Friday, January 18, 2013

The Liebster Award

I am taking a brief detour from my reviews with this post.  I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by two lovely bloggers (A Barmy Bookworm and Robyn).

The Liebster Award is for blogs that have less than 200 followers.  Both bloggers who nominated me have given me 11 questions to answer about myself, which I have answered below; I also have to list 11 additional facts about myself. In return I have nominated 11 bloggers and posed 11 questions for them to answer!

Robyn's Questions

  1. What is your favorite fictional place? Could be a funky bedroom, another planet, another time, gets tricky.  As you'll quickly discover with my answers to some of these questions, I am a bit of a Tolkien fan, so I would definitely say Middle-earth.
  2. What inspires you most?  This is a pretty tough one. I would say that I'm most inspired by genuinely good people, the people who are just overall willing to help other people and don't expect things in return.
  3. Who is your favorite female character on TV or in movies?  My favorite female character is probably Aria Stark from Game of Thrones. She is one of the few characters that I cheer for on that show.
  4. What is your favorite movie-based-on-a-book?  My favorite movies overall are The Lord of the Rings movies, which are based on a book!
  5. If you had a chance to chat up an author, who would be your pick?  I would definitely talk to Tolkien.  I just want to know more about Middle-earth and his life. I basically want to see inside his mind.
  6. How much time do you spend blogging...thinking about it, clicking away, world building on your site?  I honestly have no idea. I spend a lot of time picking books, requesting books through NetGalley, finding books on Goodreads, reading the books, writing the reviews, networking on Book Blogs, pasting my reviews to Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, that I basically spend a majority of my free time on the various sites.
  7. What is your favorite book series beginning to end?  My favorite book series is also The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but for variety I will also say that I'm a big fan of Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series.
  8. What book series ended too soon for you?  I'll confess that most of the series that I read are still going.  But two series that I hope get some continuation are Nicole Luiken's Violet Eyes series and Dena Landon's Shapeshifter's Quest (I want it to have a sequel).
  9. What book would you more love to see on the big or little screen?  Hmmm...I would really like to see Jennifer Estep's Mythos Academy series, simply because I feel like a lot of cool things could be done with it, and I love the characters.
  10. What's the right order, books, blogs, girls/boys (romantically), family, pets, kids? Exclude what doesn't pertain to your life.  Well, from most important to least important: family (I count pets as family), friends, boys (if I am currently in a relationship), books, blogs, boys (if I'm not in a relationship).
  11. What character would you like to kick into a-whole-nother stratosphere?  And my obvious answer is Bella Swan.  As far as female characters go, she is pretty ridiculous.  There are plenty of bad characters out there, but most of them have a motivation.  The fact that Bella only cares about thanks.

