Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (10)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

Here's my haul!

Books I got from the library:
- Blackout by Robison Wells
- Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts
- The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
- Taste Test by Kelly Fiore

Books I bought/received:
- This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
- Renegade by J.A. Souders

I have yet to read any of these books, but I should probably get started, since the library books will be due soon... I'm also excited to start This Song Will Save Your Life and Renegade, though, as I've heard nothing but great things about them.

What books did you get?  Leave a link to your blog in the comments so I can stop by!

~ Kaitlyn

Monday, December 23, 2013

ARC Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Goodreads summary:

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

My review:

It's been a while since I read a fantasy book that gave me such mixed feelings.  Overall, I really enjoyed Defy, besides two big problems: the love triangle and the world-building.

The world-building had SO much potential, but it felt wasted.  There was pretty much no description of the setting.  Some books can get away with this, but fantasy novels should always have a lot of world-building and description of the setting.  Now, what's interesting is that a good portion of Defy is set in a jungle.  I thought this was unique and different as far as fantasy novels go, but there simply wasn't enough description of it.  I also would've loved more backstory on the kingdom and fantasy world.

I was disappointed in the love triangle too.  My rating would probably be much higher if not for the romance.  It's not just that I disliked the romance, it's the fact that it takes up so much of the story.  It disrupted the action and the flow of the plot.  I do have to say that I quite liked Prince Damian, though.  He's such a complex and likeable character, even though he comes across as arrogant at first.  He was easily my favorite character.  Rylan, on the other hand, I found to be slightly boring.  Yes, he's a good friend to Alex, but it was hard to see him as anything more than a friend.

Besides those two problems, there wasn't much else I disliked.  A couple things stuck out - like, what's up with Alex blushing literally all the time?  And why does the dialogue have to sound so modern?  But aside from that, I thought this was a fun and fast-paced read.  Alex is a strong, likeable main character, and I really loved the intricate plot.  It was great for a fantasy novel.  I was caught up in Alex's quest to overthrow the king and save her kingdom.  And I absolutely loved how, as the plot progressed, different secrets would unfold and the intrigue increased.  The author did a fantastic job of building the plot to a thrilling climax, and I was completely sucked in to the last quarter of the book.

Despite a few flaws, Defy is a fast, fun read.  The characters of Alex and Damian were well-developed and three-dimensional, and the action-packed plot sucked me in with its twists and turns.  It reminded me a lot of the TV show Merlin, what with the fantasy world and the use of magic.  Even though I disliked the world-building and love triangle, this was still an immensely enjoyable, entertaining read and I'd recommend that fantasy fans give it a try.

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  3 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

ARC Review: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Goodreads summary:

Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

My review:

How does Lauren Morrill do it?  She writes some of the most adorable YA contemporaries ever.  I can always count on her books to make me laugh and swoon.

I just love the premise of Being Sloane Jacobs.  Two girls with the same name who meet and decide to switch lives for the rest of the summer?  It's such a fun idea!  I love how figure skating and hockey are incorporated into the book, too.  I haven't read many YA books about ice skating, and I loved getting to learn about it in this book.

The two main narrators are both so unique and hilarious.  I could easily relate to Sloane E. and her struggle between pleasing her family and doing what she enjoys.  Sloane D., on the other hand, has a tougher and more aggressive personality, but this just made me like her even more.  She has a funny sense of humor.  I really love that both Sloanes have very different voices and personalities; I never got them confused at all.  Morrill excels at writing two separate and distinct POVs in this book.  Most authors can't accomplish this feat very well, but I was impressed with Morrill's ability to make both voices stand out.

The plot is very fast-paced and lighthearted.  Of course, one must overlook the fact that in real life, the two Sloanes would have never been able to switch places without being found out right away.  If you can get past that and simply enjoy the story, it's full of laughter and entertainment.  I like how there's also some serious moments mixed in, though.  Both Sloanes are running away from something in their life and trying to discover themselves, and there's a lovely coming-of-age theme about what it truly means to grow up.

This was an all-around fun, romantic read.  Lauren Morrill is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I can't wait to read her future books.  Being Sloane Jacobs is perfect for fans of contemporary books such as Anna and the French Kiss or Smart Girls Get What They Want.  If you're looking for a sweet, funny read, this is it!

Favorite quote:  "Wannawatchamovietonight?"  I say it so fast it all comes out as one long, newly invented word (country of origin: Swoonistan; meaning: "to swoon so hard as to be rendered incapable of enunciation").

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard

Goodreads summary:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My review:

I've been dying to read this book for over a year now, so let's just say that I had pretty big expectations when I started it.  And although I definitely enjoyed Splintered, it wasn't everything I'd hoped it would be.  I loved the deliciously creepy world of Wonderland and the gorgeous writing, but the plot was so slow and the romance was terrible.

What I liked: The world-building.  Just wow.  The author did a fantastic job of taking the story Carroll created and expanding on it and adding to it with great detail.  She really did her research for this book and it shows - the world-building, the descriptions, it's all very well-done.  I love how Splintered isn't a retelling of Alice in Wonderland.  It's completely different: it takes the story of Alice in Wonderland and adds a new spin on it.  This unique idea makes Splintered stand out from most YA retellings.

The world of Wonderland is so creepy and grotesque.  I loved the nonsensical feel to it.  It really is a darker version of Carroll's Wonderland, and even though it has its share of violence, it's written in such an elegant way that you can't help loving the descriptions and writing.

And Morpheus?  Ooh, he was a great character.  Although I don't really think there's a love triangle between Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus (Alyssa admits she's attracted to Morpheus, but she knows she's truly in love with Jeb) I'm totally going to be on Team Morpheus if the author decides to add his character to the romance in the sequel, Unhinged.  Morpheus reminded me a lot of Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, and that's probably a big reason why I was so in love with him.  (What can I say?  He's not evil...just misunderstood. ;)

What I didn't like: Jeb, the love interest.  Oh, ick.  He's a controlling jerk.  Forget romance - he's not even that great of a friend to Alyssa!  He doesn't believe in her or stick up for her, especially in the beginning.  Even when he's in Wonderland and finally decides to believe it's all true, it still seems like he doesn't fully trust Alyssa to make decisions without his guidance.  Most other reviewers seemed to dislike him too, and I can certainly see why.

I was also bored for about the first 100 pages, until Alyssa actually entered Wonderland.  When I read the summary, it sounded like Alyssa entered Wonderland right away, but it took about a third of the book for the action to truly start.  I thought there was too much backstory in the beginning, and it just didn't seem to flow well.  It felt like a stereotypical YA paranormal at first, but I'm glad the story started moving and becoming interesting once Alyssa was in Wonderland.

Overall, I'm glad I read Splintered and fell in love with the enchantingly scary world of Wonderland.  I didn't particularly connect with the characters besides Morpheus, and I disliked the romance and slow beginning, but the amazing world-building and gorgeous writing makes up for it.  I'll probably be reading the sequel if my library gets it.

My rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Broke and Bookish.  Each week, a new list topic is posted, and book bloggers fill in their choices.  This week's topic is "Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR List."

I split my list up - the first five are actual winter releases, and the last five are books that I already bought/received/got from the library. :)

My Top Ten:

1. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi.  I can't wait for the conclusion to the Shatter Me trilogy.  I love these books so much.  Mafi is an incredibly talented writer.

2. White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout.  A new JLA series about gargoyles and demons?  Sign me up, please!

3. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton.  This series has such a unique spin on Greek mythology, and I totally love it.  Like Shatter Me, I'm beyond excited for this but so sad to see the series end.

4. Cress by Marissa Meyer.  These are some of the best YA fairytale retellings ever.  Meyer never disappoints and I can't wait to see what she does with the story of Rapunzel.

5. Split Second by Kasie West.  I fell in love with West's books this year, and I can't wait for this one - the sequel to Pivot Point.  Her books are always full of wit and sass!

6. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  I did something I usually never do - I saw the movie before I read the book.  *ducks head in shame* I'd wanted to read the book before the movie came out, but there were too many holds on it at my library.  I finally have a copy, though!

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I haven't yet seen the movie for this one, but I'm excited to finally dive into the book.  I've heard nothing but great things about it.

8. Poison Princess by Kresley Cole.  This has been on my TBR list for ages and I finally snatched it up when it went on sale for Kindle.  Most of my Goodreads friends have gushed about it, so I'm interested to see what all the hype's about.

9. Defy by Sara B. Larson.  Netgalley approved me for this one, and I definitely need to get started on it soon, as it releases next month.  I love fantasy books and this one sounds similar to Graceling, which I loved, so I can't wait to start it.

10. Blackout by Robison Wells.  I loved Wells' book Variant, and even though Blackout has gotten some negative reviews, I'm still hoping that I'll enjoy it.

What books are on your TBR list?  Leave a comment with a link to your blog so I can stop by!

~ Kaitlyn

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads summary:

An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

My review:

*mild spoilers concerning the romance*

This is definitely one of my favorite YA fantasy series.  It's so full of action and excitement.  Sarah J. Maas is an excellent writer and I can't wait to see what happens in the rest of this series.

