Book review: Everless (Everless #1) by Sara Holland

Everless  

This year has been rather generous on new young adult fantasy series. One of the early 2018 debut novels is Everless by Sara Holland. I saw this book pop up a lot on BookTube, which, naturally, attracted me to it. Everless came out in January, but I only finished it in summer, even though it was readily available at my library.

 

Synopsis

 

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

 

Review

 

I read the first hundred pages or so of Everless almost in one go and then got stuck. The beginning was engaging and well written, however very quickly the book fell into the pit of tropes and cliches.

We have a female protagonist, Jules, who is repeatedly told not to go to the Gerlings’ estate by her father, but, naturally, it is the only way to help her father, and Jules goes against his wishes. Of course, there is more to the story: half-forgotten memories and old friendships. There is a crush that happens unexpectedly for Jules - but can be seen a mile away by the reader. There is an obvious love triangle, which includes a naive but well-wishing girl, a good boy, and an archetypical bad boy.

For some reason, the very beginning of Everless reminded me Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Perhaps, it was the idea of a girl with unknown powers going to the very place she should avoid at all costs and working as a servant. Even a love triangle was similar. But, naturally, the plot was different.

You can imagine that with that type of a setting, I was rolling my eyes a lot. But I have little patience for cliches. I must say, however, that for a debut novel Sara Holland did an excellent job with creating the world and her writing style is light enough that the book flows well. It is an easy read which helped me finish it eventually.

The magic system of this world, which is connected directly to the society and economic structure, is what makes Everless stand out from other young adult fantasy novels. I liked the idea of blood being tied directly to years of life that could be turned into a coin and used to pay for things. It is a fascinating concept. Unfortunately, everything else in Everless was cliched.

I guess about the betrayal long before it happened. I knew who would turn out to be a villain. I did enjoy the experience of reading this book, though, so I plan on continuing with the series. My favourite part was when Jules explored an abandoned town and the scene with the Queen.

I think that overall for me Everless was more about the world building than characters or plot. I want to see more of that world developed and explored. I feel that the author has the potential of making this story much better. Everless may not be the book I would want to own, but I am looking forward to the sequel.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

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#SHReads18 - In Which Order to Read Sherlock Holmes Stories?

When I started thinking of writing this post, I didn’t even suspect that there might be different ways of reading Sherlock Holmes stories. Naturally, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was rather prolific, in spite of his developed frustration with the character that brought him fame, but it never occured to me that somebody could read the stores not in the publicated order - because it was the way I read them as a child.

I don’t remember how I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes stories. They seem, just like The Three Musketeers (although with that book I do remember the first time I read it), to always have been in my life. I think that it might have been my grandfather who introduced me to Sherlock Holmes. Or perhaps, I watched the tv show first. I honestly can not recall.

However, I do remember always reading the stories by starting with A Study in Scarlet.

Here is the list of all stories in chronological order by the publication date (taken from Baker Street Wiki):

  • 1887: A Study in Scarlet
  • 1890: The Sign of the Four
  • July 1891 to December 1892: Stories that would make up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes published in The Strand magazine
  • December 1892 to November 1893: Stories that would make up The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes published in The Strand
  • 1901-2 (serial): The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • October 1903 to January 1905: Stories that would make up The Return of Sherlock Holmes published in The Strand
  • 1908–1913, 1917: Stories that would make up His Last Bow (short stories) published.
  • 1914-15: The Valley of Fear
  • 1921–1927: Stories that would become The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes published.

After looking into some forums and discussions and thinking about it, I was surprised to see that many people suggest skipping A Study in Scarlet, as it is the first story written by Doyle and therefore not as polished and a bit too long, and just dive into The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and then The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Well, personally, I would not skip A Study in Scarlet, no matter how boring it is, as it introduces the main characters to us and just like the first episode of many Sherlock Holmes adaptations - you don’t want to miss that.

So, in honour of January being a Sherlock Holmes reading month and the read-a-long #SHReads18, I decided to introduce you to my favourite reading order of all Sherlock Holmes stories. I am participating in this January event, however, I have a bigger goal in mind. One of my reading challenges for 2018 is to re-read all of Sherlock Holmes stories and for that I am listening to them as audiobooks - the complete collection of stories read by Stephen Fry (one of my most favourite narrators)! The complete collection is an exclusive production by Audible and was released last year.

As I am writing this, I have already listened to A Study in Scarlet and started on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Follow me on GoodReads, if you want to follow me on my epic re-read :)

There is no right or wrong way to read the stories - besides Doyle himself sometimes messed up facts and dates. However, The Final Problem and The Empty House have to be read together as they are tied in plot. Save The Hound of the Baskervilles for the last, as it is pretty good.

