Monday, June 27, 2016

THE SERIES SERIES: A Follow-up On The Series I've Finished (And Whether I'd Recommend Them)


About a year and a half ago I did a series on here called The Series Series talking all about - you guessed it - book series.  I'm nothing if not imaginative when naming my posts.

Part One discussed series I've finished, and whether I'd recommend them.

Part Two discussed series I've started, and whether I planned to continue.

Part Three discussed series I haven't read that I was considering starting.

I finished my part in The Series Series with a discussion defending the series format, and then had a week's worth of awesome guest posts by Bridget, Jessie, Cassie, Kami, and Kathy.

I really enjoyed writing that whole thing, but one thing that really surprised me while I was doing it was the realization that, holy moly, I have started a lot of book series.  Like, for real, a lot.  So, since it's been a while (A year and a half), I decided to do a follow up to record what changes have occurred in the interim.   I'll be talking about book series all week here, starting with what series I've finished in the last year and a half.  Here we go!


Series I've Finished 
(And Whether I'd Recommend Them)




The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Number of Books: 4 (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter)
Series in 5 Words: Swashbuckling Space Fairy Tale Adventure
Overall Feeling: I read the last three books in this series all at once, and I'm glad I did.  This is a good series to binge read, as going quickly allows you to overlook some of the plot holes and just enjoy the ride.  It may have oversimplified the revolutionary aspects of the plot, but the cast is endearing and the plot is engaging and Meyer does a good job of including romance without it becoming the main focus of the story.  Well done!
Conclusion: Swoony, funny, and exciting.  Definitely worth the read if you like YA and fairy tale adaptations.
Series in a GIF
Grandfathered smile smiling sunglasses john stamos

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The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Number of Books: 3 (The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Crime, and The Winner's Kiss)
Series in 5 Words: Determined Love Struggles And Conquers 
Overall Feeling: This series was primarily an emotional one.  The romance is the forefront of this story, which isn't usually my jam, but Rutkoski won me over with her fine handling of all the emotions going on here: the main characters are under immense amounts of pressure, and their choices are made after a great deal of inner struggle to balance their head and their heart.  It's a bittersweet story in many ways, not a light romance at all considering all the sacrifice they all go through.  But it ends on a mostly happy note, and gives readers a whole lot of adrenaline with the revolutionary background of the story. 
Conclusion: A good one for romance fans who like a bit of excitement with their swoons.
Series in a GIF:
movie kiss m pirates of the caribbean pirates

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The Princess Academy Trilogy by Shannon Hale
Number of Books: 3 (Princess Academy, Palace of Stone, and The Forgotten Sisters)
Series in 5 Words: Friendship Will Always Reign Supreme 
Overall Feeling: I really like how Hale's MG and YA novels always have friendship as a main theme.  These books feature a nice picture of loyalty, understanding, and helpfulness between kids, and I'd love for my kids to read these someday.
Conclusion: A sweet and happy series for kids.

Series in a GIF:
hug mulan love disney friendship

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Of Metal and Wishes Duology by Sarah Fine

Number of Books: 2 (Of Metal and Wishes and Of Dreams and Rust)
Series in 5 Words: Phantom and Raoul Are Awesome
Overall Feeling: I loved the first book.  The second book... not so much.  But I liked that the Phantom and Raoul characters were so fleshed out, even though Wen was a little bit of a disappointment.
Conclusion: A great first book, and I hope this starts a trend of more musical-to-book adaptations.
Series in a GIF:
emmy rossum phantom of the opera minnie driver poto carlotta giudecelli


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The Soul Eater Series by Eliza Crewe

Number of Books: 3 (Cracked, Crushed and Crossed)
Series in 5 Words: Friendship In Good And Evil
Overall Feeling: I blew through this whole series in a couple of weeks.  There are some moments of pretty gross violence that required some skimming for my stomach's sake, but I loved the friendship between the main characters, and I really liked that Meda felt like an ordinary teenager in completely extraordinary circumstances.  I've never met another character like her.  It's like she cares about people almost against her will.  I've missed being in her sarcastic head. 
Conclusion: A really exciting, original, and completely gripping trilogy with an unusual protagonist who will win you over.
Series in a GIF:
really owl reactions surprised omfg

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate."


Review: I've been wanting to read this book ever since it came out, but haven't because it was really, really long and I needed to stay on top of my Goodreads Challenge.  But I'm not doing a Goodreads Challenge this year, so hey!  Bring on the big fat books!

This is one of those books that will mean something different to everyone who reads it. To me, the illustration of a boy who repeatedly continues living in spite of all the turmoil in his life - both internal and external turmoil, given to him by fate and self-made - was difficult. He makes so many mistakes, and is dealt so many blows, which of course were hard to read, but what was really difficult for me was to deal with his extreme anxiety and depression. (And, actually, the reason this book isn't a full five stars is because, as someone with anxiety, I didn't always feel that the portrayal was accurate.) 

