Back To School Blog Hiatus

Hi everyone,

I can’t even believe summer vacation is drawing to a close. I go back to school on the 24th – I’d like to take the next week and a half to prepare for classes and to think about the focus/direction of the blog.

Although I won’t be posting during this hiatus, feel free to reach out to me via email or social media!

Thanks,

Brooke H 🙂

Brooke Reviews: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Brooke Reviews: Seraphina by Rachel HartmanSeraphina by Rachel Hartman
Published by Random House Children's Books on July 10th 2012
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 480
four-stars
In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer. The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being. When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.

This review is going to be quite a pleasure to write – Seraphina is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’m excited to share my thoughts. And then, of course, to persuade you to read the book. 😉

First of all, I’d like to admire the beautiful prose of Rachel Hartman. She’s a wordsmith. My reading experience was enjoyable largely thanks to Hartman’s lyrical writing style. And maybe the lyrical style is due in part to Seraphina’s musical talent and the impact of music upon the story? Anyhow, the book flows seamlessly – one scene into the next. I couldn’t put it down because it was so fluid.

Seraphina is a very distinctive narrator and I loved her unique voice. She’s very literal and dry but also hilarious. She’s very relatable, and I know that’s a cliche thing to say, but I think it’s true. She’s struggling because she doesn’t fit in, and this is something many readers will understand and also sympathize with. But Seraphina isn’t whiny or self-pitying, and that’s what I loved best about her. She does what needs doing and nothing will stand in her way.

Enter Princess Glisselda and Prince Lucian Kiggs, who have also found places in my heart. At first glance, Selda seems to be the spoiled, stereotypical princess. I’ll give you a hint: she’s not. And Kiggs is absolutely endearing and adorable. The sparks between Seraphina and Kiggs gave my stomach butterflies. Also, Orma, who shares a special bond with Seraphina. I couldn’t be happier with the development of that bond.

Hartman has created an incredibly intricate story world. It practically leaps off the page. The history and the relationship between the humans and the dragons is rife with tension. The humans fear the dragons, and the dragons condescend to the humans. The dragons look down on the humans for succumbing to their emotions. So there’s the underlying theme of love – something the dragons adamantly avoid but are seeking to understand.

And as far as plot goes, it’s intriguing. There’s a murder and a mystery. Seraphina and Kiggs are detectives hot on the trail. So there’s the whole whodunnit? element, but also a good bit of politics. And it wasn’t predictable.

I’m super excited to get my hands on book 2. I’m totally invested in Seraphina’s story and her story world. Read it, read it, read it! Dragons, mystery, romance, humor, what more do I need to say?!

 

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS!

Top 10 Tuesday: Fairytale Retellings

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

AH, retellings! My new obsession. 😉 And I’m loving how diverse retellings are becoming – diverse characters, diverse genres. It’s no longer the same-old same-old (modern-day Cinderella, Snow White, etc.) It’s exciting. So I’ve listed five fairytale retellings I’ve read, and five retellings I’ve added to my TBR. Enjoy!

HAVE READ

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*Can we take a moment to admire how fantastic these covers look side by side?

1. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – retelling of A Thousand and One Nights

2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas – retelling of Beauty and the Beast

3. Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis – sci-fi retelling of Snow White

4. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – retelling of Beauty and the Beast

5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer – sci-fi retelling of Cinderella (followed by sci-fi retellings of Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel)

WANT TO READ

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6. Winter by Marissa Meyer – sci-fi retelling of Snow White

7. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston – retelling of A Thousand and One Nights

8. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – retelling of Red Riding Hood

9. Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas – retelling of Cinderella

10. Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis – retelling of The Wild Swans

 

DID YOU ADD ANY OF THESE BOOKS TO YOUR TTT? YOU TELL ME – WHAT HAVE I MISSED?? I’M ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT FOR INTRIGUING RETELLINGS! BRING ON THE RECOMMENDATIONS! BE SURE TO LINK TO YOUR TOP TEN TUESDAY POST SO I CAN CHECK IT OUT. 🙂

