Book Blogger Hop: Feb 5-11

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

Does your significant other share your reading passion?

Answer:

Well, I don’t have one but sure do hope for a book nerd to be my significant other. :D

 

March Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge

With me being ahead in most of my reading challenges (not bragging, just happy about it) I am itching for something a little more difficult (I know, I know, that by the end of the year I may lag behind on those same challenges) and so when I came across this month-long read-a-thon, I jumped on it. Once again, I am trying to reduce that TBR or bring it to a manageable number, so I challenged myself to read 20 books for this TBR challenge. Sign-ups are still open, so go ahead and join – it will be fun!

Take Control of Your TBR Pile

I haven’t really decided which books to read for the challenge, since that is mostly a mood thing for me, but I will probably have a tentative list at the start of the challenge.

January Wrap-Up

So, since I am participating in soooo many reading challenges this year, and honestly it is difficult to keep track of them, I am reviving my Looking Back posts, in which at the end of the month, there will be masterpost of challenge updates, review links, and general news (I won’t get too personal, promise!) This will be a bit long, though, so apologies beforehand.

Now, starting with reading challenges –

Goodreads Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Krutula has
read 28 books toward her goal of 200 books.
hide

I read 27 full-length novels and one novelette in January, and am actually ahead on my reading goals at the moment. Review links on images.

The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire, #1) Haven (The War of Princes, #1) Paperglass (War of the Princes #2) Monarch Lastland (The War of Princes, #4) The Distance from A to Z Snow Globe Fairy Tales for Modern Queers Stray (Four Sisters, #1) Burn (Four Sisters, #2) The Prey (The Prey, #1) Sword and Verse (Sword and Verse, #1) Shade Me (Nikki Kill, #1) The Capture (The Prey, #2) The Prophecy of Shadows (Elementals, #1) Shallow Graves The Mystery of Hollow Places  Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1) Any Other Girl The Secrets of Lizzie Borden The Year We Fell Apart  Unhooked Cogling The Truth The Secret to Letting Go The Maiden Thief

But wait, I also read (listened to?) audiobooks this month. They were all re-reads:

  1. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  2. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

making a total of 32 books read.

Onto blogger challenges,



I didn’t manage to read any book for the #RockMyTBR challenge, even though I had planned to read Pretty Girl 13 or Winter. Well, there’s always the next month.
Progress: 0/26



Fantasy forms a huge chunk of my reading, with 16 fantasy books read this month, notable ones being Unhooked, War of The Princes, Shallow Graves, Sword and Verse, The Maiden Thief (love Melissa Marr) and The Shadow Queen.
Progress: 16/100



For Backlist challenge, I read 4 books that were at least a year old – Stray, Haven, Paperglass and MonarchThe Prey came close, but it was still 10 days from being a year old, so didn’t count.
Progress: 4/52



I enjoyed reading some LGBT protagonists this month – Burn and The Secrets of Lizzie Borden with bi/pan main characters, Shallow Graves with a lesbian WOC, and the anthology Fairy Tales for Modern Queers which had a range of asexual, gender fluid, and queer characters. What I was most happy about was the fact that even in fantasy genre we are getting queer protagonists, something which I thought was limited only to romance or contemporary books.
Progress: 4/6



Since this is a point-based challenge, I’ll break it down
War of Princes – 3 sequels(6 pt) and completing the series (10pt)
Four Sisters #2 – Burn  (2pt)
The Prey #2 – The Capture (2pt)
Progress: 20/51 points



The Prey by Tom Isbell
The Capture by Tom Isbell
Progress: 2/11



Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace is a every-monster-hiding-in-plain-sight world, with the hunters as the antagonists. The protagonist is some sort of Dementor-like creature who can absorb the life force of killers.
Progress: 1/11



Anything before 2016, which makes it 5 books read. (same as Backlist, but includes The Prey)
Progress: 5/100



I’m inching my way towards that 80% feedback ratio and have cleared all the galleys of January (whew!)and two of February. The galley reviews are titled as ARC reviews on my blog.
Progress: 24/100


