young adult

The Friday 56 & Book Beginnings: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Friday Memes

Happy Friday everyone! I bet you are all as happy as I am that Friday is finally here. To start off this day, I’m participating in two different blog memes. They complement each other so well, it just had to happen!

The first is The Friday 56 from Freda’s Voice! The rules are:

1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

The second is Book Beginnings from Rose City Reader! The rules are:

Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.
The book I selected for this Friday is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages (I feel like I’m the only one who hasn’t 😛 ). So, I’m starting it today!
Book Beginning:

After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.

56:

Instead of reading, she could perhaps use the pianoforte, but… well, it had been a while, and she wasn’t sure she could endure the sounds of her own clumsy playing. She traced a finger over a splotch of fuchsia silk on her dress. All those books, with no one to read them.

These sentences definitely want to make me read the book right away—mission accomplished! 😀 What do you guys think? Do you have a 56 or book beginning?

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon 

 

18692431Title: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Press [imprint of Penguin Random House]

Date Published: September 1, 2015

Format: ARC {Received in exchange of a fair review}

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When I started this book I really thought I would enjoy it. It is sweet, charming, and has a unique story to tell. But about halfway through the book, a series of twists and plot developments left me sorely disappointed. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but the story just becomes increasingly cliché and unrealistic—especially after the so-perfect, yet oh so forbidden, love interest is introduced.

Madeline is not allowed to leave her home—severe allergies that were discovered when she was an infant have kept her cooped up for most of her 17 years. She’s basically a “bubble boy” and fills her days reading books, taking online classes, and hanging out with her mom and nurse, who are the only two people she has regular contact with. One day she glances out the window and sees a family moving in next door. Last time the neighbors left, it really devastated her, so she promises herself she won’t get too attached. Then she sees Olly. He only wears black, because of course that’s what brooding boys do. They begin talking over email and IM, but eventually that is not enough for them. They want to meet in real life, but Madeline knows that’s a slippery slope.

Their romance is too syrupy sweet for me. Writing limericks and haikus to each other somewhat ironically and stuff like that. It was only as the novel progressed that it got to be too much for me. I really dislike where the plot went and I went from enjoying the book, to being completely disappointed in the span of a few pages. I feel like Madeline went from being a character with potential charm and personality, to one that was making all these outrageous decisions without much founding. Later in the novel, Yoon gives a reason for these, but I felt that this twist cheapened the plot and relationships in the novel. It seemed to be a plot device thrown in so she could get the ending she wanted, rather than what would make the most interesting story.

Cover Critique: The cover for Everything, Everything is gorgeous. I love the white with the colorful pencil drawings outlining the text. It looks like a special book and I can imagine it’ll inspire many readers to pick it up.

Quick Version: After a promising start, I was left disappointed by Everything, Everything. What was initially charming about the novel began to grate on me, especially after some plot choices I found pretty questionable. I do admit that I am not the audience for this book, stories about sick teens have never been my favorites, but I had high hopes for this one. Yoon is an excellent writer and even though I was not a fan of this one, I look forward to what she does in the future.

Score: 2/5 stars

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Title: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Publisher: Balzer + Bray [imprint of HarperCollins]

Date Published: September 15, 2015

Format: ARC– Received in exchange of a fair review

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I’m so glad to be back to this blog! It’s been way too long and I am looking forward to getting Curiously Bookish back in action. I’ve had a crazy year that involved getting married and finishing grad school, so I’ve been understandably busy! 😛 I’m in the middle of restructuring this blog and getting some more exciting plans underway (I’ll have some exciting news to share with you guys soon!), but for now we’ll start with a book review:

Willowdean is a self-proclaimed fat girl who lives in Texas and is obsessed with Dolly Parton. If you don’t like her, too bad. She’s happy with her high school life (as much as anyone could be). But the summer before Junior year, things start to change. Her best friend, Ellen, and her are growing apart. Ellen is the typical all-American beauty and is becoming friends with the popular girls in her class, who keep acting like Willowdean and Ellen’s friendship is more of a charity case than a legitimate relationship.  On top of this, Willowdean’s new job at the fast food place comes with a super cute coworker, Bo. To her surprise Bo likes her, and instead of feeling elated, the normally confident Willowdean feels insecure. She begins to doubt herself around him and think of her body in negative ways when she’s with him. She’s desperate to get her old confidence back and she does the last thing she thought she would ever do, enter the local beauty pageant. To make things tougher it happens to be run by her former-beauty-queen mother.

