Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Elite by Kiera Cass

Title: The Elite
Author: Kiera Cass
Published: April 23, 2013 by HarperTeen

Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending

My thoughts:
I wanted to LOVE this book. Really, I did. I was so excited about it when it came out. I waited for months to read it. I was so excited when I got it. I reread The Selection in preparation for it. 

And yet, I was disappointed. 

That's not to say I didn't like this book- I did. But I didn't love it like I was expecting to. 

Character-wise, this book kinda sends you between the poles of loving a character and hating a character. For me, this happens with America several times. One minute, I like her, the next she frustrates me to no end. Maxon, you love one minutes, hate the next. I don't like Aspen pretty much ever, so this pole never existed with him. I love the maids though. I love them so much. 

There was a serious lack of world-building in The Selection because it is mostly focused on, you know, The Selection. This was somewhat made up for in The Elite. By somewhat, I mean we got a little more information on how this system came to be, but still don't know a lot on how things work. I found the histories interesting and wished they would've been focused on more, rather than being introduced then there being a gap before it was actually used as a plot point. 

The whole competition in this book is a lot more intense than in the previous one because the number of girls is significantly fewer. America's jealous side comes out a lot because of this and it really hinders her relationship with Maxon.  What this book mostly was was America hindering her relationship with Maxon. 

Overall, it's a lot more frustrating than the first book. If you liked The Selection you'll probably want to read this.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reread Review:The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection (The Selection, #1)
Photo from Goodreads
Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Published: April 24th, 2012 by HarperTeen

Plot Summary from Goodreads:
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined

My Thoughts:This is a reread- I originally read this book last summer and never got around to reviewing it.

The main reason I really like this series because it has a fascinating premise. It's marketed as The Bachelor meets the Hunger Games and that is exactly what it is. However, this book has its faults.

America kinda annoys me sometimes. My main thing is her self-doubt, which I understand is supposed to be the thing she overcomes in this series, but, man, it's difficult to sit through.  In this book, we have two boys she has to choose from: Aspen her secret boyfriend who broke up with her before she was even chosen and Maxon the prince she is competing for.

There was a serious lack of world-building in The Selection because it is mostly focused on, you know, The Selection. The plot. America doubting herself the entire time. What we do learn, we can't know for 100% because America says there are a bunch of different stories circulating around.

Overall, I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed The Hunger Games and dystopian novels and general, but want more of a girly dystopian read.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)
Cover from Goodreads
Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Published: February 5th, 2013 by Little, Brown Books

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

My Thoughts: 

This one was another amazing read for me! I've been excited about this one since I read about it last year when searching for books to look forward to in 2013. I read the summary on Goodreads and thought, "Well, this kinda sounds like the Gallagher Girls series, but taking place in the Victorian Era and maybe a little steampunky. I'm down!" I haven't read the series this is a spinoff of, but I plan to soon. One thing I will say is I don't think you had to be a long time fan of the main series to enjoy this book. It was very welcoming to newcomers. 

I really liked all the characters, hoping to see more of them in the next installment (Which comes out THIS November! EEEEH!). I'm sure some of them were  thrown in for long-time fans of the first series, but I couldn't tell the difference between new and old. I loved Sorphronia as a protagonist- she is very smart and a little sassy to her elders and I love her passion for invention. Also enjoyed Dimity and other minor characters.

The plot was fast moving, definitely felt immersed in Victorian culture, had some slang I didn't get due to not being familiar with the time period. In the beginning, I was a little confused as to what was going on, which I think was intentional on the authors part, since we see things through the eyes of Sorphronia. Really looking forward to the next one.

This book fulfilled part of my reading challenge as: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. If you have been to all 50 states, choose a book that takes place in a country you have never been in. Also do the latter option if you are not American. Though I have not been to all fifty states, I ended up doing this as a country I have never been to. 

Happy reading! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)
Photo from Goodreads
*Hey, guys! This book is currently $1.99 on both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. Just thought you ought to know*

Title: Pivot Point
Author: Kasie West
Published: February 12, 2013 by HarperTeen

Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without

My Thoughts:
I seriously adored this book, it was so awesome! 

From when I first hear about this book, I was definitely intrigued by this book. I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to look into the future when making their decisions. But it turned into a dark story really fast, and I really wasn't expecting it. I also enjoyed that it alternated between the two options Addie had in front of her. I liked that they were a little connected, like the events would intersect and everything was really put together.

