Books 'n' Bloggers Swap Show-Off!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I participated in my first book swap this month, hosted by the ladies of Chaotic Goddess Swaps. It was really fun, and I got partnered with the wonderful Shy of Doctor's Notes, who is super sweet & likes all the same things I do (aka books & colorful pens & makeup). Check out the books & gifts she sent me!

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Colored pens!
Yin Yang Bookmark. On the front it says:
 "At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want." - Lao Tzu
This quote is like the motto of my life. Lol.

Big thanks again to Shy & Chaotic Goddess Swaps! I will definitely be participating in another swap in the future! Check it out if you like giving/receiving books!

YA Series Finishing in 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015
The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines, #6)P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days, #3)The Last Star (The Fifth Wave #3)
King (The Dragon King Chronicles, #3)Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)The Immortal Heights (The Elemental Trilogy, #3)The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

January 
The Madman's Daughter series by Megan Shepherd - Book 3: A Cold Legacy
Splintered series by A.G. Howard - Book 3Ensnared
February 
Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead - Book 6: The Ruby Circle
Alienated duology by Melissa Landers - Book 2: Invaded
Unremembered series by Jessica Brody - Book 3: Unchanged
March
Death Sworn duology by Leah Cypess - Book 2: Death Marked
Woodcutter Sisters series by Althea Kontis - Book 3: Dearest
The Dragon King Chronicles by Ellen Oh - Book 3: King
Seraphina series by Rachel Hartman - Book 2: Shadow Scale
April
Prisoner of Night and Fog duology by Anne Blankman  - Book 2: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke
The Dispossessed series by Page Morgan - Book 3: The Wondrous and the Wicked
Rebel Belle series by Rachel Hawkins - Book 2: Miss Mayhem
May
To All the Boys I've Loved Before duology by Jenny Han - Book 2: P.S. I Still Love You
Penryn & the End of Days series by Susan Ee - Book 3: End of Days
Maximum Ride series by James Patterson - Book 9: Maximum Ride Forever
June
Paper Gods series by Amanda Sun - Book 3: Storm
Dark Metropolis duology by Jaclyn Dolamore - Book 2: Glittering Shadows
July
Nevermore series by Kelly Creagh - Book 3: Oblivion
The Dark Elements series by Jennifer L. Armentrout - Book 3: Every Last Breath
September
The Fifth Wave series by Rick Yancey - Book 3: Last Star
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater - Book 4The Raven King
October
The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas - Book 3The Immortal Heights
The Iron Fey: The Call of the Forgotten series by Julie Kagawa - Book 3Iron Warrior
November
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - Book 4: Winter
Finishing School series by Gail Carriger - Book 4Manners & Mutiny
TBA: 2015
The Enemy series by Charlie Higson - Book 7: The End
The Tiger Saga by Colleen Houck - Book 5: Tiger's Dream

I really like series enders. I like the closure of a series - I want my OTPs to be happy! I guess...there's always a chance they're not happy...but this is YA, people. That's rarely the case.

If you know a series that's finishing this year that I've missed, please let me know and I'll add it to the list! There are two series I wasn't sure if they were finishing or not - Rachel Hawkins' Rebel Belle series & Rachel Hartman's Seraphina series. If you have more insight on that - I'd love to know!

Also, what last book in a series are you most excited to read in 2015?!?!

Mid-Series Review: Steelheart & Fireheart by Brandon Sanderson + Dream Cast

Thursday, April 9, 2015
Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Genre: YA Science Fiction > Post-Apocaylpse; Fantasy > Superpowers
Setting: Post-Apocalyptic Chicago
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Hardcover: 386 pages
Axie's Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
Gollancz cover

Reasons WHY you should read this book:
**Super Powers! After Calamity (a red star in the sky), some individuals begin to develop super powers; including powers like invulnerability & incredible strength.
**A Nerdy Hero! The main character, David, is a huge nerd - he spends all of his time researching Epics & is super awkward in social situations.
**Terrible Metaphors!

I needed to say something. Something romantic! Something to sweep her off her feet.
“You’re like a potato!” I shouted after her. “In a minefield.”
She froze in place. Then she spun on me, her face lit by a half-grown fruit. “A potato,” she said flatly. “That’s the best you can do? Seriously?”
“It makes sense,” I said. “Listen. You’re strolling through a minefield, worried about getting blow up. And then you step on something, and you think, “I’m dead.” But it’s just a potato. And you’re so relieved to find something so wonderful when you expected something so awful. That’s what you are. To me.” - Firