Friday, January 30, 2015

Discussion Post: My Book Buying Ban(ish goal)

I'm not sure if you knew this, but I love books. Like a lot! Like even if I'm saving money to do things like move and buy a new car I really can't help but buy books. I also really love sales. And coupons. (I mean I'm not like extreme couponing level but still). So if I get a coupon or see a book sale, even if I don't want anything in particular I will buy something, or too many things.

It's gotten out of control! If you follow me on Instagram you've seen the photo of my YA shelf buckling under the weight of the books. Did I mention that I can't even fit all the books I want on that shelf? It's overflowing onto other shelves now. Plus there's the two large boxes of books that "don't fit on my shelves" and a few other shelves are starting to get double stacked. I don't even want to think about counting how many books on my shelves I haven't read!

So after two Book Outlet hauls where I didn't even get books I really wanted I decided that something needs to change. That's why starting on January 1st I put myself on a pretty specific "book-buying ban." I thought I would share with you all my goals for my "book buying ban."

1.) Don't Buy Books You've Already Read 
This sounds silly but it has actually proved the most difficult. There are a handful of books that I have read either from audiobooks, borrowed from the library, or even have e-ARCs but bot finished copies. I also have series that I've completed where I don't own one book and feel sad about the incomplete set. I really want physical copies of the book but I feel like my book budget could be spent a little more wisely. So I'm trying really hard to only buy books that I haven't read but also...

2.) Only Buy Books You Know You're Going to Read 
You guys probably know that I do themed months here on the blog. Therefore I plan out what I'm going to read in advance. It wouldn't be all that hard to only buy I know I'm going to read. Plus this will cut down on needlessly buying books and then not reading them. It will really cut my TBR pile down, which is the goal, because I won't be adding new books to that stack. Plus if I slowly buy the books if I feel the urge to go into a bookstore I'll be able to satiate that desire buy grabbing the next book in my TBR.

3.) Stick With the Pre-Orders 
I don't pre-order a lot of books. But have you seen all the spring releases and debuts coming out this year? Some great books are coming out in the next couple months and I want to read so many of them! I want to read them so much that I have already pre-order a handful of them. This only getting pre-orders will me prioritize the books I really want to read. If I have the urge to pre-order it then it is one of the top books in my TBR and I will definitely read it. Not to mention you can often get some deals if you're pre-ordering. Half off Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, yes please!

But with books. (and also cats)
4.) Stay off Book Outlet and Don't Use Coupons Just Because You Can 
Those jerks at Book Outlet are the absolute worst (by that I mean best) at convincing me to buy books I don't really need. They're constantly sending me emails telling me about the new books they have, and coupons, and blah blah blah! The books are so cheap that I convince myself I'd be losing money not to buy a completed series I had no intention of reading beforehand. I just need to avoid them unless they have books that I know I'm going to read, and then I'm not breaking the ban I'm just getting good deals.

5.) First Read the Books You Already Have
Easier said than don, amiright? But seriously, I need to prioritize the books I already own. I used to be so good at this. I loved buying books but I would still read the ones I had. Then I started blogging and being a part of this community and I learned about all the amazing new books coming out. I want all the cool new books and my sad old books began collecting dust. I think once I read the books on my shelf and in my Kindle I will feel better about buying books. I have tons of unread ARCs from BEA and backlist books sitting on my shelf to read. They deserve my attention as well. I'm taking part in the TBR Pile Challenge and taking it a step further and only reading books I already own so that should help even more!

But I'm not just telling you this for no reason or just because I want to explain myself. I need your help. If you follow me on Twitter you know I broke my ban a few days ago and I don't want to do it again. I've heard it said that the best way to keep your goals is to make them public. So here I am telling you my plan. But it's more than the pressure of disappointing you all. This is seriously hard. And I know if it's hard I shouldn't do it, but I was being so good and I don't want to let one mistake cause me to backslide. I think this is totally doable for this year and then it will be a real behavioral change.

But I need your help. So tell me, who is going to be my sponsor? I need somebody to yell at me when I'm buying books I don't need! Leave me a comment with your thoughts on book buying ban, especially if you will help keep me from buying not breaking my ban!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Audiobook Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Title: All Fall Down
Series: Embassy Row #1
Author: Ally Carter
Published: January 20, 2015 by Scholastic
(Amazon / Goodreads / Audible)

Synopsis: A new series of global proportions -- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter. 