I admit that, although I loved Celaena in Throne of Glass, she had a slight Mary-Sue (.i.e., she was too perfect) quality that bothered me a little.  However, I think that in Crown of Midnight she was a much more well-developed character.  Even though she was as tough as ever, she had flaws and weaknesses.  I also love how Maas isn't afraid to make her heroine such a dark and twisted character.  Celaena suffers so many losses in this book and it reflects on her character - she will stop at nothing to save what she holds dear.

Oh, Chaol.  And Dorian.  Gah, I'm completely in love with both of them, although Chaol is really my favorite.  I love where Maas took the romance, and yet it also broke my heart (I won't say much so I don't spoil anything, but for those who've read the book, you know what I mean.  I think Celaena overreacted).  I just want my OTP to end up that too much to ask?  Apparently. *sniffles*

I also love how Chaol and Dorian aren't just in the story for the romance, too.  Dorian really developed as a character and I love how he finally learns to stand up for himself.  And Chaol is so sweet.  I love how he's so loyal to his job and how he does what he believes is right no matter what.  He sacrifices so much for Celaena.  In my opinion, she totally does not deserve him.

I just love the plot and the writing.  There's so much action and lots of separate storylines happening.  All the plot development has made me super excited for the next book.  And the big reveal with Celaena at the end was amazing.  I think I was biting my nails for at least the last 50 pages of the book!  The writing is so good; I love how it's in third person and we also get the POVs of characters like Chaol, Dorian, and more - not just Celaena.  It's perfect for epic fantasy books like this where there's always a lot of action.

I'm so impressed with this sequel.  It made me feel all the feels and I'm extremely envious of Sarah J. Maas and her amazing writing skills right now.  I'm just going to sit in the corner and cry until the next book comes out.  That's totally normal, right?  Riiight?

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recent Cover Reveals!

I've been doing so much fangirling over cover reveals lately, so I decided to round up a few of my favorites.  Here they are!

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh releases on August 26, 2014.
Unravel by Imogen Howson releases July 8, 2014.
Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore releases June 15, 2014
What books are you excited for?  Any other good cover reveals that I've missed?
~ Kaitlyn

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (35)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

My pick is Cress by Marissa Meyer!

Goodreads summary:

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

My thoughts:

I LOVE this series so much!  Marissa Meyer puts such a unique twist on fairytales.  And Rapunzel is one of my favorite fairytales, so I'm especially excited for this one.

Cress releases on February 4, 2014.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

~ Kaitlyn

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Top 5 Books of November 2013

Whoa.  It's December - Christmas is actually coming soon.  It's hard to believe.  I'm hoping Christmas break means I'll have lots more reading time.  And good news: I finished my 2013 reading challenge of 250 books recently!  Fingers crossed I can hit 275 by 2014.  Here's the books I read in November:

- Timepiece by Myra McEntire
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
- Crash Into You by Katie McGarry
- Alienated by Melissa Landers
- Sentinel by Jennifer L. Armentrout
- Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
- Fates by Lanie Bross
- Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding
- What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
- Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano
- Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
- Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
- Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
- Linked by Imogen Howson
- Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
- Belladonna by Fiona Paul
- The Liberator by Victoria Scott
- Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
- Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

My top 5 favorites:

1. Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano.  This book is so magical.  It captured my heart with its gorgeous prose and heartbreaking story.  There are SO many quotes I loved.  I adore all of this author's books and yet, if possible, this one is even better than her previous books.  I'm dying to get my hands on the sequel.

2. Crash Into You by Katie McGarry.  There's something positively addicting about McGarry's contemporary books.  This one is no exception.  I was swept away in this heart-pounding story about love and family.  It might have lots of drama and insta-love, two things I usually dislike, but I don't even care one bit because McGarry just writes it so well.  Completely loved this book.

3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  Well, I could tell just by the title that I'd love this, and luckily I was right.  I love what this book is about: college, fanfiction, and love.  Does it get any better?  I think not.  As a high school junior who's been in "college mode" (i.e. writing essays, visiting colleges, searching for scholarships) the past few months, I loved reading about the introverted main character's experience at college and how to slowly grow up and live life on her own.  Highly recommended.

4. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke.  A thrilling, shiver-inducing supernatural mystery, this book is all kinds of creepy.  And that's why I loved it.  Plus, there's something about the writing.  The descriptions of the setting are full of charm and the writing is full of lines you'll reread over and over, pondering their truth and meaning.  This book is a wild and unconventional YA novel.  I can't wait for the sequel.

5. Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill.  This author is always great if you're looking for a delightfully lighthearted story, and this book is just so much fun.  It has a really cute premise and it'll keep you flipping the pages.  I giggled and swooned multiple times while reading.  Without a doubt, this book will put a smile on your face.

Honorable mentions to Alienated, Eleanor and Park, and The Liberator!

What books did you read recently that you loved?  Have you finished your 2013 reading challenge yet?

~ Kaitlyn