Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare

The Bane Chronicles 
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: November 11, 2014

From Goodreads:
Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices can get to know warlock Magnus Bane like never before in this collection of New York Times bestselling tales, in print for the first time with an exclusive new story and illustrated material.

This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.

Originally released one-by-one as e-only short stories by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, this compilation presents all ten together in print for the first time and includes a never-before-seen eleventh tale, as well as new illustrated material.

I have been looking forward to this collection of novellas for months.  Because Magnus was one of my favorite characters in both the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series I couldn't wait to learn more about his long history.  The fact that I also got to learn about other warlocks and Downworlders was an unexpected surprise and then once the Herondales started showing up in the stories I felt like I was back in the amazing world of shadowhunters.  For those who want to know more about Jocelyn, Luke, and Valentine you won't be disappointed and for those who wanted more Magnus loves Alex moments, these are perfect.  My two favorite stories were The Last Stand of the New York Institute and The Course of True Love (And First Dates)

While I am not always a fan of the novella, these I loved.  In fact, if Cassandra could be persuaded to write a similar collection for Jocelyn I would be one of her happiest fans!

Posted by:  Sheri

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Goals/Resolutions for 2015

                              Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

1.   Finish the completed series I've started/bought.  There are nine completed series that I have either started or already bought and I need to finish those instead of starting so many new series.
2.   Write more book reviews.  I read a lot more books than I review.
3.   Write my reviews closer to the time I finish the book.  My book memory is horrible and if I don't write the review pretty much right after I finish the book, a lot of times I just never write it.
4.   Change up my words in reviews.  I feel like I say the same thing.  Over and over and over again.  I need to mix it up, choose different words.  
5.   Read more slowly.  Sometimes I feel like I'm reading so fast because I'm just trying to get through the book to find out what happens or even to get to the next book.  I need to slow down, enjoy the book I'm reading more rather than just trying to read as fast as possible.
6.   Finish the library books I have checked out.  I keep renewing and renewing without reading most of them.  I need to read them.
7.   Update my blog with links to reviews on a regular basis.  Once a week, I need to add to my Reviews and Books Read, with links.

That's pretty much it!  What are your goals/resolutions for 2015?

Posted by:  Pam

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1)
Author:  Jay Kristoff
Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books, 313 pages
Publication Date:  September 18, 2012

From Goodreads:
Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shõgun, they fear that their lives are over – everyone knows what happens to those who fail the Lord of the Shima Isles. But the mission proves less impossible and more deadly than anyone expects. Soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. Although she can hear his thoughts, and saved his life, all she knows for certain is he'd rather see her dead than help her. Yet trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and the beast soon discover a bond that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on collapse. A toxic fuel is choking the land, the machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure, and the Shõgun cares for nothing but his own dominion. Authority has always made Yukiko, but her world changes when she meets Kin, a young man with secrets, and the rebel Kagé cabal. She learns the horrifying extent of the Shõgun's crimes, both against her country and her family.

Returning to the city, Yukiko is determined to make the Shõgun pay – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

Stormdancer was a phenomenal read, a mix of dystopian with Japanese steampunk.  I admit that it started off slow because of the Japanese terminology and the detailed world-building.  Just stick with it and it gets so good.  Jay Kristoff has created an imaginative world where the sky is red and filled with smoke and people wear goggles and breathers.  Where there are sky-ships.  Where there's a mad Shogun in charge and the Guild burn people who are Impure.  Where Artificers wear metal skin.  Loved the mix of steampunk with mythology, it's unlike anything I've read.

I loved Yukiko, a wise beyond her years sixteen year old.  She lost her brother when she was young, her mother abandoned her, and her father is a drunk, a gambler, and addicted to the drug Lotus.  Yukiko's such a strong character, but she's also just a teenager and you feel her pain when she remembers her brother and fights with her father.  She wants him to take care of her but she's had to take care of him.  Such a complex father/daughter relationship, it was realistically depicted. 

And of course there's Buruu, the thunder tiger.  He's proud, funny, sarcastic, and loyal.  So loyal.  What he does for Yukiko, the sacrifices he makes…loved him!

There are amazing secondary characters as well, such as Kin, who just wants to feel the wind and rain on his skin.  Aisha, the sister of the Shogun.  Michi, her servant.  Akihito, Kasumi…so many wonderful characters.  

Although there's a romance between Yukiko and a guy and there's a certain sweetness to it, it happened too fast and I never felt like I got to know him.  I wish I had been more invested in the relationship.

The plot is unpredictable and I was blindsided with the betrayal.  It was awesome, I have to say.  I mean, horrible and sad, but awesome, if that makes sense.  If you haven't read this series yet, READ IT. 

