Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hedgie's Must Reads: April 2015


Another crazy month! Craziness all around! But we got a lot of reading done - more than I thought I would - and here they are!



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 2015 Book Haul


It's the end of another month and that means cataloging new books and shelving them (a task that I'll do sometime; hopefully before I leave. . . .) So this month started out mostly good, then I went and bought too many books again, but oh well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Come Fly With Me!

That's right, people - the day is finally here! In just a few short hours (several hours, actually, but I know they'll fly by - haha) I'm going to be boarding my plane(s) to Nashville, Tennessee! I will fly all night to get there, and then I will spend the day looking at stuff, eating cupcakes and Southern cuisine, and finally I'll make my way to Parnassus Books, where I will meet YA author Sharon Cameron! I've always loved her books, The Dark Unwinding and its sequel A Spark Unseen. But I think that in the past few weeks, she's become even more of a favorite author.

And best of all, I actually got my copy of Rook in yesterday, so I sped through Tunnel Vision so I could read it. And I can read it on the plane(s)! I doubt I'll have it done by the time the launch party starts, but I should be through an awful good portion of it! I have already read the first three chapters and am so totally in love with it.

I'll be blogging throughout my stay in Nashville - and I swear I'll get pictures! So this isn't goodbye. But rather a: see you on the other side!

Keep reading, my friends!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Snow Like Ashes - Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on October 14, 2014
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pages: 416
Read From: 4.6.15 - 4.10.15












SYNOPSIS
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians' only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter's magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since. 
Orphaned as an infant during Winter's defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians' general, Sir. Training to be a warrior - and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather - she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again. 
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter's magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she's scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she's always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn't go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics - and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Review

Dear Snow Like Ashes,

Another high fantasy among so, so many. It seems to be the new "in thing" for YA. I didn't have any high or low expectations for you. I was prepared for a typical, but entertaining, adventure.

In Meira's world, there are eight kingdoms, for of which experience one specific season all year 'round, with no deviation. Meira's kingdom of Winter has fallen to the ruthless ruler of Spring - Angra - who seeks to control all of the Season Kingdoms and eventually all four Rhythm Kingdoms as well. Meira is one of eight free Winterians - one of whom is the sole surviving heir to the throne. Now, they travel as exiled nomads, trying to reclaim the stolen conduit to their magic and restore their kingdom. But it won't be easy. Angra is powerful, but even they don't know just how powerful his magic truly is.

Your world building, Snow Like Ashes, is extremely well thought out and clear. I at first thought the Seasons Kingdoms were a little silly and basic. But as we explored them more, a complex history and culture was revealed. I hope the Rhythm Kingdoms are explored with as much depth in the future. They experience all four seasons like we do; why? Why are they called the Rhythm Kingdoms?

Perhaps even more pleasing than your world building was how easy it was to get behind your characters. Meira was just a baby when Winter fell. She's never actually seen the homeland; only heard stories. She wants nothing more than to matter to her country; to do something to help it. But their general - Sir William - won't let her. Meira chafes at the restriction; at the lack of action. It sometimes led to rash action. However, Meira truly is capable, so it's hard to fault her for stupidity when she in fact succeeds. I normally don't like protagonists who sit around whining about not being allowed to help. But Meira proves her abilities over and over, and she keeps a surprisingly mostly good humor about it, so she doesn't whine. When she finally does get to help the refugees in a very significant way, and Sir does nothing but criticize, my sympathy doubled.

Mather, the Winterian future king, is a young man uncertain of his duties. The magical conduits work based on gender, and unfortunately for Mather, the Winterian conduit only works for the female line. So even if they regain their conduit, Mather will be fighting against impossible odds. His is a heavy burden and I felt for him.

I had more of a love-hate relationship with Sir (William). As the man who rescued Mather and Meira and kept the survivors going, his role is not an easy one. He has to make hard decisions based on the good of the kingdom. It can make him callous. And nothing Sir does is without reason. In the beginning I hated him for being so hard on Meira. Towards the end, it started to make sense.

Your villains, Snow Like Ashes, were very good. Herod was despicable and creepy; Angra downright intimidating; and Noam (yes, I consider him a villain) so very easy to hate.

In truth, <i>Snow Like Ashes</i>, I only have two complaints. No. #1: the love triangle. I liked both Mather and Theron - especially Theron. Bookish and king, he listened to Meira. But as soon as he and Mather started fighting over Meira, they both looked like idiots. To Meira's credit, she doesn't toy with their feelings. She comes to a decision very quickly. Almost too quickly.

Which brings me to Complaint No. #2: the pace. For a while, you keep up a breakneck speed that goes way too quickly. In one respect, it was a nice change. How many stories have the girl training to become a princess and that's where the book decides to spend all its time? Snore! But no sooner does Meira accept her role as a future princess to a prince she hardly knows (AKA Theron), when bam! She's on the run again! Halfway through, though, your pace evens out with the events and I could no longer complain.

Overall, you were a really fun read. I saw several of the important twists coming, though I couldn't exactly figure out the details of the how. As annoying as your love triangle was, at least it was short-lived. You had an interesting world and good characters and were downright brutal at times. I liked you.

Feeling content,
Mara A.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hedgehog Life: 4/20/15 - 4/26/15



I am literally two days away from leaving for Nashville and Sharon Cameron's launch party! I can hardly believe it! This week has been a flurry of last-minute preparations. I didn't have as much time to read, but that's all right. I'm sure I'll get time in Nashville (definitely on the plane).

This Week I Read:
- Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon

This Week I Reviewed:
What's In Store for Next Week:
Review of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
April Book Haul
Hedgie's Must Reads: April 2015
Review of The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

Tuesday I went and got my new computer, a MacBook Pro, which I am now using to write this post!! My mum and I spent some time in Portland while we were there, too; went to Powell's and Voodoo Donuts and got a little lost in a bad area, but eventually got back to where we wanted to be after some very helpful cyclists and police officers gave us directions. Never again am I going to try and take a "shortcut" in that neighborhood again!

And Friday was my 23rd birthday! This was a weird year in the fact that there was nothing specific I wanted for my birthday. So I told my parents that I just wanted to spend a day in Seattle, going to used bookstores and Pike's Market Place and some other places. First we hit Uwajimaya - this huge Asian market that, among other things, sells pretty much every Asian tea under the sun. Me being the tea connoisseur that I am, I of course bought some special blends: cinnamon orange blend, moji raspberry blend, and chrysanthemum blend. Then we had lunch at Il Terrazzo Carmine - a very fancy and very good Italian restaurant. Italian food doesn't get much better unless you're in Italy. I had gnocchi with fresh mozzarella and a creamy red sauce, and a coffee mocha chocolate cream cake that provided a nice kick of caffeine to my system. Then we trotted over the Seattle Center food court so I could get some Pacific Saltwater Taffy at Seattle Fudge. It's a bit of a tradition of mine started years ago as a kid: whenever I go to Seattle for something other than an author event, I always get a bag of saltwater taffy from Seattle Fudge. Even at twenty-three, I'm not breaking that tradition. The crowning moment for the excursion, of course, was the Pompeii exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. I'm a sucker for history - especially Roman history - and I dragged my sister through the exhibit. It was really, really neat, and I was impressed at the amount of history knowledge that came back to me as I went through the exhibit. After that, we went to Magus Books and Ravenna Third Place Books.  Yes, I came away with several books. All of which you'll see in my May book haul, since I had to prerecord my April book haul before I headed to Nashville! All in all, it was a really, really good birthday. I love gifts and always appreciate the things people give me. But I've gotten to a point where memories make just as good a gift as physical objects. A concert, a good dinner, hanging out with friends and family in the city - going and doing things. Experiencing the world and building memories filled with adventure, love, and excitement. I've loved all of my birthdays, but this is one of my favorites.

Not so wonderful, though, was my relapse into illness. It wasn't a serious relapse, but it was enough to knock the edge off of me. And like the idiot that I am, I didn't rest as much as I should have. I have too much to do! And I couldn't miss swing dancing Tuesday night, which was when I had the relapse. It was my birthday week and I had to do the birthday dance. Yes, I so paid for it the next day. The relapse has mostly taken on the form of a wonderful cough that just won't go away. I have some disgusting syrup now to make it go away, and I'm desperately hoping that it will be nonexistent by the time I have to fly out. On reflection, it's ironic that every time I have attended a historical exhibit - the King Tut exhibit (twice) and now the Pompeii exhibit - I have been sick. Guess that's just my luck. ;-)

So, other than my trip to Nashville coming up, I've got some other fun upcoming things planned for when I get back. Obviously, I will have a very long post about my trip, and I am going to try and do daily updates my blog Curves In The Road while I'm in Nashville. But I will definitely do a master post on this blog when I get back.

May 10th a friend and I are going to the Lantern Festival! It's a huge event that takes place in several cities at once, with vendors and music and food - and at night everyone lights a bunch of lanterns and lets them go. It should be oodles of fun. May 5th I am meeting author Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm series), thereby fulfilling a lifelong childhood dream. And May 16th, I get to meet Kendare Blake for the second time and get the second Goddess War book signed!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Genre: YA, fairy tale retelling
Published on April 1, 2014
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 452
Read From: 4.2.15 - 4.5.15












SYNOPSIS
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. 
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado - taking you with it - you have no choice but to go along, you know? 
Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still a yellow brick road - but even that's crumbling. 
What happened? Dorothy. 
They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe. 
My name is Amy Gumm - and I'm the other girl from Kansas. 
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I've been trained to fight. And I have a mission.

Review


Dear Dorothy Must Die,

Never has a book title spoken so thoroughly to my soul. As a survivor of all fifteen original Oz stories, I could not agree more: Dorothy must indeed die. I am not a fan of Oz; I never shall be. The books were torture. So, Dorothy Must Die, you are exactly what I needed.

You tell the story of Amy Gumm - the other girl from Kansas. Just like Dorothy Gale, Amy is swept up by a cyclone from her depressing life in Dusty Acres and to Oz. But this isn't the Oz Amy has read about. Dorothy came back, and now she rules with a tyrannical hand, enslaving Ozians to drain the world of magic to feed her ever-growing need for power. As the other Kansas girl, Amy may be the only one who can stop Dorothy and restore Oz to what it used to be. But first, she has to get past Dorothy's three famous traveling companions, who aren't the same, either. And then, Dorothy must die.

The original Oz was nightmarish in its garish colors, bizarre inhabitants, and annoying moralistic lessons. But this Oz is nightmarish like a dark, twisted, brutal bad dream. It was awesome. Around every corner, we meet familiar characters that have been warped and twisted. The punishments are cruel and disturbing. There was nothing whimsical and light-hearted about this Oz.

As someone who has read all fifteen books, it was really fun to spot all the references, parallels, and deviations. It's obvious from the start that your author knows her Oz. And a lot of the concepts - magic being banned, the Lion Dorothy's law enforcement - are taken directly from the original books. This actually made me view the originals entirely differently, and I can see how they could turn dark.

Your characters, Dorothy Must Die, are awesome. Amy is spunky and sassy without having an attitude. It was easy to get behind her, and there wasn't any moment where I disagreed with her actions. Pete and Nox are both rather mysterious and awesome guys. I definitely see Nox as a future romantic interest, and I'm okay with that. He's serious and quiet and tough - the "dark, broody" sort actually done right. The witches - Mombi, Gert, Glamora - are all awesome. I don't know if I trust any of them, but that's partially why I like them. Even Ollie, the flying monkey, works - and animal sidekicks usually don't.

As for your villains. . . .Oh my gosh, Dorothy is downright terrifying. She is certifiably psychotic, and just when I thought she couldn't get any worse, she would do something that totally tripled her insanity. Dorothy actually made it to my Top Ten Villains list.

And her henchmen aren't much better. The Tin Woodman is a warped, creepy steampunkish cyborg with scissor hands and an army of other cyborgs. The Scarecrow experiments on people and animals in his laboratory, stealing their brains so he can become more intelligent. He also comes across as a pedophile and has button eyes. And the Lion. . . .well, he's not remotely cuddly or cowardly - and for some reason, freaked me out the most.

Dorothy Must Die, you present one very brutal, very twisted, very dark Oz. Your plot, even though it mostly consists of Amy's training, can't be called slow because so many horrifying things happen. As far as "training the hero" scenarios go, Amy's is pretty interesting. And then she's sent to infiltrate the palace and things get creepier.

The ending I sort of saw coming. But that's mostly due to: with two more sequels coming there's only so many ways it could end, and I've read all fifteen originals. It was an epic end, though.

Dorothy Must Die, you delivered on every level. Great characters, great plot, an author who knows her Oz, and creepiness and blood and psychotic villains all around. You were unbelievably good.

Feeling thrilled,
~ Mara A. ~

Others in This Series:
1)Dorothy Must Die
2)The Wicked Will Rise

 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: The Only Thing to Fear - Caroline Tung Richmond

The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
Genre: YA, alternate history
Published on September 30, 2014
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 280
Read From: 3.29.15 - 4.2.15













SYNOPSIS
It's been nearly eighty years since the Allies lost World War II in a crushing defeat against Hitler's genetically engineered super soldiers. America has been carved up by the victors, and sixteen-year-old Zara lives a life of oppression in the Eastern-American Territories. Under the iron rule of the Nazis, the government strives to maintain a master race, controlling everything from jobs to genetics. Despite her mixed heritage and hopeless social standing, Zara dares to dream of an America she's only read about in banned books - a land of freedom and equality. 
Rumblings of a revolution are growing in the Territories, and a rogue rebel group known as the Alliance is plotting a deadly coup. Zara might hold the key to taking down the Fuhrer for good. . . .but it also might be the very thing that destroys her. Because what she has to offer the Alliance is something she's spent her entire life hiding from the world, under threat of immediate execution by the Nazis.

Review

Dear The Only Thing to Fear,

All I needed to do was see your cover and read your synopsis, and I immediately wanted to read you. WWII is one of my favorite topics, and Nazis are the most intimidating villains history has seen. I had no doubt I would like you, Only Thing to Fear, and I was not disappointed.

You explore a very intriguing - and very frightening - "what if": What if the Nazis had won? In Zara's world, they did. It's eighty years after the Allies lost WWII, and the world has been divided up among the Axis powers: Italy, Japan, and Germany. Ever since the Nazis' super soldiers - Anomalies with bizarre powers - flooded the battlefront, an uneasy truce has existed between the Nazi Empire and the Soviets. But the Nazi world may be on the brink of collapse. . . .

