Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm for me is hard to rate. On the one hand, I am loving this GrishaVerse trilogy overall so far. I think that the world building is good, the characters are well-built, and the overall story line is really great.

35529904I still am not all that impressed with Alina as a main character and heroine. To me she is just okay. She doesn’t do anything that really annoys me–she’s not a whiner or a weakling, but she isn’t particularly brave or outgoing or really trying to go anywhere either. She’s just….there. And, of course, all of the boys like her. So then there’s the boys. In book one, I thought Mal was also pretty useless. The first half of this book, he was still pretty useless. Finally, though, he started to show some personality and some life so maybe Mal can actually be a contender! We meet Nikolai in this book and he completely steals the show. Nikolai I love. I mean, how can one not love this guy?! And then, of course, there’s the Darkling. *swoon* He isn’t in this book as much but he’s still as dark and alluring as always.

Aside from the characters, I felt like the plot moved way slow in this installment as well. We saw some action in the beginning, and then really nothing for a long time. The gang sat in waiting (or did some travelling) for the majority of the book with a couple little rifts in the middle, or maybe a couple little discoveries along the way, and one big skirmish at the end….and then the book is over. Maybe that’s how most books are but I expected so much more out of this one!!

So that is my take on book 2 of the Shadow and Bone trilogy from the GrishaVerse. Of course, by the end of the book, I’m left SO ready to go into book 3 but if I go straight into it, I will have a book hangover so bad! So I’m going to wait at least another week until I start the third book. But I will be back for more. Stay tuned!

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Book Soundtrack: “Undefeatable” by Young Rising Sons

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Wow. Just wow.

So first of all, my surprise comes because I was not a big fan of Carry On. It was my first Rainbow Rowell read and I felt like there was so much hype around it. I gave it 3.5 stars and just didn’t get into it. I expected all this world-building and excitement like Harry Potter because I heard it was moderately based/inspired by HP and it was sort of fan fic of HP and it was very, very different from it.

fangirlHere I am a year and a half later giving Rainbow Rowell another shot because its almost Valentines day and I’m trying to read books that I have for a challenge and my edition is pink and what the hell? I’ll give RR another chance. Well surprise, surprise. I freakin’ LOVE this book!! Cath is totally me my first year away at college. I would have rather starved than ask strangers where the cafeteria was! ha! I was shy and awkward and classes and just about anything specifically college-related intimidated the crap out of me. Oh, and “freshman time.” Yeah, that was definitely a thing.

tumblr_mti8miwcni1qhz2h3o1_1280The only things that I didn’t appreciate in this book were Cath’s stubbornness (aka stupidness) about her writing project and the ending. I felt too empty at the end. Where is book 2?!?! There is so much detail in every other aspect of the book! There were so many other conflicts that occurred in the book where it felt like “Oh, after this happens and gets resolves, the book could end”….oh but wait, the book still has 225 pages yet. I’m not done!! So that was nice, but then we finally do get to the end and I don’t feel resolved hardly at all! Its not a cliffhanger by any means, but its not exactly a neat little bow either. Its just an ambiguously wrapped gift without a label or a ribbon or a tag or a bow. So that’s my little schpiel on all of that!

In the end, I’m coming away with Levi being one of my absolute favorite book boyfriends. I’m not usually the nice guy book BF type, but somehow the guy just had me under his spell and swooning. I loved all of the characters and I really appreciated the college setting. Great read overall–I’m so glad I gave Rainbow Rowell another shot!

Listening to: “Paranoid” by Kanye West

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A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Hi friends! Hope you all had a good weekend full of many pages of reading! Throughout this week I finished reading the graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time, made progress on Siege and Storm, as well as finished A List of Cages in its entirety. There have been several bookish chats going on, as well as readathons and I hope some of you have been able to get out there and take part.

