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Posts tagged “ARCycling

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier: Frodo’s Review

Sapphire Blue

Summary From Goodreadssapphire blue

Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

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I received an ARC of Sapphire Blue from the awesome people over at ARCycling in exchange for an honest review.

Sapphire Blue was a lot of fun to read because the world Kerstin Gier has created is freaking wonderful. I love the crazy deep cast of characters, the time travel arcs, and the historical aspects are fantastic. I knew I was enthralled by this book pretty early on. Why you might ask? I was able to move past the only issue this book has, OMG-esque relationship issues.

The first part of this book is forgettable, and I was really worried that I was going to have to slog through a whiny MC/angsty romance/blah fest that left the world untouched. There is this confusing are they/aren’t they together thing going on, neither of them seem to know what they want, and it’s frustrating. Also, Gwen wasn’t my favorite MC in Ruby Red, just alright, so this wasn’t earning her any points. Too much whining and behaving like a child. Luckily, this period only lasted a few chapters.

Then…BOOM! The action picks up, Gwen doesn’t have time to deal with boy drama, and we get historical attire, a fantastic party, and MOAR TIME TRAVEL!!! The depictions of the dresses, the hair, and the overall ensemble are so much fun to read, plus we get more time with Madame Rossini, my favorite secondary character. Gwen makes a fool of herself (per usual) but she really grows as a character as the book progresses which I’m SO happy about. Also, 18th century party? I can haz? YAY!!! It was so much fun and weeeee, you just need to read it!

Ruby Red teased us with the Lucy & Paul arc, but Sapphire Blue ramps it up a bit and I loved every minute. Both characters are really engaging, the romance is sweet, and Lucy especially is a standout strong character, despite us getting more Paul in this one. I want more Lucy in Emerald Green, please let it be so! *stares at it on my shelf nervously*

Anyway…I know this review is really filled with me rambling, but that’s because, despite it’s minor faults and rough beginning, I had sooo much fun reading it! I’ve heard Emerald Green is the action-packed book of the trilogy, which makes that even more enticing, but Sapphire Blue was silly, and, I think, intentionally so. Come on, Gier even threw in a sarcastic gargoyle! Sapphire Blue is meant for the laughs, and I had a bunch of them. Overall it is just a great, light read that anyone who enjoyed Ruby Red will love. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #165/200; 2013 TBR Pile #75/50; Mount TBR Challenge #75/150

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The Mirrored Shard by Caitlin Kittredge: Frodo’s Review

The Mirrored Shard

Summary From Goodreads

Aoife Grayson must face death to win back Dean—the love who was ripped from the Iron Lands of the living when he was shot in the arctic north. But getting to the Deadlands is something that Aoife can’t do on her own. And if she can find a way there, Tremaine would surely never allow it. He has sworn to keep her in the Thorn Lands, the fairie home of her mother, Nerissa. But Aoife is determined to find her way out. And she has no trouble if that means she has to kill Tremain and his queen to do it.

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I received an ARC of The Mirrored Shard from the awesome people over at ARCycling in exchange for an honest review.

The Mirrored Shard is a book that drove me crazy. I like the worlds that Kittredge created, each with beings that, while they had different goals, were all twisted in some way. The different beings are reflections of people today, divided, but all of us equally flawed, no one exempt. The dimensional travel was something I really enjoyed and it was what got me to read this book to begin with. The worlds are depicted in such detail and are so vivid that I felt what it would be like to experience each one and that was amazing. The Iron Lands are reminiscent of the Iron Age with their world consumed by the mechanical, but with a futuristic twist to it, a nod to science fiction books set in futuristic settings. The Thorn Lands are pure magic, but because of that there is just as much twisted as there is good in it, it is greed and raw desire of humans transformed into and embodied by the fae. The Deadlands are our worse fears, an industrial version of the biblical Hell, and more twisted evil all rolled into one place. These worlds were a lot of fun to explore.

Now here is the but you were waiting for. I enjoyed exploring those worlds and everything between, but the whole time I wished I could be taking that journey with anyone BUT Aofie. Seriously, any side character will do, can we get a swap? No? I thought as much. She’s whiny, she keeps saying, or we are at least constantly told, that she is strong, that she refuses to show weakness. Despite that supposed version of the main character what I kept seeing was Dean. I miss Dean. I love Dean. I’ll die if I can’t save Dean. You know what it reminded me of? New Moon where Bella is running in the forest after Edward leaves her calling out his name repeatedly like a lunatic. It is one of the most irritating scenes I can remember in a film and Aofie did the same thing with Dean. Too much of the book was hearing her cry, whine, scream, and lose her shit over this guy. Ugh.

