February 2015 Wrap-up!

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The rules:

•Post a sticker – whether it be mine or your own (provided it has Counting the Stars on it).
•Either a) leave a link to your post in the comments below or b) tell me your answers in the comments – either is fine!
•Try to post titles under at least a few of the categories below.

Sigh. This was my first month back at school and it has been HECTIC. It’s definitely, definitely a step up from last year. I do homework from 4-10pm everyday (without actually having proper study time) and if my eyes aren’t too try and tired by 10pm then I read for a bit. Ok, I’m done complaining.

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Bought:

…Nothing. But I’ve got something ready to buy…

Gifted:

Nada.

Won:

Zilch.

Library:

  • The Duff by Kody KeplingerThe DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
  • Frostfire by Amanda HockingFrostfire (Kanin Chronicles, #1)

For review:

I was so excited when they came. Thank you so much Allen & Unwin!!

  • A Small Madness by Dianne TouchellA Small Madness
  • Soulprint by Megan MirandaSoulprint

Read: 

  • Starlet’s Web by Carla J. HannaStarlet's Web (The Starlet, #1)
  • A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia GrayA Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)
  • Quintspinner by Dianne GreenlayQuintspinner (Quintspinner series)
  • The ‘Naturals by Robin ParrishThe 'Naturals: Awakening [Episodes 1-4 -- Season 1] (Young Adult Serial)
  • Heartbeat by Elizabeth ScottHeartbeat
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter (reread)Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)
  • The Duff by Kody KeplingerThe DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
  • A Small Madness by Dianne TouchellA Small Madness

TBR:

  • Switched by Amanda Hocking (reread)Switched (Trylle Trilogy, #1)
  • Torn by Amanda Hocking (reread)Torn (Trylle, #2)
  • Ascend by Amanda Hocking (reread)Ascend (Trylle Trilogy, #3)
  • Frostfire by Amanda HockingFrostfire (Kanin Chronicles, #1)
  • Soulprint by Megan MirandaSoulprint

Currently reading:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow RowellFangirl
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The Winner’s Crime

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Publication date: March 12th 2015

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)

Number of pages: 368

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy (2#)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Source: Received in exchange for review. This is my honest opinion.

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Goodreads synopsis:

Lady Kestrel’s engagement to Valoria’s crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust …

While Arin fights to keep his country’s freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.

Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner’s trilogy.

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Review:

There may be spoilers for the previous book…

Clever, dazzling and intricately woven, Marie Rutkoski stuns again with The Winner’s Crime. Now, Kestrel has to tread more carefully than ever.

The first and foremost thing I love about these books is Kestrel. She’s witty, brave and generally quite awesome. I love the way that she doesn’t have to be a supreme physical fighter to kick butt, but rather she wields her skill with strategising and her intelligence. It’s pretty great that she can still be such a strong heroine while not being a Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Tris (Divergent) in the way that there is less emphasis on physical fighting. Not that emphasis on physical fighting is a bad thing, I’m just saying that I like that it’s something a little different for me.

I’m guessing that if you read the above paragraph you won’t be very surprised that I preferred the parts of the text that were centered around Kestel (or Kestrel and Arin) rather than just Arin. Even in the last book I wasn’t a major supporter of Team Arin. He just falls kind of flat for me and I don’t a) find him particularly interesting, or b) like him that much. I find that he can be a little bit too moody and he just doesn’t really jump out at me.

I love the game that the characters are playing. The book so wonderfully shows the consequences of the actions of the characters and it’s all so carefully and cleverly plotted. It’s just so unpredictable that you really don’t know what move the characters are going to play next and what’s going to happen. And yet I feel like I know the characters so well.

…And I’m about to contradict myself. I did see the ending coming. But I didn’t mind so much because I was unsure and it did still hit pretty hard. One scene in particular towards the end between Kestrel and another character was really painful.

But enough about the sad scenes – because PUPPY! If there is a cute puppy in any book then I can just about promise you that I will love the book. Dogs are the best thing ever (sorry cat lovers) and they are the most cutest, loyalist creatures. AND PUPPIES ARE ADORABLE.

These books have made me really interested in playing the game Kestrel plays in the book: Bite & Sting. It sounds so cool and I’d love to know what it’s based off. So if you know…please do share.

I did feel very sorry for Verex though. To be honest I wouldn’t even have minded if Kestrel’s love switched to Verex rather than Arin. And I could not stand Jess in this book. I don’t really sympathise with her whatsoever.

All in all, I thought that this was a stunning sequel that actually surpassed The Winner’s Curse in my opinion. If you loved the first book, you will love this one.

4.5/5 comets
KABOOM! That only leaves one continent (one little flaw). 

