Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Salve's Favorite Books of 2014

   And just like that, 2014 is coming to a close! I think that out of all my years on this planet, this one was when I had to make the most life decisions: stay in my hometown university, go off to a Swiss college that offered me a scholarship, or pursue my dreams and go to film school? I ended up choosing the third option (yay!) and I couldn't be happier with my decision. Maybe I missed out on living through European sweater weather, and maybe I had to give up cushy living at home, but my experiences at film school have more than made up for that. 

   What film school didn't give me, however, was ample time to read! Let's be honest, it didn't even give me ample time to sleep. Nevertheless, I read my fair share of novels in 2014, and today I give my list of my ten favorite ones!

Presenting, in no particular order...

1. Prisoner of Night & Fog by Anne Blankman

Naked book because I left its jacket in my dorm. Heh.

   While I love reading historical fiction, I must say I've never been attracted to WWII fiction. I guess it's because I love reading about royalty, and by the 1940s, kings and queens weren't exactly the main players on the global chessboard. However, I decided to remedy that with Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night & Fog. What drew me to this particular tale was that it was from the PoV of a Nazi sympathizer who eventually turns her back on her old beliefs. I wondered how exactly the author would pull it off, and I must say that I was not disappointed. There was a chapter in the novel where Gretchen (our protagonist) realizes that her Uncle Dolf truly is a monster and that all the things she thought was right growing up were actually inhumane and wrong, and it was masterfully written. I take that back. Not just that chapter, but the whole novel itself is a beautiful piece of literature. #BravoBlankman

2. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

   This was probably the first of the ten books on this list that I decided would make it on, no matter what. It's a weird retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and I say weird with all the love in my heart. A science fiction book set on an unnamed planet, the author never reveals which of the two heroes is the "beast" and which one is the "beauty". It's all up to the reader and what he/she finds beastly and beautiful. It's just an amazing, emotional adventure that I fell in love with. 

Side note: Stacey Jay's next fairytale, Princess of Thorns has just been released and I am doing a can't-hold-in-my-pee dance because it's got me so excited!

3. The Mirk & Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

   I discovered Jane Nickerson's first novel, Strands of Bronze and Gold, about a year ago, and it was delightful. It was one of those instances in a bookworm's life when you say, "This has been on my TBR list for forever--how come I never picked it up before now?!" I was then happy to find out that a second Nickerson fairytale-retelling would be released this year, which was The Mirk & Midnight Hour. 

  While I do love a regular fairytale retelling, in some cases I feel like the author tries to fit their plot around the fairytale, and not using the source material to create their own story. Jane Nickerson, thankfully, does the latter. She writes an original plot, and then peppers it with little fairytale references, but it's never the main priority, which I like. She also chooses obscure fairytales to retell (reminiscent of Shannon Hale's retellings of Goose Girl and Maid Maleen): Strands of Bronze and Gold is a Bluebeard retelling--okay, maybe not so obscure, but tell me how many Bluebeard YAs we've got out there? TMMH, takes on a rare fairytale as well--Tam Lin-- and a glorious retelling it is indeed. 

4. Flowers In The Attic by V.C. Andrews

Credits to Google Images because, heh, I  left my copy back at my dorm. :)
   This book has the distinction of being the only one on this list I read twice this year, and I loved it both times. I first heard about this book from Melissa de la Cruz's tweets. When the Lifetime movie came out, I watched it, loved it and then went on a hunt for the book. This is also the oldest book on this list, as it came out a good 15 years before I was even born!

   Flowers In The Attic is about four children who are sent to live with their grandparents. Told to stay in the attic for the time being, the time being begins to turn into a month, then a year, then years. They slowly realize that their grandparents (along with their own mother) have no intention of ever letting them leave the attic. I don't want to spoil too much on their motives, because I would love for you guys to discover this novel for yourselves, but, oh, it's just creepy and sinister and all things gothic. I'm not officially giving ranks for this list, but if I were, Flowers In The Attic would definitely be among my Top 3. 

5. The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

   One of the first books I reviewed for this blog, The Heiresses was just the pure fluff + guilty pleasure I was looking for. It's your typical Sara Shepard fare: pretty, rich girls involved in a murder mystery. But I did like how it's written for a more adult audience than Pretty Little Liars, and how she was able to portray the lives of the rich & famous without it being completely ridiculous and over-the-top. For the fans of The Clique who have since grown up, this is the novel for y'all.