A Barmy Bookworm's Questions

  1. What do you get from your blogging?  Well, the main reason I started blogging was actually to force myself to review books. I got into the habit of reading books, having a vague inclination about whether or not I liked a book, and then moving on to the next one. I decided to start reviewing books because it makes me really look at a book and grapple with my opinion of it.  Not only does blogging hold me accountable for my reviews, but since I like seeing what other people think of the books they've read, it seemed appropriate that I put my opinion out their for others.
  2. What makes good reading for you?  For me, a book is interesting if I get sucked into the world. The level of realness it forms in my mind mostly influences how I react to a book.  If I become involved in that world on an emotional level, I'm hooked.  If I also connect with and love the characters, the book is perfect, despite any flaws it may have.
  3. What makes you want to share good reading with others?  I love reading, and I love finding new books and authors to fall in love with.  Since I often rely on seeing what other people have read, I believe other people do the same thing, and I wouldn't want them to miss the chance to discover a new author or book.
  4. Which books do you think everyone should read, at least once in their lives?  As cheesy as this is, I believe everyone should read Tolkien's work.  However, I think this is best done in a classroom setting, especially for people who don't necessarily like fantasy.  I think that it is a great series that shows how heavily influential mythology is in the construction of modern stories, but it also is really influential to other fantasy writers.
  5. Which author would you like to/would you have liked to have met, and why?  Tolkien, for the reasons to the question above and my answer to Robyn's similar question.
  6. What's the most challenging book you've ever read, and why?  The most challenging book I ever read was The Silmarillion.  I tried to read it back in 7th grade, right after I finished reading the trilogy, and I actually had to put it down and return to it a few years later.  The content is very dense and not written the same way the other books are written.
  7. What's the funniest book you've ever read, and why?  I honestly don't remember.  I know I have read a few books that have had me laughing to the point of tears, but I don't remember which ones they are.
  8. What's the best book-to-film adaptation you've ever seen?  The best adaptation I've seen is A Game of Thrones into the first season of Game of Thrones.  I didn't read the book until after I watched the first season, and it was so hard forcing myself through the book because the two were SO similar.
  9. Has any book ever inspired you, and why?  I think all books inspire me.  Every time I read a great book, I always want to write my own book, which I have tried and failed to do multiple times.  I also always want to go out and have epic adventures.
  10. Do you stop reading books you don't like? Or keep going regardless to the end?   I typically try to make it through the entire book. It might take me a few months to make it through the book, since I can only handle small doses, but I feel like giving the book a chance to tell its story and (rarely) redeem itself.  There is only one book that I never finished reading, and I can't even remember the name of it.
  11. Do you get rid of books you've read? Pass them on to others? Or fill up your home with them till there's no more room for you?  If I like/love a book, I keep it; I almost always re-read books, so I don't like getting rid of them unless it is a book I know I won't read again. I let other people borrow books on occasion, but I'm super picky about creases in the spines of books and damage to pages, so there are few people I trust with my books.

My Eleven Facts

  1. I saw The Fellowship of the Ring a total of 12 times in theaters...I don't know how many times I've seen it since then.
  2. I almost always have multiple creative "projects" going on at once.
  3. I have a dog that is bigger than me.
  4. I love being outside.
  5. I once lent a friend a book and it was damaged when they returned it, so I bought a new copy.
  6. I don't like 3D movies.
  7. I read Tolkien criticism for fun.
  8. I have a ridiculous amount of tea in my never know when you'll want tea.
  9. I love going on adventures.
  10. I am hyper organized.
  11. I'm one of those people that goes to a bookstore and takes about an hour deciding which book to buy with my extra money. (It's a tough choice!)

My Nominees

The Questions for My Nominees

  1. What made you decide to start blogging/why do you continue to blog?
  2. What is the first book you remember reading?
  3. If you could only read ten books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
  4. What is your worst reading experience?
  5. What is your favorite book-to-film (can be movie or TV) adaptation, and why?
  6. What are your feelings about used books? Do you love them or do you only buy new books?
  7. Are you an e-book reader, or do you need the feel of the book in your hand?
  8. If you could redo the books shelving system at bookstores (i.e. romance, teen, fantasy/sci-fi, etc.) how would you organize the books?
  9. If you could spend a day with any author, who would it be and  what would you want to do?
  10. What is your favorite fictional land from a book? Where would you most like to live?
  11. What fictional character would you most like to be like, and why?

Instructions for My Nominees

  • Copy and paste the award onto your blog
  • Answer my 11 questions
  • Come up with 11 questions, 11 nominees with less than 200 followers, and 11 facts about yourself
  • Leave a comment on your nominee's blog telling them about the award
  • Thank your nominator

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

THE CAT'S MEOW by Stacey Kennedy

Title: The Cat's Meow
Series: Witch's Brew #1
Author: Stacey Kennedy


Libby Jenkins is no ordinary member of the Charleston coven.  She is an Enchantress, a witch gifted by the Goddess with the ability to cast spells.  Her job is to investigate uses of dark magic and the help catch the witch or warlock who is breaking the rules.