Here is my reading order, in which I will be doing this:

I. A Study in Scarlet (novel, 1887)
II. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Red-headed League, 1891
  • A Case of Identity, 1891
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery, 1891
  • The Five Orange Pips, 1891
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip, 1891
  • The Blue Carbuncle, 1892
  • The Speckled Band, 1892
  • The Engineer's Thumb, 1892
  • The Noble Bachelor, 1892
  • The Beryl Coronet, 1892
  • The Copper Beeches, 1892
  • A Scandal in Bohemia, 1891 (I plan to read this story the last in the book)
III. The Sign of the Four (novel, 1890)

IV. The Valley of Fear (novel, 1914-15)

(or read this novel between the stories from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, but before The Final Problem)

V. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
  • Silver Blaze, 1892
  • The Yellow Face, 1893
  • The Stock-broker's Clerk, 1893
  • The 'Gloria Scott', 1893
  • The Musgrave Ritual, 1893
  • The Reigate Squires, 1893
  • The Crooked Man, 1893
  • The Resident Patient, 1893
  • The Greek Interpreter, 1893
  • The Naval Treaty, 1893
  • The Final Problem, 1893
VI. The Return of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Empty House, 1903
  • The Norwood Builder, 1903
  • The Dancing Men, 1903
  • The Solitary Cyclist, 1903
  • The Priory School, 1904
  • Black Peter, 1904
  • Charles Augustus Milverton, 1904
  • The Six Napoleons, 1904
  • The Three Students, 1904
  • The Golden Pince-Nez, 1904
  • The Missing Three-Quarter, 1904
  • The Abbey Grange, 1904
  • The Second Stain, 1904
VII. The Hound of the Baskervilles (novel, 1901-02)
VIII. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Illustrious Client, 1924
  • The Blanched Soldier, 1926
  • The Mazarin Stone, 1921
  • The Three Gables, 1926
  • The Sussex Vampire, 1924
  • The Three Garridebs, 1924
  • Thor Bridge, 1922
  • The Creeping Man, 1923
  • The Lion's Mane, 1926
  • The Veiled Lodger, 1927
  • Shoscombe Old Place, 1927
  • The Retired Colourman, 1926
 IX. His Last Bow
  • Wisteria Lodge, 1908
  • The Cardboard Box, 1893
  • The Red Circle, 1911
  • The Bruce-Partington Plans, 1908
  • The Dying Detective, 1913
  • Lady Frances Carfax, 1911
  • The Devil's Foot, 1910
  • His Last Bow, 1917

It is not, by any means, a strict reading order. I might mix things as I go, but if you are new to Sherlock Holmes stories or haven’t had a chance to read them all - I hope you find my little guide handy.

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My 2018 Reading & Blogging Goals

Book Shelf  

December came and went in such a quick flash that it took me by surprise. I, unsurprisingly, failed at Blogmas. But now I am ready to revive my blog once again. And what can be better but reading & blogging goals?

 

In 2017, my reading/theatre goals were simple:

 

  • read 100 books (GoodReads challenge) - which I did
  • watch 10 theatre plays - I watched 24 and will talk about them later
  • listen to 20 audiobooks - I came close but didn’t hit 20

 

I also wanted to read one book in French and one book in German, and I didn’t even come close to doing that. So, I am going to try again in 2018.

I am mostly satisfied with 2017 as my reading year, although I read a lot of short fiction but not enough solid novels, and most of them were Young Adult. Plus, I purchased way more books than I read, so in 2018 I decided to additionally challenge myself.

 

My reading goals:

 

  • read 100 books (GoodReads challenge)
  • listen to 20 audiobooks
  • read 20 plays/scripts
  • read 1 book in German
  • read 1 book in French
  • read 30 adult books
  • participate in 1 read-a-thon

 

I set additional reading challenges for myself as my goal this year to seriously dig into the books I own and either read them and unhaul them or donate them.

 

Reading challenges:

 

  • Read 5 books owned for 1 new book purchased
  • Read 1 Kindle book for 1 Kindle book purchased
  • Read all plays owned
  • Listen to 10 audiobooks in my Audible library
  • Reduce “to be read” on GR
  • Reduce “on hold” on GR
  • Reduce holds at the library
  • Unhaul minimum 50 books
  • Read 10 book released in 2017
  • Read 10 books released in 2018
  • Finish 5 trilogies/series
  • Read all manga/graphic novels owned
  • Re-read all of Sherlock Holmes stories
  • Re-read The Three Musketeers
  • Re-read Katherine Kurtz books (at least the first trilogy)
  • Re-read Lynn Flewelling books (at least the first duology)

 

Additionally, I aim to:

  • watch 20 plays
  • watch movies at TIFF 2018

 

Blogging goals:

 

  • review every book I read (blog and/or GR)
  • review all plays I watch on my blog
  • review all movies I watch at TIFF
  • post on my blog every Tuesday & Friday
  • post videos every Wednesday & Sunday on my YT
  • reach 500 subscribers on YT
  • participate in 1 vlog-a-thon (like Vlogmas)
  • post more art journal and planner related post on my blog

 

I am very satisfied with my goals. I feel that they all I fairly achievable. I struggle the most with maintaining my schedule as my work and life sometimes get in the way of blogging, but I am willing to make a conscientious effort to get better at it. I am making this post for the record and to keep myself accountable ?

 

Cheers!

 

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Book review: Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer (audiobook)

Fairest  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Fairest" is the book which is complementary to The Lunar Chronicles and should be read between "Cress", book three, and "Winter", the last book in the series. Initially, I even wanted to skip it, but since it was about Levana, the Queen of Luna, I figured, I might learn something new about her and Winter, who I already liked.

 

After ploughing through the six and a half hours of this audiobook, all of my thoughts can be summoned as “why on earth did Marissa Meyer write this book?”.

