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text 2014-12-30 20:00
Top Ten Tuesdays: Goals and Resolutions and Challenges, Oh My!

Top Ten Tuesdays is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.




Top Ten Goals/Resolutions for 2015


I don't like making resolutions, to be totally honest.  I have trouble keeping resolutions and I don't like making myself promises (at least officially and documented, declared to the interwebz world) for the new year; too many factors can change too many plans made in advance.


And thus, this is a short and sweet list.



1.  Put a dent in my bookshelf (digital & physical).  See Mt. TBR Challenge.

I have a massive collection of books due to compulsive book buying at warehouse sales, used book stores, and random deals and discounts via Amazon Kindle.  At the very least, I want to try and read a good amount of what I already own... despite the fact that I'll probably end up buying more books still.  It'll happen.



2.  Try to continue and expand the Mini Book Club I started with BFF last year.

This goal is a little harder to keep up since it requires maintaining a working book club list with my best friend... who hasn't really been in the Book Clubbing mood as of late.  Meanwhile... I guess I could Book Club alone somehow.



3.  Read and intimidating series, such as Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.  Or at least make an attempt to read the 1st book of an intimidating series... such as Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

There are always intimidatingly long series that can be extremely overwhelming to read.  With so many books out there, I sometimes feel a bit anxious tying myself to a series when my reading mood changes so erratically.



4.  Blog more.  Find my format for blogging.  Have more fun blogging.  Just... blog more in general.

Pretty much that.



5.  Balance more with Television and Reading... and other stuff.

I keep being told what television series and what movies I need check out.  I figure a little balance in my life might be a good idea... although reading will still be my first love.  Of course, having been reading the fictional Richard Castle's Nikki Heat series lately, I got drawn into watching the television series Castle and I have been enjoying it a lot.  Maybe there will be others I can enjoy as well.



6.  Make more use of my local library's convenient hold/request system.  I'm also planning on helping out the library by joining the Friends of the Public Library group with donations and such.

I love going to the library even if I also love owning books.



7.  Give Audiobooks more significant chances to woo me.

I started listening to audiobooks this year as a means of "re-reading" books.  It also works out since I like to multi-task sometimes--listening to audiobooks while writing blog posts, playing computer games, or doing menial tasks (as well as during my drive to work) has been quite worthwhile.  I'm going to give listening to new audiobooks a chance as well now and I figure it'll be easier for me to listen to non-fiction audiobooks.



8.  Read something Non-Fiction... or a couple of somethings.

On the note of non-fiction, I DO own a couple plus few true crime novels.



9.  Take a 1-week (or however many days I can manage) Reading Sabbatical where all I do is read and maybe write reviews, comment on books, and discuss books.

Reading and Vacation and R&R.  As simple as that.



10.  Stay on top of my TBR list and complete all my book challenges.

And THAT is the ultimate goal!





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review 2014-12-24 23:34
Brief Thoughts: The Infinite Sea
The Infinite Sea (5th Wave) - Rick Yancey

It seems that my self-hype for this book died quite drastically not long after The Infinite Sea had been published. While I had been anticipating the follow-up to The 5th Wave, I now wonder what it was about the book that had appeared so awesome to me in the first place. The more I think about it, the less memorable The 5th Wave seems to me.

Reading The Infinite Sea felt quite monotonous to me without even that same "in the moment" excitement I'm sure I had felt reading The 5th Wave. I've gotta say, I found the progression of The Infinite Sea tedious and boring. The characters are still great and the humor and wit is there. But to be totally honest, aside from a few new discoveries here and there, nothing really seems to happen at all. There's a war going on between surviving humans and the Others. Our main ragtag group of soldier kids are trying to survive. There is a lot of waiting going on. There is a lot of flashing back and forth.

Ringer gets to be front and center of this story...

But nothing really happens that I cared about.

I still found Cassie sarcastically awesome. But otherwise, that's pretty much it.

Conclusion: Well-written and enjoyable, but not the epic follow-up I had been anticipating.

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text 2014-12-23 15:00
Top Ten Tuesdays: Santa! Bring Me Books!

Top Ten Tuesdays is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.



Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing This Year



For any bookworm/nerd, there are never too many books you can own.  Even with no room for more of anything on my tiny bookshelf, I personally always want more.


For myself, while I love e-books and the convenience they offer for the Reader in me, there's nothing like a real, hardcopy physical book.  And so for this list, I am going to restrict myself to certain standards of what books I would love for Santa to bring me this year (otherwise, this would become a neverending list, of course).  First of all, I will only list books that have already been released--Santa can start receiving my list of books I want in 2015 and take notes.  Next, I will list books that I don't actually own as a paperback or hardcover--books I own as an e-book don't really count for me.


