Saturday, February 24, 2018

Stacking the Shelves (#270)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!


So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, February 18th to Saturday, February 24th?


(all links to Goodreads are provided!)


In the mail:

Nothing this week! 


From NetGalley:



I had no idea this book was on NetGalley! Until I saw everyone with it this past week, and I was like ME TOO! Thank you, Flatiron!


Reviews from this week:

    
(Click on the cover to go to my reviews!)


Favorite Instagram post from this week:

A post shared by Alyssa (@theeaterofbooks) on


This week was a short week (with the holiday on Monday) but it felt like a long one, at work! On Monday I went shopping with a friend and bought new clothes, which I'm so excited about because I got some cute stuff and I needed the retail therapy. :D It's the little things!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin


The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Book One of the Mara Dyer series
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Purchased copy

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.

What I Liked:

I decided to reread this book this year, and finish the rest of the trilogy, so I can comfortably read The Becoming of Noah Shaw and The Reckoning of Noah Shaw. The two series are companion series (ish), but I never finished this original series and I always wanted to do so. I adored The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, even after all these years.

This is the story of Mara Dyer, whose name isn't actually Mara Dyer, but that's the name she is legally allowed to share. Her friends were in a horrible accident, and Mara has been suffering PTSD as a result. She and her family move so that Mara can have a fresh start. Mara has no idea how she survived the accident that killed her friends; she also has no idea how to explain the strange things that she has been seeing - and experiencing. Is it the PTSD? Or is it something more? And why does it seem like the boy with the panty-dropping smile has something to do with everything? This psychological thriller is twisted and intriguing, and will keep you guessing until the last page and anxious for the next installment.

The first time I read this book was in 2011 or 2012, not long after the book published. Honestly? I didn't really understand the story, and I wasn't sure if I even liked the book. I was so confused about so many things, and I wasn't sure what to think of some of the characters. Still, I blown away by the concept and the execution, and the originality. I'd never read anything like this.

I liked Mara from the start, which surprised me because usually I feel disdain towards unreliable narrators. I liked Mara's spunk and honesty - she has a spitfire type of sarcasm that I really liked. Maybe I just like sarcastic heroines. Mara puts on a strong front but she is vulnerable too, and she doesn't like others seeing that vulnerability.

Enter Noah Shaw, the bad boy of the high school, the guy who seemingly sleeps with everyone, the cultured British boy with an accent and smoking hot good looks and an arrogance to match. This type of hero is sometimes hard to like, but I actually liked Noah. Even after having only read one book (of the three), I was confident that Noah was fairly misunderstood and maybe not as bad as everyone thinks. Still, he comes across as a f**kboy. You love 'em, you hate 'em.

There was an interesting set of secondary characters, most of which I felt ehh about but could still appreciate their presence. Daniel, Mara's older brother, seemed way too perfect but was incredibly supportive of Mara, especially with her struggle with PTSD, and her budding trust of Noah. Jamie, Mara's new best friend, is a gay black guy with a lot going on, past and present. He's cool but maybe a little one-dimensional. Joseph, Mara's younger brother, is a sweetheart. He is much younger and he has an innocence to him that I really liked.

The story is bizarre! Is Mara suffering from extreme PTSD? Is there something sinister going on? Something else? Is this a paranormal psychological thriller? There were a lot of unanswered questions by the end of the book. This could be a complaint, but I think this actually sets up the series well, and leads perfectly into book two. I'm not overly annoyed about being left with so many unanswered questions because I have a feeling the author will reveal more information as the story goes on.

But there is some strange things going on, including murder... or was it coincidence? You'll have to find out! Or I will, as I continue to read the series.

There is of course a romance, between Noah and Mara. It is a seriously fiery romance even though there is literally one (technically two?) kisses in the book. Noah and Mara have amazing chemistry from the start - lots of sparks and a ton of witty banter. I liked the dialogue between the two, and I loved how they set each other off.

This book is extremely well-written, debut or not. Michelle Hodkin clearly knows how to build a story, and write it. I am sure her writing will get even better as she writes more books. I'm excited for more, from this series and new stories too.

Overall, I liked this book, especially after reading it several times. Initially I wasn't totally sold, but the more times I read the book, the more I understood and the better it got. I am looking forward to reading the second book!

What I Did Not Like:

I mentioned that I had a lot of unanswered questions and confusion after reading the book, even several times. While I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, it's something that will definitely frustrate readers. But hang in there for the next books (I'm assuming)!