I do love the baddies in this book though, and there were plenty of them. Tremaine in the Thorn Lands reminds me of a stuck up rich kid type character, thinking they run the place and that people should do whatever they want, and mostly just acting like a jerk. I won’t spoil it, but the Deadlands has another big bad guy that makes Tremaine seem cute and cuddly by comparison, and he’s off his rocker which is awesome. The Iron Lands bad guys, the Brotherhood, are pretty tame because compared to a bunch of magical beings it is hard to see a mafia-style set of guys as all that scary. Oh and the Old Ones make a few appearances and those magical and mystical ancient beings certainly are not in a good mood. Overall just a great job by Kittredge on giving the reader a bunch of evil people to detest. I think I enjoyed them more than I should have because I didn’t mind Aofie having to go through some crap, at least give her reasons to whine as much as she does.

The writing is pretty solid in the book, with the only complaint that some of the terminology is pretty simplistic and cliche. Outside of that minor issue I think Kittredge has a good style and if her goal was to make us dislike the MC, though I don’t think it was, a congratulations are in order. My last note is on the ending. The Mirrored Shard is the final book in the trilogy and in the end you are faced with a bunch of awesomeness about to go down, a cool climactic battle approaching, the fate of potentially all the worlds at stake and…the book ends. That’s it. There seems to be another book worth of stuff that could go down, but it is not to be. So that kind of sucks. Overall this is a good, but not great book for me. If you can get past the MC being a whiner the worlds, writing, and plot are well worth it. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #151/200

Three Smiling Frodos w Background


Review: Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Blind Spot

Summary From GoodreadsLaura Ellen Blind Spot

Seventeen-year-old Tricia Farni’s body floated to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Roz, who struggles with macular degeneration, is used to assembling fragments to make sense of the world around her. But this time it’s her memory that needs piecing together—to clear her name . . . to find a murderer.

This unflinchingly emotional novel is written in the powerful first-person voice of a legally blind teen who just wants to be like everyone else.

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I received an ARC of Blind Spot from the awesome people over at ARCycling in exchange for an honest review.

Blind Spot is a book that suffers and succeeds simultaneously because of the unique perspective of its main character, Roz, who has macular degeneration. Without getting all technical or quoting Wikipedia, macular degeneration in Roz’s case can be summed up by saying she has a spot in the center of each of her eyes that prevents her from seeing things that are directly in front of her. To cope with this she has to look over to the side and use her peripheral vision to see what is straight ahead. As you can imagine this can cause a bunch of different reactions and problems for her.

I said that Roz’s perspective causes Blind Spot to succeed and suffer, but I’ll focus on the successes first. The unique way that Roz sees the world is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. While this is partially just because other MCs don’t have this vision problem, it is also due to her changed world views because of that condition, not just the obvious eyesight problems. Her self esteem is pretty low which is clear from the beginning of the book and she feels like people don’t notice her. To Roz “normal” is the ultimate goal, pushing away her vision problems and being able to do what anyone else can is really what she strives for. She’s passionate, to the point of being headstrong, and a tad obsessive and moody at times, but Roz is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve experienced in some time. You can’t help but root for her, at least I couldn’t.

Then there is the downside to Roz’s impairment. While I understand that it is how the plot can exist in the way that it does, Roz’s vision issues result in a very disjointed book. You jump around from one plot to the next with so little connection because of the way she views the world and while I wouldn’t say it is confusing, it is distracting and irritating. Everything moves very quickly as well. So you get a snippet or scene where Roz is with one group acting one way and BAM a few pages later and she’s doing something completely different with a whole new group. It just wasn’t coherent and the flow was off. The book’s general “feel” is hampered by Roz’s many mood swings and changes of heart. While at her age it makes sense to have some rapid changes that are a bit chaotic it feels more like she can’t get a grasp of her own feelings toward people or the events around her. She goes from timid to boisterous and from cold to obsessive and boy crazy in rapid succession. It’s just…weird.

I’m not big on the romance. It wasn’t that there was blatant insta-love that bothered me or that the relationships were bad, they just weren’t overly interesting. Plus Roz treats one of the love interest like dirt for so long and yet he keeps trying and being nice to her, I’m not sure how realistic it is even for teens. Meh.

