November 30, 2014

Rewind & Review #26

Rewind & Review

Three big things happened over the past three weeks.
1) I finally got to go home! I've been at college since August 12, and it was good to get a full week in my own home and bed. I got to see family and friends, stop in at my favorite bookstore, bake, and go see Mockingjay: Part 1 with Kate.
2) I got a job! Next semester, I'll be working the control desk at the athletic center on campus. 
3) I got a new phone. It's beautiful and glorious and I'm so happy to have something better than a Tracfone.
Also, check out this important tweet. 
No book haul vid this time! I was too busy yesterday to film one.

Books I Received
One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart (via Edelweiss and Chronicle Books)
Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan (via NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends)
Autumn Falls by Bella Thorne
The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Escape Theory by Margaux Froley
Hero Complex by Margaux Froley
(Thanks to Read Between the Lynes!)

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre
(Both thanks to Sarah at What Sarah Read!)

Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Secret of the Key by Marianne Malone
(All from my mom. <3)

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (from the author; thank you!)

Books I Bought
The Witch Must Burn by Danielle Paige (e-book)
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Books I Read
Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton (reread)
The Witch Must Burn by Danielle Paige (3 stars)
The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz (reread)
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (reread)
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand (3 stars)
Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott (3 stars)
Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (reread)
Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones (reread)
The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno (2 stars)
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian (3 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (From 11/10-11/15)
   (From 11/16-11/22)
Upcoming Blog Posts in the Next Few Weeks (subject to change)
  • Review: Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas
  • TTT: 2015 Books I'm Anticipating
  • Top Ten Clues You're a Bookworm
  • Random Friday: Winter 2014/2015 Reads
  • Review: For Real by Alison Cherry
  • Review: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir
  • TTT: New-to-Me Authors of 2014
  • Playing with Point-of-View
  • Review: Boundary by Heather Terrell
  • I'm Emma and I'm a History Geek

November 29, 2014

Review: Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Grade: A
Summary: Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I've been wanting to read George's Castle Glower series for months now, particularly since I enjoyed her retellings of The 12 Dancing Princesses, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood. But then over the summer, I attempted to read a lot of middle grade and hardly liked any of those books. So my reluctance and delay in reading the Castle Glower series wasn't random.
However, when I finally read Tuesdays at the Castle, I was so glad I did. George wrote excellent characters, made me want more adventures with them, and crafted beautiful relationships. I loved that the siblings cared so much for each other and believed in each other, themselves, and their parents. Family relationships like the one in this book are so rare in middle grade and YA fantasy. The Castle itself is fantastic. It's practically a character all by itself. I loved its quirks and how much it cared for the royal family.

The Verdict: I need the rest of the books in the series. Now.

November 28, 2014

Why Do I Buy a Book?

There are multiple thought processes that go into buying a book for anyone. Some can go to a bookstore and say, "Oh, this looks interesting! I think I'll buy it!" I am not one of those people. Here are the reasons I buy a book.

#1: I've read previous books in the series/previous works by the author.
If it's a series I enjoy, of course I'll buy the newest releases. Also, if it's an author whose works I've enjoyed enough to know I'll like whatever he/she writes in the future, I'll buy those books too before reading them.
Think Cress and The Nightmare Dilemma.

#2: I've read an ARC of the book.
If I read a book for review and really enjoyed it, of course I want a physical copy. Now, this doesn't always mean I'll buy the book immediately after its release (case in point, it took me eight months to acquire Being Sloane Jacobs), but it does mean I want it for my shelf.
I could also include "I borrowed the book from the library and liked it enough to buy it" under this reason.
Think On the Fence, The Kiss of Deception, and Wish You Were Italian.

#3: The book has come highly recommended, and trusted bloggers have given it good reviews.
I rarely buy a book I haven't already given a test run (whether e-galley, library, or one of the reasons from #1). So for me to buy it before reading it, it has to have good reviews from friends and it has to come highly recommended.
Think The Falconer and Magnolia.

#4: I'm feeling especially daring.
There are some books I'm dying to read, and I never got an ARC, or I haven't seen a lot of reviews, or my library would takes ages to get it in. So I'll go ahead and buy the book and hope for the best. If worse comes to worst, I can always sell it or offer it for trade. Thankfully, most of my recent risks have paid off.
Think My Faire Lady, Wildflower, and Illusive.