ALOCSo here is something I have learned about myself within the past couple weeks: stay away from reviews and past biases when going into a new book. These things  may have hurt my opinion on both of my last two reads. For example, in A List of Cages, I read on review where a blogger said it was the kind of book that stays with you and I just love books like that. It had a higher rating than another book that I was considering reading. So for those reasons, I chose this book over the other one. Based on the synopses, I wasn’t necessarily more interested in this book than the other, but like I said, a “book that stays with you”? SOLD!! Now I read it, it was good but I don’t think that I was fully swept away or anything.

It is pretty much A List of Cage‘s one year anniversary, I just noticed! It was released last January. The book is written in alternating POV’s between Adam, a popular senior with ADHD, and Julian, a quiet, insecure orphaned freshman. When Adam is assigned to escort Julian to the school psychologist, the two guys are reunited as former foster brothers. Of course, the two growing closer together means learning secrets about one another, and Julian has plenty of those. He just needs a friend with the courage to give him the help he needs to get through it.

simson-petrol-110900I did enjoy this book. There were a few moments where I literally said “AWW!” out loud and my heart melted a bit. There were a few moments where my heart hurt and I felt overwhelmed for the characters. Really, though, it was the characters that made this book. I’m just going to stick to the main characters, but know that the secondary characters are even extremely supportive of Julian and have growth throughout the book. Julian is a character who is a bit immature in how he acts–i.e. what he reads, how he writes, how he reads, etc. but is this because of trauma and his living situation? This is discussed a bit in the book and its a hard topic. Overall, he says genuine things to people around him without even realizing it and it really reaches them. Then there is Adam. Adam is described as “untouchable.” If something sad were to happen, his friends think he would still be happy. Adam is an absolute sweetheart and he is very loyal to his friends and to his own mom as well.

Overall, I felt that this was a really good YA contemporary involving mental health issues, close friends, family, and courage. And on that note, I need to leave you with this quote from the book:

“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.” – Robin Roe

Book soundtrack: “Be My Escape” by Relient K

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A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

13513205I have bad news, my friends. I have a relatively negative review to write. Now, I have to say that it has been a while since I read the original A Wrinkle in Time book by Madeline L’Engle. I know I have read it twice….once when I was quite young, and once when I was in my early 20’s? So maybe 5 or so years ago? So maybe my details are foggy but I feel I am generously giving this book a rating of “2 stars” simply because it is A Wrinkle in Time. Ever since I heard about this graphic novel three or four years ago, I wanted to read this one and man, am I disappointed. My mom loved the original book as a child and I remember reading it with her when I was young. I am pretty sure my Goodreads rating for the actual book is 5 STARS!….so where did this graphic novel go wrong?? What is the movie going to be like?!?!
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So now I am confused and concerned. I guess I need to re-read the actual book and have a refresher. All I know is that the graphic novel was, in my opinion, awful. For starters, I absolutely HATED Meg. She was/is a TERRIBLE character. Charles Wallace also is a MOSTLY awful character. In my opinion, the only redeeming character in the book is Cal, who is a tertiary character. The Mrs. Witches are so vague (just like in the book) and they stay extremely vague in the graphic novel. Meg/CW’s dad is pretty much useless. And the book’s resolution contains no answers. Just a big POOF! pretty much! But now that I have read this, I feel ready to read on in the series I think? Or maybe I’ll just read the actual novel and refresh my brain and reassure myself that the series is worth its grain of salt. I’m questioning my own opinion!! Yikes!!

Book Soundtrack: “Day One” from Interstellar by Hans Zimmer

#blogmas day 29: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

Greetings everyone! I hope you’re all doing well! I’m not. My fiance has gotten me sick, unfortunately. I have just about the worst chest cough I have ever had in my life. I don’t know if its bronchitis or just a really awful cold/flu symptom but its miserable! I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone! Anyway, I hope the rest of you are healthy!

33843251So back to books. The good thing (and only good thing) about being ill is that it allows you a little extra time to read. So as you can maybe tell from the blog this week, I have posted more reviews than is typical, so I’m happy about that! As of now, I just finished The Afterlife of Holly Chase. I had never heard of this book before, but I had heard of Cynthia Hand. Plus I liked the simplistic, holiday cover and was aching for a YA holiday read and figured “This might be the Christmas read for me!” So I bought it! And I liked it!

