Friday, February 27, 2015

S&S Bingo Challenge: Update 2



February just vanished in a flash. I didn't get much reading done this month because midterms ramped up, but I'm hoping March will be better.

If you want to join in the Bingo challenge at any time, you can find the original card and instructions here. You can fill out one line to make a bingo, or try and fill out the whole card. This is mainly geared towards Science fiction and Fantasy, but you can use whatever genre you want!

Here's my progress so far:


1. borrowed from a friend: Before They Were Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

I borrowed this back in November, and I finally got around to reading it! I didn't like it quite as much as book 1; I think the novelty of the flawed characters and the dark humor wore off because in this book I wasn't laughing nearly as much.

2. Published in 2015: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson


I really enjoyed this book, and I'm looking forward to Calamity, but there was a little something that was missing. I judge my Sanderson books by an insanely high standard, so obviously this book is freaking fantastic even though I wasn't 100% happy with it. One of my friends put it this way: "Nothing surprised me." I'm used to Sanderson books blowing my mind and going in directions I didn't even know were possible, and while some things were cool and unexpected, nothing was quite at that level of awesomeness.

3. Short Story/novella: Black Box by Jennifer Egan


This short story is AMAZING. Sci-fi spy thriller. Sold. At first I was really confused, but after a couple of "paragraphs" I got the hang of it and I couldn't stop reading. Even though it's written in a very detached, robotic way (you'll see why once you start reading, but as a teaser, this story was originally published as a series of tweets!), I was on the edge of my seat and my heart was in my throat for most of it. You can read it here!

4. Urban Fantasy - Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop


This is my favorite book of the series so far! Things were dark and strange without feeling contrived, and there were still plenty of light-hearted and lovable moments too. I just love all of the characters and with each book I love them even more!


Books I have planned for March:

I'm still working on Sherlock Holmes, so I'll probably finish that in March (published before 2000). I'm also planning on reading True Calling (dystopia), Lock In (humorous SF/F), and an audiobook of some sort that I haven't decided on yet.

Are you working on your own S&S bingo card? Link me in the comments!


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Monday, February 23, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 49 - Favorite Heroines



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top 10 favorite heroines

This theme is going to be so much fun! My favorite heroines are generally the ones who know what they want and do their best to make it happen. I get really annoyed with damsels in distress, but I do like characters who are flawed and not necessarily strong all the time.


Here goes!

 
Celaena Sardothien, Throne of Glass series

I honestly hated her in Throne of Glass, but then Crown of Midnight happened and by the end of Heir of Fire, I loved her! She's deeply flawed and does terrible things, but she also is remarkably selfless and will do anything to protect those she is loyal to.
 
Maddie and Julie, Code Name Verity

These two women are amazing, and their friendship is the kind of friendship that's stronger than any other bond on earth. It's so beautiful! Kiss me Hardy! *cries* 

Jasnah Kholin, Stormlight Archive

I don't think badass even begins to cover Jasnah. She's a scholar, but she's also a fierce warrior in all the ways that matter.

 

All the women in the Lumatere Chronicles

All of them are incredibly nuanced and flawed characters, yet they are all so strong and inspirational. I love them all!
 Image result for liesel meminger
Leisel Meminger, The Book Thief

I feel like I grew up with this girl because I've read and re-read this book so many times. Leisel is such an inspiration and just such a spark of light in a time of a lot of darkness and suffering.
 1914973
Cassie Maddox, The Likeness

Cassie is an undercover agent, and it's crazy when she gets so in character that she forgets what's her real self and what's her undercover self. It's crazy getting in her head, but I loved her story.
 

Linh Cinder, Lunar Chronicles

Cinder is so awesome! She's a cyborg mechanic, but also a very kind and selfless young woman who isn't afraid to risk her life for her friends and the people she cares about. Love her!
 

Katarina Bishop, Heist Society

I love all the characters in this series, but I love how Katarina thinks she's the best con around and has the skills to prove it!
 6380296
Micah, Liar

This girl knows how to spin a story. Until the very last sentence, you still don't know how much to believe and if this girl is just leading you along or is actually sincere. It's crazy, but I loved it! She's such a charismatic character, so even if she is lying to your face the whole time, you don't mind...mostly...
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Yelena, Poison Study

I loved the character of Yelena in this book! She starts out pretty helpless, but that changes quickly. She becomes a force to be reckoned with for sure!

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 48 - Bookish problems



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Book-related problems I have

This week's theme is so much fun! Warning: lots and lots of GIFs to come!

1. Staying up too late reading a good book
I tried everything to get to sleep last night...#bookquotes - https://scatterbooker.wordpress.com/
2. Deciding that finding out what happens next to Celaena and Rowan is more important than studying for that Fourier analysis midterm...

THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING!

3. That moment when you can't function because your favorite character just died

GRRM you're killing me.