Blind Spot left me with muddled feelings just like the content within. I didn’t dislike the book but it also would never be a re-read for me. I can’t say I’d recommend it but I don’t feel strongly enough to say NOT to read it either. Just one of those books where I’m not unhappy I read it but my time might have been better spent on a different piece. It happens. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #110/200

Two Smiling Frodos w Background


15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 10

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 10

15-Day-Challenge

The awesome people over at Good Books and Good Wine came up with the fabulous 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge!

Today’s Challenge is: How do you choose what book to read next?

Oh the pretties, how they call to me! The difficulty is trying to decide on which beautiful book to dive into next and sometimes it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to my choices. However, that is not always the case! So how do I choose what book to read next?

Scheduled Posts – This is the most obvious and easy. If I have a blog tour coming up, review scheduled for a specific date or some other event where a book needs to be read by a certain time then those books tend to be the ones I read right away. Recent Examples: Maven and Shudder (Blog Tour) as well as Water & Chaos (Book Release)

Obligations – These are books that I have received for review either through the author or something like ARCycling. I don’t have specific deadlines for these but I feel guilty if I wait too long to read a book I requested so I do my best to read these as soon as I can. Recent Examples: Blind Spot, Beta and Blood Winter (ARCycling) as well as Wicked Intentions (Author Gift for Review)

Readathons – I can’t get enough readathons and love participating (as much as I can) in each one. Some of them are themed and so I’ll read specific books that fit that readathon. Recent Examples: My Sister’s Reaper (Debut Readathon)

Peer Pressure – Yes this does happen from time to time. Bloggy friends of mine know I have a book that they love and push me to read it sooner then I might otherwise. This isn’t a common one but it still occurs. Recent Examples: Invisibility

Randomness – If I’m not participating in a readathon (at least not one with a theme) and don’t have any obligations or scheduled books often I’ll just choose whatever looks the most interesting or appealing to me at the time. This can be because of a pretty cover, a genre mood or any other of a variety of reasons. Recent Examples: Invisibility (Too awesome sounding to not read any longer) as well as Peter the Wolf, In the Dark and Drain Me Dry (Learned about the new authors and had to check out their pieces)

So there you have it! The method to my book reading madness has been unleashed! What are your reasons for choosing your next book? Is there a process or is it completely random? Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 11 all about my best blog posts! ^.^


15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 8

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 8

15-Day-Challenge

The awesome people over at Good Books and Good Wine came up with the fabulous 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge!

Today’s Challenge is: Quick! Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs!

I love this challenge! Quick and easy and it still sheds some light on things I love to see in blogs, can’t go wrong with that! ^.^