When cats start turning up dead, Libby is called in by her coven to figure out what's happening to the cats and who is responsible. That isn't the only mystery she has to solve; there's a new warlock in town by the name of Kale Griffin, and for some reason her coven has him helping her with the investigation.  Libby doesn't trust warlocks, and she's convinced there is another reason for Kale's presence at her crime scene, one that she's determined to figure out.

But dead cats and new warlocks will soon become the least of Libby's worries when she discovers something evil happening in Charleston.  It will take ever ounce of Libby's magic and complete trust in the Goddess if she plans to make it out alive.

My Impression

Libby is a pretty dynamic heroine.  Though she is a member of a coven, Libby has a clear dislike for the coven's hierarchy; she is willing to follow their orders and solve the crimes they request of her, but outside of that she avoids them.  Libby has her own code, and above all she respects and trusts the will of the Goddess.  I liked that Libby had an attitude and was willing to speak her mind when she felt like a pawn.  I definitely liked that she didn't always get away with her attitude, and that there was an undercurrent of possible repercussions for her behavior.

I also liked the romance in this book.  While there is a clear attraction between Libby and Kale, Libby's distrust of warlocks and her suspicion that Kale isn't being honest with her caused her to fight their attraction, which I found realistic.  If the characters had immediately fallen into bed I wouldn't have been able to trust Libby as a character, especially since it is pretty obvious from the beginning of the book that she despises all warlocks, with the exception of her best friend's boyfriend.

I struggled a bit with the background of this book.  While the book explained what some of the different characters are (Enchantress, warlock, Sentinel), I was unclear about the role of some of the members of the hierarchy.  Libby's coven has four Priestesses, and the Alchemy, the governing body for all witches and warlocks in the US, has four High Priests, but the only thing the book explains about these positions is that they are leaders and that they have more power than the general witches and warlocks.  I wanted to know more about how these leaders are select and what specific roles they have besides giving orders.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I found this book on NetGalley, and I thought the description of the book sounded interesting.

Genres: Romance, Urban Fantasy
My Rating: Four Stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for providing me with the ARC of this book.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

EXILE by Anne Osterlund

Title: Exile
Series: Aurelia #2
Author: Anne Osterlund


Aurelia has been exiled by her father after refusing to marry the man he selected for her. Though she isn't sure if her refusal has lost her the throne, Aurelia is finally free.  Now she is traveling across Tyralt with a group of guards and Robert as her guide, determined to meet her people.  

Though Aurelia seems to believe she's safe, Robert thinks otherwise.  He knows that Aurelia was born to be a leader, that she has the natural ability to connect with people, and that Melony isn't likely to allow Aurelia to live.

As they continue their journey, Aurelia learns that her kingdom is very different than she imagined, and that there is a lot of evil and danger that the people face every day.  And Aurelia is the crown princess, which means she is in even more danger than she imagines.

My Impression

I loved  this book.  Aurelia has become an even stronger person than she was in the first book of this series.  Though she has always been a pretty independent character, Aurelia made the decision to not have her life decided for her, and that she will not allow fear to make her into a coward.  She also has to accept the betrayal of her sister and the death of the man who tried to kill her at her own hands, both which she struggles to admit are not truly her fault.

There was also more development in the romance between Robert and Aurelia. For a majority of the book they are alone on their journey, which means they have to learn to trust each other completely in order to survive, especially Aurelia who is used to being in charge.  I liked being able to see from both characters' perspectives as they try to navigate their friendship/romance and determine what their true feelings are for the other person.

This book also showed a better look at Tyralt and the political situation that has developed as a result of the king's rule.  There are treaties that have been broken, laws that are not being enforced, and invasion that all make it seem much more important that Aurelia eventually becomes queen.