Zara is half American, half Japanese - and she has lived in Nazi-America all of her life, scraping and bowing to the Aryans at every turn. She does all she can to go unnoticed, because if the Nazis knew what she was - a non-German Anomaly - she'd be shot. But war is brewing. The Soviets are getting restless and the Revolutionary Alliance is aiming for the heart of the Empire. Zara's mother and uncle are already involved; her powers may be just what they need to win.

I applaud your accuracy, Only Thing to Fear. Minus the Anomalies and their "superhero" powers, you present a very believable image of what the world might have been like had the Allies lost. Punishment is swift and brutal; there is no messing around with this totalitarian regime. The Capitol of Panem couldn't hold a matchstick to this government. And while the story takes place eighty years later, there's still a '40's-era charm to the style.

I sympathized with Zara, who has lost so much. Her mother shot in an Alliance raid gone wrong, humbled and humiliated at every turn, hiding in constant fear of her powers being discovered. She has a fighting spirit and wants to do everything she can to oppose the Nazis. Sometimes this led to face-palm-worthy brash actions. This brashness also made me sympathize with her Uncle Red. Loss and fear made him cautious. I got tired of his inaction, but I understood.

What surprised me most, though, was your lack of a love triangle. You had the setup: Bastian, a gentle, kind, handsome German boy who wants to join the Alliance - and Garrison, the rugged, courageous rebel leader. Both very likable young men, both a little older than Zara. I have seen this a thousand times, Only Thing to Fear: love triangle.

No! Garrison is hardly in the book and Zara doesn't notice him beyond him being the courageous rebel leader - someone to admire. Her affections are solidly engaged by Bastian, and Garrison thinks of her as a kid. This threw me for a pleasantly surprising loop. No love triangle! I'm still confounded!

Your plot was good - I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was happy that I could totally side with the rebels, and I appreciated how you took the time to world build without slowing down. But towards the end, you started going too fast - and before I knew it, you were over. Your ending is very open; no sequel, but certainly room for one if Caroline Tung Richmond decided to write one. So I can't accuse you of being too tidy; you weren't. It's very clear that this is just the beginning. But as Zara progressed through her mission, I kept saying to myself, "Wait, wait; slow down! This is already happening?!"

I loved you, Only Thing to Fear. You were near perfection. Believable, good characters, a frightening "what if," and an ending that just came too fast. But I'm not sure I can hold that against you.

Feeling pleased,

~ Mara ~

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Rook

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
It's a weekly meme about upcoming books we're excited about!



Rook
by Sharon Cameron
Publication Date: April 28, 2015

From Goodreads:

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy's arranged marriage to the wealthy Rene Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to he doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiance is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and Rene find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Why I'm Excited

- Sharon Cameron is one of my absolute favorite authors; I will always read whatever she published.
- But this book - this book - sounds absolutely, positively, hands-down brilliant. I cannot wait.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #80 + Teaser Tuesday #41

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 


Top Ten Favorite Authors of ALL TIME! I have to choose ten out of ALL the authors I've ever read?! Really?! This isn't fair!!!!!!! :-( But I can do it! And to make it easier on myself, I will only include YA and Middle Grade authors; no classics.

  1. John Flanagan. I'll be honest, I have read authors whose writing is so, so, so much better and the Ranger's Apprentice series dragged, and he seems very adverse to ever killing any of his characters. But I grew up with John Flanagan's books. The Ruins of Gorlan opened me up to fantasy. I will always, always love his books.
  2. Lemony Snicket. I will always read anything and everything written by him. Short of The Roman Mysteries, his books were my first "real" fandom. I obsessed over these books. I had notebooks filled with notes and I studied codes and ciphers just to crack the ones in the books. I read all the classic books referenced, I watched and rewatched the movie; I spent a lot of time scouring websites and forums and other fans' theories. Lemony Snicket is one of my absolute favorites.
  3. Ann Rinaldi. Her historical fiction novels were my first introduction into the YA genre. I haven't read all of her books, but I'm close and I will always buy an Ann Rinaldi book if I see it.
  4. Cat Winters. A much more recent author; she's releasing her third book in a few months. I have loved ALL of her books and I know I can always count on her to write an amazing Gothic historical fiction supernatural story, with awesome protagonists and genuinely swoon-worthy guys who are also gentlemen.
  5. Anthony Horowitz. I loved his Alex Rider series, and I'm enjoying his Gatekeepers horror series, too. But he truly impressed me most with his Sherlock Holmes novels - especially that last one: Moriarty. Still not over that one.
  6. William Ritter. Impressed me with the very first page of Jackaby. I will always, always, always read what he writes.
  7. Victoria (V.E.) Schwab. Someone else whose books I will always read. She caught me with The Near Witch and just kept reeling me in with The Archived and then Vicious. She made me love present tense.
  8. Leigh Bardugo. You ripped my heart out with the final Grisha book! You introduced me to one of my most favorite villains and dark heroes - Nikolai!
  9. Brandon Sanderson. Do I need to explain this?
  10. Maggie Stiefvater. While I'm not a fan of her earliest books - Lament and all those (I still have to read Shiver, so I will withhold my judgement on that series) - her other stuff I have loved. The Scorpio Races is one of my all-time favorite books, and The Raven Cycle is just. . . .yeah.
Do I really have to stop at ten? What about Morgan Rhodes, Danielle Paige, Cornelia Funke, James Dashner, Avi, Michael Buckley, Sharon Cameron . . . . . This isn't fair. . . . .

