Thursday, December 31, 2015

Favorite Books of 2015

It seems like every year goes by faster and faster! It's been a wonderful year for reading.  I started this book blog back in February after a friend of mine got me into watching booktubers and I discovered the YA book blog community.  I became inspired to start my own blog to chronicle all the books I read and release all the feels.

With motivation from running this blog, I've read more books this year than any other year.  I read 43 books, beating my goal of 30.  It's definitely not a lot to some readers, but it is for me! I'm challenging myself to 40 books in 2016.  I realize I've read over 40 this year, but I want to keep my goal attainable in anticipation of the increasingly difficult college work.

That being said, I want to share some of the best books I read this year:


1. Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer - I LOVE this series soooo much.  I waited 2 years to get my hands on Winter, and I was not disappointed!  These characters are the best.

My Review










The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)2. The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski - I don't know what it was - perhaps the mood I was in? - but I absolutely LOVED this book.  It's crazy, because I thought the first book was alright, but once I started this one, I became obssessed.

My Review










The Book Thief3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - This book really hit me in the feels.  I wasn't sure about it at first, but I ended up feeling touched by the story.  After seeing the movie, I liked it even more.

(I read this before I began my blog, so I don't have a review)










Mistborn (Mistborn, #1)4. Mistborn (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson - My first Sanderson book!  This book opened me up to some intense high fantasy.  I remember being intrigued from the start, and loving the epic endings.  While I didn't care for the new characters in books four and five,  the first three were fantastic.

My Review









The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University5. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose - I don't typically read memoirs, but this was so interesting, and I remember Roose's commentary making me laugh out loud.  I actually chose this book out of a few options for a religion class I was taking.

My Review








I want to thank any of you readers who have stumbled across my blog - I hope to share with you many more awesome books in 2016.  Happy New Year!!
Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Title: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Released November 10, 2015
Bought Hardcover from Amazon
Rating: 5/5

Summary

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? (Summary from Goodreads)


Upon finishing this book, a deep sadness rooted within me.  I've become so attached to these precious cinnamon rolls.  I love everything about this series.  The plot, the writing, the characters, the ships, EVERYTHING.  Words cannot express how much I will miss this mess of a crew.  

Honestly, Marissa Meyer may be one of the best YA writers I've come across.  I'm definitely no expert in the writing department, but from the good number of YA books I've read, she is one of the best.  For one, she writes in third-person POV, which I love.  She uses the right amount of description for the characters and surroundings, the pacing is always balanced, and the story always has a bit of dramatic flair with some one-liners.  The plot has a sense of direction; Meyer must have known where she was going to take the story from the very first book.  It was awesome seeing all these characters with their unique backgrounds intertwine with one another in Scarlet, Cress, and finally Winter.

Winter was an exceptional end to this amazing series.  This was the longest book I've ever read at 825 pages!  It didn't feel that long, though, because I love the characters so much!  All the characters still retained their unique personalities.  These babies went through SO MUCH, and there were times when I just didn't know how they would get out of the tough situations they were in.

Oh gosh, I don't know what to say anymore - I have so many feelings right now!  The ending was awesome, everything was awesome!  I'm looking forward to Stars Above, which has a collection of stories revolving around the characters (prequels, epilogues, and such).  Meyer is also coming out with Heartless, which the beginning of another series and an origin story of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.  Both are expected to be released next year! I need her writing like I need air to breath!! 
Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Starriest Summer by Adelle Yeung

Title: The Starriest Summer (The Cycle of the Six Moons #1)
Author: Adelle Yeung
Released September 22, 2015
Bought Signed Paperback
Rating: 3/5

Summary

Fifteen-year-old Michelle saves the world on a daily basis…with her trusty video game controller, of course! Naturally, she jumps at the chance to play an experimental virtual reality game. 

The beautiful fantasy world of Starrs? Check. The power to mold matter? Check. No reset button? Wait, she didn’t sign up for this! 

