Thursday, March 31, 2016

Best of the Bunch: March 2016

Best of the Bunch is an end of the month blog hop hosted by A Cocoon of Books where you share which books you've read and reviewed and give that month's favorite read the Best of the Bunch award!

This month... I read some powerful and imaginative novels, discovered some great new comics, and reviewed two gorgeous covers!

Raging Sea (Undertow, #2)My Hero Academia, Vol. 03 (My Hero Academia, #3)Platina, Volume 1
Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade, Vol. 1Tell the Wind and FirePick of the Litter, Vol. 5 & 6Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)RailheadThe Nameless City

Raging Sea by Michael Buckley {2.5 Scribbles}
My Hero Academia vol. 3 by Kohei Horikoshi {3 Scribbles}
Platina vol. 1 by Yeon-Joo Kim {4 Scribbles}
Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade vol. 1 by Mamare Touno {3 Scribbles}
Tell the Wind & Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan {3 Scribbles}
Pick of the Litter vols. 5-6 by Yuriko Suda {3 Scribbles}
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones {5 Scribbles}
Railhead by Philip Reeve {4 Scribbles}
The Nameless City vol. 1 by Faith Erin Hicks {3 Scribbles}

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia  Gray (Review)
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Review)

Railhead by Philip Reeve
A diverse teen epic sci-fi with a choppy writing style but mind-blowing universe, this was a powerful and imaginative read that I highly recommend. Look for my review soon!

What was your Best of the Bunch this month?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Release Spotlight: What You Always Wanted (Kristin Rae)

Today I spotlight the release of WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED by Kristin Rae! I found it an effortless contemporary romance with a personally relatable main character and one of the sweetest love interests I've ever read (despite his sporty proclivities), and enjoyed it even more than Kristin's first book! (You can check out my review of Wish You Were Italian here.) My full review is coming soon, but in the meantime below is all the information and links to get your hands on a copy of this fun and flirty story! (And if you haven't yet checked out Kristin's first book, links for it are at the bottom as well!)

What You Always Wanted (If Only . . ., #8)

Title: What You Always Wanted
Author: Kristin Rae
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: 3/29/16

If only…he was the boy she’s been dreaming of.

Theatre girl Maddie Brooks has always had high standards for guys. But she has yet to find one who can live up to the classic Hollywood heartthrobs, especially the dreamy song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. When Maddie begins to carpool with Jesse Morales, her new neighbor and star pitcher of the baseball team, she’s struck by his wit, good looks, and love for his family—but a guy so into sports is definitely not her style. Then Maddie discovers that Jesse was raised as a dancer and still practices in the community theatre’s dance studio to keep in shape. Perhaps her perfect dream guy exists after all! But when it becomes clear that baseball—not dance—is Jesse’s passion, can Maddie find a way to let her dream guy go and appreciate the charms of the amazing guy in front of her?

This fun, high school theatre romance in the If Only line is for anyone who has ever wished for that impossibly perfect guy.

Add to Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

And check out Kristin's first book (I highly recommend it)!

Wish You Were Italian (If Only . . ., #2)
 Wish You Were Italian
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | My Review

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard)

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)
Title: Red Queen
Series: Red Queen, Book 1
Author: Victoria Aveyard (site)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fantasy
Told: First Person (Mare), Present Tense
Content Rating: Teen (violence, kissing)
Format Read: ARC (EpicLibrarian)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart ...

*          *          *

In a SentenceA predictable fantasy that was occasionally engaging but I mostly found disappointingly formulaic. 

I'm a sucker for a gorgeous cover, and Red Queen's is one of the most striking I've seen yet. However, the story under the cover was not only underwhelming but rather frustrating as it disappointed on almost all fronts.

Story: The plot was highly predictable and completely formulaic: plain girl discovers she has a unique ability and becomes a pawn in a political scheme for the crown while at the same time trying to secretly overthrow said crown for the rebel cause, but all her plans backfire and after a crushing betrayal she must fight for her life. Needless to say I saw every major twist coming from the start, and although I tried to hold out hope that it would surprise me in new and interesting ways, the story refused to divert from the formula. The climax was relatively exciting and I was happy that Mare held her own and didn't require protecting or saving in the final battle, but as per formula the epilogue twist came as no surprise and left me with little excitement for the sequel.

