Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015 and loved!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish wherein each week bloggers list out their Top Ten. We are halfway through the year! So let’s look back on the books I loved in 2015 so far:

Legend (Legend, #1)Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu

I really loved the world Marie Lu created – it was wonderful and I devoured these two book in two days. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to getting the finale, Champion, yet.

3:593:59 by Gretchen Mcneil

This tale of parallel universes, and being careful what you wish for, amazed me. It was thrilling and nail-bitingly exciting.

Get Even (Don't Get Mad, #1)Get Even & Get Dirty by Gretchen Mcneil

I have another favorite author added to my list now – I would probably read even her grocery lists – she has a great writing style, and a penchant for mystery.

Red Queen (Red Queen Trilogy, #1)Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

A debut author that wowed me this year, is Victoria Aveyard. Splendid prose, great story and awesome world-building! And the romance is hot. *wink*

Strange and Ever After (Something Strange and Deadly, #3)Something Strange & Deadly series by Susan Dennard

Honestly, this whole trilogy was awesome-sauce, but I mention the finale here because it was extra awesome. The ending left me crying on the floor, and I still haven’t gotten around to writing a review for it, as it is that painful to revisit. But A+ for bringing on the feels, man.

SoulprintSoul Print by Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda – I love her thought-provoking writing, and blending fantasy in this sci-fi was a treat for me. I am not ready to let go of the world she created here.

The Dickens Mirror (Dark Passages, #2) The Dark Passages series by Ilsa J Bick

You don’t read Bick’s books, you live them. ‘Nuf said!

The Girl & the MachineThe Girl and the Machine by Beth Revis

Technically this is a short story, but the brilliant twist in the story just blew me away! Beth Revis has a knack for writing science fiction that just blows your mind, and this was no exception.

Tokyo Ghoul (Tokyo Ghoul, #1)Tokyo Ghoul series by Sui Ishida

This dark and painful story of humans and monsters is very addictive. I have been through only 5 volumes of the manga, and I can’t wait to revisit it and continue. The setting is very dark, and the story is heart-breaking, but definitely worth all the tissues you will need.

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This is actually not my usual read, as it is not young adult, but I picked it up after getting intrigued by the movie trailers. Boy, this book knows how to mess with your mind. I never shifted allegiances with characters like I did in this book. The characters are all complex, and both protagonists seem right in their own way – so it becomes an interesting challenge to figure out who deserves better.

Looking back, I realize most of the books I have loved caused me a lot of pain/have played games with my head. I am a masochist when it comes to books, I guess. *sigh*

ARC Review: Between Us and the Moon

Between Us and the Moon
Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel

Release date: June 30, 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since Sarah was born, she’s lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Scarlett. But this summer on Cape Cod, she’s determined to finally grow up. Then she meets gorgeous college boy Andrew. He sees her as the girl she wants to be. A girl who’s older than she is. A girl like Scarlett.

Before she knows what’s happened, one little lie has transformed into something real. And by the end of August, she might have to choose between falling in love, and finding herself.

At first, Between Us and the Moon is a pretty standard nerd-meets-hottie story. Sarah is a physics genius, and is in love with the stars. She has been so involved in her research for an application, that she keeps missing out on a ‘normal’ teenage experience – according to her aunt. Living in the shadow of her popular and beautiful older sister, Sarah feels the urge to live her life differently. She plans an experiment – if she becomes more like her sister, would she stop being invisible?

The story she then spins is a big web of lies – that she is older than she is, and that she is going to MIT in the coming semester. The guy whom she falls in love with, Andrew, doesn’t suspect a thing. They get more serious, and she still doesn’t tell him. Her reasoning is that since he is the only one who sees her, she doesn’t want to lose him, and even though she feels guilty, she doesn’t do much about it.

As far as character portrayals go, Sarah has been written with a good deal of complexity. She isn’t just a girl who is feeling unpopular and wants to hook up with the hot guy to feel better about herself – to her it is something she does to break out of the mold she was in. She kept thinking that people wouldn’t like the real her – because so far no one really did. Feeling invisible – that was the central conflict of the story, and the author presented the loneliness such a character would experience. The end, well, that was quite realistic – I felt it was good leaving it open-ended.