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things: 
1. She is not crazy. 
2. Her mother was murdered
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay. 

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. 

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

WOW! This was another book that was not at all what I expected and I mean that in a good way. I haven't read much Ally Carter but I do have a frame of reference. I enjoyed the first two books in the Gallagher Girls series but didn't continue reading them for no particular reason. I loved how lighthearted and fun the writing was. I loved the quirky and likable characters. I loved the action and adventure. And while this book was full of action and adventure with quirky and interesting characters it was far from lighthearted and fun.

All Fall Down is a YA Psychological Thriller, it's a serious book. It handles serious and complex issues that I was not at all expecting. I went into this book expecting a murder mystery. A teenage detective determined to find out the truth about her mother's mysterious death. But what I got was a broken girl trying to put her life back together and find answers to questions that she seems to be the only one asking. Grace is not the strong female protagonist that seems to populate most Young Adult novels these days. Sure she is plucky and sarcastic, tough and intelligent but she there is so much more to her than that. I connected with Grace right away and her sass and her hunt for justice. But she can be best explained by her weaknesses. She spends a lot of the book telling us she's not crazy despite what everyone thinks. But actions speak louder than words and Grace tends to be reckless and rash. She acts without thinking and puts herself and others in all kinds of danger. Maybe it's been awhile since I read a book with a heroine who is incredibly far from perfect but I found this aspect of her character to be incredibly refreshing. And I also found her character development to be shocking, which I seriously loved.

Another aspect of the book that I wasn't expecting but really enjoyed was the political intrigue or should I say the threat of political intrigue. All Fall Down takes place in this part of the world called Atria, a Mediterranean principality with historical and strategic significance. Ally did a great job of setting the scene for this beautiful and historic locale. It seemed like a place I would want to visit. The city that Grace is in is populated by international embassies and the majority of it's residents are diplomats and their families. In Atria Ally Carter creates a world that perfectly fits with the mysterious plot of the book. It's a place where you have to be careful what you say and do because there can and will be consequences not just for you. And if you just read what I said about Grace you know how hard that is for her.

If that sounds vague, that is because I'm trying to be as vague as possible. I cannot say much about the plot without giving a lot of the book away. And I wouldn't want to do that to you because that would really ruin a lot of the books charm. Just know that I was incredibly blown away by the twists in this book. I really thought I had it all figured out. The mystery seemed to be obvious and basic but it definitely is not. The book is full of action and adventure and an amazing ending that I'm still not 100% over. I had to take a minute to process it all and I really did come up with many answers. I need the next book in the series stat!

I really loved this book and was incredibly blown away by it but it wasn't perfect. In particular I had issues with the pacing. It didn't hook me immediately and then built to some really exciting moments that had me on the edge of my seat only to drag me back down again. I was starting to feel like things were dragging again only to be suddenly thrust into a shocking twist that came completely out of left field. The pacing was choppy and irregular. It was a roller coaster ride that added to the confusion and suspense of the book in a way that I didn't totally enjoy. But it didn't totally ruin the story for me, which a lot of times the pacing can.

On the whole I really enjoyed All Fall Down. It was a captivating read with interesting characters and tons of suspense. It perfectly lent itself to the audiobook format and I couldn't believe how quickly I listened to this audio. The narrator captured Grace's brash attitude, her stubbornness, and her uncertainty as the book developed. She also did an excellent job of making Atria seem realistic and visual. But my favorite part is that she really captured the voice of the different cast of characters. These characters are cosmopolitan and international and she captured it perfectly.

I give All Fall Down by Ally Carter 9 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This was a great read and a first book in a series that I enjoyed more than I expected to. Fans of Ally Carter should check this out. I'd say her books are maturing with her audience as this one has her trademark adventure but is much more serious in tone. Fans of YA Thriller will also enjoy the twists and turns that Ally takes us on.

Have you read All Fall Down? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Title: Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Published: May 6, 2014 by Simon and Schuster
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find? 

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

I really thought this book was going to have more mystery elements. But I'm kind of glad I had that perception because I may not have read it if I had known it's more of a traditional Contemporary novel. But I'm glad I read it. I took a chance and I really loved it. Not giving it chance would have been a real shame. 

