TTT: Mid-Year Faves 2018

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

Okay, so coming up with a mid-year favorite list should have happened over a month ago, but in my defense, it was a bit difficult coming up with a top ten favorites list of the year when most of my reading has been happening the last few weeks. Also difficult because I haven’t been rating many at five stars (the ones I have rated at five were things I’d already read ages back).

In any case, most likely my list will get an upheaval once I get through my reading goal for the year.

Top Ten Mid-Year Favorites 2018

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – When a book has you emotionally spent, you know it’s a great thing.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – The first book definitely made my top ten on the mid-year point as well, but tbh I actually liked this one much better. Must be because of all the romantic hijinks in this one…or, you know, Morozko is just great.

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce – A book that’s been on my TBR since…well, since I was a wee young lass! I love seeing young Numair running around trying to learn the things he kicks ass at.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – This was definitely one of my fave scifi-dystopian books of the year, even if it doesn’t really play out so much as scifi and focuses on disjointed narratives that connect to each other eventually.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus – I should really not be having such a kick out of teen drama, but this was SO GOOD Y’ALL.

Warcross by Marie Lu – A gamergirl’s book, this is. Um. I still cannot forgive you, Marie Lu. Not after you wrench my heartstrings like that. *sobs in the corner some more*

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente – Tempted to put both Valente novellas on here, but I don’t want to seem biased. (Valente is certainly becoming the author I want to read more of this year).

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – This book is certainly straightforward enough for why I liked it so much. Carrie Fisher, Carrie Fisher, Star Wars, and…Carrie Fisher.

The Step-Spinsters by Madina Papadopoulos – A pleasant surprise of a book! I read this for the Fableulous Retellings Podcast at the behest of the author, and honestly, I have no problem promoting this book to the world for its refreshing take on stepsisters who are not altogether evil and a Cinderella who is not altogether pure.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood – Yes, a children’s book made it here, and yes, it’s another Cinderella retelling. But guys. GUYS. It’s about a Cinderella who wants nothing more than to be a mechanic. In space. And the story rhymes. IT RHYMES SO GOOD.

What were your top tens so far this year?

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Damn Those Second Book Syndromes || Siege and Storm Review

Initial Thoughts: 

UGHHHHH SECOND BOOK SYNDROME WHY YOU DO THIS. There was a lot of development of characters and world building, and the plot doesn’t fully escalate until the end, which then led to the drama and hijinks with Mal and Alina–which led to a lot of bookrage (because the former refused to change and the latter finally grew a backbone and why couldn’t she have just slapped the asshole to begin with?!).

Honestly, I’m still broken up over Genya. I don’t think I can emotionally recover from that.

Okay breathe.

THAT BEING SAID. HELLO SASSY NIKOLAI YOU CAN QUEEN ME ANYTIME JUST LET ME SUMMON THE SUN FOR YOU GIVE ME A MOMENT HOW HARD COULD IT BE.

*SPOILERS WARNING* As this is the second book of the trilogy, expect some spoilers from the first book, Shadow and Bone.


SIEGE AND STORM

by Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt and Company, June 2013
YA fantasy, romance
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

So once again, a fire had to be lit under my ass to get this book read, and mostly because my friend started a rant on it. I can understand why, though, because as far as Siege and Storm went, it definitely paled in comparison to the first book, Shadow and Bone.

BUT. I’m getting ahead of myself.

For all intense and purposes, I am still adoring the world of the Grisha, of the Corporalnik and the Etherealki and the Fabrikators. I loved seeing Ravka being fleshed out in bits and pieces, and the stories and myths Bardugo added into the plot? Fantastic. I even absolutely loved the addition of the technology, because the world changes and even the magic of the Small Sciences is beginning to waver in light of the world of guns and metal.