Posted by:  Pam

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (75)

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!  It is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Pam's Weekly Haul
Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios.  I've read mixed reviews about this one, but I loved Something Real and the premise piques my interest, so I'm giving it a try.
Because You Exist by Tiffany Truitt.  I'm a sucker for time travel books.
Until Midnight by Melissa Landers.  I loved Alienated and can't wait for Invaded so this should tide me over.  And it was free!

What books did you add to your shelves this week?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: The Vault by Emily McKay

The Vault (The Farm #3)
Author:  Emily McKay
Publisher:  Berkley Trade, 384 pages
Publication Date:  December 2, 2014

From Goodreads:
With Lily exposed to the vampire virus and lying in a coma, it’s up to Mel and Carter to search for the cure. Time is not on their side. With every passing heartbeat, Mel is becoming more and more purely vampire.

Desperate, Carter and Mel decide to split up. Carter will recruit human rebels from the Farm in San Angelo to infiltrate the guarded kingdom of the vampire Sabrina and steal the cure. Mel will go back to her mentor, her friend, her betrayer, Sebastian, who is the only one who can access an underground vault that may house the secret to the cure.

That is, if he’s still alive after she staked him to the ground. Now her worst enemy may be their best hope for curing Lily—and saving the human race.

An amazing series ender, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The POV switches between Lily, Mel, and Carter.  Lily is becoming a Tick while Carter and Mel are searching for the cure.  There's non-stop action and I literally couldn't stop reading because I had to know what happened to the characters.  It's intense! 

Interesting twists, including a new romance for Mel, who is struggling with being a vampire, especially since that means she's not autistic anymore.  There are some heartbreaking moments for Mel and Sebastian and I appreciated the complexity of their relationship.  Carter and Lily's love for each other…it's EPIC.  (By the way, there are no love triangles in this series.  At all).

My one complaint is that there should have been an epilogue.  The story wraps up, but I would have loved to see how it all played out.  Additionally, there are two characters who disappear and we never find out whether they live or die.  

If you think there's nothing new to read about vampires, read The Farm series.  I highly recommend it!

Posted by:  Pam

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes

Gathering Darkness (Falling Kingdoms #3)
Author:  Morgan Rhodes
Publisher:  Razorbill, 416 pages
Publication Date:  December 9, 2014

From Goodreads:
In GATHERING DARKNESS, book three of the New York Times bestselling Falling Kingdoms series, the stakes have never been higher as three teams push forward on a race to find the Kindred, the four elemental crystals possessing ancient all-powerful magic, first:

Prince Magnus has just witnessed torture, death, and miracles during the bloody confrontation that decimated the rebel forces. Now he must choose between family and justice as his father, the cruel King Gaius, sets out to conquer all of Mytica. All Gaius needs now are the Kindred - the four elemental crystals that give godlike powers to their owner. But the King of Blood is not the only one hunting for this ancient, storied magic...

• THE KRAESHIANS join the hunt. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the wealthy kingdom across the Silver Sea, charm and manipulate their way to the Kindred, proving to be more ruthless than perhaps even the King of Blood himself.

• THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo and vengeful Jonas lead them, slaying with sweetness, skill, and a secret that can control Lucia's overpowering magic - all so they can use the Kindred to win back their fallen kingdoms.

• THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally in the flesh with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia's powers to unveil the Kindred.

The only certainty in the dark times is that whoever finds the magic first will control the fate of Mytica... but fate can be fickle when magic is involved.

This series just keeps getting better and better.  The world-building, the plot, the characters, the writing…all fantastic!  This is one of those series where the characters are complex and grow and change so much, and there are twists and turns in the plot that I never saw coming.  Loved the reveal about the Kindred.

Magic, political intrigue, betrayal, and a slow burning romance that I ship. So much. In a way, it's so wrong, but then it's also so right.  I can't handle all of the emotions! One of my favorite fantasy series.  It equals and perhaps surpasses the Throne of Glass series.  *gasp*  If you're not reading this, you should be.  I have such a book hangover after this one, I need the next book NOW.

Posted by:  Pam

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (74)

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!  It is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Pam's Weekly Haul
Inspire by Cora Carmack
The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle

From NetGalley:
Blackout by Meredith McCardle
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.  Thank you, Nicole!

What books did you add to your shelves this week?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Blackout by Meredith McCardle

Blackout (Annum Guard #2)
Author:  Meredith McCardle
Publisher:  Amazon Children's
Expected Publication Date:  January 13, 2015
*ARC received from publisher via NetGalley

From Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris) has more on her mind than usual. As a member of a covert government organization called the Annum Guard, which travels through time to keep history on track, Iris has been getting some particularly stressful assignments. Plus, Jane Bonner, the Guard’s iron-fisted new leader, seems determined to make life as hard as possible. Thankfully, Iris has Abe (code name: Blue), her boyfriend and fellow Guardian, who listens to her vent—and helps her cope with her mentally ill mother’s increasingly erratic behavior.

