Tuesday, August 30, 2016

5 Star ARC Review: The Graces (The Graces, #1)

Author: Laure Eve
Edition: eARC courtesy of Netgalley
Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

This book is just WOW. I mean, I was excited to read it once I heard it existed, but I never expected to be completely blown away by this book. If I had to compare it to something tangible, I'd say it's a heady and sweet smelling candle that you can smell even in your dreams.

The Graces is about River, the new girl in town, and the Graces, a rich family that the whole town seems obsessed with. And, according to local legend and the gossip at school, they're witches. Thalia Grace (LOL I know she shares her name with the Percy Jackson character), Fenrin Grace, and Summer Grace are the most popular, most beautiful, and most lusted after kids at their school. They rarely have friends, and when they do they're disposable friends. And then River and Summer connect and suddenly they're best friends. But River has a secret motivation for wanting to get in with the Graces...

My favorite sort of narrator is the unreliable one, and River definitely fits into this category. We know from pretty much the first page that what River is telling the reader probably isn't the whole story. We also know that she's not perfect at telling this story. The whole book revolves around the idea of whether magic is real or not, and what it means if it is or it isn't. River is convinced that it's real and that the Graces are witches, but the reader is only acquainted with coincidences that may or may not be the result of spell casting, so everything is cast in this beautiful shade of doubt and suspect. The story does wrap up with answers, though, so don't worry about being left hanging even though it's only the first book in a duology.

The characters are all wonderfully done. They come off the page with such realism! And I will admit, I wished I was a Grace half the time I was reading it. Every character is painted in shades of black, white, and gray which is delightful. As much as you love them you hate them. Rarely do I read characters that are at once heroes and anti-heroes.

Plot-wise things meander and wander and slowly come to a dramatic and breathtaking climax I never saw coming. All that wandering that the middle takes, the small things that make the book perfect an beautiful, all come back to haunt at the end and it's fantastic. Besides focusing on magic the book places a huge emphasis on friendship, with female friendship being the spotlight. A lot of the questions asked involve what it means to be a good friend and how you find your real friends, especially in high school. There's a little romance but it's handled with care and a very curious twist (that really ties into the gray-area-ness of the characters).

TL;DR? Basically, this is one of those books that's going to haunt me forever and is perfect for fans of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and The Mermaid's Sister.

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Hogwarts Story Tag

I saw this post on Tracey's blog Printed Words and even though I wasn't tagged I thought it sounded pretty awesome and couldn't help wanting to do it. It was originally created by Underland to Wonderland and it's just such a brilliant idea for a tag!

Basically, the idea is to imagine what your life/story would be like at Hogwarts.

1. Are you a Pure-Blood, Half-Blood, or Muggle-Born?
Okay, just kinda guessing at how my family would be in this sort of world, I think I'd be Pure-Blood.

2. Which wand chose you?

3. Did you take an owl, cat, rat, or toad with you?
I want to say a cat, but my father is terribly allergic and I don't know where it would go when I wasn't at school, so probably an owl.

4. Where did the Sorting Hat put you?

5. What house did you want to be in?
Eh it didn't matter really but Hufflepuff seems right. Way back when, during the first Pottermore sorting test I was in Gryffindor which did always seem strange to me, though.

6. What lessons are your favorite and least favorite?
I love Transfiguration and Potions (though I'm really bad at potions, let's be honest) and find Divination an interesting class but pointless. I probably dislike History of Magic because of the professor. Oh, and I almost forgot, but Care of Magical Creatures is probably my favorite class.

7. The form your patronus takes is a...
A bird of some sort! I don't know which one, but as long as it flies that's it!

8. When confronted with a Boggart what does it look like for you?
Fire maybe? 

9. Do you partake in any school sports or magical hobbies?
Is there a book club? Because I'd definitely be part of that. If there's a magical creatures or a dragon club, I'd be part of that as well.

10. If you have free time where would you find yourself hanging out?
The library and the common room, and probably my own room as well. I'm very much a homebody, even at Hogwarts, haha.

11. You are most likely to get detention for what?
Oh I hope nothing at all! But probably something foolish and accidental.

12. What career do you want after leaving Hogwarts?
Working with magical creatures somewhere. I think it would be a bunch of fun, and while I don't exactly wish to go to Romania and work with dragons, I wouldn't say no to that job either.

I Tag

And if I didn't tag you and you want to do it, feel free! I love this tag it's so much fun.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

5 Star Reaction Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

Author: Sarah J Maas
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: 5 Stars
There will be minor SPOILERS for the series.