Turns out Starrs is really real, and to make matters worse, Michelle’s interference awakens the Cycle of the Six Moons, a series of devastating trials that will devour the universe. 

Fighting the apocalypse was way easier when danger stayed on the other side of the screen, but Michelle finds a secret weapon in her new-found powers. She uses them to rescue the crown prince of a powerful magic kingdom from their sworn enemies, a technologically-advanced cult that strives to eradicate magical blood. 

Michelle starts to fall for Prince Jayse, the only one who believes Michelle to be a savior rather than a curse. But not even video games could prepare her for what the cult has in store for them…(Summary from Goodreads)


I saw this book on a blog tour website, and I immediately was drawn in by the cover. It's so cute!! 

What I liked about the book was the unique plot - I don't think I've seen any other YA books where a character goes into a video game. The main character, Michelle, is a very hyper 15 year-old. She's upbeat and mad chill. The way she talks is probably very similar to the way I spoke when I was her age (and I still do now because I'm immature). The Star Wars references in the beginning made me laugh, especially since I'm rewatching all the movies in anticipation of seeing the new movie soon.

While there was a lot of potential, I felt like some of the events seemed a little random, and there wasn't really a build up to an epic ending. There were sporadic moments of excitement followed by moments that were kind of bland. I was also a bit confused about explanation of the Cycle of the Six Moons.


Out of personal preference, first person POV kinda turns me off (there's something about seeing "I" that just annoys me). Since the POV was a very hyper 15 year-old, it was almost like reading a book written by a 15 year-old. Sometimes the dialogue seemed unrealistic and childish.  It almost seemed more like a middle-grade book.  Keeping that in mind, I think this book would be better for the "younger" part of the YA audience.
Friday, December 18, 2015

Spotlight Friday (28) and Giveaway: Dark Siren Series by Eden Ashley



I am hosting this blitz on behalf of Xpresso Book Tours

Book One
Title: Dark Siren (Dark Siren #1)
Author: Eden Ashley
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Released July 4, 2013

Summary


To survive, their bond must be unbreakable. 

When the mysterious and passionate Rhane rescues Kali from an attacker in the theater parking lot, they form an immediate, smoldering connection. But Kali doesn't remember Rhane or anything from their past. As far as Kali knows, she's just a seventeen-year-old kid coping with an insatiable hunger for the “spark” or energy of others, feeding on classmates to survive.

A unique artifact—one that may hold the key to returning Kali’s memories—is uncovered by the archaeology firm where she works part-time, sending Kali and Rhane on a dangerous journey that leads them to the Forbidden City, into the unforgiving Gobi, and into the ruins of Rhane’s ancient homeland. As they fight for survival, Kali begins to discover who she really is and the true power she possesses. 

But Rhane still harbors a secret that could destroy Kali…unless old enemies kill her first (Summary from Goodreads).

Purchase from Amazon.