However, despite the hard knocks and the cesspool of crap Theo constantly wades through, he always keeps going... Into an uncertain future, that doesn't guarantee happiness, that might even destroy him... he keeps putting one foot in front of the other. And isn't there something innately hopeful in that? In knowing that life sucks and you're going to get your heart broken and fail and sometimes want to give it all up, but even so, you keep going? Keep living? And maybe even find a way to live happily amid the crap? 

This book was not a happy story to me (frankly, much of it was downright miserable and depressing) and yet I left it feeling hopeful. Believing in beauty and truth and love. Believing that good can come from strange back doors. And believing that even if life is one giant game of Screw You, there's a way to play that game joyfully.

(Note: This book will not be a good choice if you're sensitive to language.)

Review in a GIF:
music video drake degrassi jimmy


Bottom Line: Pick this one up if you want a nice long read that will give you plenty to think about.  Or if you just want to say that the book you're reading won the Pulitzer.  NBD.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why I'm Not Doing The Goodreads Challenge This Year

Let me be clear: I love Goodreads.  I love that there is a place where I can keep record of everything I read and record my thoughts, and, maybe most importantly, keep track of my massive TBR list.  Goodreads is my friend.  I'm a fan.  I'm also a fan of the Goodreads challenge because it helps push people to read more.  I've done the Goodreads challenge several times in years past, and I like that Goodreads tracks what I've read and tells me whether I'm on track or whether I need to pick it up to meet my goal.  Often times, my Goodreads challenge is the only New Years challenge I actually complete in any given year.  :)

But I'm not doing it this year.  Here's why:

1) When I'm doing the Goodreads challenge, I shy away from big books.

I like big, fat books.  I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I finish them.  In years past, I usually made a goal of reading around 45-60 books a year, which averages out to about one book every week.  Big books take longer to read, for obvious reasons, and I don't always finish them in a single week.  So even if my page count is comparable to previous years, my book count is shorter if I read a bunch of big books, which makes it a lot harder to reach my goal.  When choosing between two books, I would tend to pick the shorter, easier one, even if I was less interested, just so that I could stay on top of my goal.  So, when I thought about it, I realized that the Goodreads Challenge was actually hindering my reading progress because it was preventing me from reading harder.  This year I've already read some big, fat books, and I've liked that I wasn't stressed out if I didn't finish them by the end of the week.  It made the whole process much smoother.

2) I'm going to read anyway.

I'm a reader.  I have been ever since I can remember.  I think the Goodreads Challenge would be very beneficial for those who might tend not read in their spare time and want to change that.  If the Goodreads Challenge provides that extra push to read instead of watch reruns of Fixer Upper, then awesome!  You should go for it!  (But still watch Fixer Upper while making dinner or something because that show is awesome.)  But I find that extra impetus to read isn't really necessary for me.  I'm going to read anyway, so I don't really need any extra pushes.  Now if Goodreads had a challenge that actually pushed me to go running, that would be a different story.

3) It was stressing me out.

Of all the things in my life, reading is not typically one of my stressers.  Having this challenge in the back of my mind when I was reading would sometimes make me focus more on how many books I was reading instead of the book itself.  My goal was to finish books, not to think about them, not to write about them, not to process them or talk about them or do anything besides mark "read" besides the title.  I didn't like that.  I wanted to go back to that intimate feeling between a story and its reader, where my mind and the words I was reading were trying each other on and seeing how we fit and how we made each other different.  I wanted to feel connected to the books themselves, and I felt like the Goodreads Challenge was turning my books into a statistic.  It was messing with my relationship with books and it was stressing me out. 

So I stopped.  As a result, this year has been so freeing.  I've still read my share of short, fluffy books, but I read them because I wanted to.  And when I felt like a heavy, thought-provoking Pulitzer winning hunk of a book, I read that, too.  My numbers may not be as high, but I honestly think my reading has broadened, and, more importantly, I feel happier.  

I might do the Goodreads Challenge again someday, but if I do I would probably make a really low goal number-wise, one that I knew I would meet even if I went through a Victorian Russian authors phase while caring for newborn twins.  Because no one needs extra stress in their lives.  And I want my relationship with books to remain positive and fulfilling.

Now to find a different New Years challenge that I can actually complete before the end of the year...

It's strange to talk about goals in June, but oh well!  Do you set New Years goals?  If so, how are you doing, now that we're half way through the year?  Do you do the Goodreads Challenge?  What's your experience been like?  Do you feel it helps or hurts your relationship with books?  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski


The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?"


