Wednesday, December 10, 2014

True love on a t-shirt

Facebook knows me frighteningly well and put a link to litographs.com on my newsfeed. It's now basically my life's goal to own every single one of these t-shirts. I'm practically salivating over here.

(Wuthering Heights)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

BRB

What started off as a desire to re-read one particular book ended up turning into a massive re-read kick. Then I realized I'm 3 books behind on Susan Mallory's Fools Gold series. Hence, YA has been on the back burner. So . . . brb.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

(Lazy) Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

"Blue Lily, Lily Blue" (Raven Boys #3), by Maggie Stiefvater. The Goodreads summary:
There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.
As you may have discerned from the post title, I’m feeling a bit too lazy to write a full, intelligible review (that seems to be a common malady for me lately). Honestly, I’m feeling lazy enough to skip writing a review altogether, but then I thought that I should write at least something to let you guys know that this book was awesome. I mean, man. This series. It’s nice to have books you can count on, you know? Every single one of the books in this series so far has delivered. Has gone above and beyond delivering, really.

Those raven boys . . . I just love them so much. And it’s not just Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue I love, it’s the Gray Man, everyone at 300 Fox Way, and even Greenmantle and Piper. That Piper—she grew on me more than she was supposed to probably.

You might thinking by now, “Hey, Karen, what about the plot?” Like, I said, lazy is the name of the game today, so can I just say the plot was good and gripping and well-developed—the whole shebang—and leave it at that? Though I will say that one scene where Blue and a certain raven boy touch fingers in the car made me feel like this: !!!!!!! Because that particular raven boy happens to be my favorite, and I didn’t think anything would actually happen between them—I thought Blue was going to go for a different raven boy altogether.

And while we’re on the subject of raven boys—Adam. I love seeing how his character is slowly developing. I feel like he—and maybe Ronan—is the one doing the most growing, and it’s gratifying to watch it happen. And, and, AND that scene in the courtroom with Adam when Gansey and Ronan show up? I swooned over all of them in that scene.

Overall, read it! If you haven’t started this series yet, get to it! One book to go in the series . . . I’m kinda dying over here.

Rating: 4 / 5

Other books in this series:
-The Raven Boys
-The Dream Theives

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: I’ll Give You the Sun

“I’ll Give You the Sun,” by Jandy Nelson. The Goodreads summary:
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
I am in love with this book. That’s all there is to it. I mean, I knew going in that the odds were pretty high I’d like “I’ll Give You the Sun” since I totally and completely adore “The Sky Is Everywhere” by this same author. But still . . . there’s always that little bit of fear that you’ll be let down. But “I’ll Give You the Sun” didn’t let me down AT ALL. It was pretty perfect, actually.

I just don’t even have the words, really. Because Jandy Nelson creates two hot messes known as Jude and Noah who explode with passion and fear and shame and love and just generally feel all the feelings I want characters to feel. And, dang, can Jandy Nelson write. I mean, she can really, really write. She knows how to use all the words and emotions and descriptions to create prose that pulls you under and makes you wish you didn’t have to come up for air in the real world.

At its heart, I think “I’ll Give You the Sun” is equal parts a story about romantic love and a story about love for family. But it’s never an easy love. Never a love that can be taken for granted. The characters have to try again and again to get through the walls of hurt and fear that separate them from those they love, and I felt for them every single time they threw themselves at those walls only to crash against them rather than through them. But the thing is, every single time, they get up and try again.

And then there’s the small things, the things that made me smile. Like Jude’s aversion to oranges and affinity for onions and lemons. Like Clark Gable. Like Grandma Sweetwine’s bible. Like Noah’s self-portrait titles and the three words he wants to have with God. Like a certain parrot’s obsession with Ralph. Sometimes it’s the little things, as much as the big ones, that make a book for me, you know?

Overall, in case you couldn’t tell, this is one of my favorite books of the year. I kinda just want to carry it around with me all the time so I don’t have to let it go.

Rating: 5 / 5

Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Silver Shadows

“Silver Shadows” (Bloodlines #5), by Richelle Mead. The Goodreads summary:
In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.

For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . .

Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where all bets are off.
So, remember how I really didn’t like number 4 in this series (The Fiery Heart)? Well, I’m happy to report that this one was much better. It was more on the level of the first three books. Which is to say, not quite as good as the Vampire Academy series, but still pretty enjoyable.