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading

In an instant he was gone. Verlaine wondered if he had stopped time - and if he had remained there a long time, watching her, before he left. She wanted him to have done that, even though she knew it was a stupid thing to want. Sorceress by Claudia Gray (pg. 177)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: Antigoddess - Kendare Blake

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
Series: The Goddess War #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on September 10, 2013
Published by Tor Teen
Pages: 333
Read From: 3.28.15 - 3.29.15












SYNOPSIS
Old gods never die. . . . 
Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health. 
Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra - an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. 
These days, Cassandra doesn't involve herself in the business of gods - in fact, she doesn't even know they exist. But she could be the key in a way that is only just beginning. 
Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with others of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these antigods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get because immortals don't just flicker out. 
Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Other become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath. 
The Goddess War is about to begin.

Review


Dear Antigoddess,

From the moment I saw your synopsis, I've been wanting to read you. The mixed reviews you have been receiving only made me want to pick you up even more. Finally, I did. And my suspicion was 100% correct.

It is the 21st century, and Athena and Hermes - in the guise of nineteen-year-olds - are on a mission: to discover why the dogs are dying - and how to stop it. Their hope lies in Kincade, New York, with Cassandra, who is the Cassandra of Troy reincarnate. But Cassandra doesn't know who she is, and she has no idea that she's suddenly being hunted by gods.

I'll be honest, Antigoddess - you could have been so much more. You have a cool concept and you are written with the dark sense of humor I have come to expect from Kendare Blake. And I realize that a lot of questions went unanswered because you are the beginning of a trilogy.

But there was something that fell a little flat. For the most part, I was cool with your portrayal of the gods. Athena, Hermes, Apollo - they are not what they used to be. They are less - hardly gods - because they have been forgotten; are no longer needed. I thought this was very effectively reflected in the gods' behavior, moods, and even actions and way of thinking. They're dying and they're no longer important to mortals; they're tired and a little depressed about it. We readers are not seeing them in their full glory; we're seeing them at the end of it.

It's a new take on the gods - and I approved.

There were, however, nigglies. At times, it felt like the plot was running in place: stuff was happening, but it wasn't really going anywhere. I was not entirely pleased with your portrayal of Odysseus - my favorite hero (except Hector). Honorable, clever Odysseus who spent ten years trying to get back to his wife - reduced to a womanizing, hormonal teen. His time with Calypso and Circe wasn't his fault - and I am not entirely certain The Odyssey says he shared their beds (a logical assumption, I suppose, but hello - he was bewitched!).

Perhaps the biggest niggly was Cassandra - who can still see the future and is apparently cursed so no one will believe her except Apollo. It is never made clear whether or not Cassandra's brother Henry and best friend Andie are just humoring her. But they never say they don't believe her, either, and they certainly act like they do. Why? If the curse remains, how can they believe her?

For a relatively short book, Antigoddess, I did find you an enjoyable, distracting read. You have holes - many of which I hope your sequels answer. And you had lots of blood and weird stuff. You have potential that was only halfway realized, but maybe will be fulfilled.

Feeling optimistic,
Mara A.

Others in The Goddess War Trilogy:
1)Antigoddess
2)Mortal Gods


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hedgehog Life: 4/13/15 - 4/19/15



While last week had some awesome things, I think I'm safe in saying that this week was better because I didn't get sick. I did have a 7AM dentist appointment. . . .But thank goodness that's about it.

This Week I Read:
- Windchaser by Scott Ciencin
- Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon

This Week I Reviewed:

What's In Store for Next Week:
Review of Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors
Waiting on Wednesday with Rook
Review of The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
Review of Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Nothing much going on. Just more prep for Nashville, my birthday, and other things. But overall, a pretty quiet week of reading.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Author Visit: Heather Brewer, Danielle Paige, Victoria Aveyard, Sara Raasch

On April 10th, I got to meet YA authors Heather Brewer (The Cemetery Boys), Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die), Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen), and Sara Raasch (Snow Like Ashes) at the University of Washington Bookstore. Did not get as many pictures as I wanted because I was in bad vantage point for pictures, but next time! Meanwhile, enjoy the video!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Heir of Fire - Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #3
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on September 2, 2014
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 562
Read From: 3.22.15 - 2.28.15












SYNOPSIS
Celaena Sardothien has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak - but at an unspeakable cost. Now she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth. . . .a truth about her heritage that could change her life - and her future - forever. 
Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. To defeat them, Celaena must find the strength not only to fight her inner demons but to battle the evil that is about to be unleashed.

Review


Dear Heir of Fire,

I have had such a love-hate relationship with your series. I detested your protagonist so much that I despised everything in Book #1. I was so tired of the unromantic romance that I barely tolerated Book #2. But my gut told me, Heir of Fire, that the series had so much potential that it couldn't not get better. So I continued to give it a chance.