The few things that irked me, however, were inconsistencies in character and some unnecessary conflicts. Sarah doesn’t make sense at times – like when at Fort Hill, she lashes out at Andrew. It felt like she was just trying to deflect. Then there was her ex – his reasons for breaking up with her were flimsy and honestly, I wouldn’t have forgave his ass at all. Her aunt and that deal with the dress; that was just blown out of proportion, I feel.

It’s a pretty good read, echoing of loneliness and two kindred souls coming together.

Received a free ARC from Harper Teen via Edelweiss; this does not affect my opinions or review.

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Review: The Dungeoneers

The Dungeoneers
The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler’s earnings, Colm can’t help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It’s just a question of how far you’re willing to go to get it.

In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin’s Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way.

Not as “action-packed, funny, and heartbreaking” as the blurb promises. That’s the first thing I can say about this book. Set in a fantasy world where goblins, orcs, dragons and other mythical creatures exist, this story of treasure hunters spends too much time setting up events. I distinctly remember putting the book down twice because I felt sleepy – and that is a rare occurrence for me. The start was slow, the middle was going nowhere and the story finally picked up pace after about three-fourths of the book. For a Hogwarts-esque treasure-hunting school, I expected more intrigue, more drama, but the narration, along with the main character, were uninteresting.

The world-building, is good, but not that great. A lot of things aren’t explained, even though the book is pretty long. The story first introduces us to Colm, to set up why he joins the Dungeoneer training. Then it’s all about the school – building up the characters and their relationships. Normally, I am in favor of good world-building, but this was at the expense of the plot. Halfway through the book, I was wondering what was the main point of the plot and was it going anywhere. Salvation came later on for me, when they finally have their trials and I get the action I was promised. The later events, leading to the end, were not as unexpected as you would imagine, with plenty of hints dropped. There is foreshadowing, and there is giving away the story – and this was on the wrong side.

Overall, it is epic fantasy, with lots of potential. Perhaps the later books would have a faster pace and more action, but this first one was just dragging on.

Received a free ARC from Walden Pond Press via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or review.

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Review: Manga Classics: Emma

Manga Classics: Emma
Manga Classics: Emma by Stacy King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Manga versions of classics – a pretty good idea if you ask me, as I am a big fan of manga. And Emma is one of my favorite classics. So, naturally I couldn’t resist this one.

As for the story, I need not elaborate Austen’s wonderful classic tale. This manga stays pretty faithful to the storyline, and is a good summary of the story, with key events covered and rendered with the same flair as Austen did. It was delightful to refresh the story, with this manga.

But along with story and progression, a good manga/graphic novel has to have good artwork too. Half of the charm for me when I read a visual representation of a story, is how it is rendered. The artwork, in this case, did not satisfy me. I felt it was a bit crude, not the beauty that I’ve come to expect from manga/manhwa. The artist hasn’t utilized the full scope of possibilities when it comes to such a story. I expected lush backgrounds, beautiful art, but it was just not up to the mark.

For the story and plot, I loved this book. But the artwork disappointed me.

Received a free ARC from Udon Entertainment via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or review.

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ARC Review: Tangled Webs

Tangled Webs
Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

Release date: June 23, 2015
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.

But leading a double life isn’t easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London’s slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city’s criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.

Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?

Before you start thinking it’s an 18th century Pretty Little Liars-inspired-storyline, let me tell you that the ‘A’ similarity starts and ends at the blackmailing. Arista, or Lady A, as she is known among the aristrocracy, walks around masked, collecting secrets, and generally feared. What no one knows is that she is actually a child slave of a nefarious criminal, Bones, who forces children into begging and prostitution. Since she has no means of escaping her predicament, she goes through the drudgery, not really enjoying the power she has over people, and forever wishing for freedom and a better future. So, the crux of the storyline is her desire to be free, to make her own choices, to be able to protect the people she loves – she is basically a white knight, in shining black silk.

