Antonia’s Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week’s topic for a list of ten is a book cover freebie. “Choose what kind(s) of covers you want to talk about: prettiest, most unique, most misleading, weirdest, most memorable, creepiest, ugliest, etc.”

This week I’m going to split my post into two categories and do five of each.

Top Five Books I Loved But Didn’t Like the Covers

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

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The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

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The Martian by Andy Weir

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Top Five Covers I Loved But was Disappointed by the Book

 

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

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Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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That’s my TTT this week, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading!

2020 Blogging & Reading Goals

Today we are both here to talk a bit about what our goals are for this new year. Most people have new year’s resolutions, but we’re going to stick with goals because goals are something to work toward and resolutions are something to change. Let’s get right into it!

Amanda’s 2020 Goals

  1. I want to focus on reading the books that I already own (mostly backlist) instead of getting caught up in new releases. Additionally, I want to make an effort to read the physical copies of these books instead of checking the ebooks out from my library and reading off of my phone. Reading physical books is my preferred format and I’d like to attempt to get back to reading primarily in that format.
  2. The past year or so I’ve gotten back into GoodReads with rating and sharing my reviews on there. I’m pretty liberal with my ratings and I base them completely off of enjoyment. But in 2020, I’d like to be a little more critical with my ratings, basing them a bit more on my overall thoughts on all the aspects of the book.
  3. I’d like to, by the end of 2020, finish all of the series (that are already completely published) that I’m currently in the middle of. This will include any that I pick up in 2020. I don’t want to enter 2021 with any unfinished series. I’m hoping to pick up books in a series one right after another this year instead of starting a series and slowly reading it with other books in between.
  4. Finally, I’d like to get back to writing my reviews shortly after I finish the book. Toward the end of 2019,  I got in the habit of letting my reviews build up until I have five or six to write. I don’t want that to become a lasting habit. So, I’m doing well with this so far, but I’m writing it down to hold myself accountable.

Antonia’s 2020 Goals

  1. My first and main goal is simply to read more this year. I completely failed my goal for December and really want to start this year better.
  2. I’d like to get a little more involved with the blog this year starting with Top Ten Tuesday. It’s such a fun weekly post (one of the first we got into when we started the blog) and I’m hoping it’ll get me more motivated.

These are some of our goals for the new year! Do you have any blogging goals? Any goals specific to your reading habits? Leave a comment and share!

 

Antonia’s Top Ten Tuesday: Newest Additions

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week’s topic for a list of ten is the ten newest editions to my bookshelf.

  1. Love, Jacaranda by Alex Flinn
  2. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  3. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  4. Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
  5. The Last Namsara by Kristin Ciccarelli
  6. The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
  7. Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
  8. Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan
  9. The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  10. A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

These are ten of the books I got for Christmas! What are the newest books on your bookshelves?

-Antonia

 

Blogtober Book Review: Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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GoodReads Summary: In this prequel to Ella Enchanted, which can stand on its own, young healer Evie is transformed into an ogre by the meddling fairy Lucinda. She’ll turn back only if someone proposes and she accepts!

Returning to the land and many of the characters from her beloved Newbery Honor–winning Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine has written a delightful tale about a clever and endearing heroine who is determined to defy expectations.

Evie is happiest when she is healing people, diagnosing symptoms, and prescribing medications, with the help of her devoted friend (and test subject) Wormy. So when Wormy unexpectedly proposes to her, she kindly turns him down; she has far too much to do to be marrying anyone. And besides, she simply isn’t in love with him.

But a certain meddling fairy named Lucinda has been listening in, and she doesn’t approve of Evie’s rejection. Suddenly, Evie finds herself transformed from a girl into a hideous, hungry ogre. Evie now has only sixty-two days to accept another proposal—or else be stuck as an ogre forever.

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Review: First off, thanks to Emily at Wunderkind PR for sending me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review. It’s not something I usually do, especially because I hardly write reviews anymore but I’ve loved Levine’s books in the past and I just had to say yes to this one.

Unfortunately, I ended up being really disappointed by the ending. I’m going to give some general thoughts first and then go into the things I had issues with at the end so anyone who wants to avoid spoilers can skip that part.

Overall I enjoyed the characters. Evie is smart and kind and I loved the fact that the main character is basically a monster for most of the book. Yes, she’s still human inside but her ogre side takes over sometimes. She finds herself suddenly thinking humans might taste pretty good and she frequently has to resist the urge to eat her friends. She’s constantly hungry and isn’t too picky about what she eats as long as it’s meat. She smells terrible and the other characters comment on it a lot. She’s angry all the time about tiny things. They’re such unique traits to give a heroine and I enjoyed watching how she deals with these obstacles to try to break the curse and even just survive. Evie is a strong, brave young woman and I liked getting to see her learn more about herself throughout this adventure.