Brooke Reviews: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Brooke Reviews: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Penguin on April 28th 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Politics & Government, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This was a highly anticipated read for me, because I’d heard so many good things and the response to this book was breaking all my social media. I was so excited to see what all the fuss was about. Immediate reaction upon finishing the book: That was great. Also extraordinarily frustrating. (And now I’ll attempt to explain…)

The premise is intriguing. I liked the whole spy thing and the reluctant soldier thing. It’s a bit slow in the beginning – the book opens with the murder of Laia’s grandparents and Laia’s subsequent separation from her brother. Laia is a sympathetic character – I felt for her not only because her family has been ripped apart but also because she’s struggling with the guilt of leaving her brother behind to save herself. She wishes she were more brave, more courageous. She’s disappointed with herself, but rather than wallowing in self-pity she seeks out the rebels, who may be the only people who can help rescue her brother.

I’m not always a fan of alternating perspectives, but Tahir pulled this off really well. Both Laia and Elias are strong narrators. It becomes especially interesting when their stories intertwine at the military academy. Although honestly, I’d have to say I liked Elias more than I liked Laia. Her emotional struggle endeared me at the beginning, but she became too bold too fast, and this was a little unrealistic.

Things began to go downhill for me a little over halfway. And that had nothing to do with the plot, which was still fast-paced and engaging. It had everything to do with the not-so-subtle hints Tahir was dropping about a possible romance between the narrators. And this bothered me because I realized I might be shipping the wrong ship. Elias and Helene are adorable, OKAY? It’s obvious he deeply cares about her, and then Laia shows up and suddenly he thinks he’s into her. This just didn’t work for me, and it really spoiled the tone of the rest of the book. And maybe the author is doing this purposefully…? Maybe the unpredictability is a good thing…? But I don’t think so because the book was originally supposed to be a standalone. (Does anyone else have trouble believing this??)

Anyhow, it’s difficult for me to get my feelings across because even though I really enjoyed it, there were several things that skewed my satisfaction. A review I read by a fellow blogger also pointed out the lack of world building. I actually hadn’t thought much about this, because I’d been so engaged. But there’s very little backstory/explanation/history provided for the Martial Empire. I walked away with more questions than answers.

I sound a bit negative, but this is just one of those books that gives you equal parts enjoyment and frustration. I’d still highly recommend it simply because it’s an engaging read. But I wanted to be honest with you about the drawbacks.

 

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS!! 

Top 10 Tuesday: Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I have actually just returned home from a three week vacation – it’s good to be back! I thought, naively, that I’d be able to keep up with my posting schedule while I was away, but unfortunately that was not the case. So I apologize for disappearing from the blog without any advance warning or explanation! Anyhow, I’m excited to be jumping back in with this fun TTT. It melts our book nerd hearts when we read about fellow bookworms. We remember these characters because, hello, they are our people. 😉

1. BETSY RAY

“Betsy returned to her chair, took off her coat and hat, opened her book and forget the world again.” – Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

2. ANNE SHIRLEY

“I love a book that makes me cry.” – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

3. HERMIONE GRANGER

“What are you doing with all those books anyway?” Ron asked.
“Just trying to decide which ones to take with us,” said Hermione. “When we’re looking for the Horcruxes.”
“Oh, of course,” said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. “I forgot we’ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.” – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

4. ELIZABETH BENNETT

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

5. LIZ SUTTON

“It’s almost like…”
“The library,” Liz said, and immediately I knew that she was right. It was exactly like the library at the Gallagher Academy, from the position of the fireplace to the tall windows that overlooked the grounds.
“How do you know?” Zach asked.
Liz looked totally insulted. “Because…uh…library.”
“Okay.” Zach threw up his hands. “Point taken.” – Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

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6. TESSA GRAY & WILL HERONDALE

“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.” – Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

