Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top Ten Recently Acquired Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Recently Acquired Books, which is interesting for me because most of my books normally come from my classroom or the public library, but this week has been a little different. 

My husband bought me the Book Riot YA box to try out, which was neat, but this box's books aren't really my thing, unfortunately. I was hoping for a variety of genres but they all appear to be realistic fiction while I am more of a science fiction/fantasy fan right now. Not a problem though, as they will all go to my classroom library and will be read by many students this fall :) The three books below came in the box, along with a book light and some library check out cards. 

1. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

2. A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

3. Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi: Of all three, I think I am most likely to read this one.

From the library: I got a couple new audiobooks to try out since I finished my other one and I have a long drive by myself coming up, plus a regular print book.

4. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull: I like it so far, but the first CD is skipping a bit and the narration is slooooow. We'll see.

5. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich: I downloaded this one from the library to my phone, which is my preferred way of listening to audiobooks. I've been meaning to read the series for a while, so maybe audio is the way to go?

6. Lady Thief by A. C. Gaughen: I really liked Scarlet, but set this aside for later since it wasn't grabbing me.

From friends: My friend Christina just moved to the UK (I know!) and was rehoming some books, so she sent me two for my classroom library.

7. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima: I plan to read this one.

8. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma 

From the bookstore and Amazon: 

9. The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas: I had a coupon, I've been meaning to read it so I can try Throne of Glass again, there was one copy left...the stars aligned. 

10. Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen: I need to read this for book club, but it is not calling to me at all!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Audiobook Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Narrator: Sasha Pick
Publish date: 2013
Source: audiobooksync.com
Length: 11 hours 40 minutes
"While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that's in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.
 " (Goodreads)

I need to get this out of the way right now: I did not love Code Name Verity. I don't know if I even liked it, honestly. Don't hate me, but it definitely was not the book for me that it was for so many others. Despite that, Rose Under Fire sounded really good to me. I picked it up at ALA in 2013, but when I tried to read it, I got about 100 pages in and gave up. It just wasn't working for me at all...

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when it was one of Audiobook Sync's free downloads. I gave it another shot, thinking maaaaybe the audiobook would make a difference over print and I was right! It was way better listening to than reading and completely changed the reading experience for me!

Rose Under Fire is split into a few different sections and I was a bit surprised at how much actually happens before Rose is sent to Ravensbrück, as described in the summary. I expected a bit of introduction, but there was quite a lot. Not a bad thing though! Characters do pop up from Code Name Verity since this is technically a companion book, so I would recommend reading (or at least trying to read) CNV first since obviously some things will be spoiled. 

In terms of audiobook quality, I thought this was really good. The story was really brought to life by Sasha Pick's narration in a way that did NOT happen for me with the print. She had different voices for everyone and her narration really helped with the tone when Rose was at the camp and things were not going well. There was even singing in some parts, which really lent itself to the audiobook experience, and I enjoyed hearing Rose's poetry compared to reading it.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook over print in this case and am curious to see if anyone else had a similar experience? Thoughts?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Publish date: 2014
Source: Purchased
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 448 pages
"Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."
Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her." (Goodreads)

I bought The Queen of the Tearling quite a while ago when it was a Kindle daily deal (those are dangerous!). I started reading it on a plane ride coming home from a student trip I chaperoned to Europe. I'd finished my other book and after perusing my Kindle, decided to try Tearling. It was a slow start, but I really liked it!

The Queen of the Tearling is definitely a slower paced book, so if you need faster paced books, this one might be a struggle for you. I usually don't like slower paced books, but this one really worked for me. Maybe because I started it on a plane ride and there wasn't much else to do? For whatever reason, I liked it a lot.

There's plenty of time to get to know Kelsea and her guard. Lazarus was particularly awesome and I liked his and Kelsea's friendship. I feel like most fantasy books have a good relationship between the queen and the head of her guard and this was no exception.

Like I said, this was slower paced and sometimes that was a pain. The chapters were loooong, which I dislike, but the ending was exciting and worth pushing through the slow parts. I'm excited to read The Invasion of the Tearling! It's even on my wishlist, which is rare :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Books I've read so far this year. In no particular order...

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (audiobook)

Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (graphic novel)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (This might be cheating but I reread it for a project for a grad class!)

Yeah, yeah, I know it's only 7 books but this has not been a great reading year for me so far. I've been DNFing or setting aside for later A LOT, which is fine with me, but that means I've been investing some time into books and then not finishing them, and now my number of finished books isn't as high as I wish it was. 

Help me out: what's the best book you've read so far this year? What do I need to read ASAP?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Audiobook Review: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

Narrator: Anna Massey
Publish date: audio 2014; novel 1938
Source: audiobooksync.com
Length: 14 hours 48 minutes
"The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives--presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave."

I had actually never even heard of this book until recently when I saw someone on Twitter mention liking it. I looked into it, added it to my TBR, and promptly forgot about it. When I saw that it was one of Audiobook Sync's free audiobooks for this summer, I got excited, remembering that I wanted to read it. I ended up loving it much more than I expected!

Basically Rebecca is about an unnamed woman who marries Maxim de Winter, a widower who lives in this amazing house and property called Manderley. The main character works as a lady's maid and kind of swept off her feet by Maxim and moves with him right away to Manderley. Once there, however, she discovers that Maxim's late wife's presence is still controlling everything at the house as the new Mrs. de Winter learns more about Rebecca.

