Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday #14: The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin


Happy Wednesday, fellow book lovers! This week's "can't wait to read" is:

by Michelle Hodkin 
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
In the first book of the Shaw Confessions, the companion series to the New York Times bestselling Mara Dyer novels, old skeletons are laid bare and new promises prove deadly. This is what happens after happily ever after.

Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.

They’re wrong.

Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.

He shouldn’t.

And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.

They’re right.

I know everyone alive has already posted this book, but I can't wait! I loved the Mara Dyer series so much and, while I never expected another book in the series, I am SO excited to read this one! Noah Shaw was such an incredible character that I can't imagine a book all about him being anything but amazing!


Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Wishful Endings.
This meme is based on Waiting-on Wednesday, which went inactive last year.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

DNF Audiobook Review: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Title: Jane, Unlimited
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: September 19. 2017
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Pages: 464
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If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible. 

Oh, Jane. I wanted to love you, I really did. I actually started reading this book twice before I got the audiobook. Each time there was just something that stopped me from getting into it. Still, I knew I would LOVE a story about a weird house and the multiverse. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly realized I had absolutely no idea what was going on and finally just gave up.

Obviously, this is Jane's story. Jane has lived with her aunt since her parents died, but now her aunt is gone too. Upon the invitation of her friend Kiran (and remembering a promise she made to her aunt), Jane heads to Tu Reviens, a mansion on an island where a gala is being held. Once there, Jane... makes umbrellas.

Jane is a super weird character and I can't quite decide how I feel about her. I didn't hate her, but I was also mildly annoyed for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. She was almost too quirky to enjoy. She made a LOT of umbrellas and she talked about them non-stop. I DNFd this at 55% and I'm not quite sure where the romance was, but it seems like it could've gone one of two ways. Unfortunately I reached the end (yes, at 55%) and I really wish it had been delved into at least a little.

Something I did enjoy was the atmosphere Kristin Cashore created in Jane, Unlimited. From the first page things felt just a little bit off. There was never any one thing specifically that made me feel a little uneasy, but I definitely felt an overall sense of something being not quite right. Although, maybe that was unintentional?

So what did I hate about Jane, Unlimited? Remember two paragraphs ago when I said I reached the end at 55%? I reached the first of several endings. See, this book was first conceived of as a Choose Your Own Adventure story. For whatever reason, Cashore chose not to do that and instead this is a book with five endings. To read this book, you have to read five endings. I can only speak for the first one, but it did not feel complete at all. In fact, I didn't even realize it was the ending until I realized I was reading the same thing that had already happened earlier in the book. From what I've read in other reviews, the endings get weirder as they go, including aliens and talking dinosaurs? Maybe that last one was an exaggeration.

This really felt like half a book. The complete story was only about 200 pages long and absolutely nothing in this book was fully fleshed out. The characters never had a chance to develop, the story never had a chance to reach a satisfactory conclusion. I cannot imagine that with five more endings crammed in the last 200 pages, anything would have changed. I know that some people have really enjoyed Jane, Unlimited, but I honestly wouldn't recommend it. It definitely would have been better as a Choose Your Own Adventure, and who doesn't want to read one of those as an adult?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Weekly Recap: 10/8 - 10/14


TRACY'S HAPPENINGS OFF THE BLOG

Hello everyone! Once again I have had a difficult dog week. My oldest puppy started a new (expensive) allergy medication and... she's allergic to it! We ended up at the vet after she ended up with a puffy face and hives all over. She's now back to normal and we're back to square one with the allergies. Other than that, I've spent the week rewatching Marvel movies. I have my ticket purchased for Thor and I'm planning to watch all of the Marvel movies in chronological order before November 2nd!


NEW BOOKS THIS WEEK



THIS WEEK I READ




MC'S HAPPENINGS OFF THE BLOG

Hi, everyone. It's been another whirlwind of a week. I have had a lot going on and I have a lot left to do, but I am mostly just going through the motions. I unexpectedly lost someone very important to me the other day, and that has been all I can think about. Apologies for the short recap, but I don't have much else to say this week. I hope you all have a great week. Give your loved ones a hug for me.


NEW BOOKS THIS WEEK



THIS WEEK I READ




IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

On Monday I shared the update & link-up for the Dystopia challenge
The topic was fall book covers for Top Ten Tuesday
Thursday audiobook review of Vengeance Road
Friday audiobook review of Flame in the Mist
I shared this week in movies in Saturday Screen Time


UPCOMING REVIEWS



We're linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Friday, October 13, 2017

Saturday Screen Time #2: Pumpkins & Sociopaths


Happy Saturday, everyone! This week was not as slow as it seems in the film world, but I'm saving several movies for a couple weeks from now when I plan to share the Great Marvel Rewatch of 2017. even amidst the never ending Marvel films out there, I still found time to get in a couple older titles I've been meaning to watch for awhile now. 


THIS WEEK IN FILM


Trick 'r Treat - I decided to watch this movie because Krampus is one of my absolute favorites! If you haven't seen that one, I highly recommend it! Trick 'r Treat felt similar in mood, but didn't have quite the same cohesion that Krampus does. I still really enjoyed this story about about a creature/demon/pumpkin guy who enforces the rules of Halloween. It's definitely going on my list of yearly Halloween movies!

We Need To Talk About Kevin - Holy crap, what an unsettling movie. I had a vague idea of what it was about, but I had no idea it was going to be so hard to watch. We Need To Talk About Kevin is about a woman whose child is a sociopath and grows up to commit horrific acts, leaving her to deal with the repercussions. It's a movie I'm glad I watched, but I'll never watch it again.