6. Trafficked by Kim Purcell

   This is probably the most disturbing book I've read this year--and I've read my share of creep, thank you very much. But what made this book so disturbing is the fact that human trafficking is a reality. I mean, sure, a society that sends 23 innocent children to their death every year as a form of entertainment is terrifying, but fictional. What is very real in our world is innocent children who are sold into slavery because they were falsely promised a better life. That happens. And to read a first-person (albeit fictional, but drawn from experiences of survivors) account of everyday life as a slave in 21st-century America chilled me to the bone. It was an emotionally heavy read, but if you're ready for this kind of material, I really suggest you go for it. It was quite the eye-opener. 

*Also, the author mentioned in her afterword that she would be donating 20% of the book's earnings to organizations that help stop human trafficking. When I read those words, my heart skipped a beat and had a serious case of goosebumps. Whenever you think that all humanity is lost, there are people like Kim Purcell. Bless her heart.

7. The Young Elites by Marie Lu

   I'm sure that a billion other people have this on their 2014 list, and as you should! This book showcased Marie Lu's excellent storytelling skills, as well as her knack for complete worldbuilding. I remember when I first heard about this book, I assumed this was a dystopian series, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was a high fantasy series instead! I also love the fact that Lu decided to tell a villain's tale. In the world of The Young Elites, there is a lot of gray areas; the good guys aren't all that good, and the bad guys aren't all evil. It's the way that Marie Lu veers away from clichéd plotlines in her novel that make this a solid addition to Salve's Favorite Books of 2014.

8. Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

   I've loved Esther Friesner's novels since I was 13. Her books are timeless, in the sense that I can read her books at 13 or 20, and I have yet to grow out of them. Spirit's Princess was a typical Friesner book, and by typical Friesner, I mean it was typically EPIC. Her motto must be "go big or go home", because her historical fiction novels are just that. With Spirit's Princess, she leaves her usual mythology hunting grounds of Greece & Egypt and heads over to Asia. I enjoyed reading about feudal Japan, which is not an era I knew much about. The way she paints the picture of ancient Japan...just, give her all the awards. I could fangirl for another ten paragraphs, but I won't put you through that. For those of you who want to hear more though, I wrote a review on it which you can see here.

9. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

   If you have not read Crazy Rich Asians by now, you're doing this whole bookworm thing wrong. It's a hilarious book that explores the world of--yep, you guessed it--crazy rich Asians. We usually read books about the Hiltons and Trumps of the fictional world, but Kevin Kwan gives us an all-access pass to their Asian counterparts. I enjoyed it because as much as I love reading about shopping on Fifth Avenue as much as the next girl, there's something about a book being set in your neck of the woods that drives up your curiosity in it. I enjoyed reading about characters that come from almost-kinda the same cultural backgrounds as you did. I don't mean in the financial sense, although wouldn't that be nice. No, I mean in the sense that there's a certain Southeast Asian culture that otherwise-different countries share. Like, one of the big hooplahs in the beginning of the book is when Nicky brings home a girl from the US, sending all his relatives into a tizzy. His mom calls up all her relatives, from her network of spies  friends in Singapore to Nicky's cousin in Paris, all to dig up information about this girl. I can so imagine a few of my friends' mothers doing that! Also there's a scene where Nicky's mother, Eleanor, has all her friends over for "Bible study" but really, it's to gossip. I can't tell you how many times I've walked downstairs to see my mom and her friends gathered around the dining table, making chica, which is basically a nice Filipino slang word for catching up on gossip. 

Side anecdote: One time this happened, and I quickly said hi, then went and ran errands. Hours later, after finishing all my errands, I came home to find, I kid you not, that they were all still sitting in the same place, chatting it up! I then blurted out, "Oh my gosh, you guys are still here?!" Not one of my classiest moments, I gotta say.

   The icing on top of the cake, is that Kevin Kwan is working on a sequel!! *happy dancing* I'll bet my left pinky nail that Book #2 will make my top 10 for 2015!

10. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, The Throne of Glass Saga by Sarah J. Maas, Leslie Carroll's Royal Anthologies

But I got a blank space, baby, because I loaned one out to my aunt.
   The tenth and final spot on my list is dedicated these wonderful series I discovered in 2014. Both Meyer and Maas have crafted stunning plots that do not hit the typical Sophomore Slump. The sequels (and in Maas' case, her prequel) are just as engaging as the first book. For those who have been living under a rock, Meyer's Lunar Chronicles are sci-fi fairytale retellings, and Maas' Throne of Glass is a high fantasy series that I like to call The Hunger Game of Thrones. Also, for said people living a Patrick Star-like existence, what are you doing?! Get out there and get these books! 

   In Carroll's case, all four were a delight to read. Each book is a collection of royals who fall under a category: those who engaged in affairs or notorious marriages, or who were just a pain in the butt. Leslie Carroll doesn't write in boring, staid prose like so many of her fellow historians. Her books are hilarious and sometimes downright irreverent, and I love it. 