I liked Wormy as well though he wasn’t there for a big chunk of the book. I would have liked to have seen more of him especially because the change he makes by the end seemed a little unrealistic but that’s probably because I wasn’t able to see him actually go through the change. He was just suddenly different when he comes back into the storyline later on.

Eleanor was probably my favorite character (another reason the ending made me so angry). She was fun, kind and the most amazing friend to Evie.

The fairy Lucinda is obviously very annoying. If you’ve read Ella Enchanted (or even seen the movie) you know she just buts into everyone’s business randomly and ruins their lives because she can. I think the most annoying part is that in her twisted mind she honestly thinks she’s helping people. I get that she’s super powerful but it still astounds me that no one even tries to do anything about her, they just sort of let it happen.

The plot was decent. It’s exactly what you expect from a story inspired by fairy tales. Now that I’m older I find I don’t have as much patience for how unrealistic stories like this can be. Don’t get me wrong, I love the magic and mythical creatures but wish the characters didn’t act so ridiculous sometimes. However, given that this book is middle-grade it’s kind of to be expected.

**Now is where I’ll talk about the spoilers for the ending so please stop reading if you want to be surprised.

I’m not sure why I expected anything different but when I first read the description for this book I was like, “Finally! A girl who doesn’t want to get married at fifteen. Who has a guy friend she doesn’t fall in love with. This is great!” Guess what happens by the end of the book? They have a long engagement (which was something they said at the beginning Lucinda wouldn’t let them do so I don’t understand what changed) but they’re still engaged at sixteen and married at eighteen which is something we seriously need to stop portraying in books and film. I’m so sick of this trope of girls falling in love with their best friend. Just because he loves her does not mean she has to reciprocate.

Eleanor’s fate is what upset me the most though. Before everyone finds out he’s the villain, Eleanor gets engaged to Sir Peter and, of course, Lucinda shows up. Her “gift” is basically that Eleanor can’t back out of marrying Peter which she obviously doesn’t mind at the time. However, once everyone found out he was a traitor I assumed they’d figure something out, most likely that the king would execute him for treason (yes it’s middle-grade but there were ogres literally eating people). Nope. They all agree that they’ll pardon him for poor Eleanor’s sake and send him off to be a travelling merchant. As though being married to someone she hates is in any way a good thing. The part that really got to me though is that in the epilogue she’s pregnant. Why was that necessary? Their baby is Ella from Ella Enchanted so she had to exist somehow but since Eleanor hates Peter I’m trying really hard not to imagine how that baby was made.

**End spoilers.

Long story short: sorry guys. I really wanted to like this book but the ending absolutely ruined it for me. I’ve liked Levine’s work in the past so if you enjoy middle-grade and fairytales you should still give it a try. Thanks for reading.

-Antonia.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Summary:

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.91shyghsqsl

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

 

Once again I couldn’t wait to start this book after the suspense-filled ending of Siege and Storm (you can read my review of it here). The Darkling finally made his move; the Second Army has been destroyed, the palace taken over, the king, queen, and prince are possibly dead, and Alina is hiding underground without her powers.
I really didn’t know what to expect from this book. At the beginning, it felt like there was no hope for Alina and her friends to be able to defeat the Darkling. He simply has too much power and experience for the ragtag group of rebels to make much difference. To change this, Alina and her friends go on a nearly impossible quest to try to find the firebird. The third of Morozova’s amplifiers could make Alina powerful enough to face the Darkling once and for all but the firebird is a legend they’re not sure even exists. I really enjoyed this quest; the interactions between this group of misfits were fun and it was nice to get away from the politics of the second book. The twist involving the firebird, the third amplifier, and Mal wasn’t much of a plot twist for me. Usually I like little subtle hints in books that make you go “Ohh” when you eventually figure it out but I thought these ones were pretty obvious. I’d guessed this outcome back in the second book but it wasn’t revealed until two-thirds of the way through this one.
Alina is still my favorite character. She’s strong and brave but also very flawed. Despite everything though, she always tries to be a good leader first and foremost. I loved watching her continue to grow throughout this book.
I’m also glad I started to like Mal again. My opinion of him has sort of been a rollercoaster throughout the series but he managed to redeem himself by the end. He hasn’t always been there for Alina the way he should but he stepped up when it mattered and I ended up admiring the person he becomes.
Nikolai is also one of my favorites. He’s still the dashing, witty pirate we met in the last book but behind that he’s intelligent and kind. I was more devastated by what happens to him than by any other event from these books so that should tell you how much I love him.
I don’t have much to say about the Darkling that I haven’t already said in my previous reviews because his part in this book is mostly from a distance. His unpredictability makes him an exceptional villain and I liked the way Bardugo ended things for his character.
Overall this way an amazing conclusion to the series and I highly recommend it to everyone who likes YA and fantasy. As always, thanks for reading and I’d love to know what you think in the comments.