Since Arista is the protagonist and the central plotline of the story, let’s recount how awesome she is. Despite her condition, she is kind. She cares for her friend Becky, even though she doesn’t need to – keeping her safe is the reason she rejoins the blackmailing business. Next, she is a POC character – good for representation, although she is called a ‘gypsy’ most of the time (18th century wasn’t good to POC, eh?). She isn’t selfish, though she very well can be. She carries a knife strapped to her thigh – 10 badass points! Her hardships are heart-breaking, but she never loses hope of a brighter tomorrow.

The romance, well, one word for it is ‘intense’. There wasn’t any chemisty, though, in my opinion. It was all heated glances, and I almost thought there would be swooning. Historical fiction – so dramatic. I found her chemistry with Nic to be more natural – even though they were platonic mostly. The writing was superfluous, at times, which kinda distracted from the story. The climax was fast-paced, and I almost thought it would be a cliffhanger. It ended well, though, and overall, the story was carried pretty well.

Received a free ARC from Disney Hyperion via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or review.

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ARC Review: Emmy & Oliver

Emmy & Oliver
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Release date: June 23, 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

If you have been watching Finding Carter on MTV, then this story is quite similar to it. Oliver was kidnapped by his dad ten years ago. During that time, Emmy’s parents were the pillar for Oliver’s mom, always being there for her; but this changes them too. They become extra-cautious when it comes to Emmy, making her feel stifled in her house. She wants to be free to pursue her love of surfing, but is afraid her parents will only fret and worry, and forbid her from ever doing it. So, she sneaks around, and even applies to a university without telling them.

When Oliver comes back, he finds a big shift in his life and identity. He had a life with his father but when he learned the truth, he decided to come back. But his return has spurred on changes in the lives of people in this town, and he feels responsible and guilty for it. His guilt makes it difficult to communicate with his long-lost mother and at the same time, he can’t fully hate his father. From a character development perspective, Oliver had a lot of material, and the author delved well into that. The writing doesn’t shy from getting real, and into the minds of the characters, so even from Emmy’s first person perspective, you can get to know all the characters, including how they feel and what their problems are. Like Caro’s feelings on how invisible she feels in her family, several other secondary characters also get their piece.

While the blurb might lead you to believe it’s all about the romance, that is not entirely true. Sure, picking up where they left off ten years ago – as best friends is not possible for them, but they grow into this rekindled friendship, finally evolving into love. She is the one who understands what he is feeling, as she was also an indirect victim of his kidnapping. More than their love, the story is about how they and their families find a way to understand each other. How love – be it romantic or familial – is not about saying but about actions, as said by Oliver. As a contemporary, it succeeds in bringing that story to the forefront. The romance could have very easily being the focal point of the book, but teenage angst and drama were thankfully not a part of this story. It’s more of how life can throw a curve ball, and you got to work with it. There’s no point in looking back or even trying to get back to the before, because you are changed, and you are a new person in the after. I felt that was such a beautiful aspect of the story.

Received a free ARC from Harper Teen via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or review.

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‘Shadowhunters’ 1×03 Set Photos: Jace Training Clary in a Cemetery

Originally posted on TMI Source:

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Nothing says romantic like a little late night fight training in a cemetery.

Shadowhunters has began filming on its third episode and stunt coordinator John Lucescu was gracious enough to treat us to some photos of Jace training Clary in a cemetery.

Shadowhunters will premiere in early 2016 on ABC Family.

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ARC Review: The Leveller

The Leveller
The Leveller by Julia Durango

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

If you always wanted Inception in a gaming setting, The Leveller is sort of like that – at least in the world-building (tee-hee). So, there’s this hot new game in the world called MeaParadisus, where you can have a virtual life of your choosing, and some creative gamers can even customize their own worlds. Phoenix, or as she prefers to be called, Nix, is the daughter of a concept art designer and scriptwriter for the game, and is also a beta tester, which means she has a lot of privilege inside the game, which she uses to become a bounty-hunter for parents who want their children to leave the virtual and come back to the real. Though not strictly legal, she chooses this to save up for college tuition. When the game developer’s son barricades himself in the game, she is sent to retrieve him.

