December Wrap-Up Post

IMG_9061This month I aimed to read 15 books (a pretty big goal!) and basically combined my reading challenges for October and November. I ended up reading 11 books (71 in total this year) – I was actually on track until this one week where I didn’t read anything.

Books read:

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

And these not originally on my TBR:

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan (ARC)

Rise by Amanda Sun

Proxy by Mindee Arnett

The Queen by Kiera Cass

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J. Maas => yes I’m counting each individual novella in an effort to reach my reading goal 🙂

Vampire Knight Vol. One by Matsuri Hino


I can’t wait to share my goals for 2016! I hope everyone has fun plans for New Years Eve! 🙂

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Truthwitch Launch Party: Part Two

Welcome to part two of my Truthwitch Launch Party feature where I’ll be sharing some ways to celebrate the release of Truthwitch. Be sure to check out the hashtag #TruthwitchParty to see everyone’s fun ideas!

Here’s something easy and fun that you can do on January 5:

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Using post-it notes or a small notebook, mark down your favourite quotes. You can even write them down on scraps of paper and keep them in a jar.

Then you can do any or all of the following:

  • share them on social media! I’m sure Sooz and other readers will love to know what you enjoyed about Truthwitch!
  • using the jar idea: pull one out once a day/week/month to remind yourself about your love for this fantastic book
  • save them for the release of WINDWITCH (book #2) as little reminders of what went down in book #1
  • create a collage of quotes or fanart! That’s pretty much the next best thing to hearing someone loved your work.
  • if you happen to be reading a library book, leave post-it notes for the next reader; but please don’t write in any library book or do anything that might get you in trouble!

ICYMI: Truthwitch Launch Party: Part One – Truthwitch Photo Challenge

Truthwitch Launch Party: Part One

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard releases in 7 days and as a street team member, I’ll be sharing some launch party ideas over the next week. Be sure to check out the hashtag #TruthwitchParty to see what everyone else is sharing!

My first idea is…

Truthwitch5

… a Truthwitch Photo Challenge! You can participate using Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr and use the hashtag #TruthwitchChallenge so I can find all your amazing photos! Feel free to tag me in your photos, my username is @akzfineart for most social media sites/apps.

I was lucky enough to read an advance reader copy and I can’t wait to celebrate an entire month of Truthwitch with you guys!

Acronyms: 

TW = Truthwitch

SS&D = Something Strange and Deadly series by Susan Dennard

Sarusan = Sarah J. Maas & Susan Dennard [book collection]

Book Review: Rise by Amanda Sun

25214707Rise (The Paper Gods #2.5)

Read my review of Shadow (The Paper Gods #0.5) & Rain (The Paper Gods #2).

Amanda Sun

5/5 Stars

Release Date: May 1, 2015

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Purchase: This eNovella is free on Kobo, Chapters/Indigo.ca, iTunes, B&N & Kindle

Synopsis on Goodreads: 

A long, long time ago, before the world was as we know it, Izanami and Izanagi came into being. Two of the first of the ancient gods of Japan, they crafted the world from ink and their own imaginations. Izanagi wants, more than anything, to be with Izanami—but one moment of pride could tear them apart forever.

Yuki and Tanaka have been friends for as long as they can remember, but lately deeper feelings have been bubbling beneath the surface. How do they navigate the transition from friendship to true love without destroying the powerful bond between them?

Set a millennia apart, can these two couples, living parallel love stories, find their happily-ever-afters?

Review:

RISE by Amanda Sun is a great companion read to THE PAPER GODS series & an insiders look on secondary and minor characters. The chapters alternate between the Izanami/Izanagi story and the Yuki/Tanaka story and the transition is very smooth. Both stories are connected so alternating them was the only logical choice, in my opinion. Sun does it well enough that you still want to know what happens next, but not on such a huge cliffhanger so as to feel like you’re being thrown into this entirely, different story.

The author explores strong emotions like jealousy, envy and self-doubt & shows how keeping these emotions deep inside can cause destruction and chaos. This was one of the things that connected the two stories and had you wondering if Yuki and Tanaka’s story would have the same ending as Izanami and Izanagi. I went into this slightly familiar with Japanese mythology so I did predict one of the endings, but Sun was still able to surprise me with her own interpretation.

I especially loved the Izanami/Izanagi story. I like when an author shows us the mythology of their book world, and the writing is so beautifully done. The reader saw something like this in RAIN, but Sun is able to focus entirely on the lore by making Izanami and Izanagi the main characters. I’ve heard briefly about these two deities before, but Sun provides a new perspective on them. I’m very excited to read STORM, the last book in the series!

Book Jar Recs: Alternate Reality

Book Jar Recs is a weekly feature where I recommend three books based on an idea, theme, or random word. Each theme has been randomly pulled out of a jar (inspired by a TBR jar). If you have any ideas you’d like me to put in the jar, feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also read my introduction post on this feature here.

This week’s theme is ‘alternate reality’. I’ll be sharing some books that take place in alternate worlds or an alternate version of our own world.


18296016Melissa De La Cruz has always been an all-time favourite of mine and it only made sense to pick this up. The Ring and the Crown is a rather fast read, but enjoyable nonetheless. This is an alternate version of our own world where the British Empire never fell and remains the most powerful in the world. The current ruler, Queen Eleanor the Second has remained ruler for centuries with the help of magic and her Head Merlin, Emrys.

Now her daughter, Princess Marie-Victoria is trying to figure out where she fits in the grand scheme of things. With the help of her friend, Aelwyn (Emrys’ daughter) they come up with a plan to switch places. The two meet new and old friends and learn some important lessons. While I did feel as a book with five POV’s, it should have been longer, I’d still recommend it, particularly if you’re a fan of De La Cruz.

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo


23655201Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra can be described as Sherlock Holmes meets Jane Austen. This takes place in London, England 1872 and is a slightly, alternate version of London, but remains mostly true to the time and place. Seventeen year old Leonora Somerville should have no issues finding a husband – she’s beautiful and soon-to-be very rich. There’s just one issue: her speech disorder which causes her to stutter and mimic other people’s voices. Behind her back she’s called Mad Miss Mimic and her sister is determined to get her married before Miss Mimic has all of Leo’s potential suitors running off.

I loved Leo! She’s a funny character who is both determined to make her sister happy (conforming to society) and listening to her Aunt Emma by doing what makes Leo happy. I definitely enjoyed reading this sort of conflict. The slightly alternative reality comes in as Black Glove, a terrorist group using street urchins to set off explosives around the city – their goal, have the ban lifted off of opium. Then there’s the charming Francis Thornfax, a potential husband for Leo and the ruggedly, handsome Tom Rampling, a working-class boy under Leo’s brother-in-law. When it seems like Tom is connected to Black Glove, Leo decides to do her own detective work and figure out the truth. This is one fantastic thriller you don’t want to miss out on!

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | Kobo


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An old-time classic, The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis is my favourite of the Narnia series. Polly meets Digory, the nephew of her next door neighbour, and while Polly has always considered Digory’s uncle odd, she never expected to be sent to the Wood between Worlds. It’s there that Digory and Polly discover other worlds, like the one that holds a powerful sorceress and the recently born Narnia.

I found Digory’s uncle Andrew to be a very interesting character. He creates these rings from dust said to come from Atlantis; the dust inherited from a woman he met several years ago. I love exploring alternate worlds, so this Wood between Worlds was a compelling element to read about. The book carries the same sort of charm as the rest of the series, but also works as a standalone, so you can read it without feeling the pressure of investing in six other books.

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Book Review: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

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This Monstrous Thing

Mackenzi Lee

5/5 Stars

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Publisher: HarperCollins

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

Review:

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee is a fantastic retelling of Frankenstein as well as a great steampunk novel! I loved her alternate, steampunk Europe and the society of Shadow Boys and Clockwork Men. While Lee changes some elements to fit within her steampunk world, she’s mostly true to the original classic and the life of Mary Shelley.

The novel centres around Alasdair Finch and his family’s involvement with the dangerous society of Shadow Boys. These illegal mechanics re-build broken bones and damaged organs through clockwork parts. While set mainly in Geneva, there exists a strong prejudice across Europe against people with clockwork parts (some places more strongly than others). Lee bases this off real-life issues of the time and the reader can see the authenticity of that, the buildup of raw emotion. These prejudices might even be compared to today’s real-life issues.

The novel is in first person POV and I loved being inside Alasdair’s head. He’s a very likeable character, particularly for his flaws. Some of the many emotions he feels and experiences are very relatable. For instance, there’s his past jealousy of his older brother, Oliver, for holding the attention of Alasdair’s idol, Dr. Geisler. Geisler introduces the Finch family to this world of Clockwork Men, and all Alasdair dreams of is going to Ingolstadt and studying under his idol, in a university that values technological advancement. Oliver and Alasdair have a strong brotherly bond, but this jealousy causes a huge rift and so we have This Monstrous Thing.