-Antonia

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Summary: 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, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.91wvknclkul

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.

 

After almost a year, I finally got around to finishing this series. I did reread the first book but, since my thoughts on it remain the same, I won’t write another review for it. You can read my review of Shadow and Bone here.

I loved this book. After the whirlwind ending of the first book, it seemed like this one might start slow, but it picked up almost immediately and the whirlwind started again. That’s one of the things I love about this series; it’s so fast paced that I read each book in only a day or two. Even during slower moments there’s so much underlying suspense that you can’t wait to see what happens next.

The setting is amazing. As I said in my review of the first book, I struggle a lot with visualizing settings, especially fantasy settings. Bardugo describes the places and people in her books so well though that I found it easy to see everything. Even with the war, this is a world I think I could live in.

Alina is a character I continue to admire. She’s gone through so much in her life and the events of the last book have left her shaken. Terrible things have happened to her and she’s done terrible things as well. She barely knows who she is anymore and she’s fighting so hard to separate her actions from those of the Darkling. No matter what she does she always keeps fighting to be a good person and I love that about her. I think she really stepped up in this book to try to be a good leader even if she still makes mistakes sometimes.

Mal started to annoy me again in this book. He annoyed me in the beginning, then I loved him by the end of the first book and the beginning of this one, then he started to annoy me again, but I feel like it wasn’t so much his fault. Mal and Alina start this book in a really good place in their relationship. Sure, they’ve got problems, but most of them stem from the war and their terror of the Darkling. Then, suddenly, the relationship’s broken and Mal’s acting like a jerk and Alina won’t just talk to him. It didn’t feel like a natural progression to the relationship. It felt like Bardugo just created problems in the relationship to add more tension to the plot and not because that’s where the relationship was going. It’s the only serious problem I had with this book. I would have understood them having a little trouble because their entire lives are made up of stressful situations and that would wear on any relationship, but the complete 180 seemed forced to me.

I absolutely love Sturmhond. It seemed like every time I turned a page there was a new facet to his personality that made me love him more. Even the negative traits just made him more interesting. I won’t give away too much about him but he’s definitely one of the more unique characters I’ve read about recently.

The Darkling is still an awesome villain even though we don’t see him quite as much in this book. The affects the end of the first book had on him have somehow made him more twisted and it was difficult to figure out what he might do next. Also, (sorry everyone) I still don’t love him.

Overall this was an amazing sequel that I highly recommend to everyone who enjoys YA and fantasy. It has the romance and magic that you expect from this genre with a heavy dose of darkness and what people are capable of under pressure thrown in. I’d love to hear your own thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading!

-Antonia

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Summary:
Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim-their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend-changed everything.
One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft-the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing their secrets, crushes, plans to change the world-hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death. She suspects that her friends know much more than they ever let on.
But as the night plays out in a haze of awkward jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.
Then night fades to morning, a thunderstorm rages, and a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.
Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers…and at life. And so begins the Neverworld Wake.
Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Night Film and Special Topics in Calamity Physics Marissa Pessl creates a vivid and unsettling realm in this atmospheric and absorbing psychological suspense novel sure to keep readers breathless until the riveting conclusion.
Review:
I went into Neverworld Wake expecting a mystery/thriller that would satisfy my desire for a spooky Halloween read on the last day of Spooktober.
I was rewarded with so much more. This story was complex and creative, involved and intricate, intense and entertaining. I’ve heard some good things about this book, but it surpassed all of my expectations for sure.
I totally thought I had guessed the ending. I was two-thirds of my way through and I was certain I knew what the ending looked like. Oh, boy was I wrong. It was unpredictable and funny. Mysterious and interesting. I loved the Groundhog Day esq. vibe. I think it was a really interesting idea that was done well.
I liked the characters. Some of them were a little shitty personality-wise, but I think that made them more real. People are shitty right? I liked that though this friend group was currently fractured and has been for a while, we got to see bits and pieces of how they used to function together in the past before their friend died.
Neverworld Wake takes place in Rhode Island! Which, for those who don’t know is part of the US called ‘New England’ and I was super excited to read this because that’s where I grew up, which is about an hour or two away from the different places in this book. I loved reading about a few different places that I’d been to before. I always enjoy books set in areas I’m familiar with.
I totally forgot to make sure to save where I liked certain quotes and parts because I was way too into the story and just needed to finish. But Neverworld Wake was full of excellent quotes and little insightful tidbits about death and the human condition. This will for sure be another favorite of mine for 2018 and I recommend it to everyone!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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