Finally, I'm picky about what books I want to own, and so in order to make this list easier to put together, I decided only to list books I've already read.


With that in mind...



#1)  Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Fairest is one of the few first fairy tale retellings I've ever read, after Ella Enchanted.  And surprisingly, from creativity, culture, ideas, characters, and many other factors in this book, I liked it much more than I did Ella.  For the longest time, I've just been wanting to own this book.



#2, #3, #4)  Fire & Thorn series by Rae Carson

-- The Girl of Fire and Thorns

-- The Crown of Embers

-- The Bitter Kingdom

As a set of books that rekindled an obsession with Young Adult High Fantasy novels for me, I definitely want to own these in hardcover or something.



#5, #6, #7)  The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

-- The Raven Boys

-- The Dream Thieves

-- Blue Lily, Lily Blue

This set was a given.  I love Maggie's Raven Cycle books.  There are not doubts about that.




#8)  Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Ultraviolet is a book I found lots of enjoyment in and I have been wanting to own it ever since I read it.  I would also like to have Quicksilver too, but I had to narrow the list down and with my own OCD restrictions for this list... well...



#9, #10)  Pivot Point by Kasie West

-- Pivot Point

-- Split Second

I love Kasie West and I love her books and I especially loved this little duology.




-- Alternative Books --  (Ya know, just in case Santa needs other ideas... or just wants to be extra nice...)


FBI/US Attorney series by Julie James

-- Something About You

-- A Lot Like Love

-- About That Night

-- Love Irresistibly

-- It Happened One Wedding




And then if Santa is so inclined to move into the future with his Christmas-y special powers and can bring me any book I want, I would very much love to have Maggie Stiefvater's fourth Raven Cycle book, in both Kindle e-book format and hardcopy trade paperback or hardcover, whichever comes first.  Just sayin'. 



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text 2014-12-16 15:00
Top Ten Tuesdays: Books Read in 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  



As of present, I have read around 170 books in 2014.  Even if not including manga volumes and novellas, my book total still rounds out to around 150 books.  There were a lot of good books that I loved, a lot of books that were good that I didn't love as much, a lot of books that I loved but weren't really that good, and then there were those mediocre books that were alright, but that caught my eye nonetheless.  And then there are the books that I just couldn't find it in me to like at all, but this isn't the place to talk about them.


As it stands, it isn't easy to narrow 150 books down to a Top Ten list.  And so I chose to re-format my list just a little bit.  I also needed to account for the fact that I like Young Adult novels differently than I like Adult and non-YA novels--Yes, there is a difference in how I perceive a book dependent on target audience.


Without further ado, and in no particular order...


Although, if it wasn't already obvious, they very first book on this list, regardless of genre or target audience, is the Top Book I Read in 2014.




Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Book 3 of The Raven Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater

There is no competition.  Just read my reviews of Maggie's Raven Cycle books to see how much I love this series.

See my Somewhat of a Review.



And... NOW, in no particular order:


Young Adult

Split Second (Book 2 of Pivot Point) by Kasie West -- Reviewed

The Bitter Kingdom (Book 3 of Fire and Thorns) by Rae Carson -- Squeeing Review

The Unbound (Book 2 of the Archived) by Victoria Schwab -- Reviewed

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak -- Reviewed



-- Honorable Mentions --

Grave Mercy (Book 1 of His Fair Assassin) by Robin LaFevers -- Review Soon

In the Afterlight (Book 3 of The Darkest Minds) by Alexandra Bracken -- Reviewed

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West -- Reviewed


Young Adult is a genre that I've come to love a lot, and while this list of Top Tens is in no particular order, the Young Adult books were actually ranked in my personal list above many of the Romantic Suspense novels and Adult Contemporary Romances I've read this year.  Aside from being books I thoroughly enjoyed, I also have every intention of continuing to follow the above listed authors in the future as well.


Kasie West is a recent YA author I've fallen for with her dry and witty sarcasm and her nerdy heroines and her adorable romances.  Despite the disappointment that was her 2014 YA Contemporary, On the Fence, I still found that her Pivot Point series is one of the better YAs I have enjoyed.  Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns series is one of the best high fantasy adventures I've read in a long time.  The Unbound may not have been as good as The Archived, but as the story progressed, I found that I still loved it all the same.  The Book Thief is an interesting, quietly insightful story told of a tragic historical time, but narrated in the point of view of the common person living their day-by-day as war and tragedy happens around them on a larger scale, in the background.


The honorable mentions (which also includes a Kasie West book) are ones I've found that I loved even if they weren't really all that excellent.  But they nonetheless brought out a love in me that makes it hard not to give them a shout-out as well.