The writing is impressive! I felt there was a smooth transition between the present timeline and past memories or flashbacks of Alasdair. The action is somewhat slow in the beginning, but picks up near the end (and very much worth it!). I loved the action scenes, they were all phenomenal and the face-to-face with Alasdair and Oliver was very powerful. I have siblings and seeing our own bond within these characters was very stirring.

A few things I didn’t expect but loved was how Lee wrote Mary Shelley in as a character and the way Frankenstein existed as a book in the novel. With the tension surrounding Clockwork Men already high, Frankenstein creates even more anxiety and fear. Both the police and the general public in Geneva make it their number one mission to find both this monster of Frankenstein and the society of Shadow Boys. When deciding how the original tale would exist in Lee’s retelling, this was definitely the right call. Furthermore, I loved learning about Mary as a person beyond her legendary classic. I read Frankenstein in high school and at the same time learned about Shelley, but never beyond that. Lee establishes a new appreciation of both author and novel in This Monstrous Thing.

As a fan of Frankenstein, I was already confident I’d enjoy it, but This Monstrous Thing goes above and beyond my expectations. I love books and television/film that focus deeply on sibling bonds. It’s intriguing to read about how far someone will go for their brother or sister. For Alasdair, mortal limits mean nothing when it comes to saving his brother. Whether or not you’re a fan of Shelley’s classic novel, you’ll love this deeply evocative story of two brothers and their world of clockwork.

 

Book Jar Recs: Only Standalone

Book Jar Recs is a weekly feature where I recommend three books based on an idea, theme, or random word. Each theme has been randomly pulled out of a jar (inspired by a TBR jar). If you have any ideas you’d like me to put in the jar, feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also read my introduction post on this feature here.

This week’s theme is ‘only standalone’. I took that to mean books that are written as standalones with characters you’d love to hear about again, but deep down inside know their story is over and wouldn’t work beyond that one book.


saint anything

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen has been one of my favourite reads of 2015. The way it discussed feeling invisible spoke to me on so many levels and for that I’m glad it was my first Dessen novel. Sydney has always felt invisible, living in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton. At the beginning, Peyton is sentenced to jail for a drunk driving accident, and when her parents continue to hold Peyton in that golden light, Sydney feels she has to shoulder the guilt of what happened to the victim of the accident.

Dessen has created characters who can appeal to different kinds of readers. They all have different stories about feeling invisible as well as being visible in the ways we don’t want to be. This is a book that speaks to you, whether you’re a contemporary reader or a fantasy reader; whether you’ve had that feeling of invisibility or not. I saw experiences of several characters not only in myself, but also in people I know. That’s the sort of thing I value in a book.

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo


10914After reading My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult became an instant fave of mine and I just had to read more of her books. I mainly picked up Songs of the Humpback Whale because I saw the title and thought oh! something about humpback whales (I was going through this humpback-obsessed phase at the time). Even though it was not directly about humpback whales (one of the main character’s studies them so it’s a central aspect of the plot), I still loved it!

Jane and Oliver Jones have had a rocky marriage and when Oliver chooses career over family yet again, Jane decides enough is enough and leaves with her daughter, Rebecca for her brother’s apple farm. Character development is huge and Picoult lays out all this emotion in the same way that had me falling in love with My Sister’s Keeper. The one thing I strongly disliked – maybe even hated – about the novel was the ending. I personally didn’t agree with Jane’s choice at the end; I felt like that choice made all the growth gained throughout the novel all for nothing. All in all, it’s interesting to think about what I’d do differently because in that way I’m somewhat in Picoult’s head. If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know if you agreed with the ending.

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

*Side Note: The cover above is the edition I own and even though there’s a lot of covers around, this one doesn’t seem to be in print anymore (or readily available in the above retailers).


21943246Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick was a somewhat surprisingly, enjoyable read for me. I was familiar with her popular Hush, Hush series (still on my TBR) but having never read her, I didn’t have any expectations. I was actually a bit nervous of how that shift from urban fantasy to contemporary went for her. Fitzpatrick understands the contemporary genre really well. I’m not a big contemporary reader, so becoming a new fan of Fitzpatrick through Black Ice was a big thing for me. I don’t know when I’ll get to her Hush, Hush series, but I will be making time for her recent release, Dangerous Lies (especially since I won an arc!).

