Tuesday, April 4, 2017

January – March Reading Challenges Wrap-up

I am finally getting around to doing my wrap-up post for my reading challenges. I am doing this a bit differently than I had originally intended; I decided to write a wrap-up post every 3 months because I am still trying to hold on to blogging even though I barely have any time.  For my Goodreads challenge I will include the covers for each of the books I read, and then for the remaining challenges I will list the titles that count towards each individual challenge. So without further ado, here are the books I’ve read so far this year towards my challenges.

Goodreads Challenge
Goal: 50 books
Read: 18





Rock My TBR 2017
Goal: as many as possible
Read: 15
Ø  The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (review)
Ø  The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows
Ø  Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
Ø  Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi
Ø  Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
Ø  More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Ø  Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Ø  A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
Ø  Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Ø  The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Ø  Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Ø  The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Ø  Prodigy by Marie Lu
Ø  Champion by Marie Lu
Ø  The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Series Enders 2017
Goal: Level 2 (5-10 books)
Read: 4
Ø  The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows
Ø  Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
Ø  Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Ø  Champion by Marie Lu

Audiobook Challenge 2017
Goal: Stenographer Level (10-15 books)
Read: 9
Ø  The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon (review)
Ø  Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Ø  The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Ø  Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Ø  Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Ø  Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Ø  Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Ø  Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

2017 New Release Challenge
Goal: Newbie Level (1-30 books)
Read: 2
Ø  Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Ø  Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

How are you doing with your reading challenges? Let me know in the comments below. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

From Goodreads:
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? 

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Happy Saturday everyone!  Today I will be reviewing The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.
Earlier in the year I was contacted by EStories and asked if I would be interested in reviewing audiobooks for them, so this review will be a bit different as I will review the audiobook narration and the story itself.  But before I get to that I would like to tell you all a little bit about EStories.
EStories is an audiobook website with tons of choices.  They have a very easy to use app that you can download to any phone and take your books on the go.  They have a few different plan options that you can subscribe to and ensure you always have an audiobook lined up to go. . I absolutely love audiobooks; it is such an amazing way of getting through your TBR when you don’t have time to sit down and read.  I listen to them while I clean, cook, and during my commute.  If you were ever interested in audiobooks, I would definitely check out the EStories.com website.
The Sun Is Also a Star was the audiobook I selected to review for EStories. This is my second Nicola Yoon read; I read Everything Everything as an ARC before it was released and I absolutely loved it.  I knew I would have to pick up Yoon’s second novel as soon as I could because I was blown away by her writing abilities. I really liked The Sun Is Also a Star and would recommend it to all who like YA contemporaries.  My favorite thing about it is that it has a diverse cast of characters and I believe we need more diversity in YA.  The characters were very well written and easy to love.  The novel is written from alternating points of view and the entire story takes place in one day.  In addition to the two main characters, Natasha and Daniel, we also get side stories for all the people they interact with.  I really loved all the peripheral character stories because it made me stop and think about people around me and how there is so much more than what meets the eye.  
Natasha is Jamaican and she, along with her family, is being deported the same night. Daniel is a Korean-American struggling to fit the mold his Korean parents expect him to.  Even though the story takes place in one day, I feel like we get to know both Natasha and Daniel very well.  There are so many different issues presented in this wonderfully written novel: family issues, immigration, racism, stereotypes, and so much more.  My only complaint is that because the novel is so short and fast paced there wasn’t enough time to properly address the many different issues introduced.  I would have liked to take more time and not just gloss over extremely important things such as racism and stereotypes.
The audiobook itself was great.  The narrators did a wonderful job with the characters.  Their performance was spot on and I thoroughly enjoyed their narration, intonation, and interpretation of the characters.  

All in all, I really enjoyed this book.  The story was unique in its composition and Yoon did a great job bringing diversity and several important issues to the forefront of her story.  She is an excellent storyteller and I know that I will pick up whatever she decides to write next.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

From Goodreads:
Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess.
 When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy.
 Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat.
 Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

Rating: 4 stars
I’ve had this book on my TBR since it first came out and I just now got the chance to read it. Why did I wait this long to read it?? I am absolutely in love with the world and characters created by Jodi Meadows. While parts of the book were very predictable, there were quite a few twists and turns that completely took me by surprise, especially the ending. The only good thing about waiting this long to read The Orphan Queen is that now I can dive right into The Mirror King and not have to endure a torturous waiting period, because that cliffhanger was brutal.
Wilhelmina, once the princess of Aecor, is an orphan living secretly, with other orphaned children of Aecor, as a refugee in Skyvale, the capital of the Indigo Kingdom, which is responsible for conquering and killing the people of Aecor ten years ago. The orphaned gang (the Ospreyes) is determined to get their home back from the Indigo Kingdom so they send Wil to infiltrate the palace. Soon Wil’s mission inside the palace becomes complicated; not only is she pretending to be someone else, but also by her secret ability to perform magic, which is forbidden, and her new strange relationship with Black Knife, a vigilante who always looks out for the less fortunate people of Skyvale.
There are so many different relationships built in this book. I absolutely loved the friendship between Wil and her best friend, Melanie. It had just the right amount of conflict, bickering, and loyalty to make it feel real in ways that sometimes other books fall short. I also loved the relationship between Wil and Black Knife. Meadows took her time to build the relationship, adding more layers as the chapters went by, making it a very well developed and natural transition from somewhat enemies to friends that fight together for those less fortunate.
Jodi Meadows created a very unique magic system that will grasp your attention from the very beginning. It is a fresh take on magic where the use of magic created the Wraith, a toxic side effect, which is destroying everything in its path. Meadows provided many unexpected twists and turns, and just when you think you have the story all figured out she pulls the rug from under you, leaving you in complete shock.

