Thursday, April 24, 2014

Harry Potter MotW #39

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

  Least Favorite Book

It's funny because Harry Potter fans tend to love the series as a whole and I'd say that's true for me as well. There isn't a single part of Harry's journey that I'd want removed or skipped over...but at the same time I've always been able to pick out my favorite books within the series.  If I had to sort them in order of absolute favorite to least favorite, the last place would be held by:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore so many parts of this book: The Weasley's rescuing Harry from his prison cell at Number 4 Privet, Harry's first visit to the Burrow (♥), Ginny beginning her first year at Hogwarts, the introduction of the infamous diary, Tom Riddle (the CoS movie version of the young Tom Riddle is now who I imagine when I'm reading the books! Perfect casting.) and the actual Chamber of Secrets itself - which is wicked cool btw.  I don't know, I've never really been able to put my finger on it but for some reason this one is always at the bottom of the list in terms of favorites.  I think it might be because the characters more or less stay the same, in terms of their character growth as opposed to in Prisoner of Azkaban where the trio especially mature a great deal - the tone for PoA is appropriately darker too, which I love!  Chamber of Secrets almost feels like Philosopher's Stone Part 2.  Combine that with how Harry becomes an outcast for the better part of this, if only because reading those bits makes me as miserable as he is, if only because I hate seeing him so put out :*(

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Death Sworn

Death Sworn by Leah Cypress
Death Sworn #1
Published March 4th 2014 by Greenwillow
When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.
But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.
*An ARC was provided by Greenwillow in exchange for an honest review*

Death Sworn was one of my most anticipated reads of 2014 so I was thrilled when I got a chance to read an advanced reading copy.  The cover and blurb both give off a dark and atmospheric vibe and as soon as I saw "assassins" and "magic", I was sold!  I was also really intrigued in the prospect of an main character having magic but losing her power, which isn't something I've come across much in my YA reads so I was exceedingly curious to see how everything would mesh together.  Unfortunately, this one didn't quite live up to my expectations...

Death Sworn starts up by offering an interesting premise: the MC Ileni is a sorceress (Eeep so awesome!) but there's a twist: she's losing her powers.  Soon all her magic will be gone forever and there's nothing she can do about it.  So when the Elders suggest that she go live with a band of assassins and take over as their magic tutor, she goes willingly, knowing there's not much else she can do.  These assassins live in an underground cave system buried deep within the mountains which consists of a labyrinth of tunnels and secret passages.  For whatever reason, I adore stories that have any kind of maze or hidden passageways so the setting here was a major plus!  There was a catch to this move for Ileni though: both of her previous successors who went to tutor the assassins died in these very same caves. Yeah.  Anyways so this story wasn't all just assassins, magic, and a badass setting; there was a mystery to unravel too!  Score.  Oh and I forgot to mention one final bit: the Assassins have no clue that Ileni is powerless, and in order to survive amongst them, they can not find out her secret. So add secrecy and suspense to the mix and this sounds like the perfect combination right?  So where did it all go wrong??

To be honest, I'm still not quite sure.  It's like all the elements were there but instead of blowing me away it all just sort of...fizzled.  As lethal as the assassins were made out to be, the overall tone just didn't make things come off as all that dangerous.  I mean, I knew there was danger all around but I never felt immersed in it, if that makes any sense.   The heroine Ileni was brave and likeable enough, but similarly I never got behind her 100%.  I couldn't connect to her for whatever reason and it left me feeling a bit apathetic I guess.  Her loss of magic was a fresh twist, but in the end losing one's powers read as frustratingly as it clearly felt for Ileni.  I think I was hoping for a really cool reveal as to why her powers were going and how she might gain them back but the end result was something of a letdown.  The romance aspect developed nice and slow, just the way I like it...but I found that something about it didn't ring true to me, like their pairing didn't really make sense.  I guess the heart of my issue with Death Sworn boils down to this: it didn't make me care as much as I would have liked.  Maybe showing us flashbacks of Ileni's past, before she came to the caves could have helped in terms of context and that might have also helped me in terms of relating with the MC.  We meet her at such a turning point in her life but it simply doesn't come across.  I think if there would have been more tangible ties to her past, it may have helped the story along.

