Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Challenges Wrap-Up

2013 Reading Challenge
Hosted by GoodReads

Completed: 40/50

Hex HallDevine InterventionThe Lost CodeThe Eternity CureMind GamesMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenAvengerDemonglassSpell BoundZombies Don't Cry
Zombies Don't ForgiveShatter MeDeliriumGrave MercyDestroy MeDark TriumphThe Cuckoo's CallingAvatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 1Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 2Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 3
Kitty and the Midnight HourInfernoTransparentEnder's GameMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic NovelPrecious BloodUnwindAvatar: The Last Airbender - The Search Part 1Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search Part 2Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search Part 3
The Reluctant AssassinLinkedRot & RuinWitherHavenSchool SpiritsUgliesChangelingClockwork AngelPoison Princess

Well, isn't that a nice block of books there? So symmetrical and colorful.

I'm very happy to have read this many books this year. Much, much more than I managed to read last year. And because of the many duplicates I read (audiobooks along with print/electronic books), GoodReads actually says I met my goal! So while I may have re-read a couple books, and technicalities work in my favor, I'm still very happy to have accomplished all I did for this challenge.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Changeling Put Among Us By Strange People

Order of Darkness
Book 1
By Philippa Gregory

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

The year is 1453 and all signs point to it being the end of the world. Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, handsome seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of times across Europe. Commanded by sealed orders, Luca is sent to map the fears of Christendom and travel to the very frontier of good and evil.

Seventeen-year-old Isolde, a Lady Abbess, is trapped in a nunnery to prevent her from claiming her rich inheritance. As the nuns in her care are driven mad by strange visions, walking in their sleep, and showing bleeding wounds, Luca is sent to investigate and driven to accuse her.

Forced to face the greatest fears of the dark ages—witchcraft, werewolves, madness—Luca and Isolde embark on a search for truth, their own destinies, and even love as they take the unknown ways to the real historical figure who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs.

I'd heard of Philippa Gregory—I mean, it's hard not to after the huge success The Other Boleyn Girl became. I knew she was mainly a historical romance writer who tended to write historically 'factual' novels with a few embellishments. I happen to enjoy the occasional historical novel, especially those that focus on women and/or teens of the time (see Tamora Pierce and Robin LaFevers). So when I heard that this renowned author was tackling a YA-focused historical series, I was pretty excited for it.

And then I read it. And then I shook my head and sighed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making Ourselves Feel Ugly Is Not Fun

Book 1
By Scott Westerfeld

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license—for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Perhaps I've been reading too many well-written and utterly fascinating Dystopian books lately. Maybe I've grown too used to the idea that the world is doomed, humanity has all but killed itself, and the future holds nothing but torture and injustice. Or perhaps I've heard too much praise for the series. Because when it came to Uglies, I just didn't get the punch I was expecting.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Worrying About Ghosts Or—Shudder—High School

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous books, Hex Hall, Demonglass, & especially Spell Bound or don't mind knowing some spoilers for them. School Spirits, however, will remain spoiler-free.

School Spirits
~School Spirits~
Hex Hall
Book 4
By Rachel Hawkins
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters.

For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures—and fifteen-year-old Izzy is the last of her line. But when her older sister vanishes without a trace, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break from the Brannick's age-old calling.

As Izzy and her mom move on to Ideal, Mississippi, however, they discover the town is 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. First, her clothes are all wrong. Second, what are these things called "friends"? Third, there's a boy named Dex making her heart skip—but not in a bad way...so, that's weird. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it feels strange to suddenly be the center of attention.

Izzy's training taught her to never get attached, but she doesn't know if she can solve the case alone. Can she trust her new friends to find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

After the disappointment I had with the last Hex Hall book, I admit that I was a bit reluctant to return. True, Hawkins had moved on to a new character, one with a completely different backstory, and there were no promises that this would be dragged out into its own trilogy, but I knew it was still a matter of whether the writing itself had changed or not.

Turns out that changes were made, and a lot of them were for the better.

Friday, December 20, 2013

This Place Is A Safe Haven

Book 1
By Kristi Cook

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Destiny brought them together.
Now it will tear them apart.

Violet doesn't understand why she feels drawn to the Winterhaven school. She just knows it's the right place for her. When she discovers the school's secret, it all makes sense: Everyone at Winterhaven has psychic gifts. For the first time in her life Violet doesn't have to hide her visions. She's always seen them as a curse, but now she can hone ther ability and try to control it.

But she's thrown completely off balance when she meets the most alluring—and most mysterious—boy in school. She's never connected with anyone the way she does with Aidan, and the intensity takes them both by surprise. But as their relationship deepens, she begins to have visions of Aidan's death—and sees that she's the one who's fated to kill him.

Violet's never been able to prevent her visions from coming true. But this time she'll do whatever it takes ... even if it means sacrificing herself for the boy she loves.

I will apologize beforehand if this review gets a little repetitive because it is so hard not to make constant Twilight comparisons. No, really, almost everything in this book can be traced back to Twilight. You've heard of the Twilight Clones? Well, get ready to meet the clone to end all clones...except better?!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Every Day She's More Withered

The Chemical Garden
Book 1
By Lauren DeStefano

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

What if you knew exactly when you’d die?

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

As I'm rather late in reviewing this book, I'm sorry to say that I was not completely impartial in my reading of it. I'd read less than savory things about this book/series. Now, I don't remember exactly what I'd read, nor do I want to find and read it again as I feel it's important to express my personal reactions, plus I don't want to repeat someone else's words. That being said, I admit that I went into this book expecting to hate it.

Well, there's good news, and there's bad news.