The story pretty much continues in Alina’s POV, some months after her rather reckless escape from the Darkling in the Fold. Clouded by guilt and repressed in her ordinary, Grisha-hidden life, Alina is not at all satisfied with her station. She is still yearning to become more than what she is, and this becomes a strain in her relationship with Mal. Fortunately, not much drama of guilt is prolonged, because just when she starts feeling bad for herself and resenting her life with Mal away from Ravka, she’s once again snatched by the very guy she hoped had not survived the attack in the Fold.

Which brings me to the characters, because what I loved about Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone was the depth she put in her villain and secondary characters. Genya and the Darkling had been my favorites even through this second book, but we’ve got so many more that were introduced in Siege and Storm that totally stole my squeeing heart.

I’m totally talking about Nikolai Lantsov, duh.

“And there’s no way I’m leaving you alone with Prince Perfect.”

“So you don’t trust me to resist his charms?”

“I don’t even trust myself. I’ve never seen anyone work a crowd the way he does. I’m pretty sure the rocks and trees are getting ready to swear fealty to him.”

This. This quote pretty much defines everything about Nikolai. I have a weakness for cads and pirates, and Nikolai isn’t only that, but he’s ticked off the “confident,” “strategic,” “ambitious,” and “clever and flirtatious” boxes, too. I really loved his banter with Alina and the other characters, and honestly, I want more of him in the last book.

“And I’m notoriously immune to tales of woe. So unless your story involves a talking dog, I don’t want to hear it. Does it?”

“Does it what?”

“Involve a talking dog.”

“No,” I snapped.

I love him so much.

One of the standout character arcs, however, does go to Alina’s growth as a person. There’s a reason why I have this fondness for the Darkling, and it’s because he’s. Not. WRONG. What he’s told Alina, right from the very beginning, is that she’s got a power like his, and to run away from this just to live a normal life is wasting it, which is a detriment to the country. Again, HE’S NOT WRONG. The biggest difference between him and, say, Nikolai, is that the Darkling is cruel. Alright, so he is.

“I’ll return to Os Alta with you, and I’ll consider helping you make a bid for the throne.” I took a deep breath. “But I want the Second Army.”

And eventually, Alina starts to think similarly. She gains ambition. She effing grows a spine, you guys, I love it.

“I’m not a symbol,” I snapped. “And I’m tired of being a pawn.”

That. That right there is indication that Alina is coming to her own.

Now, that being said, I will admit that the book works slowly once everyone gets back to Os Alta. There was a lot of action in the beginning, and the end escalated so quickly that I’m still emotionally torn by the events (I AM STILL UPSET OVER GENYA YOU GUYS WHY) that happened afterwards. This didn’t really bother me as much, because I always expect the middle book to be the build-up and bridge to the conclusion story.

Unfortunately, it also amounted to a lot of drama between Mal and Alina. And while I found Mal to be tolerable and sometimes even cute and adorable in Shadow and Bone, I effing deplored his whiny ass in Siege and Storm. I don’t know how Bardugo is going to make me think otherwise, but I solely believe that Mal and Alina are completely mismatched.

Yes, they’re childhood friends. Yes, they’re going to love each other. But MAL STOP BEING A WHINY BITCH BECAUSE YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS TURNING INTO A FIERCE AND POWERHOUSE CHARACTER. The entire book all he did was whine, sulk, and get jealous over some ONE-SIDED flirtation that Alina constantly rebuked throughout the book. I mean, you know what, Mal? If you want Alina to run to another man’s arms–the Darkling or Nikolai or what-have-you–you’re doing a great job pushing her away.

God, man, he doesn’t even try to meet her halfway, and it’s utterly devastating to see that Alina still tries to cling to this relationship like a lifeline. Like she can’t survive in a world without him.

Alina, you’re stronger than this. You’re Sankt Alina, you’re the Sun Summoner dammit. Woman up and just blow a hole through another roof. It’ll make you feel better. Then move on and snog Nikolai. I don’t mind. At least Nikolai doesn’t begrudge you for being a Grisha. Hell, “like calls to like,” so if you’re into that kind of dark relationship, have your dream sex with the one guy who’d definitely support your rise to Grisha power! YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, ALINA, YOU’RE A GROWN ASS WOMAN.