 

 

"Fairest" tells us the story of Levana, from her childhood and the tragic incident that happened (which was absolutely obvious and in no way as exciting of a mystery as one could think), to her quite obsessive fixation on Evret Hayle (which no sane person can ever call love), to her cruelty towards people whom she considered her family. Everything about Levana, with exception of her childhood, is despicable and did not make me sympathize with her any bit. If "Fairest" was supposed to be a redeeming story, in the same way as “Heartless” is, then it failed for me. "Fairest" did not make me like Levana or feel sorry for her. It only solidified my opinion of her being a cruel tyrant. I did sympathize with Levana when she was a child but it was very brief, and there is no redeeming what she did to Evret, Winter, Selene, and countless other characters in the books.

 

As a matter of fact, Levana in this book is extremely reminiscent of Catherine. To the point that it made me think that Levana was written as a doppelganger of Queen of Hearts. Naturally, Levana is a representation of all evil characters in fairy tales, the trope of “the evil stepmother”. And you know what? I was quite happy with hating Levana for being an evil queen. I did not need to know her sad story, because it didn’t change my perception of her at all.

 

To put it shortly, "Fairest| felt redundant and unnecessary for the narrative of The Lunar Chronicle series. Since it is positioned as a supplemental book between books three and four, it might be referenced later on in “Winter” (which would make sense), but for me it felt as a complete waste of time. I did like the characters of Evret and Channery, because they were new and unfamiliar to me, and we do get all of those things regarding mirrors and veils explained to us in this book. However, I don’t think, it should have been explained at all. The whole plot of "Fairest" could have been referenced as hints and snippets throughout the series without losing anything in the narrative. I would have even prefered it to be done this way as it would have made Levana’s character more mysterious and tragic. Having everything explained and described in so much detail made the plot too simplified, boring, and the book - way too long.

 

Alas, I wish I could give it higher rating, but as it stands, this book felt to me like a waste of time. I am glad I listened to it in audio, otherwise I would have DNF'ed it.

 

Narration: 4 stars

Plot: 1 star

Overall: 2.5 stars

 

Affiliated link:

 

Fairest

Book review: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3) by Marissa Meyer (audiobook)

 

After finishing Cinder and Scarlet in a quick succession, I was impatient to start Cress. The beginning of Cress was everything I wanted and expected - it was dramatic, fast paced and worked perfectly well.

 

Then came the slump. I listened to about one third of the audiobook and started to lose interest in what was happening. Mainly, it had to do with a very long and predictable journey through desert - everything that happened there, including the following kidnapping, I was able to foresee a mile away, which left me feeling ‘meh’ and reluctant to continue. I found myself turning to this audiobook less and less, and eventually had to have a little break.

 

I did continue with it, and once all of our character finally assembled in one place, the pace picked up again. I did, however, find some of the revelations very obvious, which saddened me. Although I find the narration pleasant and the storyline entertaining enough, it is not as engaging as I would have liked. At times, the series has a bit too much teenager’y drama and soap opera for me.

 

I do what to remark on the fact that although almost all characters went through some character development in this book, I still can not figure out Carswell Thorne. He was introduced at the end of “Cinder”/beginning of “Scarlet” and was depicted as a completely fluke, a self-absorbed moron and a failed conman, whose mind seemed to be only occupied by ladies and maintaining his good looks. I disliked him a lot at that point. Throughout “Scarlet” Thorne was developing into a better fleshed out character, but I still was not sold on his “a conman with a heart of gold” persona. I found it difficult to believe that Cress would fall for Thorne, when there was clearly nothing heroic about him.

 

By the end of “Cress”, however, Thorne is turning into a real hero. He is not afraid to admit to his less favourable deeds to Cress, and he is hiding less and less behind his jokes and over-exuberant confidence. Cress is slowly growing into a strong character in this story, perhaps, less than Cinder and Scarlet, but she is a real team member by the end of this novel. She saved the day more than once in this book, which I absolutely loved.

 

The only character, who has not failed to annoy me in every single book, is Emperor Kai. Not only he is willing to be a sacrifice lamb and go through the marriage with Levana, but he seems to completely incompetent in everything that he does. He is praised for his diplomatic skills, while he failed to secure future peace for his nation. His decision to marry Levana is not only the suicide but also a definite disaster for his nation, if he is, indeed, killed after Levana is crowned as the empress. It is a ridiculous decision, which the author is trying to portray as this big and important sacrifice, but it is just plain stupid. He is choosing to prolong the suffering of his nation (and his own) by implementing this short-term solution. Kai is completely oblivious to everything that is happening in the palace - he is not fully aware of the research, he doesn’t know that there are tunnels under the palace, etc. He seems to be surprised by the most obvious decisions and is fully dependant on his advisor Torin. I hope that he will undergo at least some character development in “Winter” as for now I don’t understand what Cinder (and Iko) see in him as he is not the Prince Charming I expected in this series. (I love the fact that all the female character in the series are badass in their own ways, but Kai just annoys me.)

 

I feel that this book could have worked really well with at least 50 pages cut out. It is long and the middle of the book is rather slow. The pace did pick up at the end, although I found the ending of “Cress” to be less dramatic and intense than the ending of the second book in the series.

 

I hoped that I would give this book a higher rating than books one and two, but alas. It is a good series, but so far it has failed to enamour me to it to give it anything higher than 3 stars.