The Orphan Queen was a bit slow in the beginning, but once the story picked up it became a fast-paced, exciting read that kept me captivated until the very last sentence. This book had it all: adventure, action, magic, romance, and mystery. It was a great read with an amazing cast of characters that I am fully invested in and cannot wait to learn more about. The world building and character development Meadows delivered in this book far surpassed my expectations. This duology will become, without a doubt, a favorite.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

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’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Glittering Court
by Richelle Mead

Publisher:  Razorbill
Release date: April 5, 2016

From Goodreads:
A dazzling new fantasy series set in a mix of Elizabethan and frontier worlds that’s dripping with romance from Richelle Mead, #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy.

Big and sweeping, spanning the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies capable of arranging powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together, they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first, as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and later, when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands. . . .

Why I am waiting:
Richelle Mead is an auto-buy author for me. I feel in love with her writing in Vampire Academy, which to this day is one of my favorite series. The Glittering Court promises to be an amazing start to a new fantasy series and with that alone I am hooked. I’ve always loved fantasy, but lately it seems like it’s all I crave to read. The premise of this books seems to have it all: secrets, adventures, mysteries, romance, and action. From the book description I feel like Adelaide will be a character that will be easy to fall in love with and root for throughout the story. The early reviews for The Glittering Court seem to be great. My friend Eve at Functioning Insanity managed to get an ARC of this book and she absolutely loved it. With us having similar reading tastes, I believe without a doubt that I will adore Richelle Mead’s start to this new fantasy series.

What is your “can’t wait to read” selection for this week?

Monday, March 7, 2016

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

From Amazon:
Cori McCarthy delivers an emotionally taut page-turner from multiple points of view – combined with stunning illustrations.

Jaycee is about to accomplish what her older brother Jake couldn't: live past graduation.

Jaycee is dealing with her brother's death the only way she can – by re-creating Jake's daredevil stunts. The ones that got him killed. She's not crazy, okay? She just doesn't have a whole lot of respect for staying alive.

Jaycee doesn't expect to have help on her insane quest to remember Jake. But she's joined by a group of unlikely friends – all with their own reasons for completing the dares and their own brand of dysfunction: the uptight, ex-best friend, the heartbroken poet, the slacker with Peter Pan syndrome, and... Mik. He doesn't talk, but somehow still challenges Jayce to do the unthinkable-reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

Cori McCarthy's gripping narrative defies expectation, moving seamlessly from prose to graphic novel panels and word art poetry, perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, Jennier Niven, and Jandy Nelson. From the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum to the skeletal remains of the world's largest amusement park, You Were Here takes you on an unforgettable journey of friendship, heartbreak and inevitable change.

"You Were Here is wrenchingly beautiful in its honest and achingly accurate portrayal of grief and how it breaks us-and the way unconditional friendship puts us back together."-Jo Knowles, award-winning author of See You At Harry's and Read Between the Lines

"The urban explorers of You Were Here dive deep into the forgotten man-made spaces all around them―and their own feelings of loss, love, and fear. McCarthy deftly intertwines the characters' stories, filling them with authentic pain and heartache as well as soaring moments of grace and humor. I dare you to read it!" ―Maggie Lehrman, author of The Cost of All Things

Rating: 5 Stars
I received an Arc of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. To be honest I didn’t know much about the novel going in. I received an email from NetGalley recommending this book to me and decided to give it a try. I am so happy I did because this instantly became a favorite contemporary.

I was completely blown away by how much I adored this book. The story is told in multiple POVs. McCarthy gave each character a unique and distinct voice, switching between first person to third person, to graffiti art and graphic novel form of expressions, allowed the reader to deeply and intimately get to know each of the characters. The book deals with a very heavy subject matter: grief following the death of Jake, Jaycee’s brother, a daredevil starved for an adrenaline rush, who on the day of his high school graduation tragically dies while performing a daredevilish dare. The story shows how grief affects everyone differently and how each individual copes with it in their own way. While the subject matter is heavy, as we follow our characters on their journey of healing, the overall feeling throughout is uplifting and sweet.