     These three series have been such a huge part of my 2014 that I couldn't imagine putting together a list and not including them. Their only fault? Each book in each series is a work of art in itself, and if I tried to individually add them to the list, we'd have a top 20 instead! But that is the best kind of fault to be had.

   And that is my top 10 for 2014 and with it, I challenge you all to post your top 10 for 2014! It was a great reading year for me; I think I branched out more this year in terms of genre than I ever did before. I discovered new series, watched my share of YA film adaptations, and of course, started this blog. Before 2014 ends, I want to give you all a big virtual hug and thank you for supporting Cuckoo For Books! 



Friday, 26 December 2014

Holiday Book Haul

   I arrived home for the holiday break last Friday, and the first thing on my to-do list was to go visit the bookstore, natch! I walked away from the bookstore that first day with quite a heavy load. A few days later, my mom took my brother and me out for a mother-and-offspring bonding session at the mall. While they checked out health stuff (ewww), I drifted off in the direction of the bookstore. Surprise, surprise, I rejoined my family with a huge grin on my face and a paper bag filled with books. Then on Christmas Eve Eve, my mom and I finished up some last-minute Christmas shopping. Well, she did. I wasn't feeling too well, so I camped out at--yep, you guessed it--the bookstore. I told myself "Dude. Do not get anything. You do not need more books. Seriously. You could drown in your pile of unread books. You're just going to the bookstore to sit and rest. Not to shop." But theeeeen....I found one of my December #RadarReads on the shelf! And not just any Radar Read. The one I was most excited about!!! So I scolded myself via a smack on the head, but eventually bought it. Now, I promise I am done with buying books for this season. If I break this rule, my dear followers, you are welcome to hunt me down and shove my head into said pile of unread books until I stop breathing. 

Without further ado, my holiday book haul!

Salve's idea of a Merry Christmas.

Lullabies by Lang Leav

   I've been meaning to get this for quite some time, but I wanted to get it and actually read it, and not just toss it onto my bookshelf for future purposes. I felt like the holidays were a good time to thaw my frozen heart and let some emotion in, so I finally got Miss Lang's book of poetry. 

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

   This is it! This is the book that made me cave one more time and buy a book! It was one of my Radar Reads for this month, but I honestly wasn't expecting to get it anytime soon, because we all know how long it takes for a book to make it to the Philippines. As if finding it wasn't exciting enough, a blurb on the back of the book says, "Take The Princess Diaries and add magic, murder, and mystery, and you've got Suspicion." Now you're just toying with my fragile emotions.

Staying Strong by Demi Lovato

   I wasn't the biggest fan of Demi when she was still a Disney baby, but by golly if she didn't break free. I love her music, and her advocacy to stop the stigma of mental illness. At the time she went to rehab, I was also diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and spent quite some time in hospitals as well. Then she released "Skyscraper" and it was one of those songs that you just felt was meant for you. That song got me through one of the hardest periods of my life: dealing with my diagnosis and trying to graduate from high school. I'm so glad that she published this book and I hope that it helps other kids now who might be going through the same thing we did. While I'm 100% okay now, I'll enjoy reading Demi's everyday affirmations in this book. #2015Goal

Just Like The Movies by Kelly Fiore

   Like I said before, I felt like the holidays were a good time to have that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. So yes, I did the unexpected and picked up...a contemporary romance.  *Le gasp!* I know, it came as a shocker to myself as well. The clincher for me was the synopsis: "Two girls bonded over Titanic and decide to recreate famous movie moments". Sign me up for that, please!!!

Falls The Shadow by Stefanie Gaither

   This was a complete impulse buy. It's one of those books whose summaries just grab you by the ankle and won't let you go, because it's so darn intriguing. Falls The Shadow is about a society that replaces dead people with clones to soothe the grieving relatives. With all the dystopian/sci-fi novels under my belt, I have yet to read one about cloning, so I'm really excited to read about this world!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

    I know, most of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, "How is Salve just buying this now?!" And for that, I bow my head in shame and accept all your virtual hate. This has been on my TBR for a long, long time, but I wanted to get it in hardcover. Unfortunately, all the bookstores I visited had it in paperback. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that I gave up all hope of ever finding a hardcover. But lo and behold, last week, I finally found ONE. LAST. HARDCOVER. The literary powers that be must be in a gift-giving mood!

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

   This is my CR right now, and I am loving this tale of a southern belle-gone-Black Widow.  Like Daughter of Smoke & Bone, this is a book I've been eyeing for a while, but unlike DoS&B, I was on the fence on whether or not to get it. PolandBananasBooks helped me make up my mind when she named it as one of her Favorite Books of 2014, though! And y'all know that when Christine Riccio says something, it's truth (man, I am doing some major ass-kissing).