So why do *you* buy a book? Is it for one of the reasons above, or do you have an entirely different one? Let's talk!

November 27, 2014

What I'm Thankful For in 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Americans! I'm thankful for...

Graduating high school. I actually did it, y'all.

My amazing friends at home.
My new friends here at my university.
A roommate who has been great despite our rocky moments.

Opportunities to learn and grow as a person and a child of God.
God's direction in my life as He guides me to what He has planned for me.
God's protection and support as my family goes through a rough period.

New Taylor Swift music. Let's be honest: 1989 is phenomenal.

Amazing books.
Amazing people in the publishing and blogging communities (plus my Disney Twitter friends who don't fit into either of those categories).
Opportunities to become a better, more experienced book blogger.
The continued blessing of ARCs from my local indie bookseller. I'm in awe over all the books I got to read early, thanks to them.

People in my life who will always be supportive and love me, no matter how stubborn, or scared, or mean I get. In essence, people who will be there for me through the good and the bad.

November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR List

Ready to know what books I'm dying to read that release in December and January? (And if you're wondering about more January and February titles I'm anticipating, stay tuned for December 5th's Random Friday post.)

1. The Queen by Kiera Cass (12/2/14)

2. No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown (12/9/14)

3. For Real by Alison Cherry (12/9/14)

4. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (12/23/14)

5. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (1/6/14)

6. Rogue Wave by Jennifer Donnelly (1/6/14)

7. Emeralds & Ashes by Leila Rasheed (1/6/14)

8. The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall (1/13/14)

9. Ensnared by A.G. Howard (1/13/14)

10. All Fall Down by Ally Carter (1/27/14)

November 24, 2014

Surviving Fantasy Worlds

It's been proven (I wrote a post about it, see?) that in practically every dystopian future, I'd be a goner. That post got me thinking - Would I survive any YA fantasy worlds?

Throne of Glass series (by Sarah J. Maas)
Hmm...with my luck, I'd get caught up in the crossfire and get killed, or I'd somehow be someone the king abhorred. I'd give myself a 50% chance, though.

The Grisha trilogy (by Leigh Bardugo)
Yeah, um, likely not.

Dorothy Must Die (by Danielle Paige)
Not in Dorothy's Oz, that's for sure.

Splintered trilogy (by A.G. Howard)
Depends on which world I'd be in. Wonderland? Heck, no. Plain old Texas? Hmm...until Wonderland invaded, I'd say probably a good 99% chance.

Princess Academy series (by Shannon Hale)
I'd say my chances are pretty good. The people of Mount Eskel take care of each other.

Deep Blue (by Jennifer Donnelly)
I haven't thought this one over very much. For those of you who have read Deep Blue, what do you think?

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (by Rick Riordan)
Most quizzes place me as a daughter of Apollo or Zeus. With the former, my chances aren't too terrible, but I think I'd probably die during the course of the series. With the latter, lol, no. I wouldn't survive at all.

Snow Like Ashes (by Sara Raasch)
Hmm...I'm not entirely sure what kingdom I would live in. This book has solid worldbuilding for Winter and Spring and I feel like I got to know Cordell pretty well, but I'm interested to see the rest of the kingdoms and figure out where I'd be from. I think that would determine my chances of survival.

Stray (by Elissa Sussman)
I am, unfortunately, just rebellious enough that I likely wouldn't be a proper lady, so I'd be redirected to the fairy godmother life, which I think I'd utterly fail at.

Okay, so what about you? What would you guess your chances of survival in these various worlds would be?

November 22, 2014

Because It's All We Know

Back in early September, I wrote a paper for Intro to Lit class. We got to choose from a list of topics, and mine was on why we read and why we write - two topics that are very important to me. I decided to share my paper here. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on why you read, write, or both!

Because It Is All We Know
by Emma S.