Add The Winner’s Crime to Goodreads

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Goodreads author bio:

Marie RutkoskiMarie Rutkoski is the author of the YA novel The Shadow Society and the children’s fantasy series The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders, The Celestial Globe and The Jewel of the Kalderash. Her next project is a YA trilogy that begins with The Winner’s Curse, which is scheduled to be published in March 2014.

Marie grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She holds a BA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Harvard University. Marie is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and fiction writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

http://us.macmillan.com/author/marier…

Review: Heartbeat

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat

Publication date: March 1st 2014 (first published January 1st 2009)

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Number of pages: 223

Series: N/A

Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction

Source: Purchased. This is my honest opinion.

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Goodreads synopsis:

Does life go on when your heart is broken?

Since her mother’s sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward—because her mother is, in a way, still there. She’s being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her.

Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important—grades, crushes, college plans—Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her—Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma’s own. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death—and maybe, for love?

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Review:

Let’s be honest here: we’re all good people. I actually had no expectations when I went into this book. No good ones, no bad ones. Pretty cray.

When ever I say “cray”, I  always want to say “fish”. Ya know, as in “crayfish”.

I’m sorry.

But really, I was actually mucking around when I started reading this. I was in a total not-reading mode. I had read a 49 page book that night purely because it was a 49 page book and I felt guilty for not having  read in a while. Then I picked up Heartbeat, just randomly. But that’s when I knew…

That we were going to be married.

Well, no. But I knew that I’d finally found a book I could stick through reading.

The things dealt with in this novel were just chronic. Everything the main character and her stepdad went through was just so, so painful. It really makes you question yourself and your ethics. What’s right and what’s wrong.

I have to say that my favourite character was easily Dan. Emma’s stepdad. I sympathised with him so much and he almost tore me to shreds. You could tell how much pain he was in, from his wife, from his stepdaughter and from his unborn son. And every time Emma said something awful to him, I could practically feel his pain.

I wanted to scream at Emma a lot of the time. Her character was so frustrating. She hurt everyone around her because she was hurting. She was really quite self-centred to tell the truth, and I felt awful for Olivia (doesn’t she have a wonderful name?!) when every thing that Emma said was about how badly she was dealing with her grief. Please, don’t call me insensitive, but I don’t like the way she dealt with her grief. And it was totally wrong of her to blame Dan.

But again, I think that’s part of the whole theme.

I thought that the pacing and length of the story were pretty much dead-on. Perfect length. Really. In that time Caleb and Emma’s relationship had enough time to bloom from zero to head-over-heels on the love scale. I loved their relationship, just a little FYI there. And I loved her relationship with Olivia too (and not just because of her gorgeous name). The pacing was great because it kept the story moving and interesting, which I find can be a little iffy in contemporaries. And I need to read more of her books.

Heartbeat will tear your heart, make it ache and make it break. Go on, let it.

4/5 comets
Meteor shower. A great show.

Add Heartbeat to Goodreads

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Goodreads author bio:

Elizabeth ScottHey there, I’m Elizabeth. I write young adult novels. I live just outside Washington DC with my husband and dog, and am unable to pass a bookstore without stopping and going inside.

All right, and I can’t leave without buying at least one book.

Usually two. (Or more!)

My website and blog are at elizabethwrites.com, and I’m also on twitter, tumblr, and facebook

Review: Quintspinner

Quintspinner by Dianne Greenlay

Quintspinner (Quintspinner series)

Publication date: December 28th 2011

Publisher: Self-published

Number of pages: 379

Series: Quintspinner (1#)

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Source: Received in exchange for review. This is my honest opinion.

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Goodreads synopsis:

A secret and unauthorized trip through the chaos of a 1717 London marketplace takes a bizarre twist for 16 year old Tess. Unexpectedly witnessing the murder of a renowned Seer, Tess becomes the keeper of the old woman’s legendary spinner ring and its supposed power of prophecy.

Returning home, Tess bears the brunt of her father’s rage when he is informed of her disobedient excursion. An ensuing altercation with her father leads Tess to the discovery of a family secret that stuns her. Even so, she never imagines that she will soon find herself forcibly betrothed to the murderer and trapped on a ship bound for the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies.

With increasing dread, she realizes a growing attraction that she has for a handsome sailor puts both their lives at risk. Moreover, she quickly discovers that her ruthless fiance covets her only for her ring and its power, and will stop at nothing to obtain it for himself.

The stakes for survival become unbearably high when she is thrust into the hands of a marauding band of pirates, and she must make an agonizing and life-threatening choice for herself.

A tale of pirates and treasure, love and betrayal, all bound together by a dash of ancient magic, Quintspinner has been described by readers as “a wonderfully entertaining, fast and furious ride; Lord of the Rings meets Pirates of the Caribbean”.

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Review:

It completely, utterly and totally baffles me as to why I am the first one to leave a review for this book on Goodreads. How can such a good book have no reviews on a website where practically every book has a review?

