Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thank You

It's been two weeks since I last posted.

I can't believe it.

I'm also not sorry.

When I began college in September, I felt terrible about being unable to post as often as I had in the past. I made a pact to post more often, to read later into the night, to write reviews earlier in the day.

Basically, I still had no concept of the fact that this is my blog and it's not going anywhere. 

The first week following my last post I was too busy to post. I had five major assignments due on the same date, I was frantically attempting to keep on top of my work and my other commitments in preparation to return home from Thanksgiving and I simply could not find the time to even glance at a blog. The past week, though, I've been busy but I've also been having a lot of fun. I still read every day, just fifteen minutes, but, strangely enough, there is enough to do, enough people to talk to, and enough hours in the day to sleep that I don't find myself tapping away on the computer as often as I once did.

And that's okay.

I'm here, on this Thanksgiving, to thank you all for sticking it out with me. Thank you for commenting even when I haven't visited your blogs. Thank you for including me on Twitter and Instagram even when it seemed as if I fell off the  planet. Thank you, publishers, for sending me all the ARCs I could possibly want even though I haven't posted an early review in what seems like ages. Thank you, authors, for e-mailing me and wanting me to review your work despite the fact that I seem so absent from the internet.

I love reading. I love reviewing. I love blogging.

Although these facts have remained constant, my life hasn't remained in stasis. I know I won't have as much time to blog in the coming weeks thanks to finals. I know I probably won't make my GoodReads goal for the first time in years But I also know that I will be here, always, just an e-mail or a comment away. I know I love reading your posts, your comments, your reviews. I know I want to click that "Publish" button again really soon and there are a couple of projects planned for the upcoming month. But instead of freaking out over unexplained hiatuses, instead of issuing a string of apologies, I'm just going to go with the flow.

It's life. It happens. And thank you for sticking with me through it.

Happy Thanksgiving!(:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mini-Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry 

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Rating: 4 Stars
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means. A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is, upon further reflection, the type of deceptively crafted title I absolutely love to devour on a rainy spring afternoon. Everything from the brief book reviews which preface its every chapter to the odd little details the author sprinkles within the opening pages of the novel--only to re-introduce them in miraculous means towards the end of the story--are utterly charming, delightful, and more than a little engaging. Fikry's book reviews not only introduce subtle events in every chapter to come, but they are written from the future as the story struggles to catch up to his current timeline, a method which works to perfection, crafted and re-crafted by Zevin throughout the course of the book. 

It's difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what it is about this novel that just works. Is it the quaint little bookstore in a tiny off-the-coast island, inhabited by citizens whose lives are extraordinary in their ordinariness? Or is it the transformation of A.J. Fikry, a rather aloof widowed bookstore owner whose life changes the day baby Maya shows up on his doorstep? Or, perhaps, it is simply that Zevin writes her contemporary title in the tone of magical realism, introducing even the simplest of emotions such as love or hope or happiness as pure magic. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry isn't a sugar-coated tale, though--for the most part--it appears so. Yet, it is the minuscule sprinkles of sorrow and grounded reality in a tale of love and redemption that, ultimately, make this a journey to remember, no matter how many times it is read.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

Title: Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1)

Author: Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 Stars

Forget the new Kate Daniels book, I just want more of the Hidden Legacy series. It speaks to the immense strength of the Ilona Andrews writing duo that, despite diverging from a well-known and slightly formulaic series, they still manage to put forth innovative, fresh, and genuinely captivating novels. It was already evident from The Edge books, a series of companion novels set in the same universe, but now with both The Innkeeper Chronicles and Hidden Legacy series, two incredibly promising series debuts, they have proved that there is much, much more up their sleeve either than Kate Daniels.

Frankly, that's rare. We see it all too often where authors simply draw out a series beyond its natural ending point or inundate fans with countless spin-off series. I admire Ilona Andrews all the more, however, for choosing to begin new ventures. Moreover, both Clean Sweep and Burn for Me contain characters written in a completely different vein from Kate and Curran. I love Nevada, the family-oriented and loyal protagonist of Burn for Me, and I particularly love the distinct quality of her narration. It's funny, just as Ilona Andrews knows to be, but it also lacks the loneliness and despair that marked Kate's voice in Magic Bites, instead giving rise to a flavor of indomitable strength and courage tinged with vulnerability--a state I was able to instantly relate to. 