My fourth time going through and this is the book that always changes the most for me. When I first read it, when it came out, I more or less hated it. I loved it, but I also hated it. A very strange relationship I had with this book. Most of that initial hate came from the change of ships in the book and the things that happen at the end that I was just not prepared for.

Of course, now that I know what to prepare for, and now that ships have changed once again in the series (for the best- Rowaelin is just everything) it's actually become one of my favorites for the past two years. But this time... it was just lackluster, I think.

The big problem? The characters I've come to love from the most recent books just weren't in it! I mean, they haven't been introduced at this point, but they're some of my favorite parts of the later series (I'm talking about Aedion, Lysandra, Rowan, and Nesryn... and Manon and Elide and am I forgetting anyone else? Basically the rest of the characters, haha). As much as I enjoy this book, it feels like a filler compared to the rest of them. Which is crazy, because so much happens during this one!

Here are some other things I really noticed this time around:

I remembered Archer. This may sound strange since he's a big character, but honestly, on my last two rereads I totally forgot to hate him when I started the story. How? I really don't know. But going into it and hating him has actually made it a really interesting game of seeing how much he fakes and is a liar.

Nehemia bothered me. I do love her to death (RIP you brilliant character), but she does bother me because of the way she treats Celaena. As much as Celaena holds Nehemia up on a pedestal as the best friend she's ever had, I know that so much more is waiting for her in the next few books. Better friends. Nehemia keeps secrets from her the whole time even though she expects Celaena to share things and gets mad at Celaena's own secrets. She also expects a lot from Celaena, someone who is still healing. Nehemia should be able to recognize this and yes, Celaena was being hard headed and not reasonable about certain things, but she wasn't even a year out of Endovier and has lived her whole life in fear. Also, I find it hard to forgive Nehemia for what she did and leaving Celaena like that.

I kept thinking of the song Castle by Halsey as I read this

Reading this series is like watching a TV series. I hope some day it does translate onto the small screen.

I remember why I dislike Chaol. Okay, hold your horses, I don't actually dislike Chaol. He's just not my favorite. And I remember why he's not my favorite- he's kinda boring. Okay, that actually doesn't explain it, because later in the series he's really not boring. But in this book, I just get weary of his point of view. I think it has something do with the fact that I'm far more interested in Celaena and Dorian in this one (they're both on really, really interesting arcs and Chaol is just there in comparison). So, no, I don't dislike Chaol, and I actually like him and Celaena together during the first half, but I always seem to forget how little he actually does in this book.

Yep, that's it for now. Quite the longer post than I meant to write, but I'm pleased with it. On to Heir of Fire!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wrap Up (The One Where I Finally Have a Posting Schedule Again)

I love to schedule things so it's surprising that I went so long without and "official" posting schedule. I was scheduling in my planner and everything, but I didn't have a specific day for everything that I could promise people would be the regular schedule. Well, now I do and I'm so happy! It's going to be really great having this extra level of planning and scheduling and will help keep conflicts out of blogging I hope. Without further ado:
Sunday -- Discussion or etc. post
Monday -- Review
Tuesday -- Most ARC Reviews
Wednesday -- Waiting on Wednesday
Thursday -- College Journey or etc. post
Friday -- Review
Saturday -- Wrap Up
Just a note: this schedule won't actually be implemented until the latter half of next month and there's a reason for that which I'm not going to share quite yet but will be revealed in next week's wrap up. Stay tuned!

I also want to start incorporating a "news" related portion to my weekly wrap ups where I can talk about what's been happening in the book blogging community. If there's anything you want to see my thoughts on, email me tsundokublog(at)gmail(dot)com and I'm going to start that this week as well.

The big thing this week revolves around the current queen of YA fantasy, Sarah J Maas and the fact that Empire of Storms was released into the wild a little earlier than expected for some people. And of those people who have been able to read it, a lot aren't happy with one thing or another. That's fine- everyone's entitled to their opinion. It isn't great for author's and publishers when books are bought early, but honestly, if I were faced with the option of picking this one up early I probably would, and still buy the three other copies I planned to get. Okay, whatever. The big problem lies with the fact that people who don't like the book are spreading that hate and sending awful messages to the author. I think there have even been death threats. Which is ridiculous on so many levels. And sickening. Don't do this shit, guys. If you want to see a great rant about it, check out Christina's post here.