Setting: I initially thought this a fantasy setting, but it eventually expanded into a parallel dystopian world - at least, that was my impression. Although there wasn't anything particularly unusual or dazzling, some of the elements were intriguing and the description made everything relatively easy to picture.

Characters: Mare was unfortunately formed from an overused heroine mold: small, plain, snarky and strong-willed, she didn't fit in and seemed below average until it was revealed she was in fact a special snowflake with an impossible ability. This can be acceptable as a base, but that was pretty much it for Mare as, despite the evolving story, she refused to have a motivation. In the beginning she had no dreams or plans past not being conscripted, and while I could understand that being poor she didn't have a long life expectancy so aspirations were considered foolhardy, everyone has dreams of some sort. I needed her to aspire to something but never felt she truly did, and a character without dreams, without any sort of real motivation, leaves me little to root for other than she doesn't die.

Cal was the typical love interest: handsome, sweet, and powerful, with nothing particularly unique except perhaps his unflagging loyalty which instigated some intriguing difficulties. Maven was a predictable disappointment who read much younger than he was supposed to be, but I guess that was part of his personality? I would've loved something new with his character, but as was the norm he sadly never diverted from his formula.

Romantic Relationships: This book possessed an unfortunate love square, although I guess for the most part it was only a love triangle. Mare loved one prince but was engaged to another, and although she tried to do the right thing, the hearts wants what it wants, etc. She actually struggled with her heart though, and except for one slip kept it together for the most part which was a pleasant and rather refreshing surprise.

Writing: The writing was the only real highlight of the book for me. While nothing spectacular it could be engaging, and there were several occasions where the action sucked me in so deep I forgot where I was. If not for the writing I wouldn't have gotten far in this book, let alone finished it.

Conclusion: I really wanted to love this one as much as almost everyone else on the planet, but although the writing was engaging enough the story was way too formulaic and the motivationless main character left me little to root for. I do have an ARC of the second book and will give it a try, but at this point my expectations aren't high.

For Fans Of: formulaic dystopian fantasies

Scribble Rating
2.5 of 5 Scribbles

Friday, March 25, 2016

The #FridayReads Review (3/25/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

Railhead by Philip Reeve (ARC)
While the heist turned out to be a long con instead of the hit-and-run I expected from the summary, the worlds have been dazzling and although it's a slower read than anticipated I'm enjoying the story well enough.

Pick of the Litter, Vol. 5 & 6
Pick of the Litter vol. 5 & 6 by Yuriko Suda (PBK)
3 Stars. I'd only read vol. 1 when I picked this up so a few elements were a little confusing, but as I couldn't get my hands on vols. 2-4 (the whole series is now out of print) I made do. An overall fun read with a slightly bittersweet ending - hope to read the rest of the series someday!

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil (HBK)
Argh why must I be such a slow reader... T-T

So what are you reading this week?

Friday, March 18, 2016

The #FridayReads Review (3/18/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

Railhead by Philip Reeve (ARC)
Just started this today! The writing is a bit stinted but it's highly imaginative, and the trains make me think of Galaxy Express 999. Also, the MC is a boy of color! #diverseYA

Tell the Wind and FireHowl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan (ARC)
3.5 Stars. A tale of love, magic and revolution that began awkward but finished strong and tear-soaked and broke my heart. Review to come.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (PBK)
5 Stars. Had a few really sick days and needed a comfort read so I picked this up for the umpteenth time. A playful and magical tale that no matter how many times I read it never ceases to be an engrossing delight! Absolutely adore the movie as well, which uses the basic structure and characters of the book but is really a completely different story. Highly recommend both.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil (HBK)
Next, my pretty, next...

So what are you reading this week?

Friday, March 11, 2016

The #FridayReads Review (3/11/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

Tell the Wind and FirePlatina, Volume 1

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan (ARC)
Started awkward with a lengthy infodump and the magic is rather unclear, but it eventually grew on me and with some surprising twists. I have about 60 pages left and am interested to see how it ends.