Unlike Kate, Nevada is instantly like-able and her world, full of enormous leaps in social hierarchy, forces her to be a victim of her environment in more ways than one. The world-building in Burn for Me is intricate and intriguing from the start and only develops as the novel progresses, which I love. You're left with the sense that there is so much more left to be told, not just story-wise with this series, but also world-wise and I anticipate that sensation of peeling back layers to a new novel. Plus, for those of you who are fans of Ilona Andrews heart-stopping action sequences and penchant for mythological mysteries, have no fear; it is present in spades in Burn for Me. 

Yet, what makes Burn for Me such an incredible novel is, simply put, its characters. Nevada, her ex-solider mother, her younger brothers and sisters, her hacker cousin Bern, her grandmother who isn't too old to appreciate a shirtless (and very good-looking) man, and, of course, Mad Rogan himself. Without divulging spoilers, Burn for Me places Nevada, a woman with relatively little magical power, under control of the corporation to which her business is mortgaged and, as a result, she much apprehend a powerful fire-wielding psychopath, Adam. Mad Rogan, known for his immense power and the enormous death rate he has been responsible for during the war, is searching for Adam for reasons of his own and when the two team up, sparks fly. 

Mad Rogan isn't your typical hero. After serving in the war for years and wielding an unparalleled amount of magical ability, Mad Rogan is used to getting what he wants, who he wants, and when he wants them. Thus, he lacks empathy and sees murder as the first--and only--solution to every problem thrown his way. Needless to say, Nevada is terrified of the man despite the sexual tension palpable between them. To write a romance between a character such as Mad Rogan and a civilian such as Nevada is no easy task but Ilona Andrews truly makes us root for them. Moreover, it helps that we, as readers, are offered miniscule glimpses into Mad Rogan that Nevada lacks which gives us a stronger insight into the man. It isn't a fast-paced romance--but Ilona Andrews has never been known for that--and the slow-burn is torturous but oh-so-gratifying. Or, at any rate, I imagine it will be in the next few installments. 

Long story short, Burn for Me is a must-read for fans of Ilona Andrews and/or the Urban Fantasy genre. It's a true breath of fresh air from the all-too-typical insta-love sequences with vampires or other paranormal creatures and the lore of this universe will grab you in and won't let you go. Plus, don't even get me started on Mad Rogan. Move over Curran because Mad Rogan is here! ;) Burn for Me. Read it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Chaos by Sarah Fine

Title: Chaos (Guards of the Shadowlands, #3) 

Author: Sarah Fine

Rating: 4 Stars

If you'd asked me even a month ago, I'd have told you that Chaos was probably a finale I'd pass on. I loved Sarah Fine's Sanctum but ever since Fractured, I've been less-than-impressed by her work. Granted, Of Metal and Wishes was promising and I haven't even read Scan, but nothing Fine has written since Sanctum has managed to truly capture my attention.

And then Chaos arrived on my doorstep.

I rarely say this, but Chaos is an incredible conclusion to an innovative series. Sanctum was thought-provoking, compelling, and above all, intelligent. I loved the emotional discourse, the in-depth analysis of a depressive psyche, and I only hoped to see more of it in Fractured. Unfortunately, the latter devolved into a string of love triangles, unnecessary drama, and a cliffhanger ending as the cherry on top. Needless to say, Chaos sank quite low on my list of books to be read.

Oddly enough, it was Sarah Fine's Stories from the Shadowlands which finally convinced me to pick up Chaos. Malachi's journal entries in Stories from the Shadowlands, giving readers insight into his thought process during the dramatic events of Fractured, grudgingly allowed me to re-evaluate these characters and dive into Chaos with an open mind. And, readers, am I glad I did. Chaos completely lived up to the potential within Sanctum--and then some. As a finale, it satisfied. As a novel, it kept me entertaining. And a piece of literature, it made me think. I really don't ask for much more.

Chaos picks up directly where Fractured left off, throwing us back into the realm of the Shadowlands. What I love about re-visiting Fine's fantasy world is the fact that it is such an intelligent one. It exists because of depression, suicide, and other issues of mental illness that plague the human race. As a result, I constantly find myself re-evaluating what I know of these issues from Fine's perspective and I feel as if she uses the medium of paranormal/fantasy in the best possible way: to use fictional situations to highlight real-life problems. It's brilliant, gripping, and above all, integral to our society today. I particularly love that here is a YA trilogy that actually says something that needs to be heard by teens. To all those who constantly oppose the YA genre, Fine's trilogy proves that there is plenty of substance in YA just as in Adult fiction.