If the average bookworm or author had a dime for every time she was asked, “Why do you read so much?” or “Why do you write?” she could afford to stay home and solely read, write, or both. Those questions are intertwined; therefore, they should be addressed simultaneously. One may read to find someone like herself or, perhaps, because it is just what she does. There is no single answer to why we read or write; instead, there is an infinite number.
Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is a young adult novel about a fanfiction writer during her freshman year of college. During the protagonist Cath’s first day in an advanced creative writing class, the professor asks her students why they write fiction.
One of the older students, a guy, decided he was game. “To express ourselves,” he offered.
“Sure,” Professor Piper said. “Is that why you write?”
The guy nodded.
“Okay. Why else?”
“Because we like the sound of our own voices,” a girl said…
“Yes,” Professor Piper laughed… “That’s why I write, definitely. That’s why I teach.” They all laughed with her. “Why else?”
Why do I write? Cath tried to come up with a profound answer—knowing she wouldn’t speak up, even if she did.
“To explore new worlds,” someone said.
“To explore old ones,” someone else said…
To be somewhere else, Cath thought.
“So,” Professor Piper purred. “Maybe to make sense of ourselves?”
“To set ourselves free,” a girl said.
To get free of ourselves.
“To show people what it’s like inside our heads,” said a boy…
“To make people laugh.”
“To get attention.”
“Because it’s all we know.”
“Speak for yourself,” the professor said. “I play the piano. But keep going—I love this. I love it.”
“To stop hearing the voices in our head,” said the boy in front of Cath…
To stop, Cath thought. To stop being anything or anywhere at all.
“To leave our mark… To create something that will outlive us.”
The boy in front of Cath spoke up again: “Asexual reproduction.”
Cath imagined herself at her laptop. She tried to put into words how it felt, what happened when it was good, when it was working, when the words were coming out of her before she knew what they were, bubbling up from her chest, like rhyming, like rapping, like jump-roping, she thought, jumping just before the rope hit your ankles.
“To share something true,” another girl said…
Cath shook her head.
“Why do we write fiction?” Professor Piper asked.
Cath looked down at her notebook.
To disappear. (21-23)
Everyone reads or writes for a different reason. Indeed, there are many answers in that quote from Fangirl alone; however, there are many more to discuss.
We read to escape a cruel and unfair world—especially because knowing characters have problems, as well, is reassuring. We write to create a world of our own invention where we can escape. So many preteens, teens, and college students suffer from bullying, anxiety, depression, and a plethora of other problems. If they can dive into a book and flee our world for even a little while, their hopes are boosted. If they can write so much that it feels as if a great burden has been lifted, then the world is a better place.
Two important facets of reading are to learn and to be entertained. Reading makes better writers, and writing make better readers. We read because we thirst for knowledge—whether it be historical, scientific, cultural, psychological, or something else entirely. Conversely, we write to share that knowledge. We read to be inspired, which is especially important to a writer, who often composes to inspire. Additionally, reading provides hours upon hours of enjoyment. Books are wells of information and entertainment.
We read and write because words are the breath of life. Language is powerful. In the mouth of God, they create something out of nothing. In a human mouth, words ignite wars, love, and friendships. Words can be a spark in a creative person’s mind, which could lead to the next bestseller, the next top one hundred song, the next great invention, etc. The possibilities are endless, and they can inspire and cause feelings in others, which continues the cycle.

We read to learn how others feel. We read and write to feel something, anything, or perhaps even to be changed. There are still a vast number of reasons, and it would take pages to cover them all. But perhaps, all these reasons can be summed up in two sentences. We read to know we are not alone. We read because it is all we know.

November 21, 2014

Random Friday: Books That Disappointed

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following: 
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my post.
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Have there ever been books that let you down, that didn't live up to your expectations? I'm sure there have been. My post is all about the ones that disappointed me. (Links provided this time are for any of the books that I reviewed, so y'all can know why they let me down.)

1. Royally Lost by Angie Stanton
Excuse the pun, but this book royally disappointed me. I was expecting, cute, fun fluff, and I got boring, whiny, insta-loving characters instead.

2. Starry Night by Isabel Gillies
Y'all recall my review, right? Beautiful cover, but the book itself was a great disappointment.

3. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
*sigh* So I read Since You've Been Gone first, and then I read Amy and Roger. After loving SYBG, I was expecting to enjoy this one just as much. I was sorely let down.