One problem I had with this book (which is more a problem with the publisher) is that the book ends in a sort of cliffhanger.  It is clear that there is much more to Aurelia's story, but as of now there is no third book to be published.  I know this is a book I will re-read many times; I just wish I could see where Aurelia goes from here.

Why I Picked Up This Book

After reading Aurelia, I wanted to see what happened to Aurelia and Robert.  I really hope that Anne gets the opportunity to continue their adventure, because their journey is far from over.  I want to know what happens next!

Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
My Rating: Five Stars

Thursday, January 3, 2013

AURELIA by Anne Osterlund

Title: Aurelia
Series: Aurelia #1
Author: Anne Osterlund


Aurelia Lauzon is the next in line for the throne of Tyralt. Though she loves her kingdom and her people, the last thing Aurelia wants is to be forced into a political marriage and kept in the castle.  She doesn't like the court games and the rules that come with being a royal, she would much rather be free to travel the kingdom.

It's clear that Aurelia is destined to be a great ruler, especially to her childhood friend and son of the king's former spy, Robert Vantauge.  It has been four years since he last saw Aurelia and he moved with his family to the frontier, and though he is glad to see his friend again, his visit is more than just a chance to catch up.  Someone is trying to kill Aurelia, and Robert has been assigned to investigate who is responsible, all while keeping Aurelia ignorant of the danger she's in.  But Aurelia isn't one to sit around and let someone else solve her problems, and she will risk a lot to help Robert uncover who is determined to kill her.

My Impression

Aurelia is definitely a character I felt I could connect with.  She is clearly strong-willed and has her own opinions how to best run Tyralt, ones that sometimes stray from tradition.  She is not afraid to defend her people and she is wants to be able to understand them.  As the book goes along, it is nice to see that Aurelia's confidence and will is somewhat bravado, and that she has to put on a facade to hide her insecurities and self-doubt.  I liked being able to see the multiple dimensions of Aurelia's character, and how she makes the best of her role as Tyralt's future leader, even when parts of it don't appeal to her.

This book follows both Robert and Aurelia, alternating between the two characters so the reader knows things that one of the other characters may not know.  I liked the alternating perspectives because it added to the depth of both characters.  At the same time, since both characters had no idea who is trying to have Aurelia killed, there was still plenty of suspense as Aurelia and Robert work together, and occasionally alone, to catch the murderer before they succeed.

I also like that the mystery is pretty tangled.  Robert and Aurelia have multiple suspects for who might be the one trying to kill Aurelia, but I wasn't able to guess who was really behind the entire thing until Robert and Aurelia did.  I liked that I was kept guessing and that I didn't feel like the characters were missing the obvious.

Though I really liked getting to know the characters and the suspense of the attempted assassinations, I wanted a bit more action to really go off of.  The main villain is faceless until the very end, and there were only a few moments in the book where I was really on the edge of my seat.  I would have liked to see a bit more of the dark side of the politics in Tyralt, as well as more about the mysterious Outer Realms, which Tyralt refuses to accept immigrants from.   Very little is said about the places outside of Tyralt and their relationship with Tyralt's king.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I've always loved reading fantasy books, and I am always on the look out for fantasy books I haven't read.  I discovered this on Goodreads, where it was recommended based on other fantasy books I read.

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
My Rating: Four Stars


Title: Me and My Invisible Guy
Author: Sarah Jeffrey


High school junior and cheerleader Mallory Dane has a secret.  Actually, she has a few, though they aren't all hers to tell.

Her secret is Todd, her boyfriend that doesn't really exist. Though Mallory is tired of her fictional relationship with her made-up boyfriend, she can't seem to admit to anyone, even her best friend Tess, that she has been lying.

Then there's Liam Crawford, the new student that Mallory can't stop thinking about.  Mallory must make a choice: keep Todd and all of her lies, or tell Liam the truth and start a relationship with a real person.  But her secret isn't the only one on the line, and if she isn't careful, Mallory may end up revealing the secrets of those closest to her and lose more than her fictional boyfriend.