Including the books read for LGBTQIA challenge, books having POC protagonists – Stray, The Prey and The Capture, making it a total of 7.
Progress: 7/26


Mini-challenges

  1. Read a contemporary from an author you’ve never heard ofAny Other Girl by Rebecca Phillips
  2. Read one that features mental illness
  3. Read a contemporary book with only one (1) word as its title
  4. Read one with watercolors on its cover
  5. Read one that you borrowed from the library
  6. Read a contemporary novel with more than 400 pagesShade Me by Jennifer Brown
  7. Read a contemporary book with a cover that features your favorite color
  8. Read a contemporary by a 2016 debut author The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
  9. Read a contemporary that’s been on your TBR for 1+ year
  10. Read a contemporary that starts with the same letter of your first name
  11. Read a contemporary that’s a standaloneThe Truth by Jeffry W Johnston
  12. Read a contemporary recommended to you by someone else (friend, family member, blogger, etc.)

Progress: 7/21



There was a loose retelling of godmothers in the Four Sisters, C J Redwine’s take on Snow White in The Shadow Queen, which also had dragons (!) in it, retellings of classical fairytales with a queer twist in Fairy Tales for Modern Queers; Unhooked recast Pan and Hook  and Melissa Marr released a Bluebeard (shush, it’s a spoiler) retelling with The Maiden Thief.

Progress: 7/26
Earned the Enchanted Moura (1-4 books) and Goose Girl (5-9 books) badges.
[image%255B4%255D.png]image


  1. The War of Princes by A R Ivanovich – all 4 books read in January

Progress: 1/12 series


 

With the books of the War of Princes series, Four Sisters series, The Prey series, the total is 3 series read till the most recent book.

Progress: 3/7 (Expert series reader)
Achieved: Testing the Waters


GRAPHIC NO ICONS

The Book Nympho

3 books of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare -all rereads.

Progress: 4/15 audiobooks


Well, this has been a productive month for reading, and I also participated in the #BoutOfBooks readathon, had some fun Twitter chats, celebrated New Year’s at the Tokyo Tower (which didn’t light up this year, sadly), went shopping in Harajuku, enjoyed my first snow ever (yay!), rejoiced over winning Winter (thanks to Jen)  and enjoyed beautiful sunsets with Fuji-san in the distance.


How was your January? Do share in the comments!

Review: The Maiden Thief

The Maiden Thief
The Maiden Thief by Melissa Marr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Maiden Thief” by Melissa Marr is a dark fantasy novelette about a teenager whose town is plagued by the annual disappearances of girls and young women. Her father blames her when one of her sisters is one of the taken.

The Maiden Thief is a really good retelling of a classic fairytale. Verena’s town has been targeted by annual disappearances of young women, right around the time of her birthday. Our heroine, who while in a society that is all about gender roles, is trying to find her place in her family after the death of the mother and her brother. When her sister disappears, her father blames her writing a tract on the Maiden Thief to the disappearance. The identity of the fairytale that inspires it is a huge spoiler, so I’ll just say that there was something creepy about the guy, okay? Verena is a little envious of her sisters, and that clouds her judgement but she also wants to atone for what she thinks is her fault and so she makes that decision. But our smart heroine thwarts the Maiden Thief and saves her town in the end, with an ending that was as amazing as the writing.

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Read the whole story at Tor.com

ARC Review: The Truth

The Truth
The Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: February 2, 2016

When Chris wakes up tied to a chair in a dark basement, he knows that he’s trapped—and why. He shot and killed Derek’s little brother. He had his reasons, but no matter how far Derek goes to uncover the truth about that night, Chris’s story won’t change. It can’t. There is far too much at stake…

Derek is desperate to prove his brother didn’t deserve to die. And if kidnapping his brother’s killer is the only way to the truth, than he’ll go to extremes. But Chris’s truth is far more dangerous than Derek could have imagined, and knowing could cost both their lives…