What really made this book for me were the characters. I'm always a bigger fan of secondary characters and here they were quirky, fun, and incredibly well-rounded. I couldn't help but connect with them and laugh along with the main character Emily and her friends and family. But surprisingly, my favorite character was Emily. She was well-rounded and interesting but she was also so unbelievably relatable and realistic.  She felt like a real teenager. She felt like me as a teenager. She felt like me as an adult. Emily starts this book being socially awkward and missing her best friend, her safety blanket. Morgan Matson does an incredible job helping us feel what Emily is feeling and miss Sloane along with her. It made me think about all the times I have been in similar situations. I could almost instantly empathize with Emily and root for her.

And that connection to the character is what made the coming-of-age story of this book all the more enjoyable. I honestly forgot how much I love these kinds of stories. I was expecting a mystery, a search for clues to help Emily reunite with her best friend. But what I got was something better. The plot of this book was Emily taking chances and doing things out of her comfort zone. She had always been Sloane's sidekick and this was about her becoming her own person. It was so empowering to see that from a character that you can relate to. But I didn't expect to enjoy it so much as I did. A good Hero's Journey is something I always look for in my novels but I forgot that good character development can actually be good plot development. Since You've Been Gone was a captivating character-driven story that I didn't want to stop reading. I loved being along for the ride as Emily did the things on Sloane's list, even the ones she was afraid of. I loved seeing her find an internal strength to be brave and independent, and make friends that accept her and the person she was becoming (not that Sloane doesn't or won't accept her but you get the idea.) I really enjoyed following Emily as she figured out who she was independent of Sloane, I loved her character-development.

But what I also enjoyed so much more than I expected was the romance in this book. I like when my books have romance but I don't like when that is the basis for this story. What Morgan Matson managed to do in this book was effortlessly balance the coming-of-age story with the romance. It was as if her life before didn't have room for a relationship and now it did. It made total and complete sense with the story and still didn't take the focus. Plus on top of that, it was a fantastic slowburn kind of romance. I liked the romantic lead instantly but my shipping feels seemed to grow as the book progressed, a rate similar to that of the characters' feelings for one another. And by the end of the book, I was shipping it so hard I just wanted to smoosh their faces together. 

This is not a book I thought I would enjoy but it was incredibly well-written and restored my faith in YA Contemporaries. It makes me want to read more Contemps, more coming-of-age stories, more romances. And that is extremely high praise for a book to do that to me!

I give Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson 9.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy! As a person who is not really a fan of Contemporary novels and after loving this one so much, I would definitely recommend this book. If you are a fan of YA romances or coming of age stories then check this one out. If you are looking for a character-driven novel with likable and realistic characters then get this book.

Have you read Since You've Been Gone? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. In addition leave me a comment if you have recommendations for more YA Contemps I should check out. I'd love to know your thoughts on more coming-of-age stories like this that you would recommend. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Club Books

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 

I'm not in a book club, nor have I ever been in one. I assume that the best thing about a book club is having a person or people to discuss books with. So I'm changing the topic a little but to the "Top Ten Books to Read As Readalongs or Buddy Reads." I love doing readalongs and buddy reads with fellow bloggers to discuss certain books and here are a few I've been thinking about.

1.) A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab - Add to Goodreads 
I'm so excited for this book and I know I'm going to want to flail and discuss all the amazingness. There are certain fantasy novels that I always need to discuss with people and I have a feeling this will be one of them.

2.) The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski - Add to Goodreads 
The second book in this series is coming out in March and I really want to read them both. I realized in a TTT post a few weeks ago that a bunch of people have not read it yet either. It'd be amazing to share this book.

3.) The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - Add to Goodreads 
I really need to read more of the Cosmere books. Next up for me is probably the Stormlight Archives which are kind of intimidating. I actually just noticed a bunch of BookTubers are doing a Cosmere readalong. JOINING! (check out the #YearofCosmere hashtag on Twitter for the info)

4.) Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson - Add to Goodreads 
I mean basically same as above. But also I know a lot of fellow bloggers have gotten into the Mistborn trilogy this past year like I did. I think it would be fun to read the most recent book in the series together. More #MistbornFeels perhaps?