Addie was an interesting character. She definitely felt very real to me. So did her best friend Laila. I adored Trevor, he was awesome. I also really liked her dad; I thought his job was interesting. I didn't really care for Duke. Her mother was okay, I felt like she was kept at a distance on purpose.

I figured from the beginning the ending would be intense, but it wasn't the same kind of intense I was expecting. It was even better than the ending I had in mind. I completely understand why she choose the path she did and I agree with her choice.

I originally thought this was a standalone but I found our they're making this a series even if the next one sounds super dark, I'm excited to see where Kasie West takes it. 

Overall, I think if you like stories with multiple perspectives and a paranormal element, I would definitely recommend this book.

If you could, would you want to be able to see the outcomes of your choices? Why or why not?

*I am not getting paid to say these things. I just really like this book and think you would too!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins Review

Photo from Goodreads
Title: School Spirits
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Published: May 14, 2013 by Disney-Hyperion

Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

My thoughts
This one definitely has a different feel than the Hex Hall series. It was a good different, but it definitely took me awhile to get accustomed to it, especially starting this right after finishing Spell Bound. It definitely felt slower to me in terms of pace, but it got there. 

I did miss Sophie a little bit, but I also really enjoyed Izzy. She definitely had a different voice and I think they would work really well together. I'm hoping for book with them both. It was also nice to see other characters reappearing from the first series, such as her mom and Torin, who got a lot more screen time in this book. The new characters were also good. I liked Izzy's friends Romy and Dex, and how human they were.  

The plot was pretty interesting too. At first, it looked like it could potentially be about her sister's disappearance, but it kinda shifted once they moved to Mississippi. Again, it started out a little slow, but picked up speed once she got there and found the ghost. Then it felt on pace in comparison to the Hex Hall series.

The ending was so good and not at all what I was expecting. I'm really curious to see how Izzy will adjust to the changes that this ending caused. I don't want to go into too much detail about it, but if you've read it, you'll know what I'm talking about. I'm also wondering if they will find Finely. Really hoping for another book since I have so many questions that haven't been answered! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

As always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic is "Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition". This topic was super difficult. Let's get started!

1. Jennifer Donnelly. 
I haven't read her adult novels, but her young adult novels are amazing. The characters are complex, her settings are amazing. Her books are a little thick, but so worth it.
Recommended: A Northern Light, Revolution

2. Maureen Johnson
I never really see a lot of people raving about her. I don't see why not, as she's hilarious! She's written a lot of funny contemporary novels, but she also has the Shades of London trilogy, which are paranormal.
Recommended: 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Name of the Star

3. Rachel Hawkins
She only has one series out, but it's so good and I rarely see anything about it!
Recommended: Hex Hall

4. Sarah Strohmeyer
I picked up Smart Girls Get What They Want, not expecting a whole lot. Boy, was I surprised! It's engaging, it moved quickly! Definitely recommended for contemporary fans.
Recommended: Smart Girls Get What They Want

5. Kasie West
I've only read one of her two books out so far, but I bought her second one, since I am super excited for it!
Recommended: Pivot Point

6. Ally Carter
If you haven't read anything by Ally Carter, please go do so right away! She is a phenomenal writer and I don't see enough on the blogs I follow about how awesome she is.
Recommended: I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You, Heist Society

I can only think of six! My problem with lists like these is I can only think of super popular books, and my mind draws a blank on any gems.

What authors do you think deserve more recognition? Let me know in the comments! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Voyage Visit: The To Be Read Jar

So yesterday, I was sitting around my room at home thinking, "Wow I have a lot of books out from the library.; Not to mention the ones I own and the ones for my Nook..." And then I realized I had no idea what I wanted to read next after my current reads are finished. So I decided to create a TBR jar. Or mug, in my case. 

For this, I decided to do all the books I owned but hadn't read, books I had out from the library, and books on my Nook. To give you an idea on the number of books, I thought I would show a few pictures.
By my nightstand
My actual bookshelf
My other bookshelf
For my "jar", I used the Mug my initiates in Phi Sigma Pi made me last semester. It is almost full, which means I will hopefully never run out of things to read!

The rules are not that I have to finish the book that I draw, but that I have to give it a fair shot. This means 50-100 pages. If I'm not feeling it, but still think I might like it, it will go back in the jar. If it's really not my thing, it gets taken off the list. 

I will hopefully be choosing my first book from this jar sometime within the next week! Stay tuned to see what I get!