I think what saved this book is that Sydney and Adrian were separated for most of it. This thankfully meant that all the cheesy, puerile mushy stuff from the last book was missing from this one. Rather, this book is all about Sydney trying to use her smarts and her skills to survive the re-education center, and Adrian using his smarts and skills to try to track her down and break her out.

Adrian kind of annoyed me for the first half or so of the book because he fell back into his old habits, with all the partying and drinking. I mean, I get it—that’s his fall back when his life feels out of his control, but still . . . I thought he’d grown out of that in the last few books. Though, I did think it was pretty brave of Mead as the author to take a character that seemed to be making progress and set him back a ways. And I guess it kept Adrian from starting to seem too perfect, because Adrian wouldn’t be Adrian if he were anywhere near perfect.

On the other hand, Sydney was her usual put-together self in this book. It would’ve been nice to see her crack a little, actually. You’d think that being physically and mentally tortured for four months would have some effect on her, but nope. She remains unscathed. Maybe things will catch up to her emotionally in the next book?

Overall, I enjoyed this one nearly as much as the first three, though I wish the secondary characters like Jill, Eddie, et al. could’ve been in it more, ‘cause I love those guys. But mostly I just spent the book being happy that it was better than that disaster of a fourth book.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Of Beast and Beauty

“Of Beast and Beauty,” by Stacey Jay. The Goodreads summary:
In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.
So good! It was way better than I was expecting. I was seriously impressed. It’s not like I had particularly low expectations for this book or anything, but I’ve just not been having super great luck with books recently, so I expected this one to follow suit. But I was so happy when it didn’t.

Admittedly, I don’t think any Beauty and the Beast retelling could ever live up to Robin McKinley’s duo, but those are very much classic retellings. “Of Beast and Beauty” takes the basic fairytale and transforms it into something uniquely its own. It’s mostly fantasy but kinda sci-fi too, and the world the author has created, while you don’t get to see all that much of it, is fascinating and complete with its own set of prejudices and social issues. And I loved how the lines were blurred between who was Beauty and who was the Beast. Gem and Isra are both . . . both, and it was just so dang clever of the author to do that.

Gem, I loved the whole time, but I feel like there’s not really all that much else to say about him. Tall, dark, handsome, brooding—what else do you need? Isra was a bit more interesting of a character, because while she’s likeable the whole time, she starts off weak and na├»ve and powerless. But then as the story progresses, she slowly comes into her own and finds her way. She reminded me a bit of Elisa from the Girl of Fire and Thorns series in that way. Gem and Isra were both characters that had me thinking about them even when I wasn’t reading the book, and when I finished it, they and their story stayed right there with me. (Which, since I finished this book right before bed, made it dang hard to fall asleep, let me tell ya.)

Overall, I enjoyed just about every single thing about this story. Not only was it a fresh take on Beauty and the Beast, but it was a fresh take that was done well. I whole-heartedly approve.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: Golden

“Golden,” by Jessi Kirby. The Goodreads summary:
Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.
I read “Moonglass” by this author ages ago, and while I don’t remember all that much about it, I know I thought it was adequate but not really anything special. And I think that’s how I’d characterize “Golden” too.

To me, nothing about “Golden” felt original or surprising. I mean, sure, I wasn’t 100 percent sure how things with Parker’s quest would turn out, but nothing about Parker herself or her situation felt unique to me. She didn’t stand out from any of the other likeable, over-achieving YA heroines who learn to loosen up. I felt like I’ve read different iterations of this same story a hundred other times. And it’s a story that, while I tolerate it just fine, I’m finally starting to get tired of.

The first half of the book felt pretty slow to me. I found myself starting to skim, and since I almost never skim, the fact that I wanted to with this book was pretty damning. I thought about not finishing the book, but since I knew so many people like it, I decided to press on. And truthfully, the second half was better. The pace picked up, and I started to finally get interested in the 10-year-old mystery Parker’s trying to solve. So that was a saving grace.

The romance in this book . . . I honestly can’t decide if I liked that it didn’t play a major role or if that same fact annoyed me. Because while I appreciate books that have enough other plot that they don’t have to rely entirely on the romance for the story, at the same time the romance is pretty much always my favorite part of the book. So I’m still divided on that issue with this book.