5.) We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach - Add to Goodreads 
This book sounds incredibly complex and interesting and I am really excited to check out this debut. It seems unlike any other book I have ever read and that there would be a lot of really interesting themes to discuss.

6.) The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker - Add to Goodreads 
I've heard good things about this Historical Fantasy and it sounds like a total "me book." I picked up a copy during one of my Book Outlet binges and I'm planning to read it in April. This seems like the most traditional "Book Club Book."

7.) Skandal by Lindsay Smith - Add to Goodreads 
Sekret, the first book in this series, was actually the first book I read as a Buddy Read, I read it with Violet from Paper Worlds and Swirls of Ink and it was an amazing book to chat about. We're doing it again right, Violet?

8.) The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth - Add to Goodreads 
I LOVED Bitter Greens. It was my favorite book I read last year. I can't wait to read this Kate Forsyth book. I really wanted to flail about Bitter Greens and I know I'm going to want to talk with someone about The Wild Girl

9.) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - Add to Goodreads
This one has won all kinds of awards and I've heard really good things from fellow bloggers that I have similar tastes with. I've heard it's full of feels and those are usually the kind of books I love to discuss with people.

10.) The Martian by Andy Weir - Add to Goodreads 
I've seeing a lot of people reading this lately and really loving it. It doesn't necessarily sound like a book that I would enjoy but I hear it's really funny and complex. Plus it's another one that seems like a Book Club type book.

What about you? What books would like to read as part of your book club or as buddy reads? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. And if you want to read any of these books with me, let me know. I love doing buddy reads. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, January 26, 2015

ARC Review: Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson

Title: Cut Me Free
Author: J.R. Johansson
Published: January 27, 2015 by Macmillan
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn't as lucky. Now she's trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she'd have to experience alone. She's hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. 

But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment--without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

Full disclosure, Cut Me Free is a Young Adult Thriller that handles some tough issues including violence, abuse, and kidnapping. It may not be the book for everyone. And while the hard to handle issues were not what turned me off, I didn't enjoy the book in the way I was hoping. Despite having some great things, I never completely connected with the story.

My feelings about this book are pretty well expressed by my feelings for the characters. They were easy to empathize with but for some reason I kept them all at arms length without full connecting. The main character Charlotte is tough, smart, and determined despite her circumstances. This is a trait that I usually enjoy in my YA heroines but here it was hard to suspend disbelief. Charlotte has been through a lot, a fact she constantly reminds us about, but it was difficult to make sense of how she could have gotten to be that way. At times it was easy to remember she had been locked in an attic for years and at other times it was hard to believe that. But she was easy to root for. I wanted to see her succeed and be happy because of everything she had been through. And that's also how I felt about one other secondary character, but on the whole I found it difficult to trust all other characters.

But maybe that lack of trust with the characters and inability to connect with them was because of the book's mood, something that I actually enjoyed. I would probably categorize this book as a Thriller and the mood made that abundantly clear. It wasn't exactly pulse-pounding excitement but it did have me curious and confused in a good way. I was cautiously waiting to find out what would happen next. Seeing the book from Charlotte's perspective really added to that feeling. She had definitely been through a lot and you could feel her fear and paranoia so well. The lack of trust in people and the uncertainty made the book really suspenseful especially as the ending drew closer.

And a lot of the plot of the book was based on those feelings of paranoia. The world that the author built  was a world of suspense and secrets. The amount of secrets the main character was keeping made her feel like an unreliable narrator, something I always like. And with all those secrets, there were so many questions about the characters past. The author peppers details and information about the characters past and what will eventually lead to the conclusion throughout the novel. It makes things seem both obvious and confusing at the same time. It made for an interesting plot but not a particularly mysterious one. But the author did effectively build to a thrilling conclusion that I would have enjoyed more if there were more clues and things to solve along the way. The climax, which was very exciting, wasn't particularly shocking. On top of that, the book had a bit of a slower and again didn't have me on the edge of my seat.

On the whole Cut Me Free is an interesting book and a good read, but it didn't quite leave me with the feeling of satisfaction that I was hoping for but it did have interesting and complex characters, and a dramatic mood that handles difficult issues in a serious way.

I give Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson 7.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. This book is not for everyone. If you like Contemporary novels that deal with difficult novels then check this one out. If you are looking for something different or a thriller that gives you a sense of the fear and paranoia a character is facing then check this out. It reminded me a little bit of Blackbird by Anna Carey so if you were a fan of that book then pick this one up.