In Black Ice, the main character is Britt Pheiffer and I took an instant liking to her. She’s been training for a hiking trip to the Teton Range with her best friend for the past year. Things take a turn for the worst when the two of them get lost in a major snowstorm and are forced to shelter in a cabin with two dangerous strangers. Britt also needs to watch out for the serial killer, who may or may not be involved with these strangers. The mystery surrounding the serial killer was well-played; I didn’t figure it out until very close to the end – and I’m great at figuring out those things! The entire survival aspect, and Britt needing to rely on what she’s learned in the past year was well-researched. I’d without a doubt recommend this thrilling novel!

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Disclaimer: I won a finished copy from a Simon and Schuster CA giveaway. This has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

 

 

Book Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

13638125Vicious 

V.E. Schwab

5/5 Stars

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Publisher: Tor

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Review:

Vicious by V.E. Schwab is a fresh take on the superhero subgenre. I loved trying to figure who was the villain and who was the hero. Victor Vale and Eli Cardale meet at university and it’s when Eli’s theoretical research into ExtraOrdinary (EO’s) people catches Victor’s interest that things go wrong. This is a case of an unreliable narrator because villains don’t believe they’re villains. Vicious is a new original classic that carries suspense to the very last page.

Time is an interesting concept here. Every other chapter would take place in the past, namely 10 years before the novel begins, but near the end, the ‘past’ could also be 10 hours before the present timeline. This present then past then present format helped carry the suspense of what exactly went down between Victor and Eli. The reader knows something really bad happened between the two, but Schwab leaves that valuable information right out of our reach. It’s up to us to follow the breadcrumbs.

Schwab’s take on the superhero genre is well done because I went into the novel trying to figure out who’s the bad guy, who’s the good guy and there’s really no ‘good guy’. In the beginning, I was confident that Victor himself was the villain. He somewhat admits this and the way his mind works just screams ‘super villain’, but then Schwab switches up the POV and BAM! self doubt settles in. The author is also good at creating these grey characters and you end up rooting for this villain to win, or that villain to lose. Her characters are cunning and manipulative, and the reader is not immune to that power. You learn to love it haha 😉

Vicious is made up of morally complex characters, but it’s up to the reader to decide which ones are ‘good’. A very hard task to do! This is a story of one great super villain versus another great super villain, but both wouldn’t be anywhere without their allies. I loved reading about Mitch, Sydney and Serena, and how they became involved with EO’s. Mitch is the only non-EO, but he’s very good with hacking computer systems, a talent that stood out to Victor.

Science plays a large and important role in Vicious. Schwab has a story to tell because two very intelligent students use science to achieve superhuman powers. This made the storyline all the more realistic to me. I enjoy superhero-type novels, but I love them even more when science plays a significant part in the plot. When you take the time to show how a person’s power exists, it helps the reader envision it in the real world. Schwab invents the term ‘ExtraOrdinary’ and I’d say in the world of Vicious, it’s a noun that carries the same meaning as superhero. Having the science there gives it added weight. I wouldn’t mind being an EO myself – hopefully I’d have some cool powers!

The writing is phenomenal! I was never bored with the dialogue or the plot. I somewhat expected the ending because of a certain character’s power, but it was still a page stopper. Vicious is a very entertaining read and I loved being in the heads of Schwab’s fantastically, dark characters. This is one super villain story you don’t want to miss out on!

Shrinking the TBR Pile: December

  I introduced this challenge back in October with the intent of cutting down on my TBR pile before 2016. For November, I tried to read only library books. I ended up reading four library books plus an arc making a total of five books read last month 😦 My goal is to read at least 75 books this year, so I have 15 more to go!

Library books read:

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Plus these two which weren’t on my original list:

The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston

The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston

And the ARC:

Fire Falling by Elisa Kova


December Monthly Challenge:

For this month, I’ll be combining my October and November challenges plus adding books I’d like to review before 2016.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (I started this in November and am almost done!)

Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie (eARC)

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (eARC)

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (eARC)

Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers (eARC)

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Rabbit Ears by Maggie De Vries

The Rose Society by Marie Lu

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

The Troop by Nick Cutter

Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler (eARC)

The Heartless City by Andrea Berthot (ebook)

A higher TBR list than usual but I’m very optimistic about reading 75 books by the end of 2015.