Happy travels! 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins Review

Title: Spell Bound
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Published: March 13, 2012 by Hyperion

Plot summary from Goodreads:
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

My Thoughts:
This one definitely keeps you interested from start to finish with a lot of humor too. I would say this one is a lot more intense than the past two, even the end of Demonglass.   It's been interesting to see how the series developed from the first book.

I liked seeing her family dynamic change, considering the cliffhanger at the end of this one and the beginning of the this one. Sophie grew up a lot throughout the series, but I think she grew the most through this book. I was proud of her for her decisions.
I liked Archer a lot more in this one, though Cal still holds a special place in my heart. I also liked finally getting the full story on Archer in this one. 
Great series overall, I'd recommend it to people who liked Harry Potter, but also wanted more female characters and a YA feel. 

Have you read this series? What do you think?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins Review

Phot from Goodreads
Title: Demonglass
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Published: March 22nd, 2011 by Hyperion 

Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch. That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (a.k.a. witches, shape-shifters, and faeries). But then she discovered the family secret, and the fact that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie's a demon, one of only two in the world-the other being her father. What's worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will either destroy her powers for good-or kill her. 
But once Sophie arrives, she makes a shocking discovery. Her new housemates? They're demons too. Meaning, someone is raising demons in secret, with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they're using Archer to do it. But it's not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she? 

My thoughts:
I really enjoy this series. The second installment of this trilogy reads as fast as the first. Never a dull moment with this series. Early on, there was the usual love triangle element introduced, as is relatively popular in ya literature. However, I wouldn't call it a "love triangle" as much as a "love complication". You see, Sophie really likes Archer and while I much preferred the other guy, it was obvious who she was going to choose. There was no triangle about it.

Jenna also returned in this book, but I think the relationship between her and Sophie changed and was a little less delightful than in the previous book. I can't put my finger on it as to why though. I think they were just both busy doing other things this book so they just didn't have that much interaction. I really enjoyed seeing Sophie develop a relationship with her father and learn more about being a demon from him. It was nice to see them develop a relationship, even if it was strained at times.

There were definitely a lot of interesting twists I didn't see coming, which was nice. The ending was really intense and I'm glad I had the next one handy, as I wanted to know what happened next right away!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

July Goals

Hey. everyone! Last month, I did a post on my June goals, so I figured I could do the same for July. Fun Fact: July is one of my least favorite months. I feel like everything I plan during the summer happens in June, and then July sucks by comparison. But this month, I am determined to not let it get me down! So here are my goals for the month of July.

1. Read at least 4 books this month/ one book a week.
That's one book a week for the month. I feel like this is enough to help me get through my Summer Reading Challenge, but not overwhelming. Plus, I can give myself adequate breaks between books, which is nice.

2. Prepare for National Convention
I am going to Phi Sigma Pi's National Convention at the very end of this month (I leave the 31st!) And there's things I need to do in order to get ready, including printing flyers for my chapter's ICR event and proposed amendments. I super excited to go to Philadelphia though!

3. Save money! 
I want to start saving money for several reasons. One is that I want to improve on my spending habits and not do so much wasteful spending.

What are your goals for the month of July?  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hex Hall Book Review

Photo from Goodreads
Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Published: March 2nd, 2010 by Hyperion 

Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect
I read this book for the first time back in 2011 and didn't really think much of it. I liked it well enough, but I didn't have any real desire to read the second one. So I put it off, read other things, and eventually decided I should reread Hex Hall before I continued in the series. So I put that off and read other things, until I finally got around to it. 
And I really enjoyed it. Enough to increase my rating on Goodreads. 
I think what helped the second time around is that I got sucked into the school right away. I really like Sophie,  as I did the first time around, but I think my enjoyment of her also includes a little perspective I've gained since I first read the book. She can be a little bit teenager-y at times, but she is a teenage. 
There is a lot of world building in this book, which kinda goes alongside the plot progression. Sophie has a lot to learn about being a witch and her absentee father as well. It's a very face-paced story that will keep you interested long after you finish it.

The ending is probably the definition of a cliffhanger, but perhaps less so than Rick Riordan's endings. Thankfully, I had the next book in my possession, so the wait wasn't long.

As I said before, I really like Sophie as a character, but I also really enjoy the others as well. Jenna is a really interesting character. And I liked the trio of Elodie, Chaston, and Anna. Hopefully, some of them will make a reappearance in the series. I also liked Cal and Mrs. Casnoff from the school. Archer was a very interesting character, but I haven't decided how I feel about him yet.