Excerpt


Rhane looked at her like she was nuts. “You just met me. What makes you think I’ll let you take my truck?”
Moving toward him, Kali rested one palm against his cheek. His eyes were translucent in the sunlight, two seas of emerald bordered with flecks of amber. She leaned in close, wanting to drown in them and nearly did so. Her lips brushed softly against his as she spoke. “You won’t refuse me.” She felt him tremble.
A long moment passed. “I think you’re right,” he finally said, and held up a key.
Snagging it, Kali smiled gratefully. Then she walked away, throwing her hips deliberately because she knew he watched her. “Don’t worry,” she called to him. “I promise to thank you later.”
Placing one foot on the runner, she hauled herself into the truck. The dark grey leather molded to her form as sank into it. Kali sighed, remembering how Rhane’s lips and hands felt against her body. She wriggled in the seat.
“You might need this, Kalista.”
Startled, Kali jumped about four inches. She adjusted the shoulder belt in an attempt to hide her embarrassment. Her cheeks were flaming, but she found the nerve to look at him. Rhane was holding her purse.
“Oops, I almost forgot. Thanks.” She took the bag and started the truck. The engine came to life with a purr, and the time displayed on the clock. Six a.m. was approaching fast. She was already ridiculously late. A few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. Besides, Kali was curious about him. Such a nice suit had to mean Rhane had been headed somewhere. And it certainly wasn’t to deliver pizzas.
“Will you be late for work?”
“Not really, it was a business meeting.”
“Will you make it?”
He shrugged. “It’s via satellite and can’t happen without me. I’ll reschedule.”
She nodded, wanting to know more but lacking the time to pry. She put the gear in drive but kept a foot on the brake. “How did you fix Greg’s car so fast?”
“I know a guy,” he answered vaguely. “And I threw a lot of money at him.”
“You loaded or something?”
“You could say so.”
“I really wish I had more time to finish this conversation.”
He scratched his head. “I’m glad you don’t,” he said and smiled.
Kali grinned back and was about to go, but stopped again. Her smile faded. “Rhane?”
“Yeah?”
“I usually don’t do this. Go around kissing strange men I’ve just met.” They’re usually teenage boys, she amended silently.
His expression was unreadable. “I surely hope not.” He leaned into the window. “Are you free tonight?”
“Can’t wait for that thank you?”
He winked. “That, and I’d like my nice, shiny and new truck back.”

“Then it’s a date.” With an earsplitting grin pasted across her face, she pulled out into traffic. Looking into the rearview mirror, she noticed Rhane watching her until he was a tiny dot in the distance.

Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Cynic, realist, and hopeless romantic all rolled into one, Eden was born and raised in a small, sunny town in South Carolina where thunderstorms helped inspire her best ideas. There are few things she loves more than curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee on a rainy day (except maybe chocolate cake, she loves cake), often reading into the wee hours of morning when something really grabs her. Eden enjoys reading or watching anything with supernatural elements, so writing paranormal and fantasy romance is a natural fit.

Her first novel, Dark Siren, is best described as paranormal romance artfully wrapped within a plot chock-full of action, adventure, and edge-of-your-seat suspense, while the series has evolved to become a journey of redemption and second chances as two characters understand that sometimes committing evil is necessary to protect what is loved most. Eden took the siren from Greek mythology (and borrowed a little from mermaid lore), creating an entirely different creature, with its own mythology, and one that Publisher's Weekly praised for its passion and complexity. This is not just another werewolf/shapeshifter romance or vampire romance. This is a story that both adults and teens can enjoy, full of great characters to fall in love with!

Author Links: Blog | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

Title: The Unbound (The Archived #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Released January 28, 2014
Bought on Kindle
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe. 

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin (Summary from Goodreads).


If you read the first book, I'll try not spoil anything :)

First of all, Wesley Ayers. Bae.  Yet another fictional character that gives me unrealistic expectations of men.  He's just such a supportive character to Mackenzie, even though she "friendzoned" him in the first book.

Also, I'd say there's some good messages about those who struggle with depression or anxiety in this book. Mackenzie has gone through a LOT.  Not only does she still deal with the deaths of her grandfather and little brother, but she is also suffering from some form of PTSD after the crazy ending of The Archived. When the book starts, we find out that Mackenzie has been suffering from very realistic nightmares about Owen, who tried to kill her in the previous book.  Since she hasn't been getting much sleep, she even has these nightmares during school.  Not only that, but Mackenzie has blacked out a couple times, acting without knowing what she's doing.

I've never experienced a serious depression, but I think a lot of people with depression tend to bottle in their inner struggle for fear of burdening others.  Similarly, Mackenzie bottles all of this in, even Wesley, out of fear for his safety.  When all this stress puts her over the edge, Wesley hugs her and holds her and offers her help in any way he can. What I liked about The Unbound was that a boy wasn't used to solve a girl's depression, and vice versa.  Wesley was there simply as a friend in Mackenzie's time of need.