Zodiac by Romina Russell

   Augh, another Radar Read!!! December has been very generous in terms of shipping books to my country, and fast. Like I said in my December Radar Reads post, this sounds like one crazy rollercoaster of a space opera.

Empire of Shadows by Miriam Forster

   Oh, am I excited to read this one! I absolutely adored Miriam Forster's first Bhinian Empire book, City of a Thousand Dolls. I thought it was a standalone, so imagine my excitement when I found out that Forster would be writing more Bhinian books! I want to reread Thousand Dolls before I read this one, so maybe I'll save this book for summer. Or maybe I won't be able to control myself and start it tomorrow!

Falling Kingdoms: Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes

   This was yet another one of my Radar Reads for December, and I'm so happy I got to cross 3 Radar Reads off my list! Like Empire of Shadows, I'm going to save this one for summer break, or for a time when I can reread the first books in the series to refresh my memory. While I remember the characters and where their loyalties lay, I honestly could not tell you anything about what happened in the first two Falling Kingdoms books. This is in no way a criticism of Rhodes' writing; it's just what happens when you hop back and forth between too many high fantasy series! 

Throne of Glass: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

   Last, but certainly not the least, is Sarah J. Maas' Heir of Fire! This book has been out for quite some time, but due to some glitch in the shipping industry, did not reach Philippine shores until now. When I saw it in the store, I yelled. Legit yelled. And then I tweeted this little anecdote, which a certain author favorited! *Commence fangirling*

   This was also my Christmas present to myself: not to buy it, but to read it. Do you know that feeling when you're so excited for something that you don't do it, just because you want the timing and everything to be perfect? That's how I felt about Heir of Fire. I couldn't even look directly at it, man. It was like looking into the sun (for my loyal followers, this shouldn't be a surprise to you. I've been drooling over SJM's Throne of Glass books since the inception of this blog, as seen here, here, and here). 

  But I woke up Christmas morning and decided, you know what? I'm going to give myself a bookish present and let myself start reading it! I'm only a couple of pages in, but I'm already pulled back into Cel's world. It's almost like I never left. #TeamChaolForever

And that's it for 2014 book purchases! I mean it. I was at a bookstore earlier (to pee, sorry, when you gotta go...), and I walked away purchase-free. Now that's what I call self-control.

Enjoy your holidays, my beautiful bookworms!


Monday, 22 December 2014

CFB Review: The Fire Wish by Amber Lough

   I haven't read any high fantasy novels recently, so it was such a pleasure to dive back into that genre with The Fire Wish. Lately I've been trying to pick up more Eastern-inspired fantasy novels, and this was a perfect fit. The fact that Tamora Pierce gave it an amazing blurb was the cherry on top of the sundae (of course, TP's blurbs are usually hit or miss, but that story is for another time).

  I started The Fire Wish while I was shooting on location. Before film school, I never believed people who said that shooting films were 99% waiting, but now, with firsthand experience, I can say that there is a buttload of waiting happening on film sets. Anyway, I was waiting for them to shoot my scene, and I had already finished a book, so I decided to head back to my car and grab The Fire Wish (I keep it in my car as a backup, in case I finish a book away from home). And that was how I got to know Najwa & Zayele: filming in a warehouse whilst covered in fake blood (I died in the film, heehee).

   The Fire Wish delves into jinni (more commonly known to us as "genie") mythology. In Amber Lough's ancient Baghdad, jinnis live underground in a Cavern, and rarely get opportunities to see the human world. Jinnis are also entrenched in a war with the humans, which does not bode well for our two protagonists. Najwa, a young jinni, is in love with all things human. Zayele, is a human who is being shipped off to the nation's capital for an arranged marriage. Their paths cross when Zayele captures Najwa and makes a wish. The wish goes awry and instead of sending Zayele home, they end up switching lives. Chaos ensues.

   Because I hate ending on a bad note, let's start with the cons and work our way up, shall we?

   The only thing that really bothered me about the plot was that everything seemed too convenient. Of course the two girls who wanted out of their lives could pass as each other. Of course they didn't love their future husbands. Of course once they switched, they immediately fell in love with the other person's love interest. I would have liked it if the author gave it a little twist, like what if when they switched, each girl loathed the supposed love interest even more, to the point of them being archenemies? I'd read that book. Speaking of the book's cons, the whole revelation towards the end of the book of why Zayele & Najwa could pass as each other came completely out of left field. While it did answer most of our questions, it was, again, such a convenient answer.

   The history of the characters and the society they lived in wasn't explained that much, either. We never knew the concrete reason for the Jinni War until the very end of the novel. And we didn't really get to see much of a war, did we? Aside from "the warriors are returning!" trope, it was more of a passive-aggressive war: "Jinnis suck. Humans are power-hungry monster. Totes."