4. Trying to explain things to your non-reader friends in terms of book references

"And then she freaking pulls a Kelsier and I was dying...wait what do you mean you don't understand??"

5. Making strange expressions while you're reading a book in public and then getting asked if you're okay...


6. Getting really angry when people talk to you when you're finally at the good part of the book

I. SAID. STOP. TALKING.

7. Forgetting the title of that amazing book you read years ago

8. Dying inside when you finish a book in a series and the next one isn't out yet

I literally can't wait that long.

8. Not knowing how to pronounce names until the movie/TV show comes out


So... Catelyn isn't pronounced like Kaitlyn?

9. Your exercise for the day is weightlifting hardcovers
Image result for hardcover book heavy carrying
10. Your dating prospects have been forever ruined by your fictional crushes



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Mini Review: [Excerpt of] A Darker Shade of Magic


23515326 Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads summary:
From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic.
Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London...but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

*This is a mini review of the 150 page preview excerpt. I'll post another review of the entire book when I read it!*

Just look at that summary. Magical travellers who can move between parallel universes, accidental treason, a badass young woman who happens to be an excellent thief..did I mention fabulous coats that have more than two sides?

I may only have gotten a glimpse at this fantastic book,  but it was amazing! I love the idea of many overlapping Londons, each with a defining characteristic and mood. The story was darker than I was expecting, but that only made me more excited to read the full book. I loved Kell and his fabulous cloak, and although I didn't see much of Lila, she is definitely character I am looking forward to reading about. This excerpt had me gasping, gagging, smiling, and catching my breath; just imagine what the entire book will do!

I cannot wait for this book to be out! Less than 10 days to go!

*A free sample of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Ready Player One


9969571Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune -- and remarkable power -- to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved -- that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt -- among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life -- and love -- in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

This book is so much fun!

I picked up this book because I'd heard nothing but rave reviews from the blogosphere, and I was looking for a funny story to get me through finals week. I really enjoyed this book; I've read about virtual realities and video games come to life as a kid (Vivian Vande Velde's Heir Apparent, one of the Pendragon books), but this was somehow a totally different experience.

The book starts out kind of like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There's a world-famous entrepreneur who decides to leave his inheritance to someone he believes is worthy - someone who can pass the challenges and tests he has left behind. This story is decidedly darker than Charlie and the Chocolate factory though, because when reality and virtual reality collide, there are some very high stakes for everyone involved. It's one thing to attack someone in a game to win; it's another thing entirely to incapacitate them in real life to win a game.

I thought the riddles and the 80s trivia were really cleverly incorporated into the story, but this is certainly more of a character book than a plot book. There is a lot happening and the stakes are high, but you keep reading to find out what happens to the characters you have grown to love. All of these characters are unapologetic nerds, and one of the big questions is whether someone's online persona is a good representation of who they really are. Everyone sees themselves differently, and sometimes people have to hide their true identity to be taken seriously. I loved how that rather harsh reality was not only incorporated but fully addressed in the novel.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a high-adrenaline, fast-paced story that will keep you laughing through the whole thing.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore


13538873Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Genre: contemporary, mystery, humor, adult fiction

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.



I think my goodreads status update for this book says it all: a bookstore, mysterious eccentric characters, cons, San Francisco, and lots of humor. I don't want to tell you anything about this book because half the fun is uncovering all the layers and putting together the puzzle pieces, but how am I going to get you to read this book without a few teasers? So here we go!

1) What do computer coding algorithms and mysterious cults have in common?

Apparently, Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore. The bookstore starts out as just a night-shift job for Clay, but with the help of a computer algorithm, he discovers that there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye...

2) Google clearly runs the world.

One of the main characters is a super geeky but perky and optimistic engineer at Google. And she's AWESOME (and not just because she's a girl who likes to code). The cool thing about this book is that it mixes in fact in fiction with respect to Google's "secret" projects, and it's actually really hard to tell which is which. There's a lot of cool technology and smart people in this book, which made it a lot of fun to read.

3) Puzzles within puzzles within puzzles

If you think you are an expert at solving mysteries and putting pieces together, I'd tell you to think again. Every time you think you've cracked one mystery, you find out another secret or layer to the mystery that turns everything on its head. I loved how there were so many elements to this story, from the history of typefaces to the almost supernatural bookstore cults to unearthing secret rooms that hide in plain sight. You never know where this book will take you!

4) Humor of every kind

There's satire, there's wit, there's "straight out of a sitcom"...basically if you have even the smallest inkling of a funny bone, you will be laughing.

If this hasn't convinced you to read this book (SAN FRANCISCO! BOOKSTORE! HUMOROUS, ENDEARING, GEEKY CHARACTERS! MYSTERY! ADVENTURE! ROMANCE! LIFE ITSELF!), clearly I'm not doing my job very well.

GO READ THIS BOOK.



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Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: Legion


13452375Title: Legion
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Science fiction, mystery, contemporary, novella

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Stephen Leeds, AKA 'Legion,' is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his 'aspects' are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society.