Overall, I would recommend this book to people who like books about boarding schools with a paranormal twist. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Intimidating Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

Hey, everyone! Today's top ten is 'Top Ten Most Intimidating Books" As always, these are in no particular order. Let's get started!

1. The Diviners by Libba Bray
I've been wanting to read this for a very long time. I've heard good things about it, it seems right up my alley, but it's so long! And that is what intimidates me. The length.

2. Emma by Jane Austen
I love Jane Austen., and I'm sure I would really enjoy Emma, but I just can't get into it. I think it's part length, part one of the last novels I haven't read by her. Whatever it is, I'm a little scared every time I start it.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
This is another one I'm sure I would love, but just haven't read because it's a 'classic' and apparently I find that intimidating.

4. Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides 
I got this book on clearance at Half-Priced Books for a dollar. And I was really excited because I've heard a lot of good things about this author and I really want to read some of his books. But I also find his books intimidating as they're 'grown up" books (literary fiction) and I generally don't read a lot of literary fiction unless it's for school.

5. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
 I read a short story by Faulkner in my freshman year comp class and I really liked it. So I bought one of his novels. But I have yet to read it because reading Faulkner is serious work and you need to concentrate for hours on end in order to read it and understand it. And that's not a priority.

6. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkein
I grouped these together for simplicity sake. I'm sure there are some people yelling at their computer screen, "ERMEGERD, YOU HAVEN'T READ LOTR! AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A NERD!" I am aware, but there is such tremendous pressure to love these books, and I'm not sure I can live up to that.

7. The 5th Wave by Richard Yancy
There's been a lot of people loving this book recently, and while I am intrigued by it, I'm not so sure it's a me book.

8. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
I've read Jennifer Donnelly's young adult books (Northern Lights and Revolution) and they are both excellent, intricately woven historical books. And I bought this one at a bookshop in Westport last year, but I have yet to read it. However, I just realized the main character and I have the same first name, which is cool and will work for my summer reading challenge.

9. The Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin
I find this one intimidating much of the same reason as The Lord of the Rings. There's just so much pressure to like this series and I can't take the heat.

10. Most nonfiction
What do you mean they write books about things that actually happened?

What books do you find intimidating? Tell me in the comments! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Double Sign-Up Post: Summer Lovin' and Summer Reading Challenge

Hey, everyone!

Today, I'm combining two posts into one. This is my sign-up post for Semi-Charmed Life's Summer 2013 Book Challenge and the Summer Lovin' Readathon

Semi-Charmed Life's Summer 2013 Book Challenge
This challenge starts July 1st and ends September 30th.No rereads are allowed and each book must be at least 200 pages. One book can only be used for one category. And speaking of categories, here they are and the books I have planned so far.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book you'd like, as long as it follows the above rules. :)
5:  Read a book that is less than 150 pages long. (Yes, this is an exception to the general rules! You're welcome haha.)
10: Read a book with a color in the title. 
10: Read a book that is not the first in its series. (And yes, it must be in a series.) The Elite by Kiere Cass
15: Read a book it seems everyone but you has read! If I Stay by Gayle Forman
15: Read a banned book. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
20: Read a book written by a celebrity. This can be a memoir or a fiction book published by someone who was already famous by another means (e.g. James Franco). 
20: Read a non-fiction book that is not a memoir. It can be pure non-fiction or narrative non-fiction. 
20: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. If you have been to all 50 states, choose a book that takes place in a country you have never been in. Also do the latter option if you are not American. This one will come to me. 
25: Read a book that is at least 400 pages long. The Diviners by Libba Bray
25: Read a book with a main character who shares your first name. If you have an uncommon name and really can't find a book, let me know and we can come up with an alternative. :)
30: Read a book written by an author who was born in the same year as you

Unfortunately, I don't have it all planned out so it will be surprise for us all what I end up reading and how many points I will get. My first update post should go up August 1st. 

The next thing I am signing up for is the Summer Lovin' Readathon! This readathon starts today and goes until the 7th! I will be updating my progress on my Goodreads account. 

I've been wanting to do a readathon for awhile, but when I tried to do one in May, but it failed epically since I was still recovering from the semester. However, I will be attempting to do one again. 

My goals right now is to finish what I'm reading now, Pivot Point,  as soon as possible. Then I have at least three books with me to get me through until I go home. Ideally, I was thinking I would start The Diviners  during this readathon, but I don't think that will be happening. 

Are you participating in either of these? Let me know in the comments!