Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Mortal Heart

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin #3)
From Goodreads:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has.

Can you see a theme emerging here lately with my posts? Oh my stars do I love this series! If anyone has an ARC/knows who I can contact to try to get one, PLEASE let me know! I've gotten some students hooked on this too - librarian FTW

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vengence is Hers: Dark Triumph

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin #2)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

*Since this is the second book in a series, some spoilers lie ahead about book 1 - you've been warned!*

Political intrigue and a fight for freedom from a wide variety of demons continues in Dark Triumph, the second installment of Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin series. While the first book followed Isame, this novel follows the story of Sybella, her sister by Death and the convent of Saint Mortain. Where we only got glimpses into her dark past before, this book is dedicated to revealing her truths and her journey.

Lady Sybella's life has been one of secrets, lies, and deceit since the day she was born, and the only refuge thing remotely close to refuge she's ever experienced was her few friendships within the convent walls. But for the past six months, she might as well have been assigned to live in Hell itself as she's the abbess sent back to the home she was so desperate to escape three years ago. Though she's been trained as a daughter of Death and molded into a dangerous weapon, that may not be enough as she must face various men who have driven her to madness. Will Death give His daughter a reason to live, or is she as much a monster as the men whose lives she takes?

This book took me a little longer to get into than its predecessor, but that doesn't say much because I still finished it in three days. Unlike Ismae whose history was one of the first things established, Sybella is much more guarded. This makes complete sense as you get to know her - she has no reason to trust anyone, including readers, so when she does open up, it makes it that much stronger and the revalations more powerful. I felt so strongly for the horrors of her past and the various aspects of life and Death that plague her now, and I was rooting for her to find answers, but more than that, peace.

Just as Sybella was first introduced to readers in book one, many other characters are back. The Abbess is back and more twisted and awful than ever (it's been a long time since I've hated a character so much - she's pure evil in my opinion!), and light comes to Sybella's life in the form of Beast. I had a huge crush on this soldier who is reapeatedly described as an ogre or ugly - though his physical appearance may be bad, his soul is pure and good. The romance between he and Sybella was slow simmering and perfect - they are in many ways two sides of the same coin. Both take lives and serve their gods, and that brings them an understanding. She is able to see his inner beauty while he is able to see that Sybella is stronger than she gives herself credit for and while much darkness has covered her life, she is still good.

Simply put, if you liked Grave Mercy, you will not be disappointed in Dark Triumph. The third book is due out later this year and you can bet I'll be getting my hands on it as soon as humanly possible.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Foretold, Gentlemen Send Phantoms

It has been a long time since I've read a short story collection, which is a shame because I actually really like them! So I'm bringing back a feature I used to do for a little while: Short Story Saturday. Each week, I'll talk about a different story in the collection and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction.

Story: Gentlemen Send Phantoms
Author: Laini Taylor
Summary: On St. Faith's Day, three girls perform an ancient and sacred rite in their small town to reveal the phantom of the men they will each marry, but by the end of the night, which one of them will see Matty, the young man they all like?
Thoughts: This is my first time reading anything by Laini Taylor and oh my stars, what's taken me so long? I absolutely adored this story! The mythology is quickly established, managing to be thoughtful, simple to understand, and nuanced enough to allow for growth. Pippen was a girl I was immediately drawn to and her delicate yet strong emotions were handled so well. With just enough twists and complications, I was afraid I'd be unhappy with the conclusion but the final twist left me awed and thrilled. Basically, I completely loved this slice of fantasy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

TBR Throw Back Thursday: 84, Charing Cross Road

TBR Throw Back Thursday is a weekly post hosted by me that looks at my TBR pile and spotlights books that have already come out - some recently, some centuries ago - that I keep meaning to read (or reread).

This week, I'm throwing it back to: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Publication: 1970
From Goodreads:
It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.

I first heard about this book in my adult literature class in grad school. Each of us had to booktalk a piece of nonfiction and this one immediately grabbed my attention. In some ways, the description reminds me of The Guernsey Litereary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a novel I absolutely adored, and I'm eager to get to this book sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Sinner

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
From Goodreads:
Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved?

Confession: I still need to finish Forever, the final book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I know, I know, I'm late to the party. But at least I arrived and I'm very interested to see how Cole and Isabel's story continues.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Answered Prayers: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin #1)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

In her darkest hour, Ismae finds light in the most unlikely of places: it is only after a lifetime in the hands of an abusive father who sold her into brutal arranged marriage, she escapes to the convent of Saint Mortain, the god of Death, and learns the truth. Not only is her true father Death himself, but she has been blessed with lethal, powerful gifts to be His handmaiden. Over the next few years, she trains as an assassin to do His will - claiming her own life by taking the lives of others. She knows her duty when the young Duchess of Brittany and her court require her services, but will Ismae be able to carry out her mission when it appears that her next target is the man who has stolen her heart?