I read this in one sitting - short and sweet!

This book is very different from Sanderson's usual high fantasy, but I'm coming to see that Sanderson is a jack-of-all-trades and can spin an amazing story in any genre. Even if this is a novella, it has everything you'd expect from a Sanderson novel: eclectic characters, fascinating technology or magic, and secrets buried within secrets that you didn't even know where hiding under your nose.

Legion is about Stephen Leeds, an average man who hallucinates brilliant and eccentric "aspects" or a brilliant man who deludes himself by believing his aspects are real. It all depends on who you ask. Stephen is under the firm impression that the characters and their special skills are real, but is also certain that they aren't just manifestations of himself. Everyone else seems to have their own theories...

I really enjoyed this novella. It's part mystery, part psychological thriller, part time travel...it really defies being categorized into any one genre. The story was a lot of fun to read, and all of the aspects were so lovable! All of the characters were intriguing, and as I got more clues about Stephen's "aspects", the less sure I was if they were real or not. The only thing I'm sure about is that Sanderson definitely has something up his sleeve.

I'm looking forward to reading the sequel!

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Review: The Assassin's Apprentice

45107Title: Assassin's Apprentice
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Epic fantasy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads summary:
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.
Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.
So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

My first Robin Hobb book was Fool's Assassin. I saw that it was book 1 in the "Fitz and the Fool" trilogy, and figured it was a good place to start.

Oops.

I didn't realize that Robin Hobb's Farseer books are a series of trilogies, and that I was starting almost 40 years after Fitz' story began. I had no idea what the history between different characters was, and I obviously wasn't already attached to all of the characters. I made it through Fool's Assassin, but it was a struggle because it was just so slow.

I figured things would make more sense if I started from the beginning. I picked up this book already knowing the distant future of Fitz, the Fool, Molly, Chade, and all the other lovely characters of Assassin's Apprentice. The thing is, I didn't know much about how they got there. I suppose for some people I was reading this book with major spoilers, but that didn't bother me so much. In fact, I enjoyed knowing what was to come, because it made the beginning of their story that much more striking.

Robin Hobb's books are so character driven, and even though many characters are named by a character trait, they are all far more complex than that. I loved getting to know the characters even better, and now I see why Robin Hobb has so many fans. Her stories aren't exactly fast-paced, but they do build up to something great. I loved seeing Fitz transform from a reluctant occupant of the castle to a young man who risks so much for the people he cares about.

I will definitely be reading more of these!
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer


23486880Title: The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer
Author: Laxmi Hariharan
Genre: Dystopian, young adult

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
A YA thriller, with strong dystopian undertones and a kickass protagonist, taking you on a white knuckle ride through a disintegrating Bombay City.
A girl desperate to rescue her best friend.
A cop willing to do anything to save the city he serves.
A delusional doctor bent on annihilation.
When Ruby Iyer's best friend is kidnapped by the despotic Dr Kamini Braganza, she will do anything to rescue him. Anything, including taking the help of the reticent Vikram Roy, a mysterious cop-turned-rogue on a mission to save Bombay. The city needs all the help it can get, and these two are the only thing standing between its total destruction by Dr Braganza's teen army. As Bombay falls apart around them, will Ruby be able to save her friend and the city? Will she finally discover her place in a city where she has never managed to fit in? And what about her growing feelings for Vikram?

I have been making it a point to read more diverse fiction, so I was excited by the chance to read a novel featuring (and written by) someone of Indian descent. The plot synopsis was intriguing: a girl trying to save her best friend in a dystopian Bombay. There was a lot I liked about this book, but there was also a lot that I didn't. Overall, I'd say that I am looking forward to this author's future work, but not necessarily more of this series.

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer started out strong, with a sassy and independent Ruby musing about whether her skinny jeans were going to get her groped on the street. I really appreciated the frank discussion on cat-calling and harassment, since it is a real problem, especially in the opening pages of the book. I thought to myself, here's a fearless protagonist who's not afraid to take risks and own her identity! But that didn't last very long.

After Ruby's transformation, she starts to lose her sense of who she is and what she cares about. The story started to get extremely convoluted; instead of the fast pace making the story more intense and gripping, it just made it more frantic and ridiculous. I also felt like the dialogue was stilted and trying too hard to sound "cool." All of this made me enjoy the story less and less as the story went on.

While I liked seeing an alternative Bombay and a fierce protagonist, I felt like the breakneck pace of the plot and the rather flat nature of the other characters pulled down the story for me. This just seemed like it could do with more editing and tightening of the dialogue and story to me.

*A free copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 47 - SFF books I can't believe I haven't read yet



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top ten X books I can't believe I haven't read yet
 Since I mostly read science fiction and fantasy anyway, I'm going with those two genres. 

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 17950614
 18693743
 68494
 20646731
 51964
 17910124
 22328
 228665
 15790894

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