Again. THE DARKLING IS NOT WRONG. I will be forever saying this, even though yes, the Darkling is a scoundrel and a cruel one at that. (I CANNOT FORGIVE HIM FOR GENYA AND BAGHRA BUT STILL.)

Deep breaths.

4 out of 5 cookies! I still loved this book, and I do look forward to reading the last. That being said, I’m also a little afraid, because in my head I’ve already got three different ways things can go down, and none of them with Mal. Sooooo…that might be a problem.

This book is part of the Beat the Backlist Reading Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Mini Reviews: The Princess Diarist, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I’m slowly getting out of my book slump, but it’s still pretty difficult, considering there’s really only been a handful of books I’ve rated 5 out of 5 this year. Anyway, here’s another mixed set of books. Both were listened to as audiobooks.

Have you read either book? What did you think?

TTT: Book Mash-Ups

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

I love book mash-ups! This is usually how I describe some books I’ve been reading so far, and I swear to you some books really would become more epic if they were put together. Or maybe the epicness will be too much and this is why they don’t exist…yet.

I’ve paired each book, so instead of a list of ten, I’ve got a list of five, for a total of ten mentioned books. Because thinking is hard.

Top Five Epic Book Mashups

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistings (Mistborn trilogy) meet Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha (Grisha trilogy) – Alright, alright, from what I can tell about what people have said about Six of Crows, this sounds like exactly what I’m looking for. But seriously, the Mistborn trilogy still remains the trilogy with one of the best resolutions to the overarching plot, and Shadow and Bonehas given me some of my favorite villains ever (or is it villain? I haven’t decided yet, since I haven’t actually finished the Grisha trilogy yet!).

J.K. Rowling’s returning Hogwarts students (Harry Potter series) get embroiled in an Agatha Christie murder mystery…on the Hogwarts Express (Murder on the Orient Express). – Oh come on. Instead of Poirot coming in to investigate in Murder on the Hogwarts Express, obviously you’re going to have Hermione Granger on the case! And she doesn’t need a fancy mustache to get shit done.

Claudia Gray’s Firebird (Firebird series) travels through Ernest Cline’s OASIS (Ready Player One) instead of through parallel dimensions. – What I mean to say is, what would happen if, as the main character, I could jump into the avatars of different video games in an immersive manner so as to find the thousand pieces of a loved one? Anyone? Anyone? No? COME ON.

Gail Carriger’s preternaturals (Parasol Protectorate series) grace Lindsey Davis’ take on Ancient Roman detective stories (Marcus Didius Falco series). – I loved Soulless lots because it was absolutely Victorian–with an urban fantasy steampunk twist. Now I know Ancient Rome is way back in the historical timeline, but wouldn’t it be fun to throw Carriger werewolves and vampires in there?

Veronica Roth’s faction systems (Divergent trilogy) get integrated into Sabaa Tahir’s brutal world of the Empire (An Ember in the Ashes trilogy). – Honestly, Tahir’s world already has some kind of conflict between the Scholars and Marshals, which is pretty much Erudites vs. Dauntless, so it works! Honestly, I just want to see Tobias kick ass alongside Elias. Look, even their names rhyme!

Do you agree? Disagree? What books would make an epic story for you?

 

What Goes Up Must Come Down || The Thousandth Floor Review

Initial Thoughts: 

This world is pretty damn cool and definitely Gossip Girl of the future. But ohgod the drama I could. Not. Deal. The best POVs were from the peasants below floor 500 and I just REALLY WANTED THE ONE COUPLE TO GO RIGHT.

But let’s be honest, if this had been turned into a TV show I’d so watch the eff out of this dramatic trash. Pity I ended up listening to the book instead.


THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR

by Katharine McGee
HarperCollins, August 2016
YA science fiction
Rated: 2.5 / 5 cookies

WELCOME TO MANHATTAN, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?

WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down….