   Same with the rules of jinnis. At the beginning, I found myself stumbling a little as they introduced all these characters who apparently belong to subcategories of jinnis. Wait, so this one can make a wish, but that one can't? But she just made a wish--nope, so which one...well, what's the science behind jinni wishes anyway? Don't they usually have those three things you can't wish for? Oh, that's only on Disney. I feel like the author just assumed that everyone reading had watched Aladdin and had a rudimentary understanding on what jinnis were and skipped the whole intro-to-mythos bit.

   And now let's fangirl. I don't like doing the cons anymore than the author would like reading them, but I once heard that being nice during criticism hour does not do anyone good. But since we got that out of the way, it's time to be wonderfully nice and bring out all the pros.

   I love how The Fire Wish echoes both The Prince & the Pauper and The Little Mermaid. Najwa has spent her whole life in the jinnis' cavern, and once she gets a chance to visit the human world, she falls in love with it. She loves seeing the sky, the stars, the vibrancy of the colors. Even at the end of the book, she says she *SPOILER ALERT* couldn't leave the human world, not just because of Kamal but because of the world's wonders. It's that one bit that people always misunderstand about Ariel. They think, "Oh, she's a stupid little mermaid because she gave up everything for a man." NO. She loved the human world and everything in it. She loved being human. Prince Eric was just the gorgeous cherry on top of the sundae. Same with Najwa. Kamal is a nerdy, music-loving prince with a heart of gold, but even without him, Najwa wouldn't give up our world for anything.

   One of the scenes in the book that I absolutely loved was the conversation between Kamal & Najwa about the stars and stories. Both of them were had completely different passions, but somehow, in the course of their conversation, they discovered that they both had the same reason for loving what they did. I'm not usually a lovey-dovey kind of girl, but that scene gave me le feels.

    Amber Lough's descriptions of ancient Baghdad are as vivid as a painting. Whenever she takes the time to describes the palace halls or the jinnis' cavern, I drink in every word as opposed to skimming past them. I totally wish I had one iota of talent in painting so I could portray her world.

   The two protagonists, Najwa & Zayele are just adorable. I don't like one more than the other, and more importantly, I don't hate either one of them. In a world that is slowly filling up with annoying YA heroines, these two chicks are as refreshing as a desert oasis. Heh. (Forgive me, I just had to make that pun). At the end of the book, Zayele fully takes the blame for everything that happened and actually DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Another YA trope I hate is when the protagonist curls up into a ball and wails, "This is all my fault. This never would've happened if I didn't yadda yadda yadda.." Not Zayele. No way. She realized that it was all her fault, and dang it if she didn't take the bull right by its horns and make up for her mistakes.

   I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Fire Wish. It's a perfect book to read if you love Eastern fantasy novels, or like me, trying to get into it. I would recommend it for fans of Shannon Hale, especially her Book of a Thousand Days.

My rating: 8.5/10 for an amazing world and wonderful characters who deserved a better plot.

That's all for this review! Thanks for reading, and for bearing with the amount of times I typed "human world". :) I'll be posting my 10 Favorite Books of 2014 soon, so watch out for that!


Saturday, 6 December 2014

On My Radar: Upcoming December Releases

   I bow my head in shame as I write this post SEVEN days after the start of December. I'm usually on top of my Radar Reads, but I've been so busy these past few weeks--pathetic, clichèd excuse, I know-- that it completely slipped my mind. I was off on film productions for the last two weeks, and have barely been home long enough to take a shower and sleep, so sitting down and writing a lengthy blog post was out of the question. But the films have wrapped, and because I love doing this blog and I love my followers, and because I've hunkered down waiting for this typhoon to pass (guys, do send a prayer up for the Philippines--we're in the eye of yet another supertyphoon, barely a year after the last one), I'm finally writing my December Radar Reads.

   Breaking one of my usual rules and including sequels this time, because December for YA wasn't much better than November: not a lot of new books up my alley. But one thing this month had going? Cover art. The 10 books on this list have some of the most gorgeous covers I've seen!

Ticker by Lisa Mantchev (December 1)

   Lisa Mantchev is an amazing writer with a wild, creative imagination whose books are unlike any I've ever read. Her Théâtre Illuminata books which were part Shakespeare-inspired, part Disney on steroids is still the most inventive series I've come across. Her upcoming steampunk novel, Ticker, sounds just as exciting: our heroine has a clockwork heart and goes on an adventure to find her parents. Along for the ride is her brother and a whole slew of other interesting characters who I can't wait to learn more about. 

What I'm excited for: Getting to know that ensemble cast.