So this was one epic historical fiction. There were pirates in this book. In fact, the book I’m writing at the moment has pirates in it. And I know, not even from just writing my own pirate book, that Dianne Greenlay must have put a LOT of effort into research. Seriously, that is so apparent. Her settings and descriptions of the ship and everything was just so detailed and unrealistic, something I’ve found is an easy thing to lack in historical fiction books.

Perhaps my favourite thing about this book, however, was the authenticity. Dianne Greenlay was not ashamed of showing what the times were really like. From anything from the thoughts of men to racism. It was a very honest read and I really thank her for that. I don’t think teenagers need to be shielded as much as we are from a lot of things (which probably sounds biased, coming from a teen herself).

I loved the way that the story was such that it could go in any direction at any time. And it totally did.

I really adored Tess. She was smart and brave. What more could you want? And I loved how the text wasn’t centred entirely on her relationship with William.

My only little nitpick is that perhaps the book was a little boring in the beginning. But then I got into it major time about half way through and I became a reading force to be reckoned with.

And I think that maybe the slang/accents were a little bit too heavy.

While I really, really enjoyed this book, I don’t think that I will be reading a sequel. I am not really interested where the story left off or with the ring side of the story.

If you like genuine historical fiction served with pirates and adventure, then I really don’t know why you haven’t read this yet.

4/5 comets
Meteor shower. A great show.

Add Quintspinner to Goodreads

 

Be fair. Please.

I really need to get something off my mind that has been bugging me recently. A lot.

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There have been a few author/blogger”problems” lately. Some of you may have seen the Goodreads bingo card, or whatever it was called? Well. I can’t say that as a blogger or Goodreads reviewer I appreciated it too much.

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As a book blogger, I give up my free time promote books. So I obviously want to read good books. I don’t really think anybody would want to read a bad book. So when a blogger posts a one star review, there  has to have been things in the book that the reviewer didn’t like. One of the bingo squares that made me laugh was the one that said ‘Reviewer thinks girl main character is whiny, unlikeable and unsympathetic’. How unfair right? Um, no. They probably are whiny.

Not many people senselessly bash books unless they are really, really offended. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and therefore people aren’t going to love every single book they read. I have different opinions to my friends, etc.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that the whole point of reviewing is giving an honest review. Not many people make up their mind on a book based on one single review. I know that I have a pretty good idea of where the book will sit on my TBR pile after about 5 reviews. But even if they are all bad, and if the premise sounds really good to me, I will still check it out if I’m interested.

All readers make up their own minds based on reviews. 90% of the time there will usually be good and bad reviews for books. I don’t see a one star review that completely bashes a book and go “that book is obviously going to suck if suchandsuch hates it”. We can make up our own minds thank you very much.

So please, give us some credit.

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Review: A Thousand Pieces of You

Excuse me a moment:

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That. Cover.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)

Publication date: November 4th 2014

Publisher: Harper Teen

Number of pages: 368

Series: Firebird (1#)

Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy

Source: Borrowed. This is my honest opinion.

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Goodreads synopsis:

Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

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Review:

I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that I would love this book.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Claudia Gray has absolutely flawless writing that manages to sweep you into a tale that you hope will never let you go.

But who knows?

There a couple of reasons that I was attracted to this book: mainly because IS THAT RUSSIA ON THE COVER?!, wait the rest of the cover is gorgeous too and Claudia Gray. I am sorry if that is undecipherable to anyone else reading this. Let me explain: I will read any book that isn’t set the United States, Australia or England. But put in front of me anything set in places from Scotland to France to Italy to Lithuania to Brazil to Kenya to China to Qatar and I will go crazy and try and pry it from your hands. Travelling is one of my favourite things in the entire world and I love reading books set in other countries. Anywhere. So when I saw Russian architecture on the cover I flipped out. Secondly, the rest of the cover is simply smashing. It’s seriously beautiful. And last of all, Claudia Gray. I have read Evernight so many times and LOVED it. And I loved her book Fateful even more. I really liked (but admittedly that’s all) her book, Spellcaster. So naturally I wanted to read this.

This book was set in the most amazing places: futuristic London, Russia and under the sea. Brilliant, I know. All amazing places.

And better yet was how her character changed each time. I practically even got my historical fiction fix when Marguerite was the Tsar’s daughter. It was also pretty cool when she was a socialite and underwater.

Perhaps the coolest thing was the basic idea that every time a decision is made, a new dimension is created. That’s pretty crazy. Imagine for example, a world where your mother turned down your dad’s proposal (if they got married). Would you have been born?

Now imagine an interdimensional (I do not get to say that enough) chase through infinite realms of infinite possibilities.

I never wanted to leave that book. I loved it so much. I loved the characters. I never wanted it to end. I was geniunely disappointed to finish it. And then I saw the cover of the sequel, which has Paris on it coincidentally, and said “ok then” and put it down. Plus I really needed to know what was going to happen anyway.