Would I Recommend It:

If psychological thrillers are your thing, then I highly recommend this debut novel. It is strange and almost sinister at times, and worth the hype. I'm sure opinions are varied in the extremes, but I found this story to be extremely intriguing, even when I didn't quite fully understand it (I still don't, to be honest). It's a debut novel worth trying, at least!

Rating:

4 stars. I read this book about six years ago and it stunned me then - it still stuns me now. I really liked this book and I am kicking myself for not continuing the series. I think I was waiting for the series to be complete, since I knew book three would take more time to publish (and it really did). But I'm sure the wait was worth it, and I'm finally ready to continue.


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Swoon Thursday (#265): The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin!


"What would you do if I kissed you right now?"

I stared at his beautiful face and his beautiful mouth and I wanted nothing more than to taste it.

"I would kiss you back."

Noah parted my legs with his knees and my lips with his tongue and I was in his mouth and oh. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. I felt myself unfold, turned inside out by his insistent mouth. When Noah pulled back I gasped at the loss, but he slid his hand beneath my back and lifted me, and we were sitting and his head was dipping and our mouths were colliding and I pushed him down and lingered above, hovered before I crashed into him.

- Hardcover, page 377



I'm rereading this book, and finishing the series! I loved this book (even though it was so confusing). I need to read the next two books and hopefully the pieces will come together. And then I'll start the new companion series!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday (#269): Mirage by Somaiya Daud


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Book Three of the Mirage series
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: August 28, 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancĂ©, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.



Doesn't this sound amazing? Science fiction for the win! It's a new one to me and I am really looking forward to reading it, hopefully sooner rather than later. =)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday (3)


Happy Tuesday! Today I've decided to participate in Top Ten Tuesday, formerly hosted by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish, now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Today's topic is: 

Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Here are ten YA books I'm 99% sure I'll never read!

King's Cage (Red Queen, #3)Of Neptune (The Syrena Legacy, #3)Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)
The Archived (The Archived, #1)  The Ship Beyond Time (The Girl From Everywhere, #2)Daughter of the Siren Queen (Daughter of the Pirate King, #2)
The True Queen (The Impostor Queen, #3)So Close to You (So Close to You, #1)
Like a River Glorious (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #2)

Bonus! Here are a few more:

Witch's Pyre (Worldwalker, #3)Infinite Risk (Immortal Game, #3)
Sea Spell (Waterfire Saga, #4)Obsidian and Stars (Ivory and Bone, #2)


Don't you love how most of these are conclusion novels? I am terrible at finishing series. But usually what happens is I see reviews of the conclusion novel and I decide not to bother because 75% of the time, the conclusion to a YA series is really bad. So it's not all my fault!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey


Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father's approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother. 

Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother's intended. 

But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of "accidents," it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .

What I Liked:

It's no secret that I love Cindy Anstey's books! YA historical romance - how delightful! I am a huge adult historical romance junkie, and these YA HR novels are giving me LIFE. Suitors and Sabotage is Anstey's third YA HR standalone (all three books are unrelated, completely standalone novels and not companion novels), and it's safe to say that her books are all fun and swoony to read. I'm very excited about this new one being printed in hardcover! Anstey deserves this and more!

This story starts with Imogene's suitor Ernest Steeple arriving a day earlier than expected, with his younger brother Benjamin Steeple. Imogene is expected to accept Ernest's offer whenever the young man proposes, as he is her only suitor. She and Ernest barely know each other, hence why Ernest has arrived to visit. As Imogene gets to know Ernest, she realizes that she can't see herself sharing a life with the man. Instead, she sees Ben, the architecture apprentice, the charming, teasing young man who puts everyone at ease and makes all the ladies laugh. But someone is trying to sabotage Ben, and for what reason, Imogene and Ben can't understand. It's only a matter of time before something truly dangerous occurs... not unlike falling in love!

I was actually a little nervous about this one because I figured there would be a love triangle of some sort. But there really wasn't! Ernest is doing his duty in trying to find a wife, and the more Imogene gets to know him, the more she realizes that she would grow to like him... as a friend. There was never any competition or real "love triangle", because not once did Imogene develop feelings for Ernest, and Ernest, well, he wanted a wife but I'm not certain he specifically wanted Imogene. 

This type of romance is always tricky, involving two brothers and a woman. But I thought Anstey navigated it perfectly. I like forbidden romance but hate it when it involves two brothers. But this romance seemed to work; Imogene was never "unfaithful" to her suitor, but her feelings for Ben grew nonetheless. And Ben never betrayed his brother, but his own feelings grew.