ReviewThis author's writing feels like a seduction. As Arin and Kestrel fall further under each other's spell, the reader falls further under the spell of the writer.  I admire her lyricism and was definitely invested in Arin and Kestrel's relationship.  Congratulations to Ms. Rutkoski on making me want read a romance trilogy!  

I was impressed with how she conveys how many layers are present in most relationships, even though most of us don't have so much drama in our relationships as Kestrel and Arin. I think most people can relate to having one person bring you both comfort and anxiety, among other things. I don't know if I'm making sense, but basically I thought the depth and complexity of the characters' emotions in this book (and series) were excellently and accurately done. It's pretty rare to find a YA book with this level of emotional intelligence, I think. 

That being said, the plot definitely is not as strong as the relationships she writes about.  The war was secondary to the romance, which was fine, I guess, since the romance was the central focus here.  But I thought the second book really upped the political anty of this series, only to have it fall to the background again in this book.  It was still a good, solid read with some strong moments of suspense and action.  It just wasn't on par with her characterization.  If only the plot was as strong as the characters this series could be really great.  

Review in a GIF:
love black and white kiss show dexter

Bottom Line: I probably won't read this series again, but it was a good romance, a solid trilogy, and I'm glad I read it once.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For The Second Half Of 2016

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt is:

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For The Second Half of 2016

These all have me drooling, and will all be released by the end of the year.  Gimmee!!!!

Although I really hate that cover image, I am still super excited to continue this insane series.

I just finished her Lunar Chronicles series earlier this year, and man can she write!  I've got pretty high expectations for this adaptation based on Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts.

I had thought that this series was a trilogy, but it's actually a duology.  So no more waiting after this sequel for closure!

I've been digging this series for two years.  Can't wait to close it out when this book is released this August.

Although parts of book 2 were super convoluted, I am still and fan and will definitely read this final installment in November.

A new series written by the author of the Under the Never Sky series?  WHY DID I NOT KNOW OF THIS SOONER.

This one is actually already out, but since I haven't read it yet I'm including it here.  I loved book one, and am wanting to dig into this second half!  (Are duologies a thing now?  It seems like duologies are popping up more and more instead of trilogies.)

I will basically drop my life to read this book when it's released in November.  I'm a massive fan of this series.

2. Untitled Cormoran Strike #4 by Robert Galbraith
I don't know if book 4 will be released this year.  It's doubtful, since there's no release date, cover image, blurb, or even a title for this book yet.  But all her other Cormoran Strike books were released in Autumn, so I'm crossing my fingers anyway.

I want to see this play SO BAD.  I'm so curious who the cursed child is, and why.

What of these will you be reading?  What 2016 releases are you looking forward to, and why?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Weekly Words: Annonymous

Fiction allows us to experience anything

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ten Books on my Second Tier TBR List


I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  But I wasn't feeling this week's prompt, so I made up my own!  And it isn't even Tuesday!  Try not to be too overcome at my rebellious nature.  My self-imposed prompt is:

Ten Books On My Second Tier TBR List

Let me explain.  We all have to-read lists a mile long.  And I always have a handful of books that I know I'll read as soon as I get my hands on them.  (I made such a list of those books I plan on reading this summer a few weeks ago.)  But I have a bunch of other books on my TBR list that I really, truly want to read, only they never seem to make it to the top of the pile.  Some of these books have been on my Goodreads list for years.  Sadly, they seem doomed to forever remain on my TBR list because my first tier reading list is never complete.  
I liked the film and always wanted to read the book.  We'll see if that ever happens.


9. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I own this one.  It's been mocking me from my bookshelf for the better part of a decade.


8. Quiet by Susan Cain
This book has been recommended to me a lot.  As an introvert, I like that introversion is having a moment.  However, I suspect that this book is more beneficial for extroverts trying to understand the introverts in their lives.  I don't feel the need to read as much about introverted tendencies and personality traits that I already know a lot about, seeing as I am one.


7. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
I actually have started this book about five times.  I just cannot get into it.  But my admiration for Zusak always brings me back.


6. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
I might read this to my kids when they're older.  I'm not sure I'll read it just for myself though.


5. The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
Two different people gave this book to me for my birthday a few years ago.  That seemed like a pretty clear sign from the universe that I should read it.  I just never have. 


4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I've read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.  But not this one.

3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
It sounds so good.  I've just never gotten around to it.


2. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Everyone says it's fantastic.  But I keep picking up other things instead.


1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
This is another beloved book that I keep not reading.

Here's where you come in:  Tell me which of these should be bumped up on my priority list!  Which ones was I right to pass over?  What should be deleted from my TBR list altogether?  And which ones do I need to read immediately??