 

Narration: 4 stars

Plot: 3 stars

Overall: 3 stars

 

Cress

Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Jay Stacey

 

“Of Beast and Beauty” was the book that I randomly picked from the library after having it recommended to me by BookOutlet based on my browsing and purchases. I knew nothing of this book and had never heard of the author, so I went into it with fairly low expectations. I did pick it up shortly after watching the new movie “Beauty and the Beast”, so I was rather in the mood for this type of retelling.

 

“Of Beast and Beauty” is a young adult fantasy novel, it is a stand alone, and quite overlooked in my opinion. The setting is a cross between sci-fi/dystopian and fantasy world, and found it very peculiar that there allusions to the times when people came to this world in spaceships.

 

The main protagonist, Princess Isra, lives in isolation in a tower, protected and hidden from the world due to her blindness and ugliness. Her city, Yuan, is covered by the dome, which has to be protected and reinforced by certain sacrifice to the magic of the city. Outside Yuan there is only desert, in which outcast and beastly people, the Monstrous, live. A group of monstrous finds their way inside Yuan in the hopes of stealing one of the red roses from the garden as their magic was prophesied to save their people from starvation. Gem, one of the monstrous, is captured and becomes Isra’s prisoner. Unexpectedly, Gem and Isra discover that not all things that they both believed in are true.

 

I suggest that if you want to read this book, stay away from reading the summary either on the flap or GoodReads as it happens to give away quite a bit of book’s events (no idea why). I went into this book completely blind and I think that is why I enjoyed it so much.

 

It is a rather interesting story, a very easy read. Nothing is too overly complicated, however, the world is rather interestingly constructed and it is not as easy to pinpoint who of either characters is supposed to be Belle and who is The Beast. Both Isra and Gem go through character development, which is great. The book is told from three different points of view, which I rather enjoyed as it showed that none of the characters were flawless or black and white.

 

Could I predict the book ending? Well, yes, as it is a retelling after all.

 

Did I know how the things were going to play out? Nope. I found twists and turns quite interesting and there were quite a few things that I didn’t see coming.

 

It was not the perfectly written book. It had flaws, especially in some of the character’s actions. However, I did like the characters, and all of my favourite moments were to do with the roses and garden. I swear, I was completely hooked by the story the moment when the roses turned out to be magical (it is not really a spoiler). Will probably never be able to view them as harmless flowers.

Personal rating: 3.5 stars

Book Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley (audiobook)

 

Have you ever discovered a hidden gem in a place you never expected to find one? I got this feeling when I started listening to “Magonia” audiobook. This book was on my radar some time ago, about a year or so. I even purchased it on Kindle when it was on sale. I never read it though and quickly forgot about it. Recently, I have been on a huge audiobook buying spree. I am an avid Audible user, but I also get books from the library and I had more than one person repeatedly tell me that I should use OverDrive to get audiobooks. I decided to give the OverDrive app a try (since the interface wasn’t inspiring confidence and I am too addicted to Audible anyway) and “Magonia” was the book that I downloaded as it was readily available.

I am not new to audiobooks. I have been using Audible for over 10 years now (no kidding) and I listened to audiobooks before that too. Needless to say, I can be very picky when it comes to narrators. That is why I was so excited when “Magonia” exceeded my expectations. The audiobook is narrated by Therese Plummer and Michael Crouch, neither of whom I ever listened to before. Therese, obviously, steals the show as her narration dominates the audiobook but they both are really good, and I think if it weren’t for their acting, I would have not enjoyed the audiobook this much.

“Magonia” is a book one in a young adult fantasy duology. It is told mainly from the point of view of its main protagonist, Aza Ray, a teenaged girl with a mysterious disease. Aza is weak and sick, constantly in and out of hospitals, but her spirit is very strong and her awareness of the world around her is astounding. Her best friend is a nerdish and adventurous Jason. He, as well as Aza’s family, her mother, father and younger sister, all are trying to equally support Aza and get ready for her eventual demise. One day Aza starts hearing someone calling her name. Everyone thinks, she is hallucinating, but Jason believes her.

And when one day, it finally happens - Aza dies and opens her eyes on a trading ship, sailing in the sky - Jason is the only one who keeps believing into impossible.

“Magonia” is a lyrical and reflective in tone, so it works perfectly as an audiobook. Therese is especially fabulous as she gives voices to different characters. She chirps and groans and whispers, and it is fascinating to listen to. (I found out that Therese also narrated two other books that I really enjoyed - “This Savage Song” by Victoria Schwab and “Rook” by Sharon Cameron -  and I can’t wait to listen to them as well!)

I found the world and magic system of Magonia original and intriguing. Can’t say that the actual plot line of the book is anything terribly special - the romance triangle, for one, is totally predictable. However, it is a very character driven plot, and it compensates for somewhat predictable plot twists. I loved all the characters, even the bad ones, just because they were so well developed. It is obvious that the author put a lot of effort into fleshing out the characters. I think I loved Jason the most. He is brilliant and nerdy, suffers from anxiety and is obviously somewhere on the autism spectrum, and recites Pi to keep Aza alive. He has two loving mothers, who care about him a lot. Aza's family is delightful too. I am always happy when YA fiction has lots of well written side characters and when the family members of main protagonists aren't there only to serve as a washed-out background prop.