Finished this Week
I finished my reread of Heir of Midnight and also read (in one day) Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies. I wasn't a huge fan of the latter, but it's an interesting book that hasn't gotten very much attention lately. My reread of Heir of Midnight has reminded me why it's my favorite in the series so far.

Currently Reading
I'm just shy of the halfway point in Ruin and Rising and will likely finish it either tomorrow or Monday. After that I'm picking up The Movie Version (an ARC that shouldn't take me took long) and then starting my reread of Queen of Shadows.

Last Week

Next Week
Sunday-- Crown of Midnight Reaction
Monday-- Hogwarts Tag
Tuesday-- The Graces Review
Wednesday-- Waiting on Wednesday
Thursday-- The Raven King Review
Friday-- The Raven King Spoiler Review
Saturday-- Wrap Up (A VERY IMPORTANT ONE)

What are your thoughts on the SJM thing? Are you excited for Empire of Storms? What do you plan on reading this week?

Friday, August 26, 2016

5 Star Book Review: Elantris

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Hardcover (Author's Preferred Edition)
Rating: 5 Stars
I'm a pretty big fan of Brandon Sanderson, and incredibly in awe of his Cosmere. Elantris is the first novel he had published and the first piece of the Cosmere to fall into place. I finally picked this one up after owning this copy for half a year or so. If you're a fan of the Cosmere and don't already own the tenth anniversary edition, you're really missing out one some important information and need to get on that ASAP.

Elantris is about three people: a prince who becomes cursed and is locked within the walls of the city of Elantris, a foreign princess who was set to marry him but now will have to deal with being a widow in a land where women are nearly powerless, and a priest from a kingdom set on conquering the entire world. At it's heart, Elantris is about doing the right thing, and how the "right thing" changes depending on each person.

This is not my favorite Branson Sanderson novel, but I still loved it dearly. I think, what really did it for me in this book, was the characters. Brandon is a pro at writing intriguing and morally diverse characters, so these, in comparison, might seem very black and white in comparison. But I think it's that simplicity to them, without taking away from how real they feel, that makes it a piece of stand out fantasy. Raoden is a really good guy stuck in a bad situation, and he does what he does because of his own morals. His were probably my favorite chapters to read because I was most interested in what was happening in Elantris and the "magic" there. Sarene is an incredibly strong character and she's forced to compete with a society that will always see her as lesser because she's a woman. I loved seeing her play the court against itself and do what she wanted regardless of what it took, but I also liked being able to see her vulnerable side. She's sensitive but she's also strong and it's this duet of characteristics that really makes her a stand out. As for Hrathen, I have complicated feelings about him. He was at once the most interesting character and also the most annoying. I was often more interested in Sarene's and Raoden's chapters, yet his story is just as important if not more so. He's definitely not what I expected as a character, and he's the most morally gray of the three. He's an antagonist in the series and a really, really interesting one. I don't want to give much away because he's pretty awesome in his own right.

Now, most people know Sanderson for his fantastic magic systems that he writes. And, yes, Allomancy is just about the coolest thing in the world. But for the most part, Elantris is not about magic. It's a subtle thing that exists sparsely and seems rather poorly developed in comparison to his other works. I think the focus on court politics, though, is a strong point for the novel. The fact that a large chunk of the plot is figuring out what happened to the magic in this world, thus what happened to the city of Elantris, is an interesting mystery, and while I do look forward to sequels (eventually, he's said he'll write them eventually) where we get to explore the magic a bit more, I liked that we only got a taste of it so far.

World building is another one of his strong suits, and he doesn't disappoint. There are pretty diverse nations in this book, and while we don't really leave the cities of Kae or Elantris, there is a lot of talk about the other countries that really make this world feel quite large. Again, I look forward to seeing where eventual sequels take the characters because I honestly can't wait to explore! And it's a testament to Sanderson's writing that I feel as if I explored the two cities along with the main characters and they don't feel like they were just on the page. I wouldn't be surprised if one day I forget they're fictional for a moment (it has happened with characters before it's so weird).

TL;DR? Basically, it's gotten me back into the mood to read epic fantasy and helped fix the book slump I've been in lately. Rarely do I read a book this big this quickly and when I do it means it's super immersive and totally worth your time.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

College Journey: Leaving

Last Thursday my College Journey post was all about packing and what to bring. And, as a reminder, I'll be posting these the last to Thursdays of every month for the foreseeable future.

