cute, fun little story, and so I was actually interested in reading it. I read this after coming off some really heavy reading, and just needed something light and fluffy, so I may be more forgiving towards some aspects that I usually would not be. And although I did enjoy it, I was left with some mixed feelings.

First, if you've read anything at all about this book, then you've probably heard about the insta-love. I am not for insta-love. Anywhere, anytime, in any case. I just don't like it, but I usually deal with it. However, there just seemed to be no basis for the insta-love in this book. Sure, she saves him from choking to death, but that wasn't nearly enough reason for the literal stalking that ensued. I mean, maybe I'm weird, but that would turn me off, not on.

Wren is your average plain Jane. She has recently decided that she's sick and tired of the "quiet girl" stigma she has been assigned, and wants to do something about it. But aside from being completely obsessed with Grayson, she doesn't actually seem to do anything about it, except complain that she hates it. She wasn't a bad character, and I would definitely take her over the whiny, annoying main girl characters we usually get, but she wasn't really a standout character either.

Grayson was a bit more of an interesting character, what with being a reformed term paper pimp and all. He was mostly a jerk in the beginning, and although he was sincerely "trying to change", he was still mostly a jerk the whole way through. And although he did seem at first to be your average moody, rebellious teenager, as the story progresses, we see that he is legitimately sorry about ruining his future. (Whether he's actually sorry, or just sorry he got caught, I don't know, but he does seem to finally understand the consequences of his actions and what it cost him.)

If it weren't for Gray and Wren's complete and utter obsession with each other, the plot would have been much better. It was a good idea, but much of it was lost and overshadowed by how much Wren and Gray loooooove each other.

I did love the family dynamic, in how the parents of both teens were there and involved, unlike most YA novels. The characters/story was fairly realistic in how teenagers are, and act, and what generally goes on in a high school.

All in all, this was still a good story. If you are in the mood for something light and fun, I would definitely recommend it. If you go in expecting too much, you'll probably be disappointed, but if you're reading it just for fun, you will enjoy it.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way, except to think that Robin Constantine is just a seriously sweet person.

Robin Constantine:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | tumblr | Goodreads

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Snowed In? So Read Giveaway Hop [CLOSED]

Hey guys! Being the new year and all, what better way to start off than with a giveaway?

It took me a while to decide what book to giveaway. In the end, I decided on a hard copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I love this book so much, and think that it is the perfect book to get stuck inside with. If you haven't read it yet, then you really need to. You can check out my review on Read.Sleep.Repeat.

And of course, there are rules.
  • Giveaway is US only (sorry, INT peeps, but I can't afford that kind of shipping :/ )
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond, or a new winner will be chosen
  • Must be 13 or older, or have parent's permission
  • I am not responsible for lost packages
  • All entries will be verified. Any false entries will result in ALL entries for that person being disqualified.
If that sounds good to you, then enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And visit all the other stops in the hop, so you can win even more things!