Rite of Rejection by Sarah Negovetich (December 4)

   Ever since all the post-Hunger Games dystopian series finished up (Legend, Divergent, The Darkest Minds, The Chemical Garden books, etc), I've been looking for a book to fill the Panem-sized hole in my heart. Rite of Rejection sounds like it could be a worthy successor. From what I gather, there's that atypical dystopian Test That All Youths Must Take To Earn A Place In Society, but our heroine fails completely and goes to prison. She then hatches a plan for a prison break. 

What I'm excited for: The prison setting, because we haven't really had one in a dystopian novel before. It'll be an interesting world to discover.

Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes (December 9)
   The first sequel to ever make it on my Radar Reads, Gathering Darkness is the third novel in the Falling Kingdoms series. Falling Kingdoms is YA's answer to Game of Thrones, i.e., not only is it high fantasy, it also contains ~*incest*~ (incest in YA, ooh how controversial). Well, that and author Morgan Rhodes has been killing characters six ways to Sunday since the first book. To be honest, I want to read the third book just to see how many more main characters' lives she can end.

What I'm excited for: Seeing Lucia fully step into her destiny. And let's face it, all the inevitable deaths.

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay (December 9)
   All hail Stacey Jay, author of what is possibly the best fairytale retelling of all time, Of Beast and Beauty. She's back with another one, this time rewriting Sleeping Beauty's tale. I featured this book on a Waiting on Wednesday post ages ago, and I'll just reiterate here what sold me on the book before: Goodreads has called this book "Game of Thrones meets Grimms' fairytales". If that line doesn't make you wish December 9 would come sooner, then I don't know what's wrong with you and we can't be friends. 

Jk, this time last year I hated Game of Thrones too.

What I'm excited for: Just. Everything. I just want this book in my hands right now.

Zodiac by Romina Russell (December 9)

   Unfortunately this is not a novel about the Zodiac Killer. Fortunately, it is a space opera. The summary on Goodreads is a bit hard to swallow, but from what I gather, each planet is a zodiac sign (House Cancer is where our protagonist belongs to) and massacres are occurring on each one. Rhoma Grace (What. A. Name.) strives to solve this whodunit of literally, galactic proportions. It sounds trippy and epic and just my cup of tea.

I'm excited for: What kind of sci-fi worldbuilding this book will have. I also can't wait to see House Leo, personally. Leos represent!

Under My Skin by Shawntelle Madison (December 9)

   Here we have another example of the Test That All Youths Must Take To Earn A Place In Society trope. This time, our heroine, Tate Sullivan, passes and now has a Big Bad (his name is General Dagon, how can you get more Big Bad than that?) trying to place her under some sort of mind control...? I don't get it either. But there's a love interest who seems like he's not one of those sassy bad boys who instigate a love-hate relationship, so at least that part of the story seems to stray away from clichès. 

I'm excited for: le mind control scenes and how the author will play it out.

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir (December 9)

   Let's take a minute to appreciate that gorgeous cover art. Sigh. Suspicion takes place in England and New York. An old estate is involved. That's all it really takes to pique my interest: just give me murders and old houses and I'm a happy reader. Oh, and the love interest is named Sebastian Stanhope. For those who don't know, there is a Sebastian Stan who exists in real life, and he is God's gift to women everywhere. Raise your hands if you'll totally be imagining him as Mr. Stanhope.

What I'm excited for: le murder mystery angle.

Lumière by Jacqueline E. Garlick (December 15)

   Another steampunk novel on our list, with yet another heroine suffering from a disorder. This time, she suffers from seizures, which will be interesting to read about. I feel like my reading repertoire lacks a bit in the steampunk genre, so this book'll be good for me. But let's talk names. Our heroine is named Eyelet Elsworth. And her love interest is named--brace yourselves--Urlick Babbit. I can just imagine the dialogue:

"I love you, Urlick."
"I love you too, Eyelet."

*rolls around the floor in a fit of giggles*

What I'm excited for: for aforementioned dialogue to take place. Seriously though, I want to see how the author will incorporate the protag's seizures into the story and just how big a part it'll play. I love these imperfect heroines: give me your one-eyed, your seizure-racked, your mentally ill.

Across The Ages by Rashelle Workman (December 21)

   This book turns the typical "modern girl gets teleported to ye olde medieval/Victorian times" plot on its head and instead transports ye olde Victorian girl into our times. This was actually a story I had played around with as an aspiring writer (in my desperation to save the Romanovs, I toyed with writing a book about them time-travelling to the 21st century to avoide the Bolshies. I might still work on that someday, so COPYRIGHT SALVE), and I've always loved the idea of people from two different time periods falling in love.

What I'm excited for: The falling in love bit. I know. Coming from my ice-cold heart, what a surprise.