That being said, I was willing to let most of my issues slide, if the ending of Death Sworn managed to surprise me and/or blow me away.  Well, the ending did surprise me... but it also sort of confused me and weirded me out a little. o_O  It felt odd and frankly underwhelming.  The author kept alluding to a larger plan but by the time the big reveal rolled in; it just didn't fit in the way I'd been hoping or expecting. I wonder if again, further insight into "The Master" and his "masterplan" could have cleared things up...maybe having a bit more narrative from his perspective but I'm not sure it would have taken care of all my concerns.  The bottom line is that Death Sworn simply failed to deliver for me.  I almost gave it a 3-star rating but when I compared it to my recent 3-star reviews, it didn't quite measure up. There was a lot of potential here but it didn't pan out. Hopefully, the sequel will resolve some of these concerns.  If there's good buzz I'd consider reading the sequel but at this point I'm not quite sure I'd go on with the series.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stacking the Shelves *34*

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews showcasing new books we've gotten a hold of (bought/given/gifted/trade/for review).

For this installment, I'm sharing books I've gotten in the past couple weeks. I have some high-intensity loot - by which I mean I finally got my hands on some hotly-anticipated goodies.  It's not a huge haul but I'm proud of it all the same :-D

For some reason, this big goofy grin won't wipe itself off my face...probably because these three books up here ^^ bring some much needed closure, so to speak.  Dreams of Gods & Monsters is the final book in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy.  I'm reading it atm and already loving it!  Similarly, Fifth Grave Past the Light is the final book out at the moment for the Charley Davidson Series (with book 6 slated for a May 2014 release and book 7 scheduled for October '14!) As for Words of Radiance, it's also the next available book in Brandon Sanderson's epic Stormlight Archives Series.  I'd somehow forgotten to pre-order this bad boy for when it came out in early March >.< so it's a huge comfort to finally have it in my possession.  Speaking of huge...remember how I'd said book 1, The Way of Kings was a beast at 1000+ pages?  Well Words of Radiance takes the cake.  While book 2 is only about 100 pages longer, it is a hell of a lot bigger nonetheless, especially since I own book 1 in paperback and book 2 in hardcover (something I will be fixing soon don't worry). Anyways, see for yourselves:

See? GIANT.  I was floored when it arrived on my doorstep, it's easily the biggest book I own or have ever seen!  I was intimidated by the size WoK but it turned out to be a non-issue since everything about the story, plot, characters and pacing was made of win so I have no worries about WoR...other than figuring out when to start it.  >.<

Oh and I also got a little ARC goodness:

The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2) by Richelle Mead

I'd had some issues with the first book, Gameboard of the Gods but I'm hoping it's sequel will put those concerns to rest. *crosses fingers*

Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!
Don't forget to link me up to your haul as well xx

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Harry Potter MotW #38

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

  Funniest Moment in the Series

Eep, this is a toughy!  There are so many funny moments to consider throughout the 7 books.  Pretty much any and every moment the Weasley twins are being snarky in are guaranteed to be on the list right?!  And then there's love-potion Ron (but I used that one a few weeks ago...) There were some funny moments with Dobby  - namely the ones during Hermione's SPEW phase hehe but I think one moment will always stand out above all the others:
Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret...
Harry spun around. Professor Moody was limping down the marble staircase. His wand was out and it was pointing right at a pure white ferret.
"I want to fix that in my memory forever," said Ron, his closed and an uplifted expression on his face. "Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret..." 

I think the sheer satisfaction of Malfoy getting his just desserts puts this one over the top for me- not to mention the fact that Harry, Ron and Hermione got to witness it all first hand - in the books that is.  And I simply adore Ron's reaction to the thing and dubbing Malfoy ''the amazing bouncing ferret'' hihi  Good times!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday *71*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where book bloggers get together & spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick this week:

The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead
Age of X #2
Expected Publication: May 29th by Dutton Adult

Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.

Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.

Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.
Some of you may remember me being kind of all over the place when it came to the first book in this series (Gameboard of the Gods) but that doesn't mean I'm not curious to see what direction Richelle Mead plans to take her adult dystopian series next.  I'm hoping some of the issues I had with book 1 will be resolved and that the sequel will offer more information on the world...and it's mythology.

What are you waiting on this week? Link me up!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Early Review: A World Without Princes

A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani
The School for Good & Evil #2
Expected Publication: April 15th 2014 by HarperCollins

In the epic sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are home, living out their Ever After. But life isn't quite the fairy tale they expected.

When Agatha secretly wishes she'd chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.

Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.
*An ARC was provided by HarperCollins in exchange for a honest review*

A World Without Princes is the follow-up to The School for Good and Evil, which was a debut full of promise for me.  I was very eager to see how the story would develop in the sequel, how the characters would evolve and how also they would actually end up back at the School for Good and Evil - especially considering the ending of book 1.  As I mentioned when I read the first book, this is a series that has it's basis in 'classic fairy tales'which means it follows in the tradition of a prince seeking his princess and/or a princess seeking her prince.  In my first visit to The School for Good and Evil I found myself wishing the plot had shaken things up a bit more when it came to usual fairy tale tropes but this time, I was prepared for the style...and that might be why I found myself enjoying A World Without Princes even more than it's predecessor!

Now I'll admit that I'm probably biased : give me a story about a magical school and I am a happy girl on principal.  It should come as no surprise then that the idea of returning to the School for Good and Evil was appealing to me. I was pleasantly surprised and  impressed by how author Soman Chainani went about bringing both his main characters Agatha & Sophie back there in a totally new and exciting way.   In fact, I found that whole return-sequence to be riveting; a real thrill-ride that unravelled in my mind like a beautifully animated cartoon!  Once the girls arrive at the school, they find that some alarming changes have taken place.  Instead of having dual schools with one dedicated to good and one dedicated to evil (like their first year there), the two girls discover a new kind of fairytale: one with a school for girls and a school for boys! And now both sides consider the other one to be the enemy... all because of Sophie and Agatha's fairytale from the previous year.

I was hooked on the premise for A World Without Princes from the start, in equal parts out of curiosity about the change in schools and because I want to know how the girls' fairy tale will eventually end up. In the first book, I had mentioned that I thought the story focused a lot more on Sophie's character while my favorite, Agatha had been a little left out. I was pleased that this time around Agatha was a lot more front and center.  We got to see how being the princess in her fairytale has changed her from the goth-witch girl she once was. On the other hand, Sophie continues to inevitably have the more compelling story arc, because of her constant battle with the villain inside her, so I revelled in getting her side of the story as well.  And while I wasn't necessarily a huge fan of the idea that Agatha must choose between her Prince and her best friend, remembering that this is a place young people are taken to learn how to be fairy tale princes, witches and princesses helped me put aside my concerns and just enjoy the ride.

Much like the first book, A World Without Princes had a lot of humor and a little more gender-bending hints at forbidden romances.  I love the tongue-in-cheek quality it's written in, just enough to raise questions and discussions with younger readers without being too alarming for the more conservative folks out there ;-)  Again part of me does wish it might have pushed the envelope a little more, but that fact never really dampened the fun I was having while reading this.  There is some really cool and exciting magic well as some more familiar tropes, reminiscent of that other series set magical school...but all in all, it had a fresh, well rounded blend of fantasy.  In fact, there was a bit less magical training per-say this year - likely due to the plot-twist - but there were some new magical elements to their classes and day-to-day activities so it all balanced out in the end.

More than anything though, I think what kept me on the edge of my seat was that this time around, it wasn't always clear who was good and who was evil.  Sure one of two of them were obviously baddies but their motives were anything but obvious.  There's nothing like a good mystery to keep me compulsively reading until I know ALL THE ANSWERS!  The ending was a major twist for me - I did not see that one coming - which of course brought on major anticipation for the third book! If you enjoyed The School for Good and Evil, you should definitely check out A World Without Princes!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Previously, my review for book 1 - The School for Good & Evil

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Harry Potter MotW #37

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

  Worst Umbridge Moment

Ugh. Umbridge.  I think we can all agree that any moment she appeared on page or film was some variation of a 'worst moment'.  She was either building up to doing something vile and heinous, doing something vile and heinous...or, just finishing off from doing something vile and heinous.  She spied, manipulated, lied, bullied, abused and tortured her way through Hogwarts and the Ministry for Magic.  We all hate her even worst than Voldy himself so many moments come to mind when trying to think of the worst of the worst.  The way she lobbied and discriminated against anyone NOT a pure-blood, her role in the Muggle Registration Act (it's implementation AND her role as judge jury and executioner)...Sacking Trelawney is an especially loathsome one as well but I've always hated her the most for:

Torturing Harry

That moment, in her office with just her and Harry, when she calmly and sweetly explains about her 'special quill' and Harry proceeds to write his first line...and he comes to the full realization of just how sick and twisted she is.  That whole scene just weighs on me every time I read it or even just thinking about it now.  

I could babble and rage on and on about her but instead I'll just share a link I found that makes a really interesting point as to why we all hate Umbridge even more than Lord Voldemort.  Check it out here (if you want) and share your thoughts in the comments below!

Oh and for the record, here's what I think is the best Umbridge moment:

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