The ending left me wanting to start the second book right away (it is still on hold at the library), although it does not really end with a big cliffhanger, but I can’t wait to see how this all gets resolved. And I definitely, definitely recommend you listen to this audiobook as opposed to reading a book. It is wonderful!

Plot: 3 stars

Performance: 5 stars

Overall: 4 stars

September Read-A-Thons

I should have titled this post something like "September Read-A-Thons or How to Make Myself Even More Stressed During Vacation", because I will, hopefully, be away on vacation in September for about 3 weeks. Naturally, I do plan to take books with me (and I will post my TBR online) but participating in readathons while meeting with family and friends and traveling around? Ugh, madness. Anyway. I was catching up with YT today and saw 2 announcements that immediately made me want to participate. One is Banned Books Read-A-Thon "Banned Book-A-Thon" (announcement) and another one is Slow Read-A-Thon (announcement). I am posting these links mostly for my sake, as I know I will be scrambling later, trying to find them.

Slow Read-A-Thon

Slow Read-A-Thon (and I just love tags #slowathon and #booksnals) runs September 12 and September 18. There are some prompts/challenges, but it is not required to complete them all.

The prompts: 1) Read a book and mark it up! (Tabs, notes, underlining, etc.) 2) Create something inspired by the book you're reading! (Examples: write a poem, a song, do a sketch, a dance routine, a painting...) 3) Do a buddy read (with booktube or real life freinds) and discuss the book! 4) Read a book out loud (to someone or just to yourself.) 5) Read a book that intimidates you! 6) Reread a book and compare your reading experiences. 7) Read a book and review it on your platform of choice during the readathon week. 8) Read a book, then read secondary literature on it. Or a retelling/variation of the first book.

Banned Book-A-Thon

Banned Book-A-Thon starts at midnight Sunday, 25 September, and runs till midnight Saturday, 1 October. The theme for this year is "diversity." More info about Banned Books Week: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

Somehow in my brain I decided that participating in readathons during my vacation is exactly what I need on top of everything else. Hmmm... Nevertheless, I am excited about the prospect of picking books to fit some challenges. Of course, I don't plan to participate in all of them or reading a lot, but I can aim for 2-3 books, right?

Tell me, I am not crazy XD

I have done it again (disappeared and came back)

Managing this blog turned out a bit more difficult than I expected. I have no problems with posting photos here or videos but actually writing blog posts? Here is where I have a problem. So, here is my attempt at a comeback number umpteenth.

Anyhow, I was browsing books online today (simultaneously on BookOutlet, AbeBooks, Indigo and Amazon - no, I am not joking) and came to a conclusion that I seem to be resolving to buying books that I should probably be getting from the library. But. But. But. My library holds are maxed out, that is I have 100 books on hold. And some of those have been on hold disgustingly long.

See an example.

 

OutstandingHolds

I have been waiting for "We were liars" for almost 12 months AND I am still far from being at the top of the queue, as the library obviously does not have that many copies on hand.

So, I got so annoyed to the point that I went and ordered this book at BookOutlet. This book was consistently popping up in my recommendations and I want to read it but I didn't want to own it. Alas, there is a limit I can wait for a book.

Same thing for some other books. I purchased some of them on AbeBooks and cancelled more of my requests where I was not in the top 10-15 people as the wait was getting ridiculous.

I realized that I have been adding books on hold at the library as the way to remember to read them (I am bad with titles) and therefore I keep maxing out. Which is annoying. I even have a separate wish list on Amazon that I titled "get these books from the library", so that I don't accidentally buy them.

I am a horrible shopaholic when it comes to books. I spent a ridiculous amount of money in June. It feels like July might be no better.

Do I have that much money to spend?

No.

Do I have shelf space for all those books?

Nope.

Why do I keep buying books?

Because it makes me happy! Besides I am not buying expensive tech gear or clothes. I am buying books. Mostly discounted, on sales or in second hand stores. So, I am not THAT bad.

But I am bad, and I admit it.

I also found that checking out a whole bunch of books from the library (as well as having 100 books on hold) is very overwhelming. I am trying to figure out how to get rid (meaning, read) from all of those books I have right now, so I can go on reading what I want to read right now. (This is why I do really bad with TBRs in general.)

Today is the last day of BookTube-A-Thon is which I am participating. And not doing too well. I am not bad, but I still find it hard to adhere to a set tbr.

Here are my ranty post.

Cheers.

New Year Resolutions

I'm quite aware it is February ;) I wrote those down a month ago, but never got to share them.

  • read 70 books*
  • listen to 10 audiobooks
  • see 10 theatre plays
  • watch 50 movies
  • start art journal again
  • write more
  • blog regularly (once a day)
  • take more photos and share them
  • consistently write book reviews
  • write plays/events reviews
  • take care of my health
  • start going to the gym again
  • travel to new places
  • meet new people
  • smile every day

*I set my goal at GoodReads for 70 books as well, but it is not the same. On GoodReads I keep track of both books and audiobooks, but in my journal I keep them separate. Which means that I will hit my GoodReads goal before my personal one.

I must say that my book reading challenge is going quite nicely AND I have already listened to 10 audiobooks, so that is quite encouraging :D

I also started a new art journal. I hope to keep doing that throughout the year.