As for the plot, there really was an air of mystery.  I was genuinely wondering how these characters were going missing, and why they connected to Mackenzie.  Once again, the prose was great and set the tone for Mackenzie's character.  Like I said in my review for The Archived, I don't typically like books with characters that are "depressing" (for lack of a better word) as one would typically see in a dystopian type of novel, but the writing connected me to Mackenzie and her struggles. 

Also, that ending had a ton of action! My jaw was dropped and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  I also enjoyed the new characters that Mackenzie went to school with, even Cash, who added a little romantic tension.  I wouldn't call it a love triangle, since there is no way in hell that Mackenzie would end up with a normal dude.  He was more of a character that Mackenzie would have ended up with if she was a normal girl, not a Keeper.

There's a third book coming out supposedly next year, but it looks like it will be a long way off since there's not even a cover photo yet on Goodreads!  It would be very interesting if Mackenzie and Wesley became Crew in the next one!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Spotlight Friday (27) and Giveaway: The Seventh Hour by Tracey Ward



I am hosting this blitz on behalf of Xpresso Book Tours

Title: The Seventh Hour
Author: Tracy Ward
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
Released January 6, 2015

Summary

When the Earth's rotation slowed to a crawl mankind was plunged into a harsh world of burning hot days and endless, arctic nights. Some fled to the mountains for shelter. Others took to the seas, sailing forever in the perfect gold between the night and the day; a place known as the Seventh Hour.

Liv was raised aboard a ship chasing the Seventh. She's never seen the night, never known true cold, and when a storm destroys her home she’s on land for the first time in her life. She’s alone, surrounded by strangers and perils she couldn’t have imagined in her worst nightmares. Her only chance at survival is Grayson. 

He saved her. He’ll protect her. He hates her.

Old grudges run deeper than the sea, and Liv and Gray will have to overcome them together to make it to morning.


To survive the longest night (Summary from Goodreads).

Purchase from Amazon | B&N

Excerpt

Change doesn’t happen overnight.

That’s what they used to say. I bet it used to be true.

Now it’s an idiom, a phrase we use out of six hundred year old habit that has no literal meaning anymore. Not since the world changed and everything was forced to change with it. The people, the animals. The weather and the landscape. The very nature of the Earth shifted, taking all of us with it.
And no, it didn’t happen overnight.

We adapted or we died, and if there was one good thing about the slowing of the Earth it was that it gave us time. Time to learn, time to prep, time to adjust. Time to save what technology we needed to survive and cast the rest aside. To build cities to withstand the bitter cold and the blistering heat. 
Some burrowed into the mountains, building their homes and cities under the ground. They hid from the elements and they waited out the summers. The winters. The hours.

Others refused to hide. As the oceans pooled to the north and south, burying the old world and raising a new supercontinent that circled the Earth like a ring, they took to the sea. They built boats, set sail, and left the frigid night and burning day behind. They stay in the hours in between, in the half-light. 

That perfect hour. The golden hour. 

The Seventh hour.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

"I don't write romances, I write relationships. One is pretty and perfect and all consuming. The other is real."

I was born in Eugene, Oregon and studied English Literature at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) I love writing all kinds of genres from YA Dystopian to New Adult Romance, the common themes between them all being strong character development and a good dose of humor.

My husband, son, and snuggly pitbull are my world.


Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Waiting on" Wednesday (9): The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

"Waiting on" Wednesday every so often to spotlight my most anticipated books

Title: The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy #3)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Released March 1, 2016

Summary 

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.

But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win? (Summary from Goodreads)

Why I'm So Excited 

Well, if you saw my review last week of The Winner's Crime, you'd know that I LOVED EVERY BIT OF IT.  I need this book like I need air to breath.  I need to know what happens to my babies!!!
Monday, December 7, 2015

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Released October 6, 2015
Bought on Kindle
Rating: 3.5/5

Summary
 
Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.