Yet, the reason Chaos stands out is due to its impeccable style. Fine strings together a variety of plot threads in this novel; so many that, at first, it seems impossible she's going to pull it off. But she does. Chaos never feels rushed or too slow. Fine's pacing is perfect and, moreover, even after two previous novels, her characters still feel fresh. Lela and Malachi are characters we've been with for years now and while parts of them are transparent and predictable, they are a far cry from the people we originally met them as. Furthermore, Fine brings back old villains and new heroes which make Chaos stand out within the trilogy instead of merely blending into the background as "just another" book in the "Guards of the Shadowlands" series.

Nevertheless, the romance is where Fine truly shines. Forgetting the drama of Fractured, we finally see Lela and Malachi as a united front in Chaos and the result of their strengths combined--their weaknesses balanced--is unbeatable. I love these two. I believe in these two. And they give me so much hope for the people in this world. Their journeys throughout Chaos are littered with despair, instances where fragility is on the brink of strength, but as Fine shows us, what doesn't kill you truly does make you stronger. I love the continued ambiguity in their morality and their depth never ceases to amaze me. I almost don't want to leave these characters behind because, really, there is more to them we still don't know and seeing them change over the years? I want that.

If it isn't already clear, Chaos has made me a die-hard fan of this series all over again. I can't wait to pick up Fine's next novel, in the hopes it surprises me as pleasantly as this one did, and if Fractured was even a fraction as irritating for you as it was for me, I can't recommend Chaos highly enough. Sarah Fine: well done.

P.S. -- I've begun writing for CHANGE Magazine, an online magazine run by college students with articles regarding social and political change in the world and specifically on campuses. I would be forever grateful if you'd take a few minutes to check out my first article in CHANGE Magazine, an interview with a domestic abuse and sexual violence organization. Thanks! :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The TBR Tag!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I hate looking at one singular TBR list and finding books that haven't been released or which are classics or that I already own so I have multiple TBR piles which I keep track of on Goodreads. :)
Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

I'd have to say my TBR is a mix of both. Currently, I feel as if it's mostly e-book since I request publishers to send me electronic copies of books since I'm in college and it's just easier than receiving parcels and finding space to stack up ARCs, but I also have a decent amount of print novels at home which are on my TBR and desperately need to be read someday. 

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

I'm a 100% mood reader. Most of the time, I'll know what I want to read next since it would have recently released and I'll snatch up a copy from the library or Amazon, but other times I just peruse my TBR shelves until I find a few books I really feel like reading that instant and then whichever one I can find I'll read. 

A book that's been on your TBR list the longest?
The Storyteller was, I believe, the first ARC I received and though I've wanted to read this novel many times since having received it, the sorrow that has been promised upon reading this has kept me away like the fearful reader I am. Someday...
A book you recently added to your TBR?
I haven't been able to avoid the gushing reviews of this novel on the internet and, of course, I had to add it to my TBR. If only I could get a copy as easily... ;)
A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
I saw the cover for this novel and was a goner. I don't actually know much about it but, ugh, so gorgeous.
A book on your TBR that you NEVER actually plan on reading?
I plan to read every book on my TBR but there are some, like Black Spring, where I doubt the reality of that actually happening. I adore the haunting cover of this novel but the fact that it's a re-telling of Wuthering Heights almost guarantees I won't enjoy it and though I've loved Croggon's prose in the past, I haven't picked up a book by her in nearly five years and can't be sure this is quite for me after all. Still, just the idea of it on my TBR warms my heart.
An unpublished book on your TBR that you're excited for?
I think to say I'm excited for this is a vast understatement. Just tell me which organs I can donate to get my hands on a copy of this. 
A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read except you?
Yup, that's right. I don't even need to say anything else because everyone really had read this book. Except me. Oops!
A book on your TBR everyone recommends to you?
I'm almost tired of hearing about Mistborn. I love high fantasy, which is why this series gets recommended to me as often as it does, but I just haven't found the appropriate chunk of time to carve out for it yet. I know, I know, I need to. I will. Eventually.
A book on your TBR that you're dying to read?
I am such a die-hard sucker for werewolves (which clearly explains my torrid love affair with Adam Hauptman). Dunkle is an author I've really enjoyed in the past and combine that with the Scottish moors and creepy werewolves and I am basically a goner. If only I could find a copy of this book, though! :(
The number of books on your Goodreads TBR shelf?
I didn't want to know this number but if I count up all my multiple TBR shelves, it's 430. *winces*

Thanks for tagging me, Marlene! :)

I'm not actually going to tag anyone, only because I have no idea who has already been tagged vs. who hasn't but if you'd like to participate in the TBR tag, consider yourself tagged by me! ;)

I wish I could promise that exciting reviews are headed your way, but I can't. I'll hopefully get some blogging done this weekend--we'll see!--but I hope you enjoyed this post and wishing you all a fantastic weekend and week ahead! :D