Lifer by Beck Nicholas (December 16)

   December seems to be a good month for space operas. Like Zodiac, the plot of Lifer seems a bit convoluted, but in a good way. Its blurb says it's "Bourne Identity meets Under The Never Sky" and while I'm not a fan of either, it's enough to make me curious. But that cover, though. Across the Universe rip-off much?

What I'm excited for: Worldbuilding, natch.

That's it for my December Radar Reads! Again, I'm so sorry that this post was late, but I hope you enjoyed reading it! Sending holiday vibes your way!


credits: Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Google, Pinterest. Clearly I had to dig through the annals of the internet to find ten books.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Cuckoo for Books Review: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

   Woohoo, welcome back to another review! Finally. I feel like it's been eons since I've sat down and typed one of these babies up, and for that I apologize. But to make up for it, today I'm reviewing a book that a lot of you guys have been fangirling over--drumroll please....The Iron Trial! *tosses confetti into the air*


   I'll be the first to admit that I've never read a Holly Black novel, and that I picked this up mostly because of Cassandra Clare, ye of Shadowhunter fame. She's been talking about this book for quite some time, and all of us fans have been twiddling our thumbs just waiting for it to come out. I was a bit surprised and a bit put off by the fact that it was a middle-grade book, because I was hoping for a nice chunky YA novel. While reading it, however, I grew to love the fact that it was a book for younger readers. It was nice to read a novel devoid of love triangles and pubescent angst. It was a nice, easy, refreshing read.
   With its magical-school plot, The Iron Trial is reminscent of the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books. I've always said that I would love to remember what it was like reading the Harry Potter books--I was seven when I first started them, so the books have just always been there. Reading The Iron Trial is somewhat how I imagine reading the Potter books for the first time as an adult. I loved how Clare & Black tried to set themselves apart from Potter by making The Iron Trial's magic very natural and connected to the earth. There are no broomsticks or wands involved. The school is located under a mountain, in a bunch of caves. 

   For all their efforts to distance themselves from other famous wizarding schools, though, their characters smack of Potter & Co. Apparently, young male protagonists with magical descent can't have anything but black hair. Yes, Callum Hunt, the hero of The Iron Trial, joins the Black-Haired Heroes Club, population: Percy Jackson & Harry Potter. Couldn't he have been a redhead or a blond? Like PJ and HP, he's also wildly impulsive and stubborn, to the point where I was just rolling my eyes at him going "Really, Call? You think that's the smartest thing you could've done? Silly rabbit." Call's female sidekick, Tamara is also--surprise, surprise--an overachieving braniac. In stark contrast to Hermione, though, she is The Iron Trial's version of a pureblood. Tamara's known all her life that she had powers, and that the Magisterium was where she would ultimately end up. Finishing up the trio is Aaron, who Call compares to being like Captain America. 

   Now, I start with the spoilers. Walk away if you haven't read the book. One of the main plot points in the novel is the search for a Makar. A Makar, or chaos-mage, would be the only hope the good guys have of defeating the bad guy, aptly named The Enemy. Now, I went into this thinking it'd be a predictable plot, that Call would end up being the Makar and savior of his people. I was pleasantly surprised when, gasp! it turned out to be Aaron! Yes indeed, ladies & gentlemen, the best friend has finally been given the spotlight. I can totally imagine Cassie & Holly venting about how Ron always felt like he played second fiddle to the Chosen One, and them going, "OMG WE SHOULD TOTALLY MAKE OUR CHOSEN ONE BE THE BEST FRIEND YAAAS #JUSTICEFORSIDEKICKS". Aaron did grow to be my favorite kid out of the three: he's easygoing, friendly, but also acts like a lost little puppy sometimes, which just makes me want to hug the lil' guy.

   The ending was a classic Clare ending: epic. I was going with the theory of Call being a descendant of the Enemy, but nope. He turned out to be the Enemy himself. WHAT. YES. WHAT. It's like if we found out in the first book that Harry was a Horcrux. That would've just blown my teeny little seven-year-old mind. The Enemy's followers have been following Call, waiting for him to remember his past life as a power-hungry mage. This ending builds up the plot for the second novel: Will Call be able to resist his dark side? How is it going to work if your best friend is meant to destroy you? Will Tamara be forced to choose one of them? Questions, questions!


