Saturday, December 31, 2016

Library Savings 2016

Back in May, I decided to get a library card to save money.  Previously, I had bought almost all of my books from my Kindle, and I had preconceived notions about libraries based on zero evidence that kept me from going to libraries.  I either thought the library wouldn't have the books I wanted, or I thought I would have to spend a lot of time looking through all the books to find the one I was looking for.  But the costs were adding up, and I thought it was wasteful to buy a book only to read it once.

When I finally got a library card, however, I discovered that the libraries in my region (Western New York) were part of an interconnected system.  I could sign in online, look up a book in their database, and see which libraries had it (this was a very exciting discovery for me).  I can put a book on hold, or even ask for a book to be sent to my closest library.  I typically do not do the latter, because there are literally 5 libraries within a 20 minute drive from my house!

It was beautiful.  I could finally utilize my growing collection of magnetic bookmarks on hardcover books more than ever before.  Perhaps the best part of getting a library card is that I get to read said hardcover books for FREE! This is obvious, I know, but an exciting revelation for me, nonetheless. Whenever I'm dying to read a specific book, at least one of the libraries has what I need, even newly released books. I would say the ONLY downside is that sometimes the book I want is checked out by someone else, but that's not that big of a deal because I usually just read a different book instead.

So, this may be the accounting student in me, but I kept track of the amounts I would have spent had I not checked each book out of the library since I got my library card in May.  See below for my glorious savings:
Book TitleSourceAmount Saved
Anna and the French KissKindle$9.99
Six of Crows*Amazon - Hardcover12.31
Ready Player OneKindle9.99
Shadow and BoneKindle7.80
The Night CircusKindle9.99
Crooked KingdomKindle9.99
An Ember in the AshesKindle9.99
Lola and the Boy Next DoorKindle9.99
Red RisingKindle5.99
A Torch Against the NightKindle10.99
Golden SonKindle9.99
Total Saved$107.02
* Note that the hardcover version was the only one available on Amazon for Six of Crows at the time

I think I will make it a new tradition: At the end of each year I will calculate how much I saved by borrowing books rather than buying.  I hope this will compel some of you to check out your nearby library and see what resources they offer and save money (unless you're a bibliophile - then there's no hope for you 😉).  Happy New Year, readers!
Thursday, December 29, 2016

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Title: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll
Released in 1865
Bought from Amazon
Rating: 3/5


*This summary is from the particular edition I read*

It's been 150 years since Lewis Carroll penned Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the story which has become a favorite of children and adults the world over. Now, in a deluxe hardcover edition from Puffin, Alice's story comes to life for a whole new generation of readers through the colorful, whimsical artwork of Anna Bond, best known as the creative director and artistic inspiration behind the worldwide stationery and gift brand Rifle Paper Co. Lose yourself in Alice's story as she tumbles down the rabbit hole, swims through her own pool of tears, and finds herself in a rather curious place called Wonderland. There, she'll encounter the frantic White Rabbit, have a frustrating conversation with an eccentric caterpillar, and play croquette with the hot-headed Queen of Hearts. Follow Alice on her wild adventure through the eyes of the artist in this definitive gift edition (Summary from Goodreads).


It's always weird to review a "classic," because we all know classics are, well, "classic" for a reason. I bought this fancy illustrated version last year on impulse - I've never been one of those die-hard Alice in Wonderland fans, but I did enjoy the Disney movie enough as a kid.  I figured I would get this pretty version and read it eventually.  The illustrations were perfectly strange and fit the story nicely.

As I was reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I noticed a lot of scenes were never included in the old Disney movie, nor in Tim Burton's version.  I think it was a good choice to leave those scenes out, because they were the only scenes that really annoyed me.  I understand that the point is to be nonsensical, but the scenes with the Duchess and Gryphon were a little over-the-top for me.  I'm not sure my child self would have read this all the way through.

When I think of this book from the perspective that it's really a children's book written in the 19th century, it's sort of fascinating to me.  I like reading classics once in a while simply because it's interesting to read the language used at the time.  Although I didn't enjoy this as much as I expected to, I think it is worth reading for the purpose of gaining perspective if you are interested in that sort of thing,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Released August 30, 2016
Borrowed from Library
Rating: 3/5


**This may contain spoilers for the first book**

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both (Summary from Goodreads).


***This review contains spoilers***

Let me start off by saying I never expect sequels to be as good as the first book.  This, unfortunately, was no exception.  In fact, it was a lot more disappointing than I expected.

The biggest disappointment was Laia.  In my review for An Ember in the Ashes, I actually didn't mind Laia being a little meek and whatnot.  It made her realistic.  But in this book, she was downright annoying and, frankly, stupid.  She is literally in love with whatever guy is in front of her at the time.  It's not even an exaggeration.  As soon as Elias is separated from Laia and Keenan, she suddenly LOVES Keenan again and even sleeps with him!! And gives him her armlet that her mother literally told her to never give to anyone!! Ever!! WTF.  I understand that Keenan was trying to manipulate her, but c'mon. How stupid can you be?

I also felt Laia was rather manipulative.  I think that the author was trying to make her a "stronger" character by having her give people orders, but when she yelled like a banshee at the tribe leader to take in those Scholar slaves, I'm like ??? What gives you the right to tell the tribe leader what to do??  Her character is enough to make me not want to read the next book.