I still suck at writing and posting reviews right after the events/plays/reading books. But I am working on it!

My Year in Books - 2015

goodreads2015 Here is my reading year at GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/3155103

I started my reading challenge in July and set a goal of 20 books. But I went far and beyond and finished the year at 70 books and 18,158 pages! Wow! I do hope that 2016 will be as good! I set up the goal of 70 books since this is what I already attained once.

My bro and I have been challenging each other as to who would read more books every year. And every year during that past 7-8 years, he always won.

Well, in 2015 I finally won! For the very first time! :) Even though I came very close once or twice ;) Need to mention that he used to read way more than me (150-200 books a year) but now he has no time with his job, and I managed to beat him :)

I am excited about all the books I plan to read in 2016!

Book review: Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

IMG_2210 This review is long overdue. I admit, I have been putting off writing it as I had, and still have, very conflicted feelings about this book. Every booktuber I watched seemed to be madly in love with it. Its GoodReads ratio at the time of writing this post is 4.29 which a lot and much higher than some of my favourite books.

I will have to divide my review into part: what I liked and what I didn't. Naturally, it is my opinion, and if you liked the book - good for you.

When I saw this book hauled by several booktubers after BAE, I got really excited as it seemed to be a very interestingly put together book. I was under impression that it is a stand alone novel, so imagine my surprise when I learned that it is book one in The Illiminae Files series. (It was not mentioned by any of the reviewers and I found it out from the summary on the inside of the jacket.)

I am not going to summarize the book for you but I am just going to say that this book turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for me.

No real spoilers ahead, unless you would prefer to know nothing about the book.

What I liked:

  • the format and the way the narrative is constructed which is the main and the best thing about this book - I have read books that incorporate lists, letters, emails, texts, etc in the narrative, but this is the first time this is a book constructed as a dossier/files and there is no traditional narration.
  • the cover (which is really part of the above point) and the dust jacket are the work of art.
  • an epic space ships battle which reminded me of Star Trek and Star Wars and I haven't read any books like that in awhile.
  • the twist at the end made it worth pulling through the remaining 100 pages or so which were so boring.

What I disliked:

  • the plot is very simple; it can essentially be summarized in a paragraph and if it weren't for the unique narrative that stretched the book to 599 pages (and that's enormous for YA), the book would have been at least twice shorter.
  • there is little to no backstory to the relationship between Kady and Ezra, as the book starts with their break up, so it was really difficult for me to sympathize with their relationship. I basically felt nothing. Their "love you"s didn't feel real.
  • once again due to the format of the book I felt that we were not given an opportunity to properly get to know the characters, and although it is not uncommon to learn things about characters through other characters' perspective, I felt that we were not given enough to develop real attachment to them.
  • there is a lot of swearing in the book, that I have no problem with, but it is all blacked out or crossed out and it seriously was hurting my eyes and getting on my nerves. I do not enjoy excessive swearing, but I would have been okay with it, because all that crossing out was making my eyes cross.
  • deadly virus and bio weapons are cool plot devices, but I hate - and I mean that with a capital H - anything that has to do with zombies. I tend to avoid movies, tv shows, and books that have zombies in it, and finding out that in Illuminae this virus turns people into zombies became an unpleasant surprise for me. (I know, it is my personal preference, and I know a lot of people who love zombies, but I just can't handle the topic! The thought of being overcome with a virus that turns you into a killing machine that is not possible to reason with disgusts me. I am interested in themes of people using their humanity in other ways.) I am quite glad that it was a book and I didn't have to watch it on screen.
  • I felt that the narrative was a bit disjointed which made it hard for me to lose myself in the book. I tried. I honestly did. But I kept being distracted by the form.
  • I felt that the unique form of the book was taking my attention from the plot, and at times it felt as if I am reading a graphic novel.
  • The ending had a great twist, but what led to it, and some decisions and actions of the characters, as well as some plot turns felt a bit flat to me, a bit undeveloped (but once again it is hard to expect depth and development in the book that barely has any text in it).

As you can see, I have more things that I didn't like about this book (which is basically most of the plot) than what I liked (which is the format of the book). If I could give a separate rating, I'd rate plot as 3 stars and the format as 5 stars. I still don't know what to do with the overall rating as I enjoyed the book but it disappointed me in several ways (I am quite glad I got it from the library and didn't buy it). I am conflicted as to what I should put for it on GoodReads, as 3 stars is not fair and 4 stars is way too high (I think GoodReads should have half stars - it is so hard to rate books there!).

This book would definitely appeal to reads who haven't read good classic sci-fi novels and are new to the genre. It would also appeal to those who have never read a book that incorporates other media (photos, lists, emails, etc). It definitely deserves a read at least for the novelty's sake.

But if you are like me, who both prefers fleshed out narrative and hates zombies, pick up something else.

Will I be reading more books in the series? Maybe, when they become available at my library. They won't be high on my reading list though.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars

November Wrap-Up Video!

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYL6LDEskxY[/embed] Yes, I created a new video!

Took me ages, because iMovie is experiencing a glitch with photos import. I did figure out new tricks in it though, that should make editing way quicker.

Not perfect, but I think I am getting a bit better ;)

Next video will be an unboxing video! And and actual video.

My full review/ November blog post is here.