Love Irresistibly (Book 4 of FBI/US Attorney) by Julie James -- Sort of Reviewed

She's Got the Look (Book 2 of Walker Brothers) by Leslie Kelly -- Duology Review

Over the Line (Book 4 of The Bodyguards) by Cindy Gerard -- Reviewed

To the Limit (Book 2 of The Bodyguards) by Cindy Gerard -- Reviewed



-- Honorable Mentions --

Tempting the Bodyguard (Book 3 of Gamble Brothers) by J. Lynn -- 2014 book

Deadly Dreams (Book 5 of Mindhunters) by Kylie Brant

Last to Die (Book 2 of Sheridan) by Kate Brady


To be honest, this list is kind of in order of how much I liked each book and where they stand in my personal rankings.  Aside from Deadly Dreams, because I wasn't quite sure where to put that one, but I knew I wanted it mentioned, at the least.


While the YA books I read were actually ranked higher on a complete, overall list, Love Irresistibly was the one Adult book that managed to squeeze it's way up into my overall Top Ten list.  But since there were a number of Adult books I also loved, I wanted to give the rest a chance to be mentioned as well.


The one common denominator of these books would have to be the romance (duh) and how much I loved the couple as a couple together.  From Brooke Parker and Cade Morgan in Love Irresistibly to Alana Gore and Chandler Gamble in Tempting the Bodyguard, the romances were adorably amusing, sweet, and witty with a nice scoop of heart-warming-gushy-ness to boot.  Most importantly, I had no problem liking both individuals of each coupling separate as much as I liked them together, which is something that doesn't always happen all too often.


They're all couples with equal footing in their relationships.  And even though the same can be said for the rest of the couples in the entire Mindhunters series and the FBI/US Attorney series, I chose the book from both series I liked the most to include in this list.




The Silkworm (Book 2 of Cormoran Strike) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowlings)

Because of this book, I had to edit this post.  I finished reading The Silkworm after I had put the finishing touches on this Top Ten Tuesdays post.  But it was good enough that I decided that I must include it.  I wasn't too thrilled with The Cuckoo's Calling last year; The Silkworm was a lot more enjoyable and somehow a lot more engaging, though I'm not certain I know what Rowlings did different this time.  Something else stood out, made the story more than just a mystery, albeit an entertaining and good mystery.



-- Honorable Mention --

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Book 4 of Haruhi Suzumiya) by Tanigawa Nagaru

Something about this book really just hit the right spot.  I don't know what it is, but I'm guessing it's the fact that I haven't seen the anime movie adaptation of it and had the chance to be surprised at all the right places and enjoy the humor without knowing that it was coming.  But the world of Haruhi Suzumiya is still a geniusly created one that I continue to enjoy as it continues onto the end.


See My Brief Thoughts.



Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman -- specifically the audiobook BBC radio adaptation

The Neverwhere book by itself had great imagery and creative plot and world-building.  I've no doubt that Neil Gaiman is an excellent fantasy writer.  But of the two books I've read of his, I've found his story progression to be lacking at times and monotonous at others.  But what made me really love Neverwhere was actually the full-cast BBC radio performance.  Where I didn't really care much for the characters, especially Richard Mayhew (whose name I had to look up because he was really not that memorable), I found that the voice acting by James McAvoy really brings this persona to life, piquing my interest just a little bit more.





So there we go:  One Top Book I Read in 2014, Four Top YA books I Read in 2014, Four Top Adult Books I Read in 2014, and lastly One Top Book I'm Not Sure How to Categorize But That I Loved Read in 2014.  And then a mishmash of "Honorable Mentions.



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review 2014-12-11 00:23
Review: Princess of Thorns
Princess of Thorns - Stacey Jay

Princess of Thorns wasn't as epic or as awesome as I had been anticipating, and it isn't without its many glaring flaws that made me stop and wonder about it. But in the long run, I found it highly enjoyable and quite an adventure to read.


Also, the cross dressing device worked its magic properly.  I appreciate that Princess Aurora makes herself out to be convincing enough, pretending to be her little brother--there be no blushing, or giggling, or screaming when a man touches her in friendly gestures or when she and Niklaas have to share a bedroll... at least nothing to really give away her identity.  But the knowledge that she must keep her secret without giving away that she has a secret... at least that exciting tension is still there with moments that keep you on your feet as to "is he going to find out?" or "when is he going to find out?" and "how is he going to find out?"

The traditional fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty gets a little make over when we are introduced to the fact that the Prince is quite the womanizer and may have several other wives he keeps secret from each other. Sleeping Beauty is then held captive with her two children by an ogre Queen and her ogre priest brother; they have plans to fulfill a prophecy which requires the use of a briar-born child, specifically Princess Aurora who is the one who ends up receiving her mother's fairy gifts upon her mother's death.