As for Elias I've always liked his character.  He is probably one of the more consistent characters in the series.  His character development actually makes sense.  From An Ember in the Ashes (AEitA), we knew he was a selfless character because he feels immense guilt at anyone that is hurt by his hand or his evil mother's hand.  He continues to be selfless and suffers to save Laia's brother, but I still can't understand his love for Laia.  Their dialogue has no chemistry whatsoever.  His relationship with Helene, on the other hand, was my favorite in An Ember in the Ashes.  I like the friends-to-lovers type of relationships.  I really thought they would be endgame, but I doubt it now.  I would rather have no romance at all than have Elias and Laia end up together.  Relationship drama is annoying as hell when we have characters like Laia.  The only love triangle I actually liked was Tessa/Will/Jem from The Infernal Devices.  Nothing comes close.

Also, I wish The Waiting Place plotline didn't exist.  It was boring, and I cared little for Shaeva.  It reminded me too much of the character from The Raven Boys (Alan, I think?).  And ya'll know how much I hated that series.  I think I get annoyed with stories related to spirits in general.  The fact that Elias is now in charge (I forgot the title) of The Waiting Place deters me from the next book.

We are also introduced to Helene's POV, which I surprisingly enjoyed.  I like that Helene is a more pragmatic character who occasionally gets conflicted by her feels for Elias.  Akiva Harper is a new character who obviously takes a liking to Helene as the novel progresses.  I thought he was cool and mysterious.  I wouldn't have minded Helene x Akiva, except that this new character is Elias's half-brother.  Now it's weird.

I know the majority of this review is basically a rant, but I did manage to read this in about four days, which tells me that I was still interested enough in the story itself.  Perhaps it dragged at times, but I found it exciting enough during the second half of the book.  Hence, three stars.  I'm probably not going to continue this series.  All the signs are pointing to continued disappointment.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Title: Red Rising (Red Rising #1)
Author: Pierce Brown
Released January 28, 2014
Borrowed from Library
Rating: 4/5


Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so (Summary from Goodreads).


I don't see a ton of YA books written from a male's POV like Red Rising.  I mean, there are definitely a lot out there (i,e, Harry Potter, An Ember in the Ashes), but the majority of popular YA books are from a female's perspective.  I find it kind of refreshing.

I was hesitant to start this book because, despite the good reviews, I wasn't convinced by the summary that I would be into it.  I'm not usually interested in stories set in space.  I still had this attitude when I first started reading it.  At first, I had trouble getting into the story, but the more I got used to the terminology and learned more about Darrow, the more hooked I became.

A lot of people compare this book to The Hunger Games and Rick Riordan's books, and I could definitely see why in terms of teenagers fighting each other and Roman influences.  However, I think this book really holds its own in originality.  Darrow is a Red, a low class citizen in an empire ruled by Golds.  He grew up thinking his role in mining on Mars was paving the way for life off Earth.  When he discovers that it is all a lie, he is recruited by a group of rebels and transformed into a Gold.  But, in order for him to infiltrate the empire, he has to gain power.  The only way for him to do that is to go through the Academy.  The Academy is where Golds fight each other (not necessarily to the death) to become Primus of their house.  If they are successful in the Academy, they can get apprenticeships from affable Golds.

While the story was really interesting and kept me reading even during exam week, two points kept me from giving this 5 starts: (1) I found it hard to connect emotionally to Darrow and (2) the writing felt a little too lazy sometimes.  What I mean by that is the author told us what happened, but didn't show us what happened.  I think the concept is called "show, don't tell." I actually see this often in YA books.  Basically, it lacked the descriptions needed to make me feel like I'm experiencing the story for myself.

Despite those issues, I was still rooting for Darrow and his comrades all the way to the end.  If any of ya'll read this, Roque and Sevro were my faves!  I recommend Red Rising if you like books with politics, strategy, and a little sci-fi.

Get ready for lots of reviews everyone! I'm on Christmas break and plan to get a LOT of reading done before the spring semester!!
Monday, December 5, 2016

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Released July 1, 2012
Bought from Book Outlet
Rating 5/5


Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life (Summary from Goodreads).



Seraphina had been sitting in my closet, collecting dust, for over a year.  I was hesitant to start it since it had less than 4 stars on Goodreads, but I am SO GLAD I was too lazy to go to the library the other day!! I was instantly hooked on this book (could be because anxiety is over 9000 because presentations and finals this month).  This was one of those books that I had to stay up super late to read because it was so hard to put down!

So, let's discuss!  I find there are certain elements to a book that really draw me in, and this book had those:

1, MC has to keep a secret.  Our main character, Seraphina, is half dragon/half human (which is cool btw) in a world where humans are fearful and disgusted by dragons.  I'm a sucker for dramatic irony, as you can tell by my love for Cinder, Six of Crows, and The Winner's Crime.

2.  MC has a cool ability.  Actually, she has two, but the ability I admire more is her talent for music. It was not made clear in the book whether her musicality came from her being half dragon, or if it was "in her genes" since her mother was very musical.  Either way, I don't see a lot of YA books with musical main characters, which made this book more unique.  Seraphina's other ability has to do with her mind, but I won't spoil anything for ya'll.

3.  Great ship! I am on the Seraphina x Kiggs train!!  I need a ship name...Phinakiggs?? Kiggsaphina? Kiggs is the Captain of the Guard, and what I like about him is that he's very intuitive, conscientious, and honorable.  He can tell Seraphina is hiding something, but he still knows she's good.  This book has a mysterious vibe to it, since Kiggs kinda acts like a detective.  Perfect dude, amiright?? Well, there's a catch: he's engaged to the Princess.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this read,  My inability to provide a good review is really not doing this book justice! Really, it was a great book, and I actually learned a few new words due to all the ten-dollar words scattered throughout the novel.

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