4. Death Sworn by Leah Cypress
I was fully prepared to love this one (hello, assassins? fantasy?), and while it was nice, it's not a book I'd want to reread or own. Things dragged a bit too much.

5. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Ughhhhh. This was one of my most-excited-for titles of 2014. I couldn't connect with most of the book, so it's definitely one that disappointed me.

6. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
I was enjoying These Broken Stars for the most part, even though space and sci-fi are not my genres of choice. But a large part of the plot ruined it for me. I still plan to read the companion novels, though.

7. The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt
I loved Going Vintage, so I was fully prepared to love The Chapel Wars as well. There was too much drinking and language for my tastes, and I didn't like Dax nearly as much as I liked the love interest from Going Vintage.

8. Dangerous by Shannon Hale
I'm a big Shannon Hale fan. I really wanted to like this, because I think Maisie could've been a strong, diverse character and I love superheroes. But the beginning (everything pre-camp and then at the camp) went way too fast, some statements seemed juvenile and awkward, the romance threw me off, and I think this needed to be a duology, or at least perhaps it was originally going to have more than one book. There was just too much jammed into this, which stinks because I adore Shannon's Books of Bayern and the Princess Academy books. Her writing is much stronger in both of them. Overall, very bummed that I couldn't enjoy this more.

9. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
This one wasn't terrible exactly, but most of the book was pretty meh for me.

10. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Between this and Once Upon a Time, I'll never be able to look at Peter Pan the same again. And I'm not okay with that. This one changed the story waaaayyyyy too much for my taste.

November 19, 2014

Review: Princess of Thorns

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
Grade: C+
Release date: December 9, 2014
This e-galley was provided by Delacorte and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Fairytale retellings are usually hit-or-miss for me. I like darker retellings, but they can't be too dark or weird. I like modern retellings, but they can't change too much of the details in an effort to make it overly modern. So where does Princess of Thorns fall for me? It's more of a miss than a hit, unfortunately.
I'm pretty sure we were supposed to like Aurora, but I didn't. She's too impulsive, and doesn't think things through well enough, and she's very selfish. She never seems to care about the people she's about to rule. All that's on her mind are herself, her love for brother, and her attraction to, and eventually love for, Niklaas. I've grown bored with Fey in fairytale retellings or fantasy novels in general, and Princess of Thorns was no exception. I also think parts of the end (that I can't reveal without spoiling things) came about too suddenly. There wasn't enough artistic unity earlier in the book for them to make sense. There was info-dumping to explain away the sudden changes, but I wasn't buying it.
So what did I like? The first sentence. (The whole "Once upon a time there lived a prince and a princess with no happily ever after...") I thought the sections from Ekeeta's POV were interesting. And Niklaas wasn't bad. That's honestly about it. I didn't entirely have to force myself to finish the book, so that's good, but would I reread it? It's highly unlikely.
Language is fairly tame. Romance and violence...not as much.

The Verdict: If you love fairytale retellings, then you should at least give this one a try. But I wouldn't expect much from it.

November 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels I Need

Uggghhhh, sequels. Those books that you just need, and you'll die if you don't get them soon enough. Yup, that applies to most of the books I'm about to list.

1. Ensnared by A.G. Howard

2. Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

3. The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

4. The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

5. The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige

6. Etherworld by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

7. Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins

8. Deception's Pawn by Esther Friesner

9. Rogue Wave by Jennifer Donnelly

Epic Reads Cover Reveal: CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE by Anne Blankman - On sale April 21st!
10. Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