Heir of Fire, I'm glad I did.

You pick up after Celaena has traveled to Wendlyn, to assassinate the royal family for the cruel and evil king of Adarlan. But Celaena has her own mission - to seek out Maeve and find a way to defeat the king. Meanwhile, Dorian is struggling with his newfound powers, Chaol is caught up in rebellion, and the Ironteeth witches are up to something.

There is no denying the masterful world building - or engaging plot. Though I confess, after a while Celaena's training got old. However, everyone else's plots - Chaol and the rebels, Manon and the witches - made up for the sometimes-plodding pace of Celaena's narration. There is a ton of setup in you, Heir of Fire, and if it hadn't covered so much world building and character development in the process, I would complain.

What saved you the most, though, were the multiple perspectives. My dislike for Celaena was as acute as it's always been. She's broken and messed up and been through hell and back, but she's so whiny and has such attitude. And sadly, you presented us with a pathetic version this time. I could do nothing but loathe her.

So it was super nice to take breaks from her. With Celaena on a separate continent, Chaol went back to being sensible and productive and a friend to Dorian. Dorian finds new love in Sorcha, a healer, and we're also introduced to Aedion - Celaena's cousin and seemingly loyal general to the king of Adarlan. Aedion was an interesting new player; ruthless, calculating, a chameleon. I didn't necessarily like him, but he was interesting.

You also brought Manon into the mix - the leader of the Thirteen Ironteeth witches. The most ruthless coven. Manon is strong, brutal, practical, unflinching. She could take on so many roles in the future; I can't wait to see it.

And finally Rowan - the Fae prince in charge of Celaena's training. I liked Rowan if only because I appreciated his dislike and loathing of Celaena. Once that was taken away, I was indifferent. Rowan was not a bad character, and perhaps even good for Celaena. But I suspect him to be a future love interest, and I'm done with love interests. How many can Celaena go through? All fairly awesome characters - until they become involved with her.

But, Heir of Fire, your ending was downright epic. So much goes down, and by the end of it all, I actually felt a tiny stirring of like for Celaena. She starts acting like a queen. She loses her aggravating bravado because she doesn't need it anymore. She embraces her losses and turns her energy to more productive things, other than self-loathing. The Celaena at the end I can get behind.

Heir of Fire, you make me hopeful for this entire series. It has so much promise.

Feeling hopeful,
Mara A.

Others in This Series:
0.1)The Assassin's Blade
1)Throne of Glass
2)Crown of Embers
3)Heir of Fire

Thursday, April 16, 2015

ARC Review: Bone Gap - Laura Ruby

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Genre: YA, mythology retelling
Published on March 3, 2015
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pages: 368
Read From: 3.19.15 - 3.21.15













SYNOPSIS
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps - gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren't surprised. After all, it wasn't the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O'Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That's just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame? 
Finn knows that's not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turn up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go. 
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap - their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures - acclaimed author Laura Ruby waves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness - a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Review


Dear Bone Gap,

I did not know what to expect from you at all. I picked you up because your premise was intriguing, but I had no preconceived notions of what you had in store for me.

You tell the story of two brothers - Finn and Sean - and a young Polish girl Roza who is running away from something and finds shelter in their home. And then Roza leaves just as suddenly as she was there. Everyone in the small town of Bone Gap figured that she just left, like so many people in Finn and Sean's life. But Finn saw the strange man who took Roza - the man with cold stone eyes and who moves like a corn stalk in the wind. Finn knows that there is a lot more going on.

You are my third exploration into magic realism, and you were the weirdest. As we follow the third-person narrations of Finn, Roza, Sean, and several other characters, we are given glimpses into the bizarre world of Bone Gap - and Roza's past. The backgrounds of characters are interwoven and connect to the present, but it is a long and twisting path along the way.

It's a clever narration, really; you kept me reading. I wanted to know what the hell was going on. I never knew when to take something literal or figuratively. Did the corn really talk to Finn? Did it really leave the fields at night to escape the Scare Crow? Could Priscilla "Petey" actually talk to bees? It was all very confusing and bizarre and didn't make much sense.

But I kept reading, Bone Gap, because I wanted to know. And I did actually care about the characters. Finn was a quirky, unique protagonist with a bizarre view of the world. Sean was so nice and sweet that it was impossible to not like him. And Roza so quiet and gentle, yet with a surprising bit of fire.

More than halfway through the book, suddenly things made sense, when I realized that you are in fact a loose retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth. Whether you were an intended retelling, when I made that connection, everything made sense, and I applauded your author for being so clever and my enjoyment of you went up ten times.

You were a thrilling, bizarre read, Bone Gap. But you were amazing.

Feeling shocked,

~ Mara ~

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Stolen Magic

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
It's a weekly meme about upcoming books we're excited about!