7. LIESEL MEMINGER

“Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.” – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

8. SYDNEY SAGE

“Sydney had been horrified to discover my home library consisted of a bartending dictionary and an old copy of Esquire, and at her pleading, I’d promised to read something more substantial. I was trying to think deep thoughts as I read Gatsby, but mostly I wanted to throw some parties.” – The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

9. CELAENA SARDOTHIEN

“Her salary as King’s Champion was considerable, and Celaena spent every last copper of it. Shoes, hats, tunics, dresses, jewelry, weapons, baubles for her hair, and books. Books and books and books. So many books that Philippa had to bring up another bookcase for her room.” – Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

10. GIGI

“In fiction, I searched for my favorite authors, women I have trusted to reassure me that not all teenage guys are total ditwads, that the archetype of the noble cute hero who devotes himself to the girl he loves has not gone the way of the rotary phone.” – Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

 

Have you read these books?? Who are your favorite book nerd characters? Share your thoughts! Give me recommendations! 

Top 10 Tuesday: Hyped Books I’ve Never Read

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

WANT TO READ

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1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

2. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

3. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

5. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

DON’T WANT TO READ (?)

hyped-won't-read

6. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

7. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

8. The Jewel by Amy Ewing

9. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

10. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Brooke Reviews: The Iron Trial by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

Brooke Reviews: The Iron Trial by Holly Black, Cassandra ClareThe Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black
Published by Scholastic Inc. on September 9th 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Friendship
Pages: 299
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . . From the remarkable imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping, mind-blowing, pulse-pounding plunge into the magical unknown.

I don’t typically read much middle grade, but I’m a huge fan of Cassandra Clare and the premise of The Iron Trial totally intrigued me. A book about a boy who purposefully tries to FAIL the entrance exam into magic school? I’m sold. I started reading, and the very first chapter completely hooked me. Not only does it introduce the story world and the major conflict quite spectacularly, but it’s also an ingenious bit of foreshadowing. So major props to Clare and Black.

Just as we’re told in the summary, Callum Hunt fails at failing, and he’s admitted to the Magisterium. His dad didn’t want him to go. Call doesn’t want to go. But as the story progresses, Call comes to appreciate his training and also his new friends. I have such a soft spot for Call. He’s sort of bitter and sarcastic, but he’s not mean. He’s actually quite funny. And he has a crippled leg, which definitely presents unique challenges for Call and sets him apart from other stereotypical MG and YA characters I’ve read.

I love the strong friendship between the three apprentices, Call, Aaron, and Tamara. The plot is interesting and engaging and hints at exciting revelations in the following books of the series. The plot twist at the end of Book 1 (which I sort of guessed!) is absolutely FANTASTIC. Prior to reading the book, I read a review which pointed out similarities to Harry Potter. And so when I read The Iron Trial, these similarities really jumped out at me. That said, it didn’t affect my reading experience or my opinion of the book much at all.

BOOK 2!
Got my hands on an ARC of The Copper Gauntlet, which was very exciting because I was still reading Iron Trial at the time and couldn’t believe my luck. Not sure how much I can say, as I should probably wait until closer to it’s release date, but it has all the features of Book 1 I loved – magic, adventure, tension, intrigue. Call is hiding something big from his friends and so he’s facing questions of trust and loyalty. Another enjoyable read!

 

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS! 

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Best I’ve Read So Far in 2015

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I’m excited about this week’s prompt because it gives me a chance to brag about the incredible books I’ve read in the past several months. It’s been a pretty great reading year so far! Books are listed in the order I read them.

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1. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

2. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

3. Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas

4. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

5. Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

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6. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

7. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

8. The Heir by Kiera Cass

9. The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

10. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

HAVE YOU READ THESE BOOKS? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS! WHAT ARE THE BEST BOOKS YOU’VE READ SO FAR THIS YEAR?