This was a very entertaining read! Willowdean is definitely not the typical YA protagonist. She is very opinionated, confident, and clever. The story deals with body image in many different ways and with all kinds of characters. It’s about not being perfect, or what you see as perfect, and finding out that everyone can be just as insecure as you are. Murphy did a good job of balancing the message of being happy with who you are, with also being able to admit your faults and doubts.

I really enjoyed the way friendship was handled in this book. Willowdean and Ellen were everything to each other when they were younger, but now that they’ve gotten older, it’s not working out well. Willowdean feels like Ellen is leaving her behind and she doesn’t even feel comfortable talking to her about her maybe relationship with Bo. They drift further and further apart as Ellen makes friends with the popular girls that don’t like Willowdean, and the feeling is mutual. This forces Willowdean to make friends with some of the other girls in her class, the other girls who don’t fit in. This group is a bunch of girls who get bullied and teased, but unlike Willowdean, they don’t have the confidence to stand up for themselves. At first, she treats them with disdain and frustration, especially when they all decide to join the pageant along with her. Eventually, she begins to like them and sees the value of having different kinds of friends. That was probably my favorite part of the novel; you don’t need to have just one friend who is everything to you. Especially as you get older, your best friend and you may grow up to have different interests and like different things. You may drift apart, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t still friends. You can make different friends and so can she, but you are still always there for each other.

Friendship is where Dumplin’ is at its strongest, but I wasn’t as big of a fan of the romance. I really just didn’t like Bo as a character. He was the brooding, mysterious boy and he really didn’t have much of a personality. He started the story as a transfer student who had some secrets, but it never progressed from there. He was also quite cruel to Willowdean in the early parts of the novel, he wants to keep their relationship a secret and only hangs out with her at work and by the dumpster or in his car afterwards. It just has so many red flags that even when he apologizes later, it still doesn’t sit right with me. There is another boy introduced later in the novel, Mitch, who I thought was a more interesting character. He really likes Willowdean and is very open about it, but she simply doesn’t like him like that. I guess that is very high school, though. Making the wrong decisions about boys is pretty realistic sometimes!

Cover Critique: I’m a big fan of the cover. It’s so graphic and simple. Willowdean in that pose in the red dress really does represent the novel well. Everything is clean and simple, which makes that red stand out even more. I also really like the crown at the top, it’s cute and combined with the image, really lets you know that this is a pageant book.

Quick Version: Dumplin’ is a charming, easy read. Willowdean is a girl you don’t see a lot in fiction, especially as the main character. Friendship and the issues that come with growing up and maintaining friendships are really a bright point in the novel. While I didn’t like Bo and the romance, the true heart of the novel lies with Willowdean and Ellen and learning how to be confident and love yourself, faults and all.

Score: 4/5 stars

The Princess in the Opal Mask, Jenny Lundquist

Title:The Princess in the Opal Mask

Series:  The Opal Mask #1

Author: Jenny Lundquist

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Date Published: October 22, 2013

Format: Paperback

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This is a very sweet retelling of a classic story. It’s like The Prince and the Pauper, but with pretty, feisty princesses and fairytale trappings. It was a cute, little book. The writing was smooth and so easy to read. I would have been all over this book when I was little– I really had a thing for princesses and fairytale retellings. It’s definitely more suited for the younger part of the YA audience (maybe even more of a middle-grade book), but that didn’t stop my from having a lovely time with it.

The best part of the novel are the two protagonists, Elara and Wilha, and how well they complement each other. Elara is an orphan living with an evil stepmother and stepsister (sounds pretty familiar, right?). She is angry and spiteful toward her adoptive family that treat her like a servant. She is an extremely proud and headstrong girl, and is not afraid to lie and manipulate situations for her benefit. Wilha is the crown princess. She lives a life of luxury, but has been forced to hide her face behind a mask her entire life. Not even her own father will look upon her face and no one gives her the reason why. Because of this, she’s– obviously– deeply insecure and shy. She has to go to the neighboring kingdom to marry the prince, and it doesn’t go smoothly. The two girls’ paths cross and they are forced to interact, much to their chagrin. Since they have alternating POVs, one of the most amusing parts of the novel was how these girls saw each other.

The romance in this book is quite lovely. There is no love-at-first-sight or fighting over a prince, like you’ll see in most fairytale stories.  I was happy to see a book were there was no tension between the girls about a boy. There is plenty of conflict, don’t get me wrong, but it’s about their relationship or about the plot, not about boys.

I do think that the development of Wilha and Elara’s arcs were a little uneven. Elara really comes into her own at the end of the book, and Wilha is only just beginning to do so. I know that there is another book in the series coming up (yay! So exciting). So, I’ll be interested to see if she gets more to do in the next novel. I still really liked Wilha, though. She is very meek and afraid to take action, but it makes sense for her character.

Cover Critique: This cover is simply GORGEOUS. The colors are lovely and the font is great. It really portrays the spirit of the novel well. The inside of the book also has some lovely design touches. The team at Running Press Kids did a wonderful job with this book.

Quick Version: Between Elara and Wilha you really get the best of fairytale protagonists. One is spunky and needs to learn tact and the other is shy and is trying to find her strength. These two girls are thrown into a world of deception and political intrigue, and as much as they don’t like it, they have to count on each other to make it out. The story is well-written and a great read. Highly recommended for any fan of retellings or fairytale-esque stories. Fantastic cover, too.

Score: 4/5 stars 🙂

May Mini-Reviews

May was a busy month for me! I did a lot of traveling, which is always awesome, but I haven’t had much of a schedule because of it. My reading has been a bit all over the place this month, but I did manage to get some books off of my TBR list that had been sitting there for far too long. Hopefully June will be more normal and I can actually get some posts up!

1. Red Rising, Pierce Brown

This book was so much fun. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, and I went into it with pretty high expectations. Darrow, the lead character, has a pretty awful life as a Red (the lowest class of their intergalactic society). After some super tragic stuff goes down, he gets recruited by a group of rebels to bring down their government. To do so he has to infiltrate the Golds (the top of the caste system) and try to bring them down from the inside. The first part of the book was a little slow to me, but once it gets going… it doesn’t stop. I stayed up til like 4am finishing it and I don’t regret it one bit!  {4.5/5 stars}

2. These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

This book was okay. It was an interesting idea, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It a story about a pair of teenagers traveling on a huge spaceship across the galaxy. She is a spoiled heiress and he is a war hero, and obviously they would never be allowed to be together. But when the ship crashes on a mysterious planet, they are the only survivors; so they must learn to get along and work together to find rescue. The problem I had was that I really didn’t care too much for the characters– the soldier was bland and the heiress was so grating. But it was well written and did have some lovely moments. I’ll probably pick up the sequel (if I’m not mistaken it involves different people, woohoo!). {3/5 stars}

3. The Mapmaker’s War, Ronlyn Domingue

This is another case of me having a problem with the protagonist, but Aoife was way worse than either of the kids in These Broken Stars. She made me angry. She was such a petulant, unhappy woman; I was just so done with her and her problems by the time I finished the book. Now that I’m looking back, I really don’t know why I finished the book. I would try to describe the plot, but nothing really stuck with me. I feel like even though things happened in the book, I never really felt invested in the story. The world Domingue built was very interesting and she is definitely a talented writer,  but things like the second-person point of view structure felt like she was trying too hard to make her work feel “different” or “literary.”  {2/5 stars}

4. Parallel, Lauren Miller

This was a fun, little book! It’s about a girl who wakes up one day with a completely different life. She was starring in a big, action movie and then next thing she knows she’s a freshman at Yale. It turns out that some strange cosmic event caused two different timelines to collide, and now she has to figure out what to do with her new reality. It does get a little science-y in parts (which is always fun for me :P), but never dry or boring. I really enjoyed this one. I think it would be a great beach read! {4/5 stars}

5. Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2), Brandon Sanderson

I really loved this book. It’s so freaking huge; It’s 1000+ pages in hardcover, but I can honestly say it never got boring! I won’t get too much into the plot– it’s the second book in a series, and it’s hard to talk about it without spoiling everything. But I really do want to recommend this series to anyone looking for an outstanding epic fantasy series. The world is very different from all the others out there and the characters are nuanced and likable (well, at least when they have to be). If you’re anything like me, you’ll stay up way too late to see what happens to them. Just read it, I think y’all will like it 🙂 {5/5 stars}

What did you guys read in May? What was your favorite or least favorite book? 😀

April Mini-Reviews

April was a busy month for me; I feel pretty proud of myself for all I was able to accomplish in it! I finished up my first year of graduate school, went to a variety of book festivals and signings, and celebrated my birthday! Even though I didn’t have a chance to read too much, I did enjoy what I did read. When I was looking at this list, I noticed that I read quite a number of graphic novels this month. I do tend to do that around exams. I guess all I want to do is distract myself with pretty art!