  • Readability – If your blog has bizarro color combinations for your text and background that make it hard to read it will drive me crazy and I won’t stick around. Conversely, if your blog has a great combination then I’m instantly more likely to read multiple posts or even subscribe, nice and easy to read people!
  • No Noise – Exactly what it sounds like. No music playing automatically, no random sounds assaulting my ears and I’m a happy camper.
  • No Clutter – Again exactly as it seems. Don’t have a crazy amount of tabs, pages or sidebars. A good array of tabs at the top, some proper organization and sidebars that don’t go on for miles goes a long way.
  • Properly Sized Photos – Your photos are all designed to fit nice and neat in your sidebar and/or posts? Hooray!
  • Appealing Colors – I touched on this with the text/background combination in point 1. To expand, here I mean with the layout of the blog as a whole. If your blog has easy tones or snazzy combinations then I’ll be excited to come back.
  • Meaningful Posts – I’m not meme bashing, but if that is all your blog consists of I’m not coming back. Same goes for ten thousand giveaways, while I appreciate your generosity or whomever is funding them it doesn’t give you actual content. So blogs with some reviews mixed in or original random posts are great to see. The latter for originality and the former for quality.
  • Unique – Yes I had to get to this at some point. If your blog looks exactly like ten others I checkout that day and nothing really stands out or grabs me then I’ll likely move on. Example of how I (try to) use original stuff is my rating system, who else uses smiling Frodos? Exactly. So if I come across a blog that is personalized and stands out from the crowd I’ll come back to check out their work at some point.
  • Consistency – I’m a hypocrite just by putting this in here since I’ve taken a hiatus twice (though there were valid reasons both times) but this is what I like to see in a blog so I have to include it. I love seeing regular posts, especially ones with high quality and/or originality. If I see single digit posts multiple months in a row on your feed I’ll probably move on unless I’m devoted.
  • Normal Levels Of Media – Not as complicated as it sounds. All I mean by this is that I prefer blogs that don’t go super crazy with pictures and even more so, gifs. A couple in a post is fine and can definitely add to the awesomeness, but too many and it just gets annoying and grating on the nerves. Less is more here.
  • A Cool Name – Just another thing to set your blog apart from the rest. It sounds simple but every time I see another blog with something like “Person X Reads” or “Person X Loves Books” I die a little inside. Again, this is hypocritical because my name isn’t the best in originality, but this is a factor nonetheless. Favorite cool blog names off the top of my head: Sparkles and Lightning, The Aussie Zombie and ARCycling.
  • Awesome Button/Icon – Whatever you’d like to call it, if you have a cool/unique/eye-catching icon that you use in your blog it gives major style points. This isn’t a must but it is a plus. Examples of some of my favorites: Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, Owl Read It and Sparkles and Lightning.
  • Current – By this I mean your information, the links you have being active, and especially any blogs or giveaways you link to all are accurate and current. If you link to a giveaway that completed months ago that’s a bummer. Link to a cool looking blog and it’s inactive or down or they moved to a different address (this is especially true because bloggers are moving to wordpress lately) and it’s frustrating. Keep your stuff updated as much as you can!
  • About Me – No not content about me silly. I mean your “About Me” page. This is another instance of being hypocritical because I’m not thrilled with mine, but having current information whether it is your age, what books you are into, any contact information or whatever is on there is huge. Yes we can find out about your style and tastes by reading your posts, but this is a big help too.
  • Search Bar – Please, please, pleeeeeaaaaaseeeee have one on your blog, preferably near the top. This helps immensely when trying to find a particular post, especially if you post very frequently. When I run into blogs that don’t have a search bar I am immediately frustrated and turned off. So ya.
  • Email Subscription – I love SO many blogs and the only way I can keep track of the ones I want to visit on a regular basis is to subscribe to those by email. I still visit others that I haven’t subscribed to in this way, but it is sporadic at best. Give me an email option and I’ll likely read every post you write. Also this option isn’t going to be taken away or made useless like so many others (GFC anyone?) so it’s a good way to stay in touch.

There you have it! 15 things I love (or hate) about blogs! What are some things you love to see? Some you hate? Would your blog fit (most) of my criteria? What changes would you like to see on my blog? Really, I’d love to hear them! Thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for a review of Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red and tomorrow’s challenge, why do you blog on books! ^.^


Review: Beta by Rachel Cohn

Beta

Summary From Goodreads

Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.

Elysia’s purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island’s workers-soulless clones like Elysia-are immune to.

At first, Elysia’s life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne’s human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island’s flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among Demesne’s worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care-so why are overpowering sensations cloud­ing Elysia’s mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn’t the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi­ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she’s always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

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I received an ARC of Beta courtesy of the amazing people over at ARCycling in exchange for an honest review.

I am reviewing this IMMEDIATELY after finishing it because I want my emotions to be as fresh as possible. I breezed through Beta just about as fast as I ever have any other book. I was loving just about every aspect of it and was thinking this was going to be four, perhaps even a five Frodo review no problem. Then the ending happened and I kind of lost it on Twitter.

So, ya, I was a little frustrated to say the least. There were twists and some plot threads dropped that were brand new and clearly were designed to get the reader to want to find out more in book 2 in the series (Which weren’t needed by the way, the desire was already there from the rest of the book, aaaaaah) but that wasn’t the issue I had. No, the main character, Elysia, who had stayed true to her convictions throughout the book and had been such a fantastic example of dedication to the people she cares about just throws it all away at the end. I cannot go into further detail without spoiling the book but my goodness was that disheartening. Why would you take such a great model of character and toss it aside like it was nothing?! I don’t get it. I will again say this is an ARC of Beta that I read, but I doubt that they would have made that substantial a change between the ARC and the finished version. Ugh.

Now, the rest of the book. The writing? Excellent! The pacing was smooth, the flow was wonderful with action interspersed with revelations by Elysia about the world around her. The dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever read, Cohn brought the conversations to life and it was remarkable how smooth the transitions were from one character speaking to the next. Also? Beta was HILARIOUS! It wasn’t over the top funny that you find in some books, not that I’m knocking that approach, but little jokes here and there that had me in fits. Wonderful.