Have you read Cut Me Free? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Feature Follow Friday: Cross-Posting Reviews

A weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read & Parajunkee's View

How it Works: 

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you visit the blogs of our illustrious hosts and leave your name on the post using using the linky tools, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

This Week's Question: 

Do you post your reviews anywhere besides your blog? Where else do you post your reviews? - Suggested by Jessica at A Great Reader

This Week's Answer: 

I always post my reviews to Goodreads. I used to always post a review on Goodreads after I finished the book and then I would use that to build off of for writing my longer reviews. Lately however I have been doing it the other way around. It makes my reviews on Goodreads much longer. I should actually get better at cross-posting. In particular I feel like I should post reviews on Audible. I usually listen to one audiobook a month (currently All Fall Down by Ally Carter) and I don't often post reviews there even though I read them. I'll get better at it though.

And what about you? Where else do you post your reviews? Leave me a comment of your thoughts.

And remember this is a blog hop so take a look around and if you like what you see give me a follow and leave me a comment so I can follow back. I am indifferent to the manner in which you follow so pick your poison: GFC, Bloglovin, and/or Twitter. And speaking of Goodreads. Feel free to friend me there! I love seeing what other people are reading and checking out their comments.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a Great Sparkle Season! Happy FF and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Title: The Name of the Wind
Series: Kingkiller Chronicles #1
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Published: 2007 by DAW (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. 

The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. 

A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

The Name of the Wind is the kind of book that snuck up on me. I wasn't at all sure how I felt about it until I was done and all I wanted to go back and reread it. It was so complicated and really built into an interesting an entertaining Epic Fantasy novel.

Maybe I didn't realize my feelings about this book because it is an investment. It's been awhile since I read something that was over 600 pages. I kind of forgot what that was like. What the slow build up feels like. And that's exactly what this book was, a slow build up. The pacing was slow and steady but everything really built to an amazing conclusion. And along the way it was expertly plotted with little clues and hints to that conclusion and reveal that I didn't see coming, even though when it was revealed I was kicking myself for not figuring it out because it seemed so obvious. By the time the book neared it's conclusion I was so invested and so entertained that I couldn't stop reading. The ending was full of action and adventure that kept me on the edge of my seat nervously waiting to see what was going to happen next. In addition to the technical aspect of the writing, I also truly enjoyed the writing style in The Name of the Wind. It may have been my favorite thing about the book. Rothfuss' writing was both lyrical and poetic. It had a beautiful atmosphere that was dramatic, visual, and engaging. It was the kind of writing that allows the reader to fall into and forget about the real world.

Or perhaps I forgot about the real world because the one Rothfuss here created was so good. There's nothing particularly mind-blowing about this world. It's a typical fantasy world. But Rothfuss does here is brilliantly develops the simple world. He is an expert at the show instead of tell style of world-building. It was subtle and still interesting. It had the perfect balance so that I could see everything but didn't get overwhelmed. And that absolutely includes the magical system. I don't even know how to explain it. It was like nothing else. I don't know if it is elemental, spells, some combination of the two, or something completely different. But I'm so excited to learn more about it and see how it all develops.

And while this is an interesting fantasy, the basis of this story is a coming-of-age tale of a man who is an infamous villain. He's become the stuff of legends but here he is telling the true story of his past. But the question is, how true is it really? Because it is him relating his own story, the connection to the characters is very personal. Kvothe and many of the other characters are complex and likable. Throughout the story we can empathize with him and see firsthand all his hardships that he experienced throughout his life. He seems both heroic and tortured. But there's just something about the fact that he's telling his own story that gives me the feeling that he's a bit of an unreliable narrator. Or maybe this is the true story. This is a character who is larger than life who has a reputation as being something that we don't entirely see from his stories, at least not yet. Maybe the way he explains himself is the truth. But it begs a lot of questions and makes the book all the more mysterious and enjoyable. I can't wait to learn more about what led him to be the person we see him as in the present and the person he is in the legends.

In the end, The Name of the Wind turned out to be a truly engaging and fascinating Epic Fantasy with beautiful writing, an enthralling world, and interesting characters.