The adventure starts immediately ten years after Sleeping Beauty dies, having slit her own throat to bestow her daughter with a fairy gift. As children, they were able to escape the ogre Queen with some help from sympathizers. Unfortunately, the younger of the two children, Prince Jor has presently been captured by the ogre Queen, Ekeeta.

And thus, Aurora must go on her own journey to save her little brother. With her fairy gift giving her unnaturally increased strength, agility, and the ability to defend herself (as well as some other little tweaks like mercy and the complete devotion of any man who kisses her), Aurora sets out to recruit an army who can either help her reclaim her throne at Mercar from Queen Ekeeta, or who can fight for her to draw away the queen's attention so she can sneak into the castle to rescue Jor.

Unfortunately for her, Aurora's first attempted recruiting party captures her instead. But she is rescued by Prince Niklaas, the eleventh son of the Immortal King from Kanvasol who is in search of the briar-born princess with his own reasons, needing to escape his own curse of turning into a swan upon his eighteenth birthday. With secrets kept and deals made, the two set out together to achieve their goals.

There's a whole lot of plot that is going on within the scope of this adventure. And while I typically like complex plots and lots of adventure if done correctly, Princess of Thorns felt a bit crammed full of plot. However, the progression of the story itself made it so that you didn't spend too much time dwelling on each plot point and how it's significant as we move on from point A to Point B so very quickly.

We just seemed to move from point A to Point B so quickly that it keeps from seeing more about the different types of people and cultures living throughout the kingdom. The story lights upon the raucous city of Goreman for mere moments before our heroes are rushing off to meet with the exiles of the Feeding Hills. No more than a chapter later, we're gliding through mountaintops to escape the exiles. There is so much potential for storytelling at each stop in our heroes' adventure, but we barely get to know the area long enough before the journeying picks up again.

It helped that the characters were very likable. Aurora is a kickass heroine who can stand on her own two feet, take care of herself, and stand up against others with the best of them. Often times I've read too many of these heroines created, on paper, to be strong and kickass, but who seem to screw their own kickass-ness by turning into a puddle of "in love with the beautiful man and can't do anything else" type. And their kickass-ness will sometimes take 80% of the story to kick in. But Aurora proves that she's strong and capable from the get go, while at the same time she can be humble and admit her mistakes so that she's also not the type to rush in and cause more trouble than necessary.

Creating a strong heroine like this in no way makes Niklaas seem like the weaker partner either. The prince shows that he can manage himself quite well, and although he believes that Aurora is her fourteen year old brother, Jor, he readily whips out the big brother persona to take care of the smaller "boy", while at the same time dishing out the tough, masculine commands like the prince he is.

The relationship is set on fairly equal footing, and as noted by another character in the book, the two of them together are stronger this way. Aurora and Niklaas definitely DO make a powerful couple... you know, so long as they can get along with each other in spite of the bickering and the bantering. And the bickering and the bantering is what makes their relationship a fairly sweet one as well. It's more heart-warming than insta-love could ever be--and THANK GOODNESS there is no insta-love. Aurora may find Niklaas to be extremely attractive and "beautiful", as she puts it, but she by no means puts her ideals of falling in love (or the lack thereof) as a top priority. In fact, she doesn't even like the guy at first until he starts to let his good and kind personality traits slip through his arrogance.

The world of Princess of Thorns isn't the best built, but it has potential to grow. Even the side characters could have potential stories of their own, but it is really our main couple, Aurora and Niklaas, who carry the story and its progression throughout.

It is only unfortunate, in my opinion, that the conclusion felt a little flattened by what seemed like some serious deux de machina twists... however, it seemed to work to tie the entire story together. I would have liked for the conflicts to NOT have been so easily swept aside with one person's decision made. I would have liked to see a more epic fight bring in the climax. I would have liked for Niklaas to NOT be the moody, broody, woe is me, I've been lied to, type after her finds out all of Aurora's secrets... but it worked out in it's own way.

I would have also liked for the book to be written in third person rather than the alternating first person POVs, from Aurora to Niklaas to Queen Ekeeta and back. But that's what I would like for many a YA book that really DON'T need to be in first person POV.

Ultimately: On a personal level, this was an extremely enjoyable book. And while it didn't live up to all the hype I gave it as I awaited the book's release to the public, I still found that I don't regret making this over-priced Kindle book purchase as an impulse buy to satiate my anticipation. While I didn't love the characters like I'd hoped, I still appreciate the way they were created, written, and presented. As it stands, this is one of few YAs I've thoroughly enjoyed despite all the many quibbles I found throughout.





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