Main character Holly Chase is a bratty, spoiled, mean, rich girl. She hates Christmas, she loves herself, she has no regard for other people….you guessed it, she’s a Scrooge. Scrooge number….sorry, I would have to look up her exact Scrooge number in history. If you read the book, you’ll see what I mean. *wink* So anyway, as you can predict at this point, Holly is visited by three ghosts intending to show her her selfish ways but she FAILS! And she dies. (Just for the record, this isn’t a spoiler. This is all in the synopsis so its fair game here.)

Here’s where things get interesting. Holly finds herself employed at a top secret agency called Project Scrooge, an agency whose goal it is to save one soul each year on Christmas Eve. As a former, failed Scrooge herself, she now gets to rehabilitate as the Ghost of Christmas Past, each year working with the team at Project Scrooge to help a new Scrooge succeed where she failed. This story picks up on her sixth year at the agency when Holly is in for a big surprise: for the first time, the Scrooge the team will be working on is a hottie! I’ll let you read the rest for yourself.

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I found Holly to be an okay character. She was definitely what a Scrooge needed to be. Ethan was a little too easy of a character to me. He was described as being so Scrooge-y, and he “had so much in common with Holly,” but then when they were together they clicked so well, I expected him to be way more of a snob considering she seemed to have given up on herself so much as a “ghost.” I thought Scrooges were Scrooge-y to everyone by nature. Apparently not in that world. Besides the main characters, there is a case of side characters who are pretty ok. They really don’t get a lot of spotlight, but when they are around, usually they boost the story for the better.

91gzci2be0el-_sl1500_I really liked to set-up of the book and the “Project Scrooge” concept. It actually reminded me of the movie ‘Scrooged’ with Bill Murray! Cynthia Hand really knows how to tug heartstrings and get readers sentimental, I’ll tell you, because there were several times in the book where I had to reach for the tissue box. Yes, this book has its cliche Christmas moments of museum dates, Dickens quotes, ugly sweaters, holiday parties, etc. etc. But y’all, its a Christmas book. Scratch that. Its a YA Christmas book! If you can’t handle that, then don’t read it. I needed some Christmas Carol re-telling in my life this year and this was perfect. Thank you, author. And with that being said….God bless us, every one! 😛

Book Soundtrack: “God Bless Us Everyone” by Andrea Bocelli ((I will be choosing something more character-Holly appropriate later on…my Spotify isn’t working at the moment))

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On the 28th day of #blogmas: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer

I think that in some way, whether big or small, every single person can relate to this short 96-page story. Therefore, be ready for heartache. I won’t even say cry necessarily, though many readers say that they shed tears over this story. Of course it depends on your opinion and your experience. But oh, is there ache in this book. This was my first time reading anything by Fredrik Backman but it seems like his books are everywhere these days. If all of his writings are this heartfelt, then I can see why they are so popular!
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And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is about a grandfather who, coming to the end of his life, begins confusing his son with his grandson. His once brilliant mind is still filled with thoughts of love for his beautiful wife, of constellations in the sky, the power of mathematics, and stories of his family. Each day he comes to fear more and more losing these memories, but the words he uses to describe them are so poetic and wise they move us all as an audience.

The only reason I didn’t give this novella 5 full stars is because sometimes it was just so whimsical that I just didn’t know where we were. I suppose that was maybe the point–we were supposed to feel like we were floating around in grandfather’s mind?? Lost in the memories?? Lost in space? In dimensia?? But it became a little too abstract in those moments to me. I like my feet firmly in a storyline. Other than that, the book was all but perfect to me. The characters, the heart in the story, the vivid memories, and the writing were all absolutely beautiful.

Book Soundtrack: “The Prayer” by Josh Groban and Charlotte Church

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Merry #blogmas day 26!!: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

And now for something totally different!