I've been fascinated by the premise of this book ever since it came into my library a few years ago. Then when it was one of the free audio books available last summer via AudioBookSYNC, I immideately downloaded it. However, it wasn't until a recent long car ride that I decided to give it a listen. The next day I got the book from the library, and over the next few days I was reading or listening non-stop. I curse myself for waiting to read this for so long!

Ismae's tale is a fascinating look into the past and the mythology of this story is astounding. Though this book is a big one, I had nothing to fear as the pacing was incredible, never lulling or boring. Readers get a little bit of everything here: warriors, ancient gods, misunderstood beliefs, political intrigue, secrets and scandals, fierce women, daring missions, and oh my word I'd be remised if I didn't mention the romance! Ismae's relationship with Duval builds slowly and subtlety in the background of everything else going on, but when it does ignite it is captivating. I loved how their relationship is complicated right away for multiple reasons, and other writers can learn a lot from how this develops.

The His Fair Assassin series is off to a bold start here. Perhaps better suited for an older YA crowd, LaFevers never shies away from the more gruesome aspects of this time period and death. After all, being an assassin is hardly a job or story for the faint of heart. In lesser hands, this idea could go terribly wrong but in LaFevers', it is just right. She writes complexly, challenging her readers to accept this reality.

Not only did I accept and embrace it, but I immediately started reading the sequel the day after I finished this first book.

If you like fantasy, history, and action, then pick up Grave Mercy. Learn from my mistake and don't let this one sit on the shelf - you don't know what you're missing.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Blogger Love-A-Thon: Meet Lindsay!

I'm so excited to be participating in the 3rd Annual Book Blogger Love-A-Thon hosted by Kate at Kate's Tales of Books and Bands and Alexa at Alexa Loves Books! Basically this event is all about bloggers coming together and gushing about all things book related - something I can definitely get in on! To kick things off is the "Interview Another Blogger" portion of the weekend and without further ado, here's Lindsay!

Hi! I'm Lindsay and I blog over at The Broke Book Girls with my best friend Sarah. I'm 28 (I'll be 29 in less than a month-eek!). I live in the Texas Panhandle where we often experience all 4 seasons in a week-I wish I was kidding. I've been married for almost 7 years now and have a 3 1/2 year old little boy, who is incredibly entertaining, quite smart, and likes to keep me on my toes. I work part-time as a cookie decorator, a wedding coordinator, and for an oil and gas lawyer (mostly to fund my book purchases!). Almost all of my free time is spent reading. Just ask my husband.

If you could be any book character who would you be and why?

Since I would rather not have a sucky life with a threat of immediate danger like most characters I read about, I'll have to go with Anna from Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. She gets to live in France, meets and dates a cute French/American/British guy. She loves movies and writes about them. Even though there's some drama, it's really nothing major. And I'd deal with it to hang out in France with Etienne.

Favorite genre & book?
My favorite genre is YA Fantasy. I'd have to say my favorite book within that genre is Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. I LOVE that book and cannot wait for Heir of Fire.

Earliest reading memory?
While I don't remember a specific book, I do remember many, many nights spent under my comforter with a flashlight reading a book well past my bedtime.

If you could make 1 book required reading, what would it be?
Required reading makes me think of high school, so I'd make every high school student read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It's such a rich and pivotal time in American history, and Mitchell does such an amazing job of capturing so many different aspects of the time period.

Top 3 books you read last year?
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Since it's Valentine's Day, who's your favorite book boyfriend or fictional couple?
My favorite book boyfriend would have to be Hector from The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson. He's definitely swoon-worthy. As for fictional couple, I'd have to go with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

If you could visit any fictional place, where would you go?
I'm about to show my total geekiness, but Rivendell in Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings. It just sounds so wonderful, particularly if I could be there sans all the evilness from Sauron and whatnot.

Similar to the previous, what book made you want to go to a place that really exists and have you gone there?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I have always wanted to go to Scotland, and reading this series (even being set in the 1700s), makes me even more desperate to visit.

Favorite reading/book related moment?
For our first Christmas together, my husband bought me a special edition hardback printing of Pride and Prejudice. Best gift ever.

Film adaptations of books - love 'em or leave 'em?
I'm torn on this one. If they could all be as wonderfully done as Harry Potter (or The Help), then I'd love 'em. But most are disappointing and don't even remotely live up to the book. **side-eyes The Host**

And there you have it! This was so fun, Lindsay, and I can't wait to keep reading your blog and gushing over all of the book feels in the future :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Not At All Cheesy: Better Off Friends

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
Point, Expected Release Date: February 25, 2014

*ARC provided by the publisher to attendees of Liza Wiermer's Novel Luncheon - thank you for inviting me to this event and for the book!*

It's an age-old question, and one that Macallan and Levi have been facing for five years: can a guy and a girl really be friends, or is romance always just around the corner ready to ruin everything? No one believes that their relationship is purely platonic, even though she's had boyfriends and he's had girlfriends. The fact that they are best friends always seems to get pushed aside. But as they get older and life throws more at them, is it possible that everyone else was right? And does it even matter it means their friendship as they know it could be changed forever? Maybe they are better off friends. In a sweet Midwestern story, Elizabeth Eulberg takes on a When Harry Met Sally... scenario and makes it her own.