Book review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

IMG_2211  

Personal rating: 5 stars

Nothing could have prepared me for this book. In spite of a promising title, it turned out to be more real and less happy than I expected it would. There are a lot of coming of age (and coming out) stories out there right now in YA, but this one has a gritty and realistic feel to it that kept me nailed to the ground all the time. Poverty, drugs, violence, mental health, suicide, death - all of that is not sugar coated but that left out in the open as it is, forcing you to deal not only with the mounting affection that you feel towards the characters but also the gnawing worry that this story may not have a happy ending.

In the internet talk of nowadays, the books gave me THE FEELS.

And I am okay with that. I am okay with recurring "no homo" catch phrase (which usually makes my eyes bleed); with the violence and pain; with futuristic "magic pill" that will make you forget who you are and the reasons WHY you needed to forget in the first place; with the fact that my heart started to disintegrate piece by piece from the page one - to the point that by the end of the book I was ready to sign up for a Leteo procedure myself.

This book is not what it seems at first glance. It is deeper, more touching, more serious, more personal. Don't let those smiley faces fool you. You will crying by the end of it, whether you want it or not.

Well done, Adam! I can't wait to read more books by you.

p.s. I got this book from the library, because I wanted to read a hard copy, even though I got an ebook copy on Kindle when it was on sale some time ago.

Books: November Wrap-Up & Reviews

I had an amazing reading month in November. I didn't have a set TBR list for November. I got a lot of books from the library and simply tried my best to read them all. And I read  A LOT of books. Mostly due to the fact that I was sick for the majority of the month, even taking a couple of days off work, that allowed me to read more. (Although reading while being sick really sucks, let me tell ya.)

I split my list of read books into sections. The reviews will be at the bottom. This is going to be one hell of a post.

Books:

  1. Alex Gino "George"
  2. Kelley York "Made of Stars"
  3. Melissa Landers "Invaded"
  4. Alex London "Proxy"
  5. Alex London "Guardian"
  6. I.W. Gregorio "None of the Above"
  7. Nicola Yoon "Everything, Everything"
  8. Rainbow Rowell "Fangirl"

E-books:

  1. R.G. Alexander "Curious"
  2. Bonnie Dee "The Tutor"
  3. Laura Harner "Continental Divide (Separate Ways, #1)"
  4. E.M. Lindsey "Time and Tide"

Graphic novels:

  1. East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise by Jonathan Hickman
  2. East of West, Vol. 2: We Are All One by Jonathan Hickman
  3. East of West, Vol. 3: There Is No Us by Jonathan Hickman
  4. Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
  5. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  6. Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy (Lumberjanes, #1-4) by Noelle Stevenson
  7. Blue is the Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh
  8. The less than epic adventures of TJ and Amal vol. 1 Poor boys and pilgrims by E.K. Weaver
  9. Emily Carroll "Through the Woods"

Books re-read:

  1. Marie Sexton "Promises"
  2. Marie Sexton "Strawberries for Dessert"
  3. Sue Brown "Nothing Ever Happens"

So, if my math skills do not deceive me, in the month of November I read 24 books. Holy moly! That's definitely way more than I expected! Granted, a huge part of those were short ebooks and graphic novels, but still! I don't think I will ever be able to beat that.

Okay, onto reviews then. All of these are posted on my GoodReads page, so I am only going to post reviews of books and graphic novels and will skip ebooks and books I've read before.

Reviews:

"George" by Alex Gino

Personal rating: 4 stars

I read this book in one go. It has less than 200 pages with huge font and it a middle grade novel.

I liked it. I think it is great that the author touches upon a topic of gender identity in a middle grade novel. Reading it, I couldn't help by sympathize with George. I think that her voice was very prominent and well defined.

I am happy that such books exist nowadays.

"Made of Stars" by Kelley York

Personal rating: 5 stars

You know there are some books that you finish reading and then next day you still keep thinking about it? For me it was "Made of Stars". (Where has this book been before?? Why haven't I read it sooner??)

This is a contemporary/suspense YA novel, that tells the story of three friends (a boy and his half sister and their friend, whom they see once a year during summer). One summer they all meet again, and things change. And their feelings change too.

Hunter and Ashlin start noticing the lies Chance is telling them and things he is NOT telling them. They start questioning things he says and does.

And then a murder happens.

It is not exactly a murder mystery, but the book has a very strong suspense undercurrent. I don't want to say anything or I might spoil the ending, but let's just say that I spent the last 20% of the book dreading what was about to happen while knowing that it would probably happen. Basically, I was just sitting here and yelling "NO!" a lot.

I couldn't put it down.

The ending was like a sucker punch. Have you read Allegiant by Veronica Roth? Remember THAT? Well, THAT thing in Allegiant gave me the same feeling as this book. Remember, how at some point in Allegiant (just by the way the POV is switched) you could totally tell that THIS was going to happen? Same thing here.

I spent some time trying to think of what might happen next, if there is hope, if there is any way that it could not have ended in so much heartbreak.

But no, there was no other way.

I both heartbroken and in awe with what the author did to my poor heart. It was painful and amazing.

I want more. I am definitely putting Kelley York on my list of favourite authors.

"Invaded" by Melissa Landers

Personal rating: 3.75 stars

(SOME MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!)