When Guardians start to disappear on their assignments, Iris makes a terrifying discovery: a “blackout” squad is targeting anyone who gets in the way of a corrupt force that’s selling out both the Annum Guard’s missions and Guardian lives. Together, Iris and Blue must go undercover to untangle the Guard’s elaborate web of secrets and lies. But when Iris discovers that the terrible truth may involve her own father, a former Guardian undone by his own greed, she must decide how much she’s willing to risk to rescue her friends…and how dangerous the consequences will be for all of humanity.

A thrilling time-traveling adventure that spans from Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the Cuban Missile Crisis and back to the present day, this pulse-pounding sequel to The Eighth Guardian reveals that playing with time can turn into a deadly game.

I liked the second book in this time travel series.  Amanda and the other members of the Annum Guard are trying to figure out who is behind the group that used them to change time for profit.  And now other members are disappearing.  Where are they?  Are they dead?  Non-stop action as Amanda jumps to different places in time to find the answers.

Fast-paced plot which I enjoyed, and most of the time Amanda is a likable heroine, but she keeps too many secrets from the rest of the group, which was frustrating. Now Abe is in the picture as a fellow time traveler, but I'm lukewarm about him because I just didn't feel like I got to know him that well.  And I did have some questions about the time travel rules (there did to be one inconsistency with same place/same time rule), and especially the time that passes when you're in the past and how that affects when you get back to the future.  I was confused.  

That ending…gah!  Evil cliffhanger, I have to say.  If you like time travel books, you'll like this series.

Posted by:  Pam


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle

The Eighth Guardian (Annum Guard #1)
Author:  Meredith McCardle
Publisher:  Amazon Children's
Publication Date:  May 6, 2014

From Goodreads:
Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris.

It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.

But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.

Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

I liked this time travel novel about a girl who is forced to join a secret government time traveling group.  They go on missions to "enhance" things from the past, not to alter them.  The Boston Massacre, a famous museum heist, the JFK assassination.  I enjoyed the way the author weaved in history and she explains what was real and what was fiction in the author's note at the end.

Amanda is a reluctant member of the group, considered an outsider, but threatened with prison if she doesn't pass this initial trial period.  She's smart, capable, but very outspoken and pretty defiant.  She reminded me a bit of Sydney Bristol from Alias.  In fact, there's a lot about this book that reminds me of that TV show.  The rest of the group seem to hate and resent her, but as Amanda (Iris) goes on more and more missions, she starts earning the grudging respect of some of them.  Then she finds out that things are not as they seem and that's when the action really picks up and I couldn't put the book down.  A lot of jumping through time, close calls, people trying to kill her, etc.  

There's really no romance in this book, but I didn't miss it.  Amanda misses her boyfriend Abe, but he's pretty much out of the picture the entire book.  

There were a couple of things that bothered me about the Annum Group, things that didn't make sense, but then there was an explanation for it so I was ok with that.  But it did bother me the entire book.

Fast-paced and entertaining, this was an enjoyable read.

Posted by:  Pam

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Fantasy Books I Read In 2014

                             Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

I have been loving fantasy books this year and here is my Top Ten (ok, thirteen):

1.   Lady Thief (Scarlet #2) by A.C. Gaughen
2.   Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. Jensen
3.   The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima
4.   The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
5.   Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson
6.   Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends #1) by Kelley Armstrong
7.   Shadowfell series by Juliet Marillier
8.   Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

9.   The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen
10. The Perilous Sea (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas
11.  The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
12.  An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
13.  Gathering Darkness (Falling Kingdoms #3) by Morgan Rhodes

Have you read any of these books?  What do you think?  What were your favorite reads this year?

Posted by:  Pam

Monday, December 15, 2014

Help! Which Series Should I Finish Next?

There are a few completed series where I have read the first book, maybe the second, but I really don't remember enough to read the last book in the series.  That means I have to reread.  Which one should I read next?  

1.  Tempest series by Julie Cross.  I read the first book in the series, but it was a LONG time ago.  Now the whole series is out.  I own the first two and I have the third one from the library.

2.  Starglass series by Phoebe North.  I read the first book, but I'll need to reread it before I read the second, which I recently bought.

 3.  The Testing series by Joelle Charbonneau.  I've read the first two, but not the third, and although I think I remember enough about the first one, I definitely need to reread the second one before I can read the third (Sadly, I remember NOTHING from the second book).

 4.  The Farm series by Emily McKay.  I've read the first two, but not the third, and like The Testing series, I think I remember enough about the first one, but I'll need to reread the second one.

Which one should I read next?  If you've read any of these, let me know!

Posted by:  Pam

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (73)

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!  It is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Pam's Weekly Haul
Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes
Wicked by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
Marked by Sarah Fine
Zodiac by Romina Russell
Now That You're Here by Amy K. Nichols
Every Word by Ellie Marney

From Edelweiss:
The Remedy by Suzanne Young

What books did you add to your shelves this week?