Have you seen either of these? What did you think?
What movies have you watched lately?
Let me know in the comments!

Audiobook review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh 
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 393
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The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Flame In the Mist immediately caught my attention with its gorgeous cover and promises of a Mulan retelling. I read The Wrath and the Dawn a little over a year ago and really enjoyed it (even though I still haven't read the sequel), so I knew I would have to pick this up when I got the chance! Unfortunately, it didn't end up wowing me like I'd hoped it would.

The story begins with Mariko being shipped off to an arranged marriage with the Emperor's son, a marriage that will help her family. On the way to meet her betrothed, however, her convoy is attacked by the Black Clan and no one but Mariko survives. With revenge in mind, Mariko decides to infiltrate their group, which sounds great, but everything really goes downhill from there. I have several feelings about Flame in the Mist, but I'll start with Mariko.

Over and over, even in the synopsis, the reader is told what a genius Mariko is. Throughout the book she invents things, but we're always told about the inventions and never shown. Mariko has an idea and *poof* a throwing star! Several characters comment on how intelligent and cunning Mariko is, but we never see it and I really wish we had been able to. I didn't dislike Mariko necessarily, I just didn't feel like she was anything special.

Okami is the other main character, the love interest. He was by far my favorite character in this book! In Okami's case we were actually able to see the qualities we're told about. I really enjoyed watching him prove Mariko's assumptions wrong. What I didn't like was how the romance came about. Highlight for romance spoilers:

Throughout the entire book, while Okami believes Mariko to be a boy, there are hints that he might feel something for her, but this is never explored. He is nicer to her, but he never acts on or even acknowledges any potential feelings. Then, suddenly, when he discovers that Mariko is indeed a she (because he accidentally touches her boob while saving her from drowning, by the way), they immediately make out. It's an extremely weird way to handle this romance and I feel like it could have been better if Okami's feelings had been explored even a little while Mariko was still in disguise. 

Several secondary characters round out the cast and I really did enjoy most of them! The one I wish had gotten a bit more focus was Mariko's twin. There were a few hints at the relationship between them, but we never got to see any of it.

I thought that (most of) the world building was really well done, at least in my uneducated opinion. Of course, I don't know much about the history of Japan, but I certainly felt like I could picture the forest where the Black Clan hung out. I also really enjoyed the different settings visited, especially the tea house. But there was a major part of the world that was extremely lacking, and that was the magic. What even is it? Random magical things happen and they barely get any acknowledgment. Is magic something that's just accepted in this world? Who has it and who doesn't? Why is absolutely nothing about this magical system brought up in the entire book?

The story was also a bit underwhelming for me. I was expecting a Mulan retelling and this is not that at all. The only similarity between Flame in the Mist and Mulan is that Mariko and Mulan both dressed as men to hide amongst a group of men and kind of learn to fight (kind of). Mariko is not part of an army, there is no war, but I guess she can throw some stars? That being said, the actual story was decent. I feel like if this hadn't been marketed as a Mulan retelling I may have enjoyed it a little more.

Overall, I didn't hate Flame in the Mist, but I wanted a lot more from it. More answers and more fleshed out characters, mostly. I did really like Okami and I enjoyed the world. Unfortunately, there just weren't enough positives to make this a good read and I can't imagine I'll read the sequel, despite it ending on a cliffhanger. I think that if you were to go into this book without any expectations of a retelling and understanding that there will be many unanswered questions, you might have better luck!




Thursday, October 12, 2017

Audiobook Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Title: Vengeance Road (Vengeance Road #1)
Author: Erin Bowman
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 327
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Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

Kate Thompson's father has been murdered. She doesn't know why, but she knows she wants revenge against the man who killed him. When she learns that her father was targeted by the notorious Rose Riders, she realizes she is in much more trouble than she thought. After teaming up with the Colton brothers, who won't seem to let her be, Kate travels across the West tracking down the Rose Riders and getting her revenge. As she comes to terms with everything that has changed in her life, she must learn what vengeance really does to a person...and if it leaves room for love in one's heart.

Finally! This is the first book I've read that I really enjoyed in a loooooooong time. I wish I had read it sooner! This has been sitting on my shelf for over a year, and I'm kicking myself for not picking it up until now.

I wish I could say tons of eloquent things about the writing, the plot, or the character development, but the truth is...I honestly just got completely lost in this story. The audiobook for Vengeance Road is absolutely phenomenal. The narrator does a fantastic job of drawing you right in and making you feel like you are trekking across the Wild West with Kate and the Colton brothers.

While I liked the characters well enough and appreciated that romance wasn't a main focus of the book, the world building was by far my favorite aspect of Vengeance Road. I wouldn't say I am very interested in reading about the Gold Rush Era, but this book completely changed that. The world was painted so vividly that I found myself wanting to learn more about the Wild West. It was exciting to see how different groups of people lived based on the resources they had surrounding them; what people would do for a little bit of extra money for their family to survive; how different cultures managed to coexist (or not) and how their practices and beliefs affected each other.

I highly, highly recommend Vengeance Road if you like action-packed stories. Whether you are interested in the time period or not, you will enjoy this adventure. And if you feel like you have too many books and not enough time to read them, check out the audiobook. It is one of the best I have ever listened to. I can't wait to dive right into Retribution Rails and see what more Erin Bowman has to offer.