I read Alienated in September and was quite excited to get ahold of Invaded quite easily (I landed a copy from the library and it was a new copy which is a rarity at times).

I can't say I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Alienated. For one thing, I really liked Cara's blog, which was barely there in Invaded, as well as her sense of humour (overall the novel felt more serious in tone than Alienated). The romance between her and Aelyx still ran true but Melissa used pretty much the same trick as in Alienated: creating a rift between them, only to bring them back together followed by a dramatic event. It felt rather boring to read the same plot twist in the second novel.

I did like the intrigue that was happening in both worlds, as well as depiction of L'eihr and its traditions, but I felt as if the first part of the book dragged a bit.

There was one character whom I really liked and who died, which really annoyed me, because it could have been avoided (seeing as other major characters are always saved by deus ex machina). This death affected another character, who has already been through a lot. I feel as if this was done for the sake of drama and it felt a bit cheap to me.

I feel like there might be a third novel. Invaded does not end with an obvious cliffhanger than Alienated had, but still there are some things that were left unresolved. The problem is that I am not sure how Melissa can create the third novel without making it even more boring. Will I be reading it? Perhaps, but it won't be high on my list.

"Proxy" and "Guardian" by Alex London

Proxy

Personal rating: 3.75

I couldn't wait to pick up this book. I heard great things about it. I can't say that I was disappointed but I wish my expectations hadn't been set so high. It is a great dystopian YA novel, with a unique world, but at times it felt as if it lacked depth, and some of the characters' actions didn't make much sense. There was a lot of talk about feelings and decisions, but I think that the author described things instead of *showing* them.

I did like the characters and I love the fact that this book had a main gay character, who was essentially "the chosen one".

Some events in this book didn't make much sense, but the ending had a good twist. And it made me a bit sad too. You will know why. (I would have preferred a different punch line at the end, as it felt a bit weak, but over all it was ok.)

Guardian

Personal rating: 4 stars

I think that this book is stronger than "Proxy". It is better written and it has more plot twists. I did enjoy both the relationships (a budding romance) between the characters and the main intrigue. I also liked how it was shown how "the chosen one", ex-proxy, was dealing with his fame.

The resolution of the moral peril in which the characters found themselves felt a bit too "deus ex machina", but I did like the ending. One might say, it is too open, or even a cliffhanger, but I enjoyed it.

Can't say this book is going to be high on my "re-read list" but it was enjoyable. I would love to read more dystopian YA with main queer characters.

"None of the Above" by I.W. Gregorio

Personal rating: 3.75 stars

I enjoyed the book because it is rather different from all other YA which is readily available on the market. It is the first book with an intersex character that I have ever read. I liked the book. I didn't love it though. I feel that it was more educational than anything else, as the plot was rather predictable (discovering herself, friends turning enemies, bullying at school, therapy) and some twists made me feel rather sad.

I liked Kristin. I liked that she is an athlete, she is a runner. I liked how her struggle to come to terms with her diagnosis was described. What I didn't like was how predictable everything else was (her boyfriend, her friends' reaction, etc).

I still recommend this book. It has to be read at least for the educational purposes. I feel that it was a bit overhyped for me in terms of the plot though.

"Everything, Everything" by Nicola Yoon

personal rating: 4.5 stars

This book deserves all the love and hype surrounding it! It is a very cute story about a girl who is allergic to everything. One day, a new family moves into a nearby house and she befriends their son.

I liked everything about this book. The way it is written. The fact that it is interrupted by illustrations and notes written by Madeline. The fact that this book has some similarities to "The Fault In Our Stars" but only it is way better and lighter and happier. (And also, HAWAII!)

The characters are unique and have very distinctive voices. I loved both Madeline and Olly. I loved the setting of the book. I loved all the descriptions.

I also loved the twist and the way the story resolved itself, even though I did suspect something like this would happen. (It also quite unexpectedly resonated with my own experience, which was a bit surprising.)

Can't say more but this book gave me rather happy, warm and fuzzy feeling. Even though it mostly about illness. Nicola Yoon has achieved something that John Green failed to do for me.

Read it. You will love it.

"Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell

Personal rating: 5 stars

I thought this book was overhyped on booktube. I thought I wouldn't like it. I thought it was something like "shopaholic" novels.

I was so wrong!

This book is fantastic. It is well written, it has amazing characters and a very sweet romance. I loved Cath. She is very relatable. Levi is a sweetheart (I was rooting for him the whole book!). Wren is something. Reagan is something else altogether.

And Cath's father, Art, is adorable. (I have a soft spot for him. Because I don't know how you can NOT. It is probably the first time ever I feel so strongly about a secondary character.)

I don't even know how to express how much I loved this book (which can be confirmed by the fact that I ordered my own copy online while being only 50 pages into the library copy). It is everything my life is and is not, but potentially can be. This book made me feel less embarrassed about being "a fangirl". It also gave me a strong urge to write.

This book was so good, and so well written, that I want to read it again.

Also I need "Carry On" like RIGHT NOW.


All of other reviews you can read on my GoodReads page, as I don't want to make this post longer than necessary. I do want to point out that Nimona, Lumberjanes, Adventures of TJ and Amal, and Through the Woods are my favourite graphic novels of the month, while Blue is the Warmest Colour is the least favourite.

Let me know what you think!