I give The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss 9 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy fans. If you want to get into more adult fantasy this also might be a good place to start. It has some elements of Lit Fit as well as some elements of YA novels including a younger protagonist. Plus with subtle world-building and a plot that slowly builds to a thrilling conclusion it will prepare you for some other more complex fantasies. Either way, it's worth a read.

Have you read The Name of the Wind? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

ARC Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Title: Red Queen
Series: Red Queen #1
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Published: February 10, 2015 by HarperTeen
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

**** I received an advance copy of this book from an On the Same Page ARC tour.This fact has not changed my opinion of the book. ****

Red Queen is the kind of book that finished so strong I almost forgave it for having a rather slow beginning. There is so much hype surrounding this one and I was really excited to read it. Maybe the hype monster got the best of me but I wasn't as blown away as I thought I would be. It had some great parts but on the whole it just felt like every other YA Fantasy that seems to be flooding the market these days (I'm not complaining, YA Fantasies are my kryptonite).

One of the enjoyable things about this book was the fast-paced plot. Red Queen was full of action and adventure. I usually love books like this that are full of exciting action but here it didn't quite work for me. At times, especially in the beginning, it almost felt too much and too fast-paced. I felt as if at the start of the book, a lot was happening but it was all exposition. It was moving from moment to moment too quickly. It was like things were in fast forward, moving too fast to even register how important they were. For me, throughout most of the book the pacing was like a roller coaster. It would built to something and then come down, build up again then crash down.While I liked the action-packed nature of the plot, the too quick pacing made it a little difficult for much of what happened to register for me while reading.

But I think because this is the first book in a new series it had to have a lot of exposition, it had to set up everything, and I get that. You need to build the world. But despite all that setup I felt like the world wasn't completely formed. I'm not sure if it was going for a less is more kind of thing, but it wasn't quite enough for me. Or maybe I wanted more world-building because I found the world and the magical system really fascinating. All the powers that the characters possessed were very cool and any time someone used them it was amazing. Victoria Aveyard's writing was incredibly visual and I could picture each of the character's individual powers. But the fact that I didn't really learn enough about this world, I found myself comparing it to other worlds and magical systems that I did know a lot about, making it come off as slightly predictable. It felt like your average YA Fantasy to me.

The exposition of the world-building and the extremely fast-paced plot also made it hard to connect with the characters. And I definitely never connected with the romance. For me it was a case where I knew what the author wanted me to ship but I just didn't. I'm not really sure I ever connected with the main character, Mare. She was fine and interesting enough, but she just didn't jump off the pages for me. Even when there was a lot of character creation and exposition I felt like I wasn't really getting to know her. There wasn't much character development and I think that really prevented me from loving the story how I wanted to. The only exception was with the villains. The antagonists were phenomenal, both the obvious and not obvious ones. They were snarky, tough, and the kind of people you love to hate. They were the ones who had more character development and seemed more complex and likable to me.

Or maybe I found the antagonists compelling because we are constantly told throughout this book that "anyone can betray anyone." That's a really interesting thing to stress to your audience. And because I was told this, two things happen throughout the book for me. One, it made it even harder to connect fully with any of the secondary characters. I was suspicious of everyone and everything throughout the whole book, never trusting and always doubting. And because I'm so suspicious I end up developing all these crazy theories, that's what I do. And in the case of Red Queen, that was one of the best parts. It really built up the suspense. No, the twists weren't all that surprising because I was thinking too hard about all the ways the characters could betray one another, but they were still incredibly entertaining. I found myself anxious and excited, on the edge of my seat while reading. In particular the last 100 pages when everything gets revealed was so captivating.

Or maybe I liked that ending so much because those last 100 pages were when the political intrigue kicked in. Oh man, this book was full of political intrigue. So much of this world was built on this foundation of oppression and hierarchy. From a revolution that's been brewing, to Mare's position caught between the two worlds, it had a very dystopian feel. And when this part of the story started heating up, that's when I found myself most intrigued and entertained. And that dystopian feel was another thing about the world that I wish was explored a little bit more.

But this is only the start of the series. Despite a lot of criticism I did enjoy the read and am interested in how things develop. If you've been a follower of My Thoughts Literally for awhile you may know that I have a tumultuous relationship with first books. It's rare for me to love them so I avoid passing judgment on a series until I read the second book. This is just another example of my feeling of First Book Syndrome. Good but not mind-blowing. Lots of really great things but with a few things that didn't quite work for me.