Brooke Reviews: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Brooke Reviews: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on May 12th 2015
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

This is an incredibly emotional and beautiful book. Warning: do not begin reading until you’ve cleared your schedule. Must read uninterrupted.

First of all, this book is beautifully written. Seriously, Renee Ahdieh has a way with words – her prose is so, so beautiful. So even if the plot had not been as great as it was, I would have continued reading anyway for the sake of each breathtaking sentence.

Second of all, it’s a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you might know that I’m a huge fan of retellings (when they’re done right). Ahdieh does a spectacular job of bringing the story world to life and giving the story a fresh twist. Her version provides an explanation for the seemingly unnecessary murders of the Caliph’s innocent brides.

Shahrzad is a strong female protagonist. She’s brave and selfless and sharp. Basically, she’s volunteered to sacrifice her life. Shazi believes she’ll be the first to survive. (And she’s right, of course.) She struts around the palace and wields her new title like a weapon and it’s awesome. But she’s also cautious and clever, and so her attempts to extract information from characters like Captain al-Khoury, Jalal, and Despina make the book infinitely more interesting.

Shazi hates her new husband, Khalid, and plots to kill him – that is, until she begins to fall for him. And then she realizes the better course of action would be to discover the reason behind the deaths so she can put a stop to the murders. Through the alternate perspectives and Shazi’s own discoveries, it’s fairly easy to piece together the mystery behind the murders of the innocent brides.

Shazi and Khalid’s romance is slow and sweet. It’s intense. It’s steamy. And there’s built-in tension, because Shazi fears for her life each dawn. Every time she made a witty or biting remark, I applauded but also cringed. Would Khalid be angered or amused by her disrespect? Their mutual stubbornness presented challenges, and also their unwillingness to share their vulnerabilities.

The ending is especially interesting. The cliffhanger (I probably shouldn’t have expected anything less) made me especially anxious for book 2. Can I have it now? Pretty-please?

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS!

Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Top 10 Topics

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Happy 5th anniversary to Top 10 Tuesday! Very exciting. I discovered TTT last May and have participating ever since. It’s a great weekly meme which connects book bloggers and gives us a chance to highlight our favorite books and make super fun lists. What’s not to love?! Today I’m listing my favorite “top ten” topics of the TTTs I’ve personally participated in. (It would have been too difficult to pick only ten topics from the archives! I do not envy those of you who have been participating all five years!)

2015

1. Books as movies/TV shows (June 2) – This was too much fun! I love imagining my favorite books and characters coming to life on the screen.

2. Authors I’d love to meet (May 12) – Author love!

3. Peeking in on characters’ lives (April 7) – This was such a great prompt because I’ve often wondered ‘what happened next?’ This goes for all books without epilogues. Did the guy and the girl stay together? 

4. Books from childhood (March 24) – Your favorite childhood books really leave an impact – they shape you! I enjoyed giving appreciation to my childhood reads.

5. Favorite heroines (Feb 24) – Girl power.

6. Likes/dislikes about bookish romance (Feb 10) – I am such a sucker for a good romance. This TTT gave me a chance to outline my favorite (and least favorite!) aspects of bookish romance.

2014

7. Places I want to be (Oct 14) – The top 10 places books have made me want to visit – as an avid traveler, this topic spoke to me.

8. Characters on a deserted island (July 22) – I tried to be logical about this topic, but I think I was too excited about being stranded with my favorite book boyfriends. 😛

9. Cover trends I like/dislike (June 24) – Let’s be honest – judging books by their covers is totally permissible.

10. Book covers I’d frame as art (May 6) – I love cover art, and enjoyed letting it shine in this TTT.

*FUN FACT: I tallied the number of times certain books/characters/authors were mentioned across the ten TTTs I chose for this post. The frontrunners included The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (7!), Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (6), Graceling by Kristin Cashore (6), Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (5), and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (5).

Looking forward to future TTTs! What were your favorite TTT topics? Feel free to link to your fave TTT posts in the comments below so I can check them out. 🙂