Stolen Magic
by Gail Carson Levine
(Tale of Two Castles: #2)
Publication Date: April 21, 2015

From Goodreads:

Elodie, the dragon detective Meenore, and the kindly ogre Count Jonty Um are all on their way to Elodie's home island of Lahnt. Elodie has barely set foot on land before she learns that the Replica, a statue that keeps her island's deadly volcano from erupting, has been stolen! If the Replica isn't found in three days, a mountain will be destroyed. And when Elodie ends up alone with a cast of characters any of whom may be guilty, she has to use her wits to try to unravel a tangled web of lies.

Why I'm Excited

- I adored A Tale of Two Castles the moment I started reading it. I love Elodie and Meenore so much! I can't wait to spend another book with them!
- Gail Carson Levine is, and always will be, one of my favorite authors.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #79 + Teaser Tuesday #40

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 


Top Ten Inspirational Quotes from Books. I cheated a bit and mostly did favorite quotes, rather than strictly "inspirational." More fun that way.

- I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. - The Important of Being Earnest -

- A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment. - Pride and Prejudice -

- Every fairy tale, it seems, concludes with the bland phrase "happily ever after." Yet every couple I have ever known would agree that nothing about marriage is forever happy. There are moments of bliss, to be sure, and lengthy spans of satisfied companionship. Yet these are no small effort, and the girl who reads such fiction dreaming her troubles will end ere she departs the altar is well advised to seek at once a rational woman to set her straight. - Princess Ben -

- "Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" Mo had said. . . ."As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells. . . .and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower. . . .both strange and familiar." - Inkspell -

- These things I've learned when I was young: Life is short and men are cruel, and ponies are born to suffer. I decided that I would work as hard as I could at whatever job I was given, believing that I would earn my reward in the end and live forever in the ponies' place. - The Winter Pony -

-My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for no one. - The Woman in White -

- Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. - To Kill a Mockingbird -

- People who claim that they're evil are usually no worse than the rest of us. . . .It's people who claim that they're good, or any way better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of. - Wicked -

- I never change, I simply become more myself. - Solstice -

- Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures. - The Three Musketeers -

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading

I hear the faint rumble in the distance again. Now it's far-off shouting and what sounds like chanting, like there's a football game going on outside. Very low. Very hard to make out. But Miles has asked me a question, and by the way he stares, watching my mouth, waiting for it to ope and reveal my answer, I know he won't let us go anywhere until I've told him. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (pg. 119)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: City of Glass - Cassandra Clare

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments #3
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on March 24, 2009
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 541
Read From: 3.12.15 - 3.18.15












SYNOPSIS
To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters - never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight. 
As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City - whatever the cost?

Review
Dear City of Glass,

I dreaded reading you most of all. So many people told me that this is where the series started going downhill; that I would be lucky if I survived you. And like a newbie reader, I picked you up right after reading Twilight. So, City of Glass, you had a lot going against you. I didn't think I would survive.

You pick up right where City of Ashes left off: Clary knows that the only way to wake up her mother is to seek out a warlock in the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters. But Jace has his own reasons for trying to keep her from going there. Meanwhile, the Clave has taken undesired interest in Simon - a vampire who can walk in the daylight. And Valentine is amassing his demon army on the city's borders, waiting for the perfect moment to invade and crush them for good.

Here's what you had going for you, City of Glass: despite everything, your plot and your world building is very intriguing. I've enjoyed both of those aspects from the very start of this series. And several of the side characters have grown on me. Now that Simon has said goodbye to his feelings for Clary, and he can defend himself against the perils of the Shadowhunter world, he's become downright awesome. He will be the only vampire character in literary history (minus Dracula) who I will ever genuinely like. Luke and Isabelle and Alec are all pretty cool, and Sebastian is downright. . . .well, I can't say, because I might give things away to people who have not read you yet. Let's just say that I approve. ;) Now that Clary is accepting and growing in her powers, she's even pretty cool, too! Valentine remains a relatively good villain. What makes him terrifying is his absolutely unwavering belief that what he's doing is necessary. He doesn't once doubt the nobility in his quest to cleanse the Shadowhunters and destroy the Downworlders.

But. But, City of Glass, you have one huge irritation that I could not ignore. Jace. I liked Jace in the first book, but now I hate him. He is whiny and pouty and moody and reckless and a complete ass. I want to sympathize with him because of his crappy upbringing, but his attitude is so bad that I just plain can't. Someone just needs to put him out of his misery. If Jace were not present, I would have liked you a whole lot more, City of Glass. The romance would not have been creepy and disturbing, Clary would not have been brash and stupid, no one would have been worrying their minds out over what new idiotic thing Jace was doing - everything, in short, just would have been better.

But I will give you this: the romance actually wasn't focused on a ton, all things considered. I was, in fact, surprised at how backseat it was. Still there, still annoying and weird and creepy as all hell, but not in my face like I thought it would be.

Everyone says the series goes downhill after that. But, City of Glass, you could have been worse, and I'm willing to stick with the rest of your series. I really am.