12. The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

13. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

14. Snow Like Ashes book 2 by Sara Raasch

15. Winter by Marissa Meyer

November 17, 2014

Review: Dark Triumph

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Grade: B-
This e-book was provided by HMH for Young Readers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.
But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for...
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Considering how dark Grave Mercy is, Dark Triumph is even darker. Sybella is not as easy of a character to love as Ismae is. She isn't awkwardly charming (or really, charming at all). She makes interesting choices, many of which I do not agree with. But her story is compelling. 
The arc from Grave Mercy continues (in fact, Dark Triumph opens towards the end of the first book), and I really wish we'd have seen Ismae and Sybella interact more, working to protect the Duchess. I know for a fact that I can't love this book as much as I enjoyed its predecessor, and I think that's okay. With how meaty all three of the books in the His Fair Assassin trilogy are, Dark Triumph was altogether necessary. I think some of my favorite characters in this installment had to be Sybella's little sisters (at least in their brief appearances) and the Charbonnerie. Also, the Beast of Waroch is fascinating.
I wasn't as wooed by the romance in this book as I was by Gavril and Ismae's. But I could see it working in the end.
Like I said, Dark Triumph is, well, dark. There's a heck of a lot of violence, plenty of trigger warnings, and fun jazz like that. This is definitely not a book for the faint of heart.

The Verdict: If your main complaint about Grave Mercy was that it was too political and lacked action (something I don't agree with), Dark Triumph will certainly make up for that.

November 16, 2014

So You Like... #8

Question for y'all: do you enjoy the genre-focused So You Like... or book/TV show/movie-focused posts more? Well this is one of the latter. So you like...







Try all of the above books if you like superheroes and superpowers.

Or...if you just want enhanced abilities, but the characters aren't superheroes, try...



As always, clicking on the covers will take you to their Goodreads page. Hope you enjoyed this post, and let me know what you'd like to see on future So You Like... posts! :)

November 15, 2014

Review: The Princess Spy

The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson
Grade: B+
This book was provided by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Margaretha has always been a romantic, and hopes her newest suitor, Lord Claybrook, is destined to be her one true love. But then an injured man is brought to Hagenheim Castle, claiming to be an English lord who was attacked by Claybrook and left for dead. And only Margaretha---one of the few who speaks his language---understands the wild story. Margaretha finds herself unable to pass Colin's message along to her father, the duke, and convinces herself 'Lord Colin' is just an addled stranger. Then Colin retrieves an heirloom she lost in a well, and asks her to spy on Claybrook as repayment. Margaretha knows she could never be a spy---not only is she unable to keep anything secret, she's sure Colin is completely wrong about her potential betrothed. Though when Margaretha overhears Claybrook one day, she discovers her romantic notions may have been clouding her judgment about not only Colin but Claybrook as well. It is up to her to save her father and Hagenheim itself from Claybrook's wicked plot.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This was the fifth in Melanie's historical fiction fairytale retelling series, and it's good to see everything finally come full-circle. For those of you who have read The Merchant's Daughter, which I highly recommend, you'll get some fun surprises. Also, it ties up some loose ends since that book was the only one not connected to the other three in some way.
Margaretha is a fun character. I loved her chattering ways, and I liked her more than Gisela or Sophie and as much as Rose and Annabel. Colin was a great love interest. Additionally, there are Christian elements but, overall, The Princess Spy felt less preachy than some of the past books. The characters' faith is more a part of their lives than a sermon.
However, I'm not sure this was the best fairytale to retell. I didn't feel like there were too many elements of The Frog Prince in it. Also, Melanie's writing felt a bit too stiff and formal at times.
The romance, though, was very nice. There's no love triangle because Margaretha never had real feelings for Lord Claybrook. Also, I think she and Colin had some very swoony moments (although nothing compares to Rose and Wilhelm or Annabel and Ranulf, in my opinion).
It's a pretty clean book; violence is the worst, but it's not terribly graphic.

The Verdict: A fun read, especially if you've read Melanie's previous fairytale retellings.

November 13, 2014

The Paris Dream

Ah, Paris. The City of Lights. The City of Love.

Summer in Paris.
Autumn in Paris.
A bridge in Paris.

I really want to go to Paris (and France in general) some day. But that got me thinking. How many YA books are set in Paris? Or in how many YA novels do the characters travel to Paris? It's a remarkable number. I was able to come up with ten on my own, and I'm sure there are dozens more.

There are Anna and the French Kiss and Isla and the Happily Ever After, two books from the same series which are mostly set in Paris.
In Time After Time, The Geography of You and Me, and Going Rogue, the characters visit the City of Lights.
The City of Love has a prominent part to play in Just One Day, Scarlet (by Marissa Meyer), and Belle Epoque.
What other books can you name that are set in Paris, at least for a chapter or two?