Let me again say how frustrated I was with Elysia’s decisions at the end of the book because prior to that I loved everything about her character. She was funny in an awkward way that fit perfectly with her beta-clone role. The way she observed the role in a mixture of robotic analysis and descriptions slowly mixing with human revelations about both herself and the people around her was perfect. As a reader you get to learn about who Elysia is right along with her as she discovers herself, I love that approach and it did make me feel connected with her on a deeper level which I loved. Again, she stuck with her convictions throughout almost the entire book, she was devoted to the people that truly cared about her and refused to waiver even when the opportunities she had would have swayed the average person, or perhaps clone. Loved her.

The romance in Beta was great. No real triangles, no insta-love, though I won’t deny there being some instant attractions going on, which is perfectly normal considering the characters are teenagers. The romantic interest, Tahir, is a fascinating character. His emotions change like the tide, he is devoted and passionate one minute and distant the next. In some cases this would be irritating, but with Tahir it is just intriguing. You want to know what is going on in his head, and Elysia is the only one who seems to be capable of finding out just what Tahir is all about. They mesh, they are sweet, and their is romantic scenes but they trend more toward the emotional bonding rather than too much of the physical which is great to see considering their ages. I rooted for them all the way.

Oh, and the world Cohn created? Detailed, rich, complex, the list goes on. A place that seems like a paradise from first glance but in reality is just as flawed as any society is not an original concept by any means, but it was done so well that I didn’t mind. The history of the Island, Demesne, was completely believable and I could definitely see how humans could have decided this was the right course of action, especially those among the wealthy. The brand of servitude used is intended to illicit anger from the reader in varying degrees along the course of the book because of how we are still trying to achieve freedom in the world today. The idea of any human of any type, clone or not, being beneath another human is something we strive to remove completely, and Beta showcases how the powers that be, in a certain scenario, might continue to utilize that mindset to the fullest extent to serve their purposes. The imagery through Elysia’s eyes is so detailed that Demesne comes to life in an instant, every aspect easy to see in the mind’s eye, just excellent.

So did I enjoy Beta? Absolutely. Did the ending frustrate me beyond belief and tarnish my feelings toward the book? You bet. It’s like I was taught every facet of a language and at the end of my learning process I was told that half the words or letters were meaningless. The result is a question. How much do I let 1% of the book affect how much I loved the other 99%? A decent amount, but I refuse to let a decision I’m not thrilled with alter how great the book was prior to it. The ending keeps it from being a five but a four works just fine for me. I recommend the book and just say that I hope book two will resolve some of the issues that the end presented and if Elysia can recapture that conviction and great sense of who she is and what she believes I bet this series will become a favorite of mine. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #105/200

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Once Upon a Readathon

Once Upon a Readathon

once upon a readathon

This readathon is hosted by Angela and Loretta at Reading Angels, Candace at Candace’s Book Blog and Lori at Pure Imagination. It is the first time I’ll be taking part in the Once Upon a Readathon but, like the countless others I seem to always be doing, it sounds like a lot of fun! ^.^ If you’d like to sign up just click the pretty picture above. I have Tuesday off so hopefully I can pack in a few of these b/n that day and my time before work! You guys know the drill, book list of ones I might read (but not reading ALL of) below and stats at the bottom updated multiple times a day!

Beta by Rachel Cohn

Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge

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Stats

Currently Reading: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Books Finished: Beta by Rachel Cohn; Peter the Wolf by Zoe E. Whitten, Drain Me Dry by Leigh Wilder, In the Dark by Leigh Wilder

Pages Read: 769

Amount of Time Spent Reading: 6 hrs 45 min

Snacks: Rice Krispie Bar, PB&J (2)


Review: Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Blood Winter

Summary From Goodreads

Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder….

Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world…

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This book. I can’t even describe how many times I almost quit on it. Truly the only reason I didn’t was because I received it from the amazing people over at Arcycling. It just didn’t feel right to DNF it, no matter how much I wanted to at times. So I slogged through and have made it through to the other side. The funny thing is, Blood Winter isn’t a bad book. I wouldn’t even be surprised if quite a few bloggy friends of mine into fantasy would read it and like it. It just wasn’t for me. Let me tell you why.