As is Anstey's style, the romance was sweet, adorable, swoony, and very subtle. There weren't passionate kisses or steamy chemistry, but there was plenty of rising interest and subtle tension. Ben and Imogene clicked, and they began a solid friendship, which turned into more.

Ben is an upstanding gentleman, and Imogene is a kind and shy lady. Their personalities worked well together, especially with Ben being so lively and fun, and Imogene being a quiet dreamer. Ben is studying to be an architect and Imogene wants to teach art - their passions are not always looked kindly upon, but they follow their dreams nonetheless.

The story was full of charm, subtle swoon, and a little bit of mounting drama! The drama being all of the "incidents" that keep occurring, of which Ben was in the middle. Someone is trying to sabotage Ben and he ends up getting hurt several times. But why?

Also worth noting is how Anstey's books are always subtly feminist and in a very positive but not-in-your-face way. I love that Imogene wants to follow her dreams of being an art teacher - and I love how Ben acts like this is the most normal thing in the world (remember the time period), and he can see his life with her and both of their careers. This was fantastic!

All in all, this novel was a delight to read. I had nothing to be worried about, and I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction romp. The ending is perfectly lovely and definitely a HEA, so no worries there either. I am continuously impressed by Anstey!

What I Did Not Like:

I so wanted a bit of a romance for a certain character (you can guess who), but I suppose I can create one in my head. Not a huge complaint, but it would have been nice!

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book and any of Anstey's novels, if you like historical fiction/historical romance. Adult HR fans will LOVE this YA HR novel. It isn't full of kisses and chemistry and passion BUT it is a fun and sweet romance novel set in the 1800s. These books are simply lovely to read, and I can't get enough!

Rating:

4 stars. I cannot wait to read Carols and Chaos, Anstey's next YA HR novel! I'm excited that it will be publishing in September - a shorter turnaround than usual. Swoon Reads, please keep publishing Anstey's books! And keep up the good work with these A+++ covers.


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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks


Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks
Book Three of The Embraced series
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the brilliant imagination of Kerrelyn Sparks comes a bold new fantasy romance series in which passion and magic collide. Behold the Embraced…

Gwennore has a talent. An Elf able to track down the cause of an illness and heal it, she’s a valuable asset to her people. But when the kidnapping of a young girl thrusts Gwennore into the very heart of the realm of the dragons, she discovers not only a place of power and magic, but also a haunted land, plagued by an ancient curse that all but ensures extinction to the royal family. But when she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko, they strike a bargain—save the country from its cursed illness, and he will return the kidnapped girl. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon, but never did making a deal with the devil feel so good…

Silas has no way of curing the family he’s loyally served for years. But when a beautiful elf, long considered the enemy of the dragons, comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to passion and desire in a way he’s never felt before. But can he trust a sworn enemy to save the very existence he holds dear? And can their love survive those that threaten to tear them apart? 

What I Liked:

This is one of those cases in which I'm like, I enjoyed this book buuuuuuuut... I also didn't really care for it. It was an okay read and not terrible but definitely not a new favorite or anything like that. I'm sure others will find this a great addition to the series. But I had a hard time really caring about the female protagonist, Gwenmore, and that can kill enjoyment pretty quickly.

But I didn't totally dislike her. Gwenmore is one of the five adopted sisters raised in a convent on a lonely island, and she is the third to leave and face her destiny. One afternoon when she is playing with her little niece, she is captured by a dragon - only to be rescued by another dragon. The dragon takes her to the royal family of Norveshka, where she is taken in by Silas Dravenko, general of the royal army. When he realizes that she is a healer, he asks for her help in getting rid of a curse that has stricken his country for generations. Gwenmore never intended to stay in Norveshka, but how can she leave when she has fallen in love with the charming, smoldering general?

Overall I thought Gwenmore was an okay protagonist, though she really got on my nerves at times (see below). I liked that she began to trust in herself as the story went on - and she began to trust Silas (something she doesn't do easily). It was good to see her grow into her gift and herself. She is an innocent girl, with a great deal of power.

I loooooooooved Silas. He is flirtatious and roguish, with a very strong sense of honor and selflessness. He never hesitates to save Gwenmore or anyone else, and always puts everyone else first. He may seem confident and full of swagger, but deep inside, he is lonely. I loved his charming self, but I also loved his more vulnerable self. He is persistent but respectful of boundaries. Silas is a good guy, and for the life of me, I wanted to strangle Gwenmore for being so poor to him sometimes.