Futuristic Gossip Girl

Every single description of this book that I’ve seen so far describes it as being the futuristic Gossip Girl, and I’m definitely in agreement with that. If you ask me, it’s what brought me to wanting to read the book in the first place, because I frigging loved Gossip Girl. Chair ship ftw!

But as much as I loved GG, I couldn’t honestly rate this as high as I would have liked, because much of the drama drove me nuts.

How is this drama different from GG, you ask?

There isn’t much difference, honestly. There’s a ton of underage drinking, there’s sex scandals right, left, and center, there are drugs and drug addicts, there are perfect teenage specimens littered throughout the pages, and there’s conspiracy like you wouldn’t believe.

The added bonus is that this takes place in 2118, well into the future, where cities fit into one entire building, all the way onto the thousandth floor.

So what’s not to like?

Honestly, I rolled my eyes every single time Avery’s POV showed up. The way she’s been characterized is that she’s “practically perfect in every way,” and honestly, the ONLY problem she seems to have is that she is in love with her adopted brother. This in itself is cringe-worthy in all ways (it’s just wrong, so wrong, and nothing in the world will make this OKAY–AND GOD WHY THE HELL DO THEY NOT STOP). A lot of the girls want Avery to like them, because at the end of the day, she’s Queen Bee, and I don’t know, but most queen bees are not characterized as being “nice.” Avery is NOT nice. She’s as P-E-T-T-Y as everyone else clamoring up near the thousandth floor, and she’s quite honestly my least favorite character ever because every single time her POV shows up, all she’s doing is whining and pining over Atlas–when she’s not heavily drinking and hosting pity parties for Eris, that is.

Which brings me up to the love-hate relationship I have with Leda, Avery’s best friend. Leda’s obsession is definitely creepy, and things escalate to a point where she does really unforgivable things. But ya know, I love batshit crazy when it comes to story, and Leda is as batshit crazy as you’re going to get, drugs included.

On the bright side, I do want to highlight some really good things I found about the book that will eventually lead me to reading the rest of the trilogy (please just let this be a trilogy, because I really don’t want to keep reading this if it’s a series…).

Rylin and Cord – Of all the pairings that get introduced in this story, I’m really hoping this is one that eventually pans out at the end. The ending in the first book frustrated me to no end, but let’s face it, the two still have feelings for each other, and I’m always a sucker for poor girl and rich boy stories (I’m also currently watching Meteor Garden and I absolutely loved Hana Yori Dango and Ouran High School Host Club…if that says anything about my mentality). I MEAN, HE TOOK HER TO PARIS COME ON.

Watt – I’m still not sure how I feel about Watt entirely, but his storyline does bring a bit of technology back into the book. Watt and his quant Nadia get embroiled in the story because of Leda and Avery, and while Watt lives well below floor 500, like Rylin he eventually manages to drag himself into the dramatic lives of the upper floor miscreants.

The futuristic environment is probably the most intriguing part of the book. If there’s anything more appealing about this world, it’s the fact that hierarchy quite literally means the higher you are, the more powerful your family is. In this case, the Fullers–with their massive property ownership–are the richest of the rich, even going so far as to genetically create their daughter Avery to perfection. I also liked the idea that the upper floors seem spacious enough that they look more like the outside world than what we eventually see as apartment floors.

I guess I want to defend the rating by saying that had this been a TV show, I would have watched the crap out of it. It’s just the right amount of YA angst that would entertain me. It’s definitely the right amount of teen drama that could get super addicting really quickly (hell, I binged GG at some point…), and heck, the first few pages hooked me because the book started with the death of a girl (which, of course, made everyone ask “Which girl died?!”). It has every formula for being fantastic. And yet I found myself cringing a lot and skipping a few chapters just to get to ones I wanted to read about.

2.5 out of 5 cookies! As much as I would love to rant about this book, I’d probably continue reading it if only to see how many of these hooligans die off and whether or not my ship actually makes it through.


Have you read this book? What did you think?