Wordiness. I love beautiful descriptions and depictions of the worlds authors create and the characters that inhabit them as much as the next person. That does not mean, however, that I want 50+ words to describe what you could tell me in 10. I will qualify all of what I’ll be saying about this book by reminding you that since I received it from Arcycling it is an ARC, there may have been some changes. The advanced reader copy I received is 388 pages. It probably should have been closer to 300. There is simply too much description, too much minutia to wade through and that’s all there is to it. Moving on.

Style. Francis wrote Blood Winter in a way where we are being told what is happening rather than being able to experience the action along with the characters. This happens. Then that happens. Then some more stuff happens. While there are exceptions to every rule, in most cases I don’t recommend writing in this way because it feels passive, or worse, even distances the reader. It’s like reading a history book where all of the action has already taken place. You aren’t connected, you don’t feel with the characters and because of it the book loses so much potential for readers to enjoy. Meh.

The relationship. Gag me with a spork. Alright, please don’t as that sounds quite painful, but this “romance” did nothing for me. At no point did I hope for Max and Alexander’s happiness, feel saddened by their struggles or uplifted by their happy times. I felt numb, kind of like they do at various points in the book. It’s this on again, off again spiral of frustration, it’s a ride they can’t seem to get off of and, at least for me, just gets annoying. I get it, you are fighting, you aren’t the most compatible of people, but can we move on yet? In fact that’s exactly what I’ll do.

There are positives in Blood Winter. Arcycling book or not, if I didn’t find some things that interested me I would have DNF’d it after 100 pages or so. Max is actually a great character when she isn’t dwelling on Alexander. She’s a kickass near-superhero type with a sharp sense of humor. Who doesn’t love that? I wish she would have just ditched Alexander in the beginning since she was clearly having attachment issues as it was and moved on to kick everyone’s butt. Alas. She felt the most real out of any character in the book and things from her perspective, as opposed to Alexander’s, just felt right. Give me more Max and less mushy crap and I’d have been hooked.

The world that Francis created is also very intriguing. It is teeming with supernatural creatures of all types from angels to “Blades”, from witches to “Grims” plus a host of others. This is where the author’s tendency to go into too much detail was a help rather than a hindrance. You could pick up Blood Winter, which is the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series, and read it as a stand alone without feeling lost. As a reader I understood every facet of the world after about 50 or so pages. If it wasn’t for the style of writing employed I’d be keen on coming back and discovering more.

So overall no, I didn’t enjoy Blood Winter. If you are tempted to DNF a book that many times it takes some miraculous writing near the middle and end to save a book, this one didn’t have it. I didn’t like the style, the book could have been a lot shorter to cut down on the wordiness and excessive descriptions and the relationship was grating on the nerves. The positives, Max and the world building, couldn’t outweigh the negatives. Nothing to be done. Thank you as always for reading and don’t forget that I’m hosting a big celebration giveaway on July 2nd!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #101/200; Mount TBR Challenge #60/150; 2013 TBR Pile #60/50

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Day 89: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Day 89

Summary From Goodreads

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

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I was lucky enough to get a copy of Wonder from the awesome people over at ARCycling and because of the amazing hype surrounding it I knew I had to read it right away. Oh and did I mention it is a SIGNED copy?! How awesome is that?! *does my happy dance* Oh I’m supposed to be reviewing it? Right so onto the review…

I really enjoyed Wonder. I hadn’t read a MG/kids book in ages and that by itself made the experience refreshing and new for me as it kicked me right out of my usual reading range. I thought that the writing was fantastic overall and I breezed through the book with ease. Even though the subject matter is serious in nature (accepting people for who they are on the inside, don’t judge by appearance, life as a kid with these issues, etc.) it was actually (likely by design) quite funny throughout. Oh, certainly there were serious scenes in it, but really it is a kids book and that gave it a lighter feel to it.

The issues I had with Wonder were pretty minor. I thought that the mom and dad were quite cookie-cutter in nature, the mom was overprotective and super devoted and caring while the dad was funny and supportive of his son but he pushes him more instead of coddling. Maybe it is just me but I thought that those two were left in those molds for the most part and I didn’t connect with them at all. Perhaps this is because the focus is on the kids, but it was still a minor weakness that is noticeable especially in contrast to the stellar younger characters, especially that of August. My other minor complaint is with the point of view switches. They come a bit too quickly, usually right after you are accustomed to reading from the new perspective and enjoying their voice you are shuffled to a different one. The August sections were very well done and I liked his sister and Summer as well, but I felt Jack was weak comparatively speaking. I never felt like his feelings were impactful or very important, it didn’t feel that genuine, to much like an add on.