My Impression

Though I wasn't really surprised about Mallory's initial motivation for creating Todd, I was surprised about the number of other secrets she had to deal with.  Mallory's home life is anything but perfect, and the same can be said for her friend Tess.  Not only does Mallory have to keep her family's (and particularly her sister Darby's) situation a secret from everyone, she also tries to help Tess out with her own family situation without revealing her friend's secret.  I liked that this book was about more than just the lies Mallory told about Todd, and that not all of the secrets were something as simple as a fictional boyfriend.

At the same time, there are always consequences for keeping secrets.  This book does a really good job of showing the fallout that can come from telling the truth, as well as the social pressures and stigmas that are a part of high school.

One topic of this book is abstinence and the role that sex plays in the lives of teenagers, as well as the peer pressure to lose your virginity. While the topic was relevant to Mallory and the plot of this story (I won't reveal how), I was worried that the "moral of the story" was that abstinence is the way to go.   The book shows a lot of sides to the topic, such as how there are not necessarily always bad implications to having sex and how there are negative connotations sometimes associated with being abstinent. After finishing the book I still feel that the book was a bit heavy-handed with its attempt to promote abstinence; however, I think the main goal in this book's use of the topic was not to criticize teenagers who do have sex, and that its main purpose is to criticize the social pressure to have sex.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I found this book on NetGalley, and I was intrigued by Mallory and her "relationship" with Todd..  I wanted to know what would cause a girl who seemed to have it all to lie about something like a relationship.

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
My Rating: Three Stars

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Scarlet
Series: Scarlet #1
Author: A.C. Gaughen


No one knows how Will Scarlet became a thief, not even Robin of Locksley, better known as the Hood.  And very few know that Will is actually just Scarlet, an 18-year-old woman who pretends to be a boy.

Scarlet, Robin, and Robin's band do everything they can to help the people of Edwinstowe evade the cruelty of the sheriff of Nottingham, the man appointed after Prince John declared Robin's father, the Earl Huntington, to be a traitor to the crown.  But when the sheriff decides to hire Guy of Gisbourne, a thief catcher, to catch and kill Robin and his band, the thieves must be extra careful.  Scarlet in particular must be careful, because she knows Gisbourne and his cruelty, and for her, the consequences of being caught would be worse than death.

My Impression

One thing I liked about this retelling is that the focus isn't on Robin Hood.  While he is an important part of the book, the main character is Will Scarlet, better known as Scarlet or Scar.  I liked being able to see Robin through the eyes of someone who follows him and can see the motivation behind his actions that no one else really sees.  We also get to learn the motivation behind other members of the band, such as John Little and Much.  This book really emphasized the importance of being in a group, and how all of their work wouldn't be possible if there wasn't someone else to watch their back, so I liked that each member of the band got some of the focus.

I also thought it was really interesting how, even though the book follow's Scarlet's perspective, the reader learns about Scarlet's past at the same time that the other members of the band do.  It would have been really easy to know Scarlet's motivation from the beginning of the book and just watch as she kept her secrets from her friends, but it was much more compelling to know that she is keeping secrets, watching her struggle to keep her secrets, but then also being caught in the suspense and frustration of the other characters who want her to trust them with her past.  I wanted to know Scarlet's past and that is why I kept reading.

One thing I struggled with as I read this book is the language.  Scarlet doesn't speak or think in colloquial English, so many times she used the word "were" instead of "was" as the verb of a sentence.  While I appreciate how difficult it must have been to write the entire book in this dialect (and it does remain consistent throughout the book), it took me a few chapters to become comfortable with the cadence of the speech.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I really like retellings, and though I enjoy retellings of fairytales, I have always loved to see new spins on folk heroes such as Robin Hood.  I discovered this book through Goodreads on my recommended lists, and I liked the idea of reading about Will Scarlet as a woman.

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tales, Romance
My Rating: Four Stars