Since the Leveller is game-centric, a lot of the plot relies on the action, and it is pretty well-written to make it feel real. Nix enters simulated worlds, but depending on the creator of the world, the experience can be pretty realistic. Like Wyn’s world – in which you can even smell things. So, the game itself is a big mind game – which means things in there can affect you deeply. When she has to go through the maze, she has to face her biggest fears – and the brave girl that she is, she actually does it. She doesn’t give up, first because of rage, then because of her feelings for Wyn. After they find out what really has trapped them in the game, the pace slows down a bit for the development of romance, but I didn’t mind it.

The climax, and the betrayal – well, I wouldn’t say I didn’t see it coming, since there was a bit of clever foreshadowing earlier on. Just one line, but it hinted at who was behind it. The motive was pretty cliche, though. The ending was a bit anti-climactic, and when I reached the acknowledgements, I was like – huh? It ended? It wasn’t cliffhanger-y but things were just hurried, you know. But since there is going to be a sequel, I’ll let that one slide.

Technical aspects – world-building was good, writing was good, pacing was good, character development was pretty much non-existent. Besides Nix, none of the other characters had much depth – even Wyn. He was just the gorgeous nice guy, that’s all. Nix’s friends also didn’t get any more storyline, but since the world was pushed into the game right from nearly the start, I see that it was difficult to see the other characters. I still would have loved more to see of the romance than it’s generality – it was nothing great, considering it does drive some of the plot. Overall, a good quick read.

Received a free ARC from HarperCollins via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or review.

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‘Shadowhunters’ Set Photos: Clary and Isabelle Are Looking Fierce

Ruthsic:

Can’t wait for this show!

Originally posted on TMI Source:

It was all about the badass ladies of Shadowhunters on Tuesday.

Showrunner Ed Decter shared two photos of our lovely Clary (Katherine McNamara) and Isabelle (Emeraude Toubia) looking fierce and getting some bonding time in.

Shadowhunters continues filming in Toronto through October and will premiere in early 2016 on ABC Family.

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ARC Review: The Revenge Playbook

The Revenge Playbook
The Revenge Playbook by Rachael Allen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the small town of Ranburne, high school football rules and the players are treated like kings. How they treat the girls they go to school with? That’s a completely different story. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana each have their own reason for wanting to teach the team a lesson—but it’s only when circumstances bring them together that they come up with the plan to steal the one thing the boys hold sacred. All they have to do is beat them at their own game.

The Revenge Playbook – it’s cute, light, but also poignant and representative of our times. Set in a small town near Nashville, the story is about how four girls unite in a cause against the guys of their town, who let them down. Melanie Jane is dumped by the boyfriend because she wants to stay a virgin, Liv is considered a slut by the school population, as well as Ana, and Peyton is sick of the footballers getting special attention even though they don’t deserve it. While all the girls are typical teenagers, Melanie Jane is perhaps the most girlish (in the sense that she has a little internalized misogyny) which makes her doing those dares all the more awesome. Liv is anyway enthusiastic for every plan they concoct, and I felt she didn’t contribute much to the storyline besides being their mascot and encouraging Peyton. She and Trevor – yawn! Peyton was – hmmmm, too naive, I guess? But she did grow a spine by the end, so kudos to her. Ana probably had the best storyline as a character because she is the most invested in taking those boys down – she is
bitter, and alone and you can’t blame her for it. Her conversation with the school counselor had me outraged!

Through each of the girls and their experiences, the author highlights the injustice girls, especially young ones, face everyday. Dressing as a reflection of your character, sexual assault, everyday harassment, slut-shaming, prude-shaming, objectification – things like this are almost daily occurrences for women and society doesn’t even think it is wrong because misogyny is so ingrained – that is perhaps what the author tried to show with this book, but in a non-preachy way, of course. Even at the end, it is evident that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but small changes lead to big differences one by one. I loved how the girls were smart enough to not let the guys walk all over them, even when they loved them. A good book, with lots of entertainment, but also a beautiful story.

Received a free galley from HarperTeen via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or review.

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