I love all things dragons, and there is a nice amount of dragons in this story. I was curious to see how the author would work them in, and I was very happy about how she did it. Like you expect it, but it's still nice to see how it is worked in. The kingdom of Norveshka has a long and heartbreaking history, very much centered around its dragons. All of which is revealed in this book!

I adore Silas's officers, the male secondary characters! Dimitri and Aleksi are hilarious - honestly, the brotherhood in this book is awesome. They have such a great camaraderie, something I always like to see among males in any type of novel. I hope all of them get their own happily ever after!

The conflict of this book centers mostly around getting rid of the curse that plagues Norveshka - something sinister has been at work for centuries. Gwenmore is an extraordinary healer (she has interesting elvish gifts!), and she is confident that she can find the source of the curse. But there is a familiar evil standing in the way. 

The other part of the story is the romance, which was sweet and frustrating. I'll talk about the "frustrating" part in the next section. But for the most part, it was a sweet and sometimes spicy romance. I think I wanted more from the romance, but I also appreciated the progression of the romance and the tension. Mostly sparked by Silas, which was part of my frustration.

Theoretically I liked this book, but I finished it feeling rather dissatisfied, like something was missing. Or maybe I just wasn't that into it, like I was the other books. This wasn't a bad book, and I'm sure others will love it.

What I Did Not Like:

I got so fed up with Gwenmore around halfway through the book. You know the phrase "the lady doth protest too much"? Yeah. Gwenmore was seriously annoying. She rejected Silas over and over, despite the fact that internally she was telling herself to go for it, and physically she really wanted to in addition to mentally/emotionally, but she kept shutting doors in his face (literally) or running away (literally). This was not cute. This was not part of a merry chase. This was absolutely annoying, and also heartbreaking to see (on Silas's end).

You know what would have redeemed this crap? Silas, walking away from Gwenmore (rather than being the persistent guy that he is). And Gwenmore having to chase after him. That would have made her realize that a good man wanted her and he had no bad intentions when it came to her - and she was in the wrong by turning him down (knowing that she wanted to be with him, physically and emotionally). Gwenmore is kind of an idiot? I really wanted the ending of the book to have Silas leaving her after she rejects him one more time, and Gwenmore realizing that she's a complete dumba** and runs to him.

Does this happen? No. Of course not. Because Silas keeps trying to win her over - which is cool of him, but seriously? I don't love this. It's romantic but also kind of icky - men shouldn't be putting in all of the effort. The woman should be too (in this case we're dealing with a male/female couple), and Gwenmore didn't do any of this. She didn't fight for the relationship, she put no effort into it. Instead, it was all "omg Gwenmore is hot, I want her so much, I want to kiss her, I'm not going to stop trying to get her to admit she wants me, even though she keeps rejecting me", and then Gwenmore keeps rejecting him, until finally her hormones take over her common sense. Seriously? This is stupid. Gwenmore needed to put in some actual effort into the chemistry, and eventually the relationship. The chase wasn't fun because Gwenmore was so annoying with her constant rejections. She saw each one hurt his feelings and THAT made her sad, but she never did anything about it.

Authors. Do better. Let the girl chase. Get rid of this notion that a man should be the one doing all of the chasing. I like it sometimes, it works with some books, but really, let's not keep this up all the time. (I'm referring to M/F couples specifically, as is the case with this book.)

Would I Recommend It:

I recommend the series in general - the first two books are excellent. This one was okay for me but not super great, but I suppose I'd still recommend it to those who have read the previous books in the series. If you've read none of the series, definitely do not start with this one. Start with book one and go in order, even though they are standalone companion novels. The series will make more sense that way, and also I personally think this third book is the weakest of the three. But in general, this fantasy romance series is really good. The romances are sweet and passionate, the men are sweet, charming alphas, and the women are strong, innocent women. I like these match-ups!

Rating:

3 stars. I wish I'd liked this one more, especially since we're dealing with a dragon (mmm, fiery), and an elf (magical!). I was frustrated with Gwenmore and the romance. But I adored so many of the other characters, and the story in general was pretty good. I'm definitely going to be reading book four (and book five). I hope we'll see cameos of Silas and Gwenmore, as we saw a lot of Leo and Luciana (and heard about Rupert and Brigitta) in this book!


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