Platina vol. 1 by Yeon Joo Kim (PBK)
I'm not much for manhwa (Korean manga), but Yeon Joo Kim has always been the exception. I didn't even know this existed until I found it at a used bookstore, and couldn't have been more ecstatic when I read the fun summary! It seems they only translated the single first volume though, so no matter how much I love it this will be it. T-T

My Hero Academia, Vol. 03 (My Hero Academia, #3)
My Hero Academia vol. 3 by Kohei Horikoshi (PBK)
3 Stars. Continues to be an entertaining superhero saga with interesting powers and intense action scenes. Will definitely be continuing the series.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil (HBK)
I've been waiting for this to come to America for almost two years now, so I'm excited to finally read it next! And they added comic illustrations to the American edition! *flails*

So what are you reading this week?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You (Claudia Gray)

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)
Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Series: Firebird, Book 1
Author: Claudia Gray (site)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Told: First Person (Marguerite), Present Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (sensuality and vague sex, some violence and language)
Format Read: ARC (publisher win)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

*          *          *

Review copy provided by publisher. Thank you, Harper!

In a Sentence: An engrossing read with fascinating parallel dimensions but an insubstantial plot.

This was a hard book for me to rate because I am of two minds about it. On one hand I was blown away by the creative alternate realities, but on the other I struggled with the simple yet illogical conspiracy plot. In these cases the main character becomes the tiebreaker, but while Marguerite's interaction with the parallel dimensions was completely engrossing, her interaction with the plot only entangled it further, and so I am left floundering.

Setting & Writing: The handful of parallel dimensions that Marguerite visited over the course of the book were diverse and highly imaginative, from a palace in Russia to an underwater oceanographic station and others between. Paired with creative writing and vivid description, each setting came to life with more color than the gorgeous cover and completely dazzled me. When the story was focused on the alternate lives that Marguerite borrowed I couldn't put the book down, devouring page after page come action or everyday life. But then came the plot.

Story: I always consider plot separate from story. Story encompasses everything the book is about, while plot is a thread that runs through it. With this book, the story is about a girl traversing the multiverse seeking revenge and answers while falling in love, and on the surface it was an interesting tale. The storytelling was such that the reader is kept disoriented and in the dark along with viewpoint character Marguerite, with no idea what to expect at every turn, and it was expertly executed and engaging.

But when the story focused in on the plot, it faltered. While a common and simplistic conspiracy scenario that I had no trouble understanding, it was vaguely illogical and made little sense with the rest of the narrative. Every time the story concentrated on it I lost interest due to disappointment and eventual frustration, and despite the dazzle of the alternate realities and engrossing writing this amazing story sadly dropped from 5 to 3.5 Scribbles by the end.

Main Character: Taking everything else into account, I was on the fence about Marguerite. Burdened with fresh grief and fueled by familial betrayal her reckless pursuit of vengeance was relatively understandable, but on the whole she was rather dense and when she focused on the insubstantial plot the whole conspiracy thread was that much more tiresome. However, she reacted brilliantly to the unbalancing alternate realities, and I enjoyed and appreciated her artistic view of the dimensions. Seeing the complicated science of cross-dimensional travel through her right-brained eyes made it much easier to understand, and the setting description that much more colorful.

Romantic Relationships: There are two boys for Marguerite in this book, which created a definite love triangle as she struggled with her feelings for both of them. I've never had a real problem with love triangles before, but after this one I understand why others complain about them as she flip-flopped between the boys for the entire book despite making significant progress with one over the other. The romance itself was modern and passionate, which is not my particular cup of tea, but there were some relatively interesting twists and angst. As for the boys themselves, from the start I didn't trust one and adored the other, so there were few surprises and lots of frustration but also plenty of feels.

Conclusion: While the simplistic and ill-fitting plot left much to be desired, the parallel dimensions and alternate lives exceeded my expectations and then some, and Marguerite was an interesting enough character to follow. Although the rest of the trilogy promises an expansion of the weak plot and love triangle, it also assures even more cross-dimensional travel and for that I will definitely be continuing the series.

Scribble Rating
3.5 of 5 Scribbles

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Secrets of Solace (Jaleigh Johnson) Giveaway!