This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more (Summary from Goodreads).


In case you didn't know, Shadows of Self is part of a series called Mistborn.  The first three books were EPIC and take place in a kind of medieval setting.  Books four and five (this one) take place around 400 years later during an Industrial Revolution.  

As usual, I always most enjoy the scenes where the characters are using their Allomancy or Feruchemy.  Those scenes are pretty cool and are usually action packed.  I must say, though, that the first three books were so great that I'm finding it hard to like these characters as much as the original crew.  They're just a little too archetypal Wild West to me.  Also, the conflict is on a much smaller scale, and it's hard to care as much as I did with the large scale epicness of the first three books.

The parts that I most enjoyed usually involved a mentioning of the old characters or TenSoon helping Wax. Through most of the book I couldn't wait for the last 20% because that's where the majority of the action happens, or at least something that makes me actually care.

Another factor as to why I didn't quite enjoy this could be that I just finished reading The Winner's Crime, which I loved sooooooo much.  It's hard to go to another book after reading something so good!

I'm not sure yet whether I will continue this series.  I read the synopsis for the next book, and I'm honestly not feeling very interested.  Who knows, I may get into the perfect mood to read it sometime.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Released March 3, 2015
Won Hardcover from Goodreads Giveaway
Rating: 5/5

Summary

Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them (Summary from Goodreads).


Jesus take the wheel.

My...my emotions.  I cannot put into words the pain that I went through reading this book - in a good way! I did it all - I flailed, I wailed, and I made dying seal noises.  After finishing the book I was left in a daze.  My parents simply could not understand.  When a book makes you experience the pain and anguish that the characters feel, you know you've read a good book.  Compared to the first book, The Winner's Crime is actually better.  Marie Rutkoski really stepped up her game - the writing was great and everything was much more believable.

Where to even begin! Holy shit.  I won't spoil anything for you, but if you read the first book I'll have you know that this starts off about a month after the end of The Winner's Curse.  Every single scene with Kestrel and Arin was so painful.  I yearned for Kestrel to tell him the truth! But of course she cannot, or she would be putting Arin's life in danger.  I've said it time and time again - the most painful ships are the best. This brought me back to the Will and Tessa feels from The Infernal Devices.

Kestrel has so many conflicts going on.  With her engagement to Prince Verex (unlike his father he's actually very sweet), she has to do what she can to keep up her false image while trying to help the Herrani and keeping it all a secret from Arin.  If Arin found out she agreed to marry the Prince to save Arin and the Herrani, he would do anything to save her.  Kestrel is definitely stronger than me like damn I could not resist Arin the way he pleads with her to tell the truth.  In addition, her old friends since childhood, Ronan and Jess, are snubbing her.  It's just so PAINFUL.  

That ending though.  It was INSANE.  I don't even know how I will survive until March.  I don't care how busy I am in March, I'm reading that book the DAY it's released.  It's happening.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December TBR

Omigosh guys I'm so close to Christmas break I can TASTE it.  You know what that means? Lots of reading!! These are the books I read in November:

3. The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski - Review will be posted tomorrow.

Book on my TBR for December:

1. Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson - I'm currently reading this and should be done soon!











2. The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab - I read the first book a couple months ago and I've been dying to start reading the second.











3. Reread Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #1,2,3) by Marissa Meyer - As soon as exams end I'm going to reread the first three books of the Lunar Chronicles series to experience the awesomeness all over again.  I'm not sure if I want to do reviews for each one yet.




4. Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer - And obviously after I reread the first three books it's time to finally break out Winter!! I've been waiting so long and I absolutely cannot wait to finish this great series.










5. Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas - This has so much buzz and my friend read this book in one day! It's over 600 pages! I'm afraid I'll be disappointed with my Celaena x Chaol ship, but it will be nice to be finally caught up with series and see what kind of epicness happens.









My Owlcrate goodies last month:

A photo posted by Maria (@booksteaandcats) on
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