I give Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard 8 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. Fans of YA Fantasy should definitely check it out. It will remind you a lot of some of your favorites I'm sure and you will enjoy the magical system and political intrigue. If you love a really fast-paced plot without much character development then check this book out.

Have you read Read Queen? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My Most Fascinating Magical Systems

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week is an open topic prompt. I usually hate those because I don't have many ideas. But after finishing a Young Adult Fantasy book I was thinking a lot about magical worlds and magical systems. I read a lot of fantasy and of course some of the magic is more entertaining than others for me and then the idea struck. So here you have my favorite magical systems.

1.) All the magical systems in the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson  (My review)
Let's be real here, Brandon Sanderson is this list for me. This series could be on the list four times. In each book we learn about a different magical system (Allomancy being my favorite) that is just as interesting and complex as the one before. There is seriously so much going on and it is the most creative magical system I have yet to come across.

2.) The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman (My review)
This is a polarizing series within the Fantasy community, and one of those reasons is probably the magical system. Not the actual system but what it represents. The system itself is interesting and rooted in science and logic but the part that I love is that magic doesn't solve all the problems in this series, it creates more.

3.) The Wizarding World in the Harry Potter series
This is the series that really hooked me on Fantasy. It has to make this list for me. Most magical system are either controlling the elements or performing spells, and the magic here is the latter. And yet it still feels so creative. It has clear rules and is rooted in logic but the best part is the virtually endless possibilities.

4.) EOs in Vicious by V.E. (Victoria) Schwab (My Review)
I'm absolutely obsessed with this magical system. It has a clear set of rules but what I like most about it is that it is 100% personal. The powers a person receives relates not only to their personality and but what they are thinking when they receive them. It's both fascinating and creative.

5.) Clairvoyance in The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (My Review)
This is another magical system that is also rooted in logic with clear rules (are you noticing a trend?) but what I love most is the hierarchy and how vast the system is. There are so many different powers and they are both familiar and unique. In particular the main character's power is super badass!

6.) Epics in The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson
(My Review)
You knew Sanderson had to make this list more than once. He is just so brilliant at creating unique and amazing magical systems. It's another one about people with superpowers and is well-developed and visual. It's complicated with clear rules and endless possibilities. And the more learn about it the more amazing it becomes (amiright people who read Firefight!).

7.) Psi Powers in The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
(My Review)
I don't particularly know why, it's not very complex or unique, but I seriously love the system in this series. It is another system about superpowers and it has a history and explanation why it exists. Maybe I like it so much because it's familiar. Or maybe it's because I'm biased, it features all my favorite superpowers.

8.) The Young Elites in The Young Elites by Marie Lu
(My Review)
Okay, so I like magical systems that are about "superpowers." It just does a lot for me because there is logic to it and there are so many possibilities. The Young Elites is another one that features a history and origin for where the magic came from and how it can be used. It also has a main character with one of the most badass powers ever!

9.) The Magic in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas (My Review)
This is another series with really diverse magical systems. In each book we learn and explore a different part of the magic that exists within the world. But probably my favorite thing about the magic in this series is that it is only now coming back into the world and as magic grows the series is becoming more interesting for me.

10.) The Jinni of Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios
(My Review)
You may have noticed this is the only one on my list that is elemental magic. I'm not usually a fan of a magical system about controlling the elements because there isn't a lot of room for growth and it often feels tired. But here it actually seems different and interesting. Or maybe it just reminds me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Honorable Mentions 

Grisha powers in The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo 
(My Review)
I think one of my favorite things about the magical system in this series is that it is subtle. It is another one with a hierarchy and very clear rules and confines. And usually I like when there are endless possibilities but with Grisha powers the simplicity is interesting and creative.

- The magic in The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
As this is one of my current reads I don't entirely understand this magical system yet. It seems vaguely elemental but much more creative and complicated. It's also a magical system that is subtle and not a huge part of the book so it intrigues me even more.

I am always looking for a different and unique magical system so let me know if you have a favorite I didn't include and I will think about adding the book to my TBR. In particular you can see I like systems with superpowers but if you have a series with elemental magic I should check out let me know those as well.

There you have it my favorite magical systems. What are your favorites? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!