The story starts on the fifth anniversary of Jake’s death with Jaycee revisiting one of Jake’s favorite places, an abandoned mental institution where she knows she will meet with Mik, Jake’s childhood friend, whom she meets every year on the anniversary of Jake’s death.

Even though it’s been five years since Jake’s passing, Jaycee hasn’t been able to overcome his death and is now wearing his clothes, sleeping in his bed, recreating some of his stunts, and visiting his old stomping grounds all in an effort to still feel him  as a part of her life. On his death’s anniversary when she is on her way to the abandoned mental institution she ends up being joined, despite her loud objections, by her ex-best friend Natalie, Natalie’s boyfriend Zach, and Zach’s best friend Bishop.

The story is built around different relationships the characters share, such as Jaycee and her ex-best friend Natalie. Natalie abandoned Jaycee after Jake’s death and since then their friendship has been completely ruined. I don’t want to spoil the story, but there are so many different facets to this novel. We have Jaycee and Jake, Natalie and Zach, Zach and Bishop, Mik and Natalie, Jaycee and Natalie, Bishop and Natalie, and so much more. The intricate relationships built in the story were absolutely astounding. I was rooting so much for my favorite ships, for broken friendships to be fixed and just for overall healing.

Cori McCarthy is an amazing writer with an astonishing ability to create beautifully developed characters with relatable flaws and issues that will forever stay with me. I will most definitely re-read this book over and over again and will recommend it to pretty much everyone I know. You Were Here is a captivating beautifully written story, full of depth, and an overall fantastic read. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Dragon's Loyalty Award

A few months ago I was nominated by the lovely Rebekah at Wordsmithing and Worldbuilding to participate in this tag, but life was quite busy at that time and I didn’t get a chance to write a post. However, now that things slowed down, I am finally able to participate. If you don't follow Rebekah's blog, you should change that immediately, as it is quite amazing! Thank you so much for the nomination!

Here are the rules for the Dragon's Loyalty Award:
1. Announce your win with a post, and link to whomever presented your award
2. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
3. Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers
4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you've linked them in the post.
5. Display the award certificate on your website.

And now on to the "interesting" things about myself. This was rather hard as I think I am quite open and shared quite a bit in my "About Me" section. So after lots of thinking and digging, here's what I came up with.

1. I am originally from Romania, and my hometown is in Transylvania.

2. I love going to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is pretty much my favorite place on earth!

3. I am obsessed with Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. I go every year multiple times during the months of September and October.

4. I love all things nerdy. I've attended Dragon Con for a few years and San Diego Comic Con is on my bucket list. Last year was my first time cosplaying and I hope to do it more often.

5. I have a library in my house. It's a room dedicated to just my books and all my nerdy collections (funkos, figurines, etc). It is without a doubt my happy place :)

6. I love swimming. From a very young age I started training and now I find it very calming and peaceful.

7. I love owls. They are absolutely the cutest and most fascinating birds.

This was a super fun tag and I hope you guys will enjoy participating. I nominate not only the bloggers listed below, but everyone reading this and wanting to participate. If you decide to participate, please make sure to leave me a link in the comments so that I can go see your posts and get to know you a bit better.

2. Xan at Diversityin YA
4. Krystianna at Downright Dystopian
6. Lucy at TheReading Date
9. Allysa at The Eater of Books!
10. Helena, Becky, and Stacie at Book Nerd Addict
11. Nicole at Boundless Bookaholic
12. Brittany at The Book Addict's Guide
13. Amy at  Tripping Over Books
14. Allysa at Books Take You Places
15. Lucy at Books With Lucy 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Rose & The Dagger

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’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Rose & The Dagger
by Renee Ahdieh

Publisher:  G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 3, 2016

From Goodreads:
The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking The Wrath and the Dawn, lauded by Publishers Weekly as "a potent page-turner of intrigue and romance."

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

My Thoughts:
The Wrath & The Dawn was one of my favorite reads of 2015 and I have been eagerly anticipating its sequel, The Rose & The Dagger. I actually pre-ordered this book as soon as that option became available online because I am dying to get my hands on it. If you want to read about my love for the world Ahdieh created, you can check out my full review of The Wrath & The Dawn here.

I also had the extreme pleasure of meeting Renee Ahdieh last year right after her book was published and she is such a nice fun person. Even with just one book published so far, she has become an auto-buy author for me because she convinced me what a remarkable story teller she is and I am convinced that her writing style alone would always draw me in.

I would also like to mention that are two novellas associated with the series:
1. The Crown & The Arrow which is available now for FREE and it is Khalid’s perspective on meeting Sharzi for the first time, and
2. The Moth & The Flame that will be released on March 22 which will give more insight to Jalal and Despina.

These two novellas are sure to get me even more excited, if that’s even possible, for the release of The Rose & The Dagger.

I cannot wait to get back to the amazing world created by Renee Ahdieh and see what becomes of the characters that have captured my heart!