1. Bride of the Water God (Volume 1), Mi-Kyung Yun

This is a manhwa (a Korean graphic novel), and I’d never read one before. The art style is very similar to most manga, but it’s read left-to-right like a Western comic. I really enjoyed this story. It’s about a girl in an ancient village, which is going through a major drought. The villagers decide to sacrifice a young woman to the Water God, in hopes that he’ll give them some rain. Soah‘s chosen to go. She enters of world full of deities and magical things. But, of course, she’s not too happy about being shipped off to the handsome and petulant Water God.  {4/5 stars}

2. Demon Love Spell (Volumes 1-5), Mayu Shinjo

These books are hilarious. They’re pretty much romantic, silly beach-reads in manga form. It’s the story about a demon and a priestess that fall in love, and obviously that comes with many problems. I had so much fun reading these and I’m excited for the final volume, which comes out this summer. {4/5 stars}

3. The Here and Now, Ann Brashares

I didn’t enjoy this book. I’ve probably rambled about it enough already. Check out my full review here. {2/5 stars}

4. Library Wars (Volumes 1-11), by Kiiro Yumi

Yet another manga series I got into in April. This was honestly my favorite thing I read all month! This manga’s set in the near future when libraries are fighting the federal government over censorship. The situation has gotten violent and the local government and libraries have had to create their own army to protect freedom of speech– the Library Forces. We follow a young trainee into the Force and she is so adorable. She’s clumsy and so earnest. You can’t help but love her. The romance is really cute, too 🙂 {4.5/5 stars}

5. Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

These books were really interesting. I can’t say that I loved, or even particularly liked them, but I really appreciated what the author was trying to do. Yang told the story of the Boxer Rebellion through two different perspectives. In Boxers, we follow a boy on his journey to save the country from the “foreign devils” invading them. In Saints, we follow a girl who is on the other side of the conflict. Both of the characters struggle a lot with their religions and sense of national identity. They are quick reads, if you want to give them a try, but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend them to you. {3.5/5 stars}

6. Sora’s Quest, T.L. Shreffler

This book was a nice surprise; I really enjoyed it. It was a very fun, quirky adventure story in a well-developed, fantastical world.  I wrote a full review of it, check it out here. {4/5 stars}

7. Thief’s Magic, Trudi Canavan

This was another great read. I reviewed it for Girls in Capes (they’re awesome and they have a GIVEAWAY going on for a copy of it). I’m putting review up here soon, as well! {4/5 stars}

 

What did you read in April? 😀

 

The Here and Now, Ann Brashares

Title: The Here and Now

Author: Ann Brashares

Publisher: Delacorte Press, imprint of Random House

Date Published: April 8, 2014

Format: ARC—received in exchange for a fair review

 

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Prenna is a teenager from the future. Her world was ravaged by a mosquito-borne plague and an environmental disaster. She has come to the present, with a large group of people from her time,  to escape this world and find a way to change the bleak future. This group is not really all that great, though. They are more of a cult creating a set of rigid rules for all from this group to live by. One of these rules is that there cannot be any relationships with “time-natives” (people from the present)— and OF COURSE this rule is going to be a major issue.

I am a big fan of time-travel stories. It’s one of my favorite things to read or watch. I do like it when they make some sense scientifically, but mostly that doesn’t even matter. I just want it read a great story with well-developed and likable characters. Brashares’s The Here and Now did not do any of those things for me.

The science in this book is awful. They never even try to explain how they went back in time— or how some other random people not in the group managed to get back as well. We are also expected to believe that about 80 years from now the world has changed so completely that a Dengue-like disease has almost completely eradicated humanity. Let’s not think about how Dengue is a very curable disease even with little to no fancy medical treatment, *sigh.* Also, people’s pronunciation of American English managed to completely change in this time as well. So much that when they arrived in the present they had to learn how to make the “th” sound. :/ Really? If you go back 80 years from today I doubt that language would be all that different. When you watch films from then you are not struggling to understand what people are saying, so why would that be the case in the future?

Now to the actual story, and it doesn’t get any better here. It starts off strong and has an interesting premise, but once you get to the middle it just falls apart. There is no real conflict and we spend a lot of time with our protagonists playing cards, trying on bathing suits, and going to the beach. When we finally get to the climax of the novel, it doesn’t even matter to you. Prenna’s voice is so dull that she makes everything boring.

I had a major issue with the romance in this book. It is total insta-love between Prenna and Ethan. Their relationship has no depth. They just mope around, play cards, and talk about how much they love each other and how much it sucks that they can’t be together. Ethan just loves her from the moment he lays eyes on her and has some unexplained special abilities to be able to see when people are from the future. He is just so super perfect and does everything right. He is handsome, understanding, a physics genius, and also a master hacker. Prenna is supposed to be really smart, too, but you never see it. She is so inept and if it weren’t for Ethan, she would not accomplish a thing.