The Truth is a pretty short mystery book, that packs a lot of things into a few pages. The story begins with Chris kidnapped by Derek and forced to reveal the truth of the night Derek’s younger brother died. As the story goes back and forth between the past and the present, the characters themselves are being slowly unraveled. True, the mystery is about the events of that night, but it is also about the dark nature of humans themselves, and what extent we can go to. Chris has maintained one version of the story, partly because he was said to do so, and partly because he is hiding one crucial part of that event. Now, I had my suspicions early on, but the ending still devastated me. Also, learning how Derek and Chris had nearly the same situation – that was unexpected; in Derek’s case it was worse and the other way around, but their mindset was the same. It was also interesting in that people you know can sometimes surprise you, and despite it, you love them for it. Definitely an – oh my god – kind of ending.

Trigger warning – violence, rape (implied)

Received a free galley from Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: The Secret to Letting Go

The Secret to Letting Go
The Secret to Letting Go by Katherine Fleet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: February 1, 2016

Haunted with guilt after his girlfriend’s death, Daniel Hudson has no interest in committing to anyone. At the end of the summer, he’ll be leaving Florida for a new start in college. If only he could avoid the mysterious new girl in town, who seems every bit as naive and eccentric as she looks. Trouble is, she’s hard to ignore, with her beautiful piercing eyes, pitiful-looking dog, and unsettling tendency of finding trouble.

Clover Scott lived her whole life off the grid and arrives on the Gulf coast in search of her grandparents. She never expected to nearly drown, or get caught in a hurricane, or fall in love with the boy who rescues her. Now, she has a chance to rewrite her life’s story, to finally fit in somewhere, but Daniel wants answers about her past. When the police start asking questions about the disappearance of her parents, she must make a choice: go to jail or confess her secrets—even if they might destroy her chance at a happily-ever-after.

The Secret to Letting Go, told in a dual perspective of the protagonists Clover and Daniel, is mainly a story of guilt and being so broken up over guilt that it changes your life. Daniel is grieving the death of his ex-girlfriend and his guilt over not knowing what exactly caused her to commit suicide. Clover, while hiding it as a secret, is feeling guilt over her parents. Under spoilers, I can only say that she was forced to move on forward from that incident and try to forge a new life in the town where she meets Daniel. From the start, he feels protective towards her, and feels like he needs to save her. They are essentially two broken people, and them gravitating towards each other was not a healthy start to the relationship. But when they are together, they do forget their respective pasts, even if it is good for them to keep the secret from each other.

While Daniel’s past is out in the town to know, hers is much more hidden, and even after it all comes out, their relationship suffers because them being as they are, they can’t keep going at it unequally – him being her savior and she depending on him. Each of them needs to heal on their own, and despite them being in love with each other, they consider that to be more important. I liked that the author depicted a healthy route to their relationship and let it grow organically. They are characters you can relate to, but it does feel like they are a bit extreme at their spectrum. While the writing was definitely good, I feel the story was bogged down with a lot of dialogue, which didn’t always feel normal. Nevertheless, it was a book I enjoyed reading, and I definitely look forward to future works from the author.

Received a free galley from Entangled Teen via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: Unhooked

Unhooked
Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Release date: February 2, 2016

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer. But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe. With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

This wild and dark retelling of the fairytale of Peter Pan (which was pretty wild and dark, itself, for kids, if you ask me) had me hooked (see what I did here?) from the start when Gwen lands on the doorstep of her new home. It definitely had a gothic vibe at the start, and I was excited for the adventure to come. But rather than being the Wendy to Pan, Gwen gets saved by the pirate who plays the role of Captain Hook. I say ‘play’ because this is nothing like the story you have heard – well, unless you watch Once Upon a Time and are familiar with a devilishly handsome one-handed pirate in eyeliner. Okay, technically, Rowan’s backstory is not like him, more like a bad boy slightly reformed, in a world where light and dark are not exactly right and wrong. Gwen is worried about her friend, Olivia, who she finds out is with Pan, and agrees to go with him. While there, she finds a Neverland that is as unpredictable as the creatures on it, and that it is not easy to keep your wits about yourself when your memories drain from you like a sieve.