Overall, the book was fine but nothing new. I’ve been in a weird funk with YAs lately, so that may be affecting my feelings about this one, but either way, I wasn’t really impressed.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reviews: Isla and the Happily Ever After / Open Road Summer

Seeing as how I’m feeling super lazy and unmotivated, you’re getting two short reviews rather than one full length one. I’m going to forego including the book summaries (like I said, lazy), but the hyperlinked titles below will take you to the Goodreads summaries, if you’re interested.

Isla and the Happily Ever After,” by Stephanie Perkins:

Here’s the story. I really love “Anna and the French Kiss” and I mostly love “Lola and the Boy Next Door.” But this one . . . it’s not that I didn’t like it. I DID. But it didn’t leave me feeling as giddy at the end as the other two did, which kinda lowered it in my estimation by comparison. But here are the two things I really like about the book: 1) Isla has a totally platonic friendship with a boy. None of that we’ve always been friends, but I’m secretly pining over you biz. 2) I like that Isla and Josh get together fairly early in the book. This gave the book time to develop their relationship in a way YAs don’t often get to. Here, we get to see how their relationship evolves after the “I love yous.”

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Open Road Summer,” by Emery Lord:

This one was fun. I appreciated that Reagan was tough without being an A-hole. I also liked that she started making changes in her life before Matt comes into the picture; it made me believe that she was doing it for herself rather than for a boy. Another thing in the book’s favor was that although Matt and Reagan’s romance is a big part, a substantial part is also about Reagan and Dee’s friendship. They felt like real best friends rather than the superficial treatment friendship usually gets in YA. Also, I don’t know why, but I totally imagined the characters looking like specific celebrities. This basically never happens to me. But the whole book I imagined Reagan as looking like Lucy Hale, Matt as Scotty McCreery, and Dee as Taylor Swift.

Rating: 4 / 5 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Moonraker’s Bride

“Moonraker’s Bride,” by Madeleine Brent. The Goodreads summary:
Born in a Mission in China, Lucy Waring finds herself with fifteen small children to feed and care for. The way she tackles this task leads to her being thrown into the grim prison of Chengfu, where she meets Nicholas Sabine - a man about to die.

He asks her a cryptic riddle, the mystery of which echoes through all that befalls her in the months that follow...

She is brought to England and tries to make a new life with the Gresham family, but she is constantly in disgrace and is soon involved in the bitter feud between the Greshams and a neighbouring family.

There is danger, romance and heartache for Lucy as strange events build to a point where she begins to doubt her own senses.

How could she see a man, long dead, walking in the misty darkness of the valley? And who carried her, unconscious, into the labyrinth of Chiselhurst Caves and left her to die?

It is not until she returns to China that Lucy finds, amid high adventure, the answer to all that has baffled her.
Here’s the thing: this book was more of an adventure/suspense book with a little romance thrown in, but I kept wanting it to be romance with a little adventure/suspense. Basically, I wanted there to be more kissing. But that wasn’t really the point of the story. So I don’t know if I’m allowed to be a little annoyed at this book or not, since it was my own expectations that left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied, not the book itself.

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. In fact, I stayed up way too late reading it. But the thing is, from the moment we’re introduced to Nick in the Chengfu prison, I was a goner. That boy was beyond super appealing. I wouldn’t mind going to jail like Lucy if he was going to be in the cell next to mine. But then, [spoiler] since Lucy thinks he's dead, we don’t get to see him again until the end of the book, which kind of totally ruined my hopes for there being lots of scenes between him and Lucy. And to make matters worse, when he finally does make an appearance again, he’s too busy being a tool to be as appealing as he was in the beginning of the book (he does that dumb “I’m going to be a jerk so you don’t know that I love you” thing). Nick does manage to redeem himself by the end, for the most part, but that doesn’t quite negate the facts that 1) there wasn’t enough kissing, and 2) Nick didn’t quite live up to the swoony potential he showed in the beginning.[end spoiler]

Maybe I should mention Lucy now, seeing as how she’s the main character and everything. While I really loved how capable and smart and strong Lucy is, I couldn’t help but feel like she came off as a little flat as a character. She’s just so stoic and calm and reluctant to rock the boat, that it seemed like the author had to tell you what she was feeling because otherwise you wouldn’t be sure she actually had feelings. But still. You’ve got to admire a girl who can singlehandedly keep an orphanage from starving.

Overall, a book that had its issues but that was still a pretty good read. I think this review came off sounding more negative than I actually feel, so if you come across this book, give it a shot.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
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