Feeling satisfied,
Mara A.

Others in The Mortal Instruments Series:
1)City of Bones
2)City of Ashes
3)City of Glass
4)City of Lost Souls
5)City of Fallen Angels
6)City of Heavenly Fire

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hedgehog Life: 4/6/15 - 4/12/15



I can hardly believe the week is over! My 23rd birthday is right around the corner! I feel so old!!!! ;-) Anyway, lots in store for you guys! It was one awesome week.

This Week I Read:
- Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (5/5 strawberries)
- Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (3/5 strawberries)
- The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer (4/5 strawberries)

This Week I Reviewed:

What's In Store for Next Week:
- Review of City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
- Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books
- Waiting on Wednesday with Stolen Magic
- Review of Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
- Review of Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
- Author Visit: Victoria Aveyard, Danielle Paige, Sara Raasch, Heather Brewer

Whatever plans I had for this week were somewhat derailed when I got leringitis - and then the stomach flu on top of it. I was going to finish my shopping for Nashville Friday, but was feeling too sick for it. I still went to the author event on Friday (you'll get details at the end of the week!), and that was super duper fun.

So apart from the usual things, I took this week mostly easy. Did some reading when I wasn't sleeping, regained my strength, et cetera. I'm glad to say goodbye to the stomach bug, though. Bleh.

This coming week, I have nothing big planned. I have a few extra hours to work because a co-worker is covering for me when I go to Nashville, I am going to see a play with my mum later, and get my intended shopping done probably Tuesday. And apart from that - more reading! Nashville is sneaking up on me!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Twilight - Stephanie Meyer

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Series: Twilight Saga #1
Genre: YA, paranormal, romance
Published on October 5, 2005
Published by Little, Brown & Co.
Pages: 498
Read From: 2.25.15 - 3.15.15












SYNOPSIS
When Bella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret. 
What Bella doesn't realize is the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back. . . .

Review


Dear Twilight,

Despite everything about you - despite the horrendous movie, the terrifying fangirls, the hilarious satire - I actually picked you up with an open mind. I wanted to give you a fighting chance to prove yourself to me. I wanted to let your words speak for you and tell me what sort of book you were. Well, you can probably guess my final opinion. . . .

You introduce us to one of literature's most regrettable protagonists, Bella. Dull as a base coat of paint, as charming and cute as a naked mole-rat, I tried very hard to feel something akin to affection - or even tolerance - towards her, but I couldn't. Her clumsiness was so extreme that she really should have been in a wheelchair, I was annoyed that she liked books, and her sarcasm was as flat as a pancake run over by a semitruck. Positively everything she did made me grind my teeth. Edward is prime material for a future abusive boyfriend. He is patronizing and stalkerish and moody and he chuckled. I don't trust people who chuckle. Jacob was a pathetic pup (no pun intended), the side characters were too chipper or too flat or liked Bella way too much for it to be convincing. I sort of liked Alice and Carlisle, but mostly because their backstories were more interesting than what was happening to Bella.

Bella has just moved from Arizona to Forks, Washington - a place that is too close to home, and I therefore resent you, Twilight, for polluting it with your taint. She makes this decision because her divorced mother is going to Florida, and Bella doesn't want to. She would rather move to a rainy town that she professes to hating. There, we get to follow her boring day-to-day high school schedule and her very suddenly bizarre popularity. Bella meets the "mysterious" Edward Cullen, one of the rich boys who would totally not ever go to Forks High School. She falls madly in love with him, despite his insistence that he's dangerous; in spite of the fact that he stalks her; in spite of all logic, in fact.

Twilight, there are so many issues with you. And also so many missed opportunities. You could have been interesting if you just told someone else's story, rather than an angst-filled teen girl at a boring high school falling in love with a creepy, stalker vampire. You could have told Carlisle's story, or Alice's - anyone else's. You could have been an origin story of the whole Cullen clan! I would have found that ten times more interesting. There was no logic in the Cullens repeating high school over and over, other than to create a high school setting for Bella meeting Edward. Repeating high school would show up on public records. People would question. And the entire world must be asleep for Bella to be the only one who notices that there's something weird about the Cullens, because they don't hide their "otherness" very well at all.

Then there's the big problem that no one cares about what happens to Bella and Edward. No one cares about their silly, angsty, and downright creepy romantic fling. No one cares that Bella is going to have a crisis if Edward leaves. No one cares that Edward has some stupid reason for not turning her into a vampire. No one understands what he sees in Bella, who is literally inept at everything. Edward insists she's special; special-ed, maybe.

And finally, Twilight, you're writing. Atrocious. Truly atrocious. Blocky, repetitive, amateur. We understood the first time that Bella passes out whenever she's near Edward; we get that Edward is unbearably handsome (whatever). We get it!!

I tried, Twilight. I tried to give you a fighting chance. You swung wide and my opinion of you is final.

Feeling sick,

~ Mara ~

Others in the Twilight Saga:
1)Twilight
2)New Moon
3)Eclipse
4)Breaking Dawn
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