I have a crush on this book. It is pure and true and it was exactly what I needed to read. There's a reason Eulberg's stories have quickly become treasures to teen and young adult readers - they have a way of being contemporary and timeless. In her best book yet, Better Off Friends explores all aspects of teen life: friends, family, school, self-discovery, and that age-old war between the head and the heart. This story will hit home with readers anywhere, but I absolutely adored the Midwest setting. There's a sort of folksyness to it and even though I'm not from Wisconsin or a Packers fan or a regular consumer of cheeseballs, I completely connected to Macallan and Levi's world. I tend to identify myself as a Chicagolander just because it's easier, but in actuality I'm a suburbanite and this book perfectly captured what it's like to grow up in this part of the country but not in a major city.

Eulberg also perfectly harnessed what it's like for a guy and a girl to be friends because believe it or not, it really is possible. So often in contemporary romantic stories, the romance takes center stage, but I loved the growth of this relationship and how it started with two people who are best friends first and the possibility of something more is secondary. Having this base made the characters and the various conflicts in their lives that much stronger.

If you love contemporary stories with well-drawn characters you feel like you've known your whole life, then Better Off Friends is a must-read for you. Heart fluttering, palms sweating, and plenty of cause for swooning, this is a love story that readers will keep coming back to for years to come.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Elizabeth Eulberg's Website
Elizabeth Eulberg on Twitter

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
From Goodreads:
From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

I fell in love with Stephanie Perkins and her amazing writing on page one of Anna and the French Kiss when it came out in 2010. Then I was lucky enough to meet her when the second book in this companion-series Lola and the Boy Next Door in 2011. Words cannot adequately express how excited I am for this book!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Charming and Kick-Ass: Cress

Cress by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #3)
Feiwel and Friends, 2014

*ARC provided by publisher at ALA 2013 - THANK YOU!*

*This book is 3rd in a series, so there are some spoilers about books 1 & 2 ahead - you've been warned!*

When I was at ALA last summer, two of my roommates and I were completely on the same wave-length about one thing: If for some reason we could only get one ARC at the entire conference, it was Cress. We woke up extra early to get in line and the three of us were part of the first lucky 100 in line who got to walk away with this amazing, thrilling, heart-pounding, heart-wrenching, swoon-worthy third installment of Marissa Meyer's series which puts a science fiction twist on beloved fairy tales.

An outcast among Lunars because she's a shell, Cress's life has been isolated and lonely with only her netscreens to keep her company. A talented hacker, Queen Levana allows her to live only as long as she is useful living alone in a satellite and spying on the people of Earth. But Cress isn't exactly loyal to the royal - in fact, she's been helping Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf, and Carswell Thorne. When a daring rescue mission goes awry, Cress finally gets the freedom she dreamed of but the group is separated. With Kai's wedding to Levana growing nearer, these three girls may be the world's only defense.

It's impossible for me not to fangirl about this book because it just does so many things right! Our old cast of characters from Cinder and Scarlet have returned, and fantastic new personalities are introduced or expanded on here. Cress is a fascinating leading lady because she's the closest so far to a 'traditional' princess - or at least, that's how she sees it. Not that she's incapable - far from it - but that she dreams of having companionship and being saved by her crush, Thorne. While at first this put me off a little bit, I had no need to be nervous because Cress shows amazing growth over the course of the book as she learns that she has what it takes to save herself and others. She's charming and cute and totally kick-ass once she comes into her own. And of course she's right along side Cinder and Scarlet, making for a dynamic pack of protagonists. Each of them has a fantastic story in her own right, and they all intertwine masterfully.

Readers are treated to new settings and the depth of this saga continues to astound. Meyer moves seamlessly between characters and is a master of getting inside of everyone's heads. Though I read this book months ago, I still have strong reactions as I thumb through the pages. Every scene matters, every characters makes readers feel, and nearly every twist left me simultaneously shocked and awed. There's romance, intrigue, action, and awe on every single page of this book from start to finish.

Cress continues in the excellent tradition readers have come to expect from Meyer and my only complaint is that Winter, the fourth and final book, will not be coming out until 2015. I'll do whatever it takes to get my hands on one of those ARCs once they exist because I simply cannot wait that long! Consider this post my official plea. Like I said before - if I can only get one advance copy of anything for the rest of the year, that one is it.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Marissa Meyer's Website
Marissa Meyer on Twitter