My rating: 9/10

Friday, 31 October 2014

On My Radar: Upcoming November Releases

   I'm going to start off by saying that November's lineup disappointed me. Usually, there's a whole bunch of YA books coming out, and I have to dial down my excitement and choose only 10. But this month, there weren't enough YA books to be excited about that I actually had to tread into the--gasp!--general fiction section. Just kidding, I love books from all genres. Yet even in the GenFic section, there weren't a lot of promising releases. To be fair, the fact that I don't include sequels on this list took a lot of books out of the running. Anyway, enough of complaining. Without further ado, my Top 10 for November:

The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson (November 4)

   As you may or may not know, Melanie Dickerson is one of those authors I'm a fan of....but have never actually read anything by them. I think, from what I've read in the Goodreads summary, that this is a Frog Prince retelling, although there was no mention of a princess spying whatsoever. But let's take a moment to look at that gorgeous cover. Aaah, to live in a fairytale world and spend your days parading around in lovely gowns. 

The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan by Stephanie Thornton (November 4)

   If there's one thing I want to learn more about as a history buff, it's Asian history. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place, but I can't seem to find as many Asian royal biographies as I do European ones (if you guys have suggestions, please do leave them in the comments!). I really hope I can land a copy of The Tiger Queens; even though it is historical fiction, it's a stepping stone, right?

Forbidden by Kimberly Griffiths Little (November 4)

   I'm just going to start off by saying that if I were an author (or a publisher, as I understand sometimes they're the ones with the final say), I wouldn't choose a title as generic as Forbidden. Seriously, this is book is one of six books that popped up in the Goodreads search machine. I do love that cover, though. Man, I'd pay pretty money for that dress. This book is set in ancient Mesopotamia, which helps my resolution to read more historical fiction set outside of Western Europe. 

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin (November 4)

    I guess this is your typical dystopia, which isn't a bad thing at all. Now that the most of the dystopian trilogies that were born in the aftermath of The Hunger Games are wrapping up with their final books, I've been looking for a worthy successor. I love how The Walled City seems to be high on grit: drugs and brothels galore. Also, one of the characters follows in Mulan, Alanna, and Arya Stark's footsteps and dresses in drag. Can she (and this book) live up to these three amazing women?

The Silence of Six by E.C. Meyers (November 5)

   I'm going to be honest and say that the summary of this book does nothing for me. Buuuut, the book blogging community have been over the moon with this novel; they can't stop raving about it. It's about the hacking world, I believe? And this guy's best friend shoots himself and now said guy has to figure out why? I'm not really into that kinda shiz, but ahhh, we shall see, we shall see.

The Last Changeling by Chelsea Pitcher (November 8)

   I sometimes like to joke that I'm a changeling child myself, because I look nothing like my baby pictures. But then I realize that I'm a dead ringer for my father, and that theory goes right out the window. Anyway, I haven't read a faerie series since Wicked Lovely, and I've been itching to delve into the world once more. I've toyed with starting Julie Kagawa's books (yes or no? Comment below!), but I could also start with this book. And what a pretty cover! So sparkly. The only thing I really don't like about these fae series is that they're usually set in modern times, with a dash of supernatural romance. I just feel that I've kind of grown out of that genre. Now it's go big or go home: Realistic contemporary, or high fantasy. There have been exceptions though (i.e., Starcrossed and Mortal Danger), so maybe this book will join those lucky ones.

Stone Cove Island by Suzanne Myers (November 11)
   This book was marketed as "The Stepford Wives meets Stephen King". HOW COULD I NOT BE ONBOARD FOR THAT?! Seriously, this is probably the book I'm most excited about. I've loved lighthouses and their place in horror since I read The Babysitters Club Mysteries: Claudia and the Lighthouse Ghost, which I will still swear up and down is one of the creepiest novels I've ever read. Like that novel, Stone Cove Island has to do with an unsolved murder. Also, this book is set in "a sleepy New England town". Murder, She Wrote, anyone?

The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel (November 11)

   I LOVE dystoptian novels where breeding and marriage is a plot fixture. It's just such a sacred thing to most people, and so reading about a twisted version of it is just so deliciously creepy. The Book of Ivy is about a girl who has an arranged marriage with the enemy, but is really sent to kill him. Wooooh. I've gotta say, that cover of a pretty little bride hiding a knife behind her back nails the plot perfectly. I'm pumped to read this one!

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson (November 18)

   Ooh, ~*General Fiction*~. La belle epoque is one of my favorite historical time periods, and this book is set smack dab in the middle of it. The story is about a poor girl who is apprenticed to a rich family, rich family has secrets, poor girl is caught in the web of lies, you get the gist. But I genuinely am excited to read about this. I've only read a couple of books set in this time period and I would love to add more to my collection.

Trail of Shadows and Blood by Carina King (November 18)

   I searched EVERYWHERE for this book's cover. It's come to the point where I'm not actually sure this book exists. I would love for it to be real though, its plot sounds amazing. The protagonist is a Grimm, and there's a battle between fairytale characters, and it's set in the future, and just whoa. Please, please, please be a legit book.