Our heroine, Gwen, is headstrong and stubborn, and doesn’t take things at face value – mostly. Pan is not the hero of myth, and she is not sure she can trust either of them. But she does feel a longing for the pirate that feels more natural than the thrall she feels when with Pan. Ultimately, it is her allegiance that would determine the fate of Neverland, and I will say, the ending did not go the way I had imagined. The romance in this book, is unexpectedly hot – I didn’t think I would find the rogue pirate to be so…uh, swoon-worthy? Maybe it was more of being in Gwen’s mind and her reactions to him, but that is something to look out for.

The writing is beautiful, vivid and terrific – pulling us into the darkness of Neverland, and flowing wonderfully from chapter to chapter. The small story going at the title of the chapters is a subplot that reveals whom it belongs to towards the end and doesn’t really affect the plot, but is an interesting tidbit and backstory to that character. I loved the creatures created in Neverland, and the various Fey, and the balance of power that was the crux of the plot. The ending was bittersweet, in a way – it sealed the story of the book, making it highly probable this is a standalone, but also gave a good resolution to the characters. Enjoyed this book immensely!

Received a free galley from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Cogling

Cogling
Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth Mierek
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When fifteen-year-old Edna Mather tears an expensive and unfamiliar pocket watch off her little brother’s neck, he crumbles into a pile of cogs right before her eyes. Horrified, Edna flees for help, but encounters Ike, a thief who attempts to steal the watch before he realizes what it is: a device to power Coglings—clockwork changelings left in place of stolen children who have been forced to work in factories.

Desperate to rescue her brother, Edna sets off across the kingdom to the hags’ swamp, with Ike in tow. There, they learn Coglings are also replacing nobility so the hags can stage a rebellion and rule over humanity. Edna and Ike must stop the revolt, but the populace believes hags are helpful godmothers and healers. No one wants to believe a lowly servant and a thief, especially when Ike has secrets that label them both as traitors. Together, Edna and Ike must make the kingdom trust them or stop the hags themselves, even if Ike is forced to embrace his dark heritage and Edna must surrender her family.

When I started Cogling, I was drawn in by the steampunk world created – where magic and automation seemed to be coexisting, but together being made into a force of evil. Edna, aware of this thanks to Ike, whom she comes across when he tries to steal from her, recruits his help to rescue her brother from the factories he has been kidnapped to. They have one adventure after another, which was pretty interesting, and even after the rescue, their troubles are not at an end. Now they have to rid the kingdom of the hags who are the source of the evil, but they seem to have grown very powerful while humans have been trodding over them. Our heroine saves the day thanks to her own latent magic powers (not a spoiler – it was obvious enough from the start) and there is a HEA.

While the book was quite engaging in the start, I grew annoyed by our protagonist, Edna, who repeats the same litany continuously. Yes, I get she wanted to find her brother, then complain to the king about the hags, but damn if I wasn’t tired of that repetition every 10 pages. Then came the troubles she got into because of her naivete – there is something about not knowing things, and then there is willfully getting into danger without preparation. Ike was a curious character, and while his and her romance developed much later, I couldn’t help but feel weird over that first forced kiss – why was it even there, when it served nothing to the plot? Other things like characters thought to be dead returning, and the overall state of the kingdom that was nicely ignored as the book progressed, made my liking for the book reduce.

The ending seemed pretty rushed after the climax, and considering this seems to be a standalone, not much near resolution. What happened to the other non-human creatures? How long was the king under control? The kingdom itself was it some seriously bad shape, and we are to believe that a happy ending of a wedding was all that was happy about it? Really? Not much satisfied with how the book was constructed either – it was never explained how exactly did the humans subdue all the other creatures. If this was a series, I would have perhaps been a bit more mollified with that ending, but as such, this book didn’t make me feel good at the ending.

Received a free galley from Curiosity Quills Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: The Year We Fell Apart

The Year We Fell Apart
The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan. Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from. As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

As far as stories go, The Year We Fell Apart comes off as simplistic – two best friends driven apart by distance, now back together for a summer in which they are denying their feelings because of a bad break-up. I really wasn’t expecting much, other than angst, when going in this book, and I was pleasantly surprised when this book made me…feel emotions. Okay, I know that makes me sound like some emotionless robot, but I seldom let myself cry while reading. However, I was feeling things right along side Harper when looking through her eyes.