I did initially have my apprehensions about beginning this book. And I think that mentality almost stopped me from getting into this book. I just have had some negative experiences with the writing of time-travel books. But once I got into it, I was INTO it.

I absolutely loved the characters. I loved Marguerite and her dad, Theo and Paul. Especially Paul. Marguerite was smart, artistic and was perfect for the book. And I had a major “feels” moment as well.

I am now so excited about reading the sequel. If you haven’t read it yet, here you go. This is the final push you need. Read it now. Why are you still reading this review? Go go go go go.

5/5 comets
Bye, bye Earth! Out of this world.

Add A Thousand Pieces of You to Goodreads

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Goodreads author bio:

Claudia GrayClaudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.

Review: Starlet’s Web

Starlet’s Web by Carla Hanna

Starlet's Web (The Starlet, #1)

Publication date: November 2nd 2012

Publisher: Createspace

Number of pages: 310

Series: The Starlet (1#)

Genre: YA/NA Contemporary

Source: Received in exchange for review. This is my honest opinion.

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Goodreads synopsis extract:

Love. Lies. Acting. A novel about celebrity influence & teens in Hollywood. What makes a star shine? Humility empowers the spirit. Sometimes.

Discover the Starlet Series for new adult & college readers and uncover the life of a talented actress caught in Hollywood’s web of lies.

I’m actress Liana Marie Michael. I won an Oscar at 17 but whatever. Celebrity is what it is: marketing a product. I’m part of a tight-knit group. I keep to myself and don’t complain about my life. I’ve been happy until lately.

Evan dumping me leveled me. Matthew shocked me. I knew he couldn’t hurt me with my bodyguard so near, but his eyes…so I have trust issues. Dating super-hot Byron didn’t help clear the confusion either. I’m torn between going to church on Sunday and making a living from pop culture.

But experience builds perspective. My days of shutting up needed to end. First, I told Manuel. Then I told my mom. It turned out awesome until I learned the truth.

Now I’m screwed. Totally. Let’s face it: Hollywood’s web entangles everyone.

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Review:

I really don’t know what to say. I was really, really not impressed.

I get that this book was trying to capture the exploitation of celebrities and their struggles, but really I didn’t like it.

Exhibit A: The main character. She was THE problem. And there were so many problems with her.
I thought she was ungrateful and arrogant. She drove me up the wall. She really could not seem to be able to look after herself in the slightest. And she didn’t exactly try and prevent half the awful situations she got herself into.

And quite frankly, I was disgusted with the romances. It felt like every page she was kissing a guy and whining about not feeling ‘turned on’. Yes, you read that right. The only half decent romantic interest was broken up with on the first page.

Don’t even get me started on Manuel. EURGH. Ick.
He did not come off as a great book boyfriend. Not only was he possessive, but also very, very rude. He didn’t even support Lia Marie when she needed it. Yeah, I get that it’s nice and all that he liked the ‘real her’ without makeup on and things, but she’s an actress. Sometimes she’s going to wear makeup. He shouldn’t tell her that he hates it. He should support her acting career and not act like a total brat.

In fact their whole relationship was terrible. They’d be fighting and then all of a sudden they’d decide that they are meant to be together. Then after two minutes of being together then Manuel would throw a hissy fit. That happened a lot and was very, very frustrating.

Back to Liana Marie. She spoke nothing really like a teenager. I would know. I am one. She spoke like she was reciting ‘assertive’ arguments that adults tell kids to say. Such as:
“You’re hurting my feelings, Manuel.”
She seemed to swap in between that and a slightly better persona.

However, I did like some things. I liked the way that this book delved into the world of business contracts and child working laws. I thought that was really interesting.

I started to enjoy the book a lot more when I got to the 50% mark. I was especially glued to the screen at around the 70% mark for reasons I shall not go into so I don’t spoil it. But to be honest I wasn’t really too keen on the twist anyway. It felt too…convenient? That’s not really the right word but I can’t think of any others right now.

I liked the angle that the author took. I think she chose well. And she was sure to include lots of diversity in terms of races, etc.

I know this review is pretty negative but just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t love it. I absolutely hate writing one star reviews. Please don’t forget that there are good points to this book as well.

1.5/5 comets
Just missed Earth. Almost ok.

Add Starlet’s Web to Goodreads

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Goodreads author bio extract:

Carla J. Hanna is the author of award-winning young adult romance and coming of age fiction novels for readers who enjoyed Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, or John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

Mrs. Hanna lived in Santa Monica, CA where her children played with the children of celebrities. She mingled with plenty of nannies and a few good celebrity moms. She received her Master’s in English/Communications from Colorado State University and lives near Denver, CO with her husband and two children.