The Secrets of Solace, set in the same world as Jaleigh Johnson's The Mark of the Dragonfly (now available in paperback), releases 3/8/16, and thanks to the amazing publishers I am giving away a copy! Check out this exciting read below and enter to win a copy at the end - good luck and happy reading! :)

The Secrets of Solace

Title: The Secrets of Solace
Author: Jaleigh Johnson
Publisher: Delacorte BYR
Pub. Date: March 8, 2016
Pages: 384

From Jaleigh Johnson, the acclaimed author of The Mark of the Dragonfly, comes another thrilling adventure in the magical world of Solace.

Lina Winterbock lives in the mountain strongholds of Solace. She’s an apprentice to the archivists, the wise men and women whose lives are dedicated to cataloging, studying, and preserving the objects that mysteriously fall from the sky in the scrap towns.

Lina should be spending her days with books, but the Iron War has changed everything. The strongholds are now a refuge, and the people Lina once counted on no longer have time for her, so she spends her days exploring the hidden tunnels and passages of her home. The strongholds are vast and old, with twisting paths, forgotten rooms, and collapsed chambers, some of them containing objects that have been lost and forgotten even by the archivists.
And in one of the forgotten chambers, Lina discovers a secret.

Hidden deep in a cavern is a half-buried airship like nothing she has ever seen before. She’s determined to dig it out and restore it. But Lina needs help, and she doesn’t know anyone she can trust with her secret.

Then she meets Ozben, a mysterious boy who has a secret of his own—a secret that’s so dangerous it could change the course of the Iron War and the world of Solace forever.

Purchase your copy:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Check out The Mark of the Dragonfly
the first book in the World of Solace series, here!

Jaleigh Johnson is a fantasy author born and raised in the wilds of the Midwest. Her novels for middle grade readers include The Mark of the Dragonfly and The Secrets of Solace, from Delacorte Press. Her books for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms fiction line include The Howling Delve, Mistshore, Unbroken Chain, The Darker Road, and Spider and Stone. In her spare time, she is an avid gamer, and also enjoys gardening, reading and going to the movies with her husband.

The #FridayReads Review (3/4/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

My Hero Academia, Vol. 03 (My Hero Academia, #3)The Smithsonian Book of Books

My Hero Academia vol. 3 by Kohei Horikoshi (PBK)
While the character roster is growing uncomfortably large, this is an interesting superhero saga.

The Smithsonian Book of Books by Michael Olmert (HBK)
Taking a much-needed novel break this weekend. I've been slowly reading chapters of this for a while now as books are my passion, and it's proved an amazing read and resource.

Raging Sea (Undertow, #2)Bloody Mary, Vol. 1

Raging Sea by Michael Buckley (ARC)
2.5 Stars. While I really enjoyed the first book, this sequel was a disappointing and rather torturous read due to a serious lack of common sense and ingenuity from both the characters and the story. While the second half was better than the first and the climax a thrilling ride, thanks to the last page I will sadly not be interested in finishing the trilogy. Review to come.

Bloody Mary vol. 1 by Akaza Samamiya (PBK)
3 Stars. Relatively interesting vampire premise but somewhat lackluster execution. Still, interesting enough to give another volume and see where it's going.

Tell the Wind and Fire
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan (ARC)
Soon my pretty, soon...

So what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Witch's Pyre (Josephine Angelini)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted by Breaking the Spine, in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Witch's Pyre
Title: Witch's Pyre
Author: Josephine Angelini
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Lily Proctor has come a long way from the weak, sickly girl she used to be. She has gained power as a witch and a leader, found her way home, chosen to face battle again, and (after losing her first love and being betrayed by her new love) she has learned more about loss and grief than she ever wanted to know.

Thrust once again into a society different from anything they have ever seen, Lily and her coven are determined to find answers―to find a new path to victory, a way to defeat the monstrous Woven without resorting to nuclear weapons or becoming a tyrannical mass murderer like her alternate self, Lillian. But sometimes winning requires sacrifices . . . and when the only clear path to victory lies at Lillian's side, what price will Lily be willing to pay?

Internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini takes us on another emotionally wrenching thrill ride in the stunning conclusion to her Worldwalker Trilogy.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It: I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books (as my reviews of Trial By Fire and Firewalker can attest) so I cannot wait to get my hands on this final installment of the Worldwalker Trilogy!!

So what book are you waiting on?