The growth of August’s character and how he views the world is fantastic. He was one of the easiest MCs for me to connect with that I’ve read in quite a while even though I have almost nothing in common with him (well maybe a shared love for Star Wars). He was resilient despite all the teasing and looks he constantly receives and his sense of humor in the face of it is nothing short of courageous and remarkable. You can’t help but root for him.

However, what made Wonder stand out for me was actually the section from August’s sister, Olivia’s (Via) point of view. She brought up an interesting, if not overly surprising side to things, explaining how it is hard being the secondary kid and the struggles she had to go through at a very early age to adapt to having that knowledge. She would almost always come second, it was just the way things were for her. I felt bad for her and gave her immense credit for being able to bottle up those pent up emotions so well, even if it isn’t the healthiest course to take. She doesn’t even resent August, something I do find somewhat hard to believe, but is amazing nonetheless.

I definitely enjoyed Wonder overall and would recommend it to anyone. The flaws are minor and hardly even detract from the book. You will love watching August’s journey and learning about what it could be like for someone that has an outward appearance that doesn’t remotely match their inner self. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better that way and it definitely deserves all the accolades it has received. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 90!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #89/365

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Day 53: The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

Day 53

Summary From Goodreads

The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. The Reverend Feye simply climbed on the roof to fix a shingle, let out a scream, and vanished — only to walk up the driveway an hour later, looking older and worn, with a strange girl named Lahlia in tow. In the months that followed, Tucker watched his father grow distant and his once loving mother slide into madness. But then both of his parents disappear. Now in the care of his wild Uncle Kosh, Tucker begins to suspect that the disks of shimmering air he keeps seeing — one right on top of the roof — hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time-twisting journey
— from a small Midwestern town to a futuristic hospital run by digitally augmented healers, from the death of an ancient prophet to a forest at the end of time. Inevitably, Tucker’s actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.

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From time travel to ghost-like beings, from the worst disasters in history to cats that shouldn’t have ever existed, The Obsidian Blade has it all. The cat thing is reason enough to read this if you haven’t already, freaky! Anyway, I received a copy of The Obsidian Blade from the amazing people at ARCycling and finally got around to reading it and I’m very glad I did. If you’ve been following my reviews you’ve seen a TON of fantasy so it seemed like it was time to divert a bit, in this case to sci-fi.

The most interesting and compelling element of The Obsidian Blade is definitely the setting/world-building. Due to the crazy amount of time transportation and dimension jumping it is vital that each new “time” is well developed, often very quickly. Somehow, and I give major credit to him for pulling it off, Hautman manages to make each time frame seem realistic and complex, and most importantly unique. You have forests in the distant future, an ancient city, and everything between. However, while many science fiction writers seem adept at creating these alternate times/realities/worlds, etc. it is even more impressive that Hautman’s writing makes our own seem just as interesting as the rest.

As for the plot, that was understandably a bit scattered. With all of the time jumps you have to make sure and follow closely to where the main character, Tucker is and what dangers lurk in that new place. The main goal of The Obsidian Blade seems to be centered on Tucker’s desire to bring his family back together, but that feeling doesn’t really resonate. While his focus does remain singular the story itself bounces around with seemingly no end in sight. Don’t get me wrong, each new “time” is interesting in its own right, but without having a strictly linear fashion to it the story is just…a bit disjointed.

Tucker as a main character was good if not overly memorable. The Obsidian Blade seems more interested in sharing all of these awesome new times and places with the reader then to create a stellar MC. Tucker is fun, a bit annoying with his incessant questioning, but overall enjoyable. While I enjoyed one of the other main characters, Lahlia, to a certain degree just because of her weird mannerisms and odd sense of humor, she is the only one that stood out. The rest I could take or leave really. Some of the beings in the book though? Really cool.

As this is the first book in the series I feel like there is definite potential in its continuation. The creepy/cool beings known as Klaatu could certainly be expanded on. I don’t really care that much about Tucker, but I’ll gladly give The Cydonian Pyramid a shot in order to read more about Lahlia. Besides, I can’t resist more “time” jumping through dimension holes, what nerd-geek can? Overall I enjoyed The Obsidian Blade and it is a solid read for any sci-fi fans. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 54!

Genre Variety Reading Challenge #23/30 – Category – Science Fiction; Mount TBR Challenge #41/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #42/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #53/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #19/44

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