Rebecca is an odd, but very good, book. It's really confusing at the beginning and the story itself doesn't start making sense until about chapter 4. Everything at Manderley is so mysterious and the whole time I just wanted to know more about Rebecca, Maxim's first wife. Why does everyone love her so much? Why does she seem to still have a hold on the house and the staff? These questions DO get answers and at one point while listening, I even said, "oh my god!" I do not normally react like that to books, so that should tell you something!

As an audiobook, this was excellent. The narrator, Anna Massey, was great and I think her voice added a lot to the tone of the book. Very mysterious, but naive at the same time when she was voicing the new Mrs. de Winter's thoughts. I'm glad I read this via audio and would highly recommend this format if you are thinking about reading it.

A final thought: If you've read Rebecca, what are your thoughts on Mrs. de Winter never having a first name? 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Publish date: 2012
Source: Library
Format: Paperback
Length: 287 pages
"Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets - skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood's band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet's biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know...that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.
The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in a put innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more - making this a fight worth dying for." (Goodreads)
I will come right out and say that Scarlet is a book I read because other people were reading it and I thought, hey if they like it so much then I might too! And that was that. I got it through my state library system since my local one didn't have it and I read it over a few days. I ended up really liking it!
My only experience with Robin Hood is Disney's animated version that I watched as a kid, so I was a little worried going into Scarlet that I'd be lost. I was a little confused at the beginning, but nothing that wasn't fixed by continuing to read. I will say that Scarlet's voice (the narrator) is a little difficult to get used to because of the dialect she speaks in, but I got used to it pretty quickly. After a few chapters, I was fine.
For the first 2/3 of the book, I thought it was good but nothing great, but then a few delicious plot twists popped up and it turned great. I was itching to finish the book and find out what happened to everyone. I really liked Scarlet, despite being frustrated with some of her actions, and liked Robin a lot too. 
Ultimately I thought it was a fun retelling of Robin Hood and I liked it enough that I already have the sequel on hold! Have you read Scarlet? Thoughts?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Publish date: February 10th, 2015
Source: Classroom Library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 383 pages
"The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Red Queen is one of the most hyped books that I can think of this year. That much attention means I've definitely heard of it, but I'm also a little wary because sometimes the hype monster kills a good books for me. I tried going into Red Queen with an open mind, but I still feel like it didn't live up to my expectations.

That said, don't get me wrong. Red Queen is still a solid fantasy novel. I liked Mare as a character and I loved all the secrets that everyone had about powers, alliances, and all that good stuff. I think my main complaint was that I just wanted more: more background on the world, more deceit, more intrigue, etc. With all the hype surrounding it, I was waiting for more and never got it. That's not to say I didn't like it; I just didn't love it. 

I read a review of Red Queen somewhere (and I wish I could remember where! Sorry!) in which the reviewer pointed out that the title was misleading and I completely agree. Maybe that's partly why I was expecting more? If you've read it, do you agree?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is the top ten books on your summer TBR (to be read list).

If you're anything like me, the minute I put a book in a TTT post or add it to a special to read list, that is some sort of magical sign that now I'll never read it. HOWEVER, I really would like to get to these books this summer.

Vitro by Jessica Khoury: This one sounds interesting and I enjoyed her first book, Origin.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan: Gotta continue the Heroes of Olympus! 

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen: This is my book club's July pick. Looks interesting!

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich: I think this would be an easy summer read and hopefully a fun series to dive into.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: I don't even need to explain.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline: This looks interesting and I wonder if it would make a good future book club pick?

The Brides of Rollrock Island (aka Sea Hearts) by Margo Lanagan: I probably would not have picked this up on my own, but it's one of Audiobook Sync's freebie's this summer, so I'm giving it a try

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: I pre-ordered this for my Kindle (which I normally NEVER do), but I think it was only 2.99! I had to!

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows: I wasn't a big fan of Incarnate, but The Orphan Queen sounds good and it was another cheap Kindle deal, so I gave in.

Number 10 is a professional book. Kelly Gallagher is amazing and his newest book is about best practices in ELA. If you teach 6-12 ELA and have not read Kelly Gallagher, you must.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Publish Date: 2006
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Length: 406 pages
"Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets... and the ghosts that haunt them still.
 " (Goodreads)

The Thirteenth Tale was one of those books that I was aware of, but never added it to Goodreads or anything. I have a copy in my classroom library and thought the cover was cool, but that was as far as my interest went. We decided to read it for our June Book Club meeting, so I bought a copy for myself and started reading it when school got out. 

This is a timeline of my feelings as I read: 
Little slow to start.
Hmm...that's interesting. 
And now I'm sad that it's over :(

I loved The Thirteenth Tale. Like, really loved it and gave it 5 stars which is pretty rare for me. The beginning was a little slow as we get to know Margaret and the mysterious Miss Winter, but then it really picks up the more you learn about the latter's past. There were all sorts of twists and turns that I didn't expect and I felt like I was on the edge of my seat for the last 200 pages. 

Read this if you are looking for something different or if you just need a good book. I don't reread very often but I get the feeling I'll be rereading this at some point so see what I might have missed the first time around. Let me know what you thought if you've read it too!