For the story, I still maintain it is pretty straight-forward. There is the unnecessary subplot of her mom’s cancer which doesn’t really serve much for the plot. It doesn’t affect the main plotline – of her making a string of mistakes, letting people assume what they want and then being a doormat about it. No, really, Harper hardly tries to defend herself because she is mostly accepted her guilt, making it a cornerstone of her personality and letting that define her actions. She is a flawed protagonist, and the right way comes difficult for hers. The angst all belongs to Declan – who she hurt and who she wants to become friends with again, and who ends up hurting her. It’s quite ironic that when she actually wanted him to believe her innocence, he didn’t and she calls him out on it. But enough about them – I loved the positive ideals of friendship sprinkled throughout the book, including Mackenzie and Gwen being such good pals to her, Cory being her staunchest supporter and Declan until a certain point. The ending was good, but I wished she had been more proactive about the bullies, not just let someone else ‘defend her honor’. Well, a book can’t always be perfect, and this one was pretty good enough for a quick afternoon read. A fine example of where execution of a storyline is more important than the plot.

Received a free galley from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden

The Secrets of Lizzie BordenThe Secrets of Lizzie Borden by Brandy Purdy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lizzie Borden should be one of the most fortunate young women in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her wealthy father could easily afford to provide his daughters with fashionable clothes, travel, and a rich, cultured life. Instead, haunted by the ghost of childhood poverty, he forces Lizzie and her sister, Emma, to live frugally, denying them the simplest modern conveniences. Suitors and socializing are discouraged, as her father views all gentleman callers as fortune hunters. Lonely and deeply unhappy, Lizzie stifles her frustration, dreaming of the freedom that will come with her eventual inheritance. But soon, even that chance of future independence seems about to be ripped away. And on a stifling August day in 1892, Lizzie’s long-simmering anger finally explodes…

I’m one of the people who first heard about Lizzie Borden from the Christina Ricci movie that released in 2014, and the subsequent slasher TV series that came later. So, naturally I wanted to devour a novel version of famous murderer. Lizzie is always portrayed as a little off her rocker, and a momentary lapse in judgement that led her onto a path of blood. This story, while taking a few creative liberties, re-accounts her life as a type of autobiography. There were parts where I thought maybe this point was the part where she turned murderer or something, but overall it is rendered as a story of a woman who was oppressed so much, was habituated to resentment and hatred so much that picking up that axe feels like a act of freedom to her.

Now, neither the story nor I justify her actions – it is just presenting the story of a little girl brought up in a terrible house – a mother dying in front of her eyes at a young age, an older sister who shapes her thoughts against her stepmother, a father who cares more about his money than his family’s happiness (I must also add that he was straight-up crooked and slimy) – and even with a kind woman who tries to give her a good life, she grows up feeling unhappy and repressed. Moreover, her sexual desires are also imprisoned along with her material ones. She is caged in a life she hates, and when she thinks she is just going to exchange that prison for another, she snaps and commits the crime she is known for. I must point out that the author made the reasons for the two crimes very different – one of an innocent, and one out of hatred.

After the trial and her being ostracized from her society, she keeps searching for love. Lizzie is presented as bi/pansexual, and even though she finds love, it also keeps getting out of her grasp. In the end, she does lament that maybe her sins did not let her live a happy life, and that was a little heart-breaking. Sure, she got away with some really gruesome murders that were not even in self-defense or anything, but that girl had a really bad streak of luck when it came to love. Couple that with unresolved body image issues, and bullying from her father from a young age (parents, please never comment on your children’s appearance), it all is woven into tale of tragedy. The second half is particularly slow and unexciting, and by the end, it just got boring. I guess, anything resembling a biography is not really my thing, but I do applaud the good writing that kept my interest (somewhat) till the end.

Received a free galley from Kensington Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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