Cover Critique: The cover is eye-catching. The colors are very pretty and I like what they did with all the triangles (random fact about me: I really like triangles, for no reason in particular). The girl’s face takes away from this and makes it look too much like a corny, YA book— but seeing as it is one of those, I guess it’s appropriate.

Quick Version: A time-travel, YA book that starts off strong and falls to pieces. The plot is poorly constructed and the characters are weak and underdeveloped.

2/5 stars 😡

March Mini-Reviews

This is an idea I stole from my friend Emily over at Darling Bibliophile! 😛 This is a way for me to let you all know all the books I’ve read this month! They will just be short little reviews, quickly describing how I felt about the books.

This was a crazy, busy month for me. I was swamped with projects, papers, and visitors. I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have liked, but hopefully I have a bit more time for my books in April!

1. Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Phèdre, the protagonist, is a courtesan who is marked by scarlet mote in her eye. This is a sign from Kushiel (one of the figures from their intricate religion) and it means that she feels pain as pleasure. This story sounds much more naughty then it actually is. There are explicit scenes, but nothing that you cannot find in other adult fantasy novels.  The world is beautifully crafted and the story is quite unlike many of the other epic fantasies out there. {4/5 stars}

2. Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater

This book was really boring. It’s a love story between a girl and a werewolf, and I really just didn’t care. Stiefvater’s werewolves were very interesting– they turn into wolves when it’s cold out and as they get older that time expands and eventually they stay wolves forever and that’s sad.  The characters aren’t very likable. The two leads have a love at first sight moment, which is fine and all, but this all happened when one of them was a wolf… I’m not too into romance-y books and this was no exception. {2/5 stars}

3. The Archived, Victoria Schwab

I’ve already rambled about this book at length. I wasn’t a big fan of this one . I guess I didn’t have a good YA month this March. Check out my review here. {2.5/5 stars}

4. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

I went into this book knowing that it was more a memoir than a book about dragons, and it really added to my enjoyment of it. The cover is beautiful, but a little misleading. It has a dragon drawn in a scientific fashion; many people thought this book would focus much more on dragons and their characteristics, anatomy, and whatnot. It’s really a story about how a woman becomes a scholar and scientist in a setting equivalent to Victorian England. I liked it, didn’t love it, and I am very excited to read the sequel (where there will hopefully be much more about the dragons).  {3.5/5 stars}

What did you read in March?

The Archived, Victoria Schwab

The Archived

Title: The Archived

Series: The Archived #1

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Hyperion, imprint of Disney (now Hachette)

Format: Ebook, Kindle

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This book was really disappointing.

It sounded so awesome. I read the description and I was all pumped to read it. The afterlife is a giant library that contains corpses in fancy drawers. Sometimes the corpses get restless and wake up. It is our heroine’s job to make sure that they don’t escape back into the world of the living. I mean that sounds pretty creative and interesting, right?

Then I actually read the book, and all those happy feelings went away. It isn’t a bad book, but it isn’t a good one either.

The plot is just plodding along the whole first half. Then when things start happening, it’s super predicable. I saw the twists coming from miles away.

I guess that was my main problem. If you want to do a book with little plot and mostly focus on atmosphere and an interesting concept, then that’s awesome. But, this book tried to do that and also shove in this dumb, convoluted conflict in the second half that was SO important to resolve, for reasons I have yet to understand. I never felt that the stakes were high— I was told they were, but I didn’t feel the tension.

The romance is also poorly done. There is a love triangle (already bad) and it’s really not believable. One of the guys is dead. So, that’s not really going to work out.  The other guy is some Adam-Lambert-wannabe, with guyliner and everything. How are we supposed to take a love interest seriously when he has spiky, black hair and basically looks like an early 2000s, emo kid? Ugh. Also, he’s so smart and deep cause he reads Dante’s Inferno for fun (So clever, get it? They are working in the Underworld and this book is about Hell…sigh).

There are good things about this book. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I didn’t completely hate it. I think that Schwab did a good job writing the grief that Mackenzie feels with her grandfather and brother’s deaths (not a spoiler, happens before book even starts). The way she wrote this was very touching and realistic.

I’m not sure if I’m going to read the sequel. As you can tell from this review, I wasn’t really feeling this book. So, unless I hear REALLY amazing things, I’m staying away.

Quick Version: Good idea, but the execution left much to be desired.

Cover Critique: It’s very nice. The designer did a great job. On top of being pretty, it is also relevant to the content of the book– so bonus points for that.

Score: 2.5/5 stars :/

 

Now, go read it and let me know what you think!