Now, after you've finished packing it's time to leave. For some people it's going to be incredibly hard, you won't want to say goodbye to friends, family, pets, or stuff. For others it's exciting and you can wait for the new adventure. Most people will experience both. And everyone will be nervous. Because, chances are, it's your first time away from home living on your own. Not everything will be up to you, but this is a mark of you becoming a bona-fide adult! Isn't that terrifying? You'll learn to love it.

I don't want to scare you too badly. But I do want you to understand the reality that it's okay to be frightened of the unknown that's about to be shoved your way. It's a natural reaction and in this case the best way to treat it is just to go with the flow of it. Talk to someone about how you feel, rant on the internet, or write it down in a notebook. I hope with this post I can guide you through some of the rougher patches, so that when you do leave you know it's going to be okay.

First off: leave your room the way you want to return to it. This is a mistake I made. While my room wasn't a complete disaster when I left for school, it wasn't completely put together and made up nicely. It didn't bother me when I was away, but when I would come back even for a weekend it was so annoying to be dealing with my old mess. It's not worth it, especially when you want a relaxing environment to fall back into when you return for winter break (or whenever you return) so make sure to clean up before you go!

Have a game plan to stay in touch with friends and family. For family I recommend setting aside a certain time every week or day where you can actually call them and talk to them. I don't have a set time, but I also don't talk to my parents on the phone that often. While that's fine now, and something I'm totally used to, for the first few weeks it was hard to not know when they would call or if it would be when I had time. You may not have your schedule when you leave for school, but as soon as you get it work something out with loved ones you want to touch base with regularly. For friends I try to keep an open correspondence with them. I try to write handwritten letters because it's so nice to get things in the mail and I try to text each of them at least once a week. Everyone has their own lives which get in the way, though, so don't feel awful if it's not contact all the time like you may be used to. My friends go to schools pretty far from me and we still manage to talk, though not as frequently as we used to. Our relationships are still pretty great! Of course you'll also be making new friends at your school so don't worry about being lonely.

Have some good food for the two days before you leave. Where I go to school, at least, there just aren't very many restaurants nor do I get decent home cooked meals. So the two days before I leave (more like three actually) I make it a point to only eat the food I know I won't get the chance to eat during the semester. Whether it's restaurants that are only near my house, places to expensive for me to afford without my parents, or something my mom makes in the kitchen, it's nice to have these things before you have to say goodbye to them as well.

On the same note, stop in at your favorite stores. It shouldn't be a surprise that I will be stopping in at the two local Barnes and Noble's by me before I wave my little town goodbye. At school the nearest one is an hour away and while I don't mind the drive I can't go all the time when I want a new book or just to enjoy the atmosphere. I'll also be stopping into a few other places that I won't be able to see again for a while.

You've finished packing, but it's best to double check you have everything. First of all, you don't want to forget something super obvious, which can happen if you don't pack it away. My blanket for example. I probably wouldn't forget it, but I can't pack it until the day I leave. Things like my hairbrush, though, which I'll use until I go are easily forgettable. You want to go through your room and your house and make a mental checklist of stuff deciding whether you will need it at school and how important it is.

Sign up for Amazon student prime. If you haven't done this already, seriously do. It's well worth it. Just search up Amazon Student Prime and you'll find links that will guide you through the process. How it works is that you feed it a .edu email address to prove you're a student (or a teacher because actually they can do this it's nice). For the first six months you get free prime, albeit a version of prime that leaves out the streaming services. You do get free two day shipping though (which is what I use for everything I swear it's a life saver!) and same-day release delivery for book preorders. After the six months are up you get the option to renew the prime service, for half the price of regular prime but with all the features that you didn't get before. And man is it worth it! I strongly recommend it.

Finally, keep your chin up and smile. You'll be back, and while homesickness may hit, it will also pass. School will go well and while it may be a hard transition you'll be able to do it. I believe in you. And so does this puppy ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Spindle Fire

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, Spindle Fire is an enthralling, wholly original re-imagining of a classic faerie story.
Half-sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.
And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood, a Faerie Queen who is preparing for war, a strange and enchanting dream realm—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.
Spindle Fire is a tour de force fantasy set in the dwindling, deliciously corrupt world of the fae, and featuring two truly unforgettable heroines.
Why I'm Waiting
Well, I don't know if comparing a book to the queens of fantasy Sarah J Maas and Leigh Bardugo is ever the best idea in case it doesn't live up to it... but this is a really interesting description! And if it can live up to it, well, then obviously I'd love it. Which is why I've already gone and preordered it, haha!

Spindle Fire releases April 11th, 2017