After hearing so much hype about books like Gone GirlSharp Objects, etc., this is the first thing I have actually read by Gillian Flynn. I wasn’t disappointed! Granted, I wasn’t completely fulfilled either because it was only a story and, in my opinion, definitely could have been fleshed out more and gone on longer. Oh well.

26025580About the story itself: we read The Grownup through the eyes of an unnamed narrator who is crass and blunt (just a warning). She has grown up playing the innocent girl on the streets needing money. Now she is the young woman in she shop, moving between the back room giving hand jobs and the front room “seeing auras.” She is hired by a woman in a possessed house with a dangerous stepson. That is about all I can say without stepping over the edge and spoiling the story. Read for yourself to find out more.

I have to admit that I only picked it up because it was a recommendation from the hosts of the *Cramathon.* I really don’t read many stories or novellas but so far this makes two for me this year (with Marissa Meyers’ Fairest having been the first) and I have enjoyed them both so far. Clearly I should be more open to this category. It would definitely help me out in my reading goal for the year! How do you feel about stories, novellas, or other quick reads? I’m open to recommendations!

Book Soundtrack: Villains by Queens of the Stone Age

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Merry #blogmas Eve!

Merry Christmas (Eve) to all who celebrate Christmas! It is amazing to me how December 24th and 25th looks so different to so many people. Some people are at home both days watching sports or movies or general television. Others travel across town, state, or country to visit friends or family and feast on traditional foods and exchange gifts. Some still attend services or other gatherings or volunteer in the community, or even have nowhere to go or no familiar faces to go home to. Maybe these days aren’t considered a holiday. 12/24-12/25 is different for everyone and that’s okay.

For me as a musician, today was insane. I woke up for a 9-10:30 am rehearsal across town. Then I came home to whip up a salad for a family gathering tonight, wrap a couple more gifts, take a shower and get into performance mode. 3:00 call for rehearsal before a 4:30 pm performance. Then check out this picture and how beautiful this service. Singing from the loft gives you such a beautiful perspective, I tell you. So this is what it looks like when +100 people light candles to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

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The photo, of course, barely does it justice, and I only captured about 1/3 of the people in the picture. And I had no choice but to also capture the stand lights of the string quartet as well…but it was all such a beautiful aesthetic to have the strings and the candles and the congregation singing “Silent Night” all together….SO BEAUTIFUL!!!

Anyway, singing in this church service, I went to my aunt’s house for my family’s dinner party. We did a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange. Does anyone else do those? To be honest I was very unexcited to participate (I have plenty of my own unwanted junk…why do I want other people’s surprise unwanted junk?!), but fortunately everyone was very kind (probably too kind) in what they brought to trade. Then after that we had the “midnight service” at our family church and I had to sing again there. Doesn’t the life of a musician sound so thrilling? So here I performed ‘O Holy Night’ and rocked the house and that was that!

At this point, I am exhausted and ready for Santa! I hope you all enjoy your evenings. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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On the thirteenth day of #blogmas ….

Barnes & Noble came up with a few literary quotes to put in your Christmas cards for any audience. They formatted it differently and you can find their version of it here, but I’m going to put it all together my way to suit my blog.

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For the anti-homebody: “A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” (Exiles by Garrison Keilor)

 

18857350For the homesick:  “Call a truce, then, to our labors—let us feast with friends and neighbors, and be merry as the custom of our caste; for if faint and forced the laughter, and if sadness follow after, we are richer by one mocking Christmas past.” (Christmas in India by Rudyard Kipling)

 

18300267For the fancy and formal:  “I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you.” (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

 

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B&N describes this one as “for your goth and emo pals”:  “Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

 

 

9780394800790For the child-at-heart:  “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss)

 

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And lastly, can’t forget the sincere, Christmas wish:  “I heard the bells on Christmas Day / Their old familiar carols play / And wild and sweet, the words repeat / Of peace on earth, good-will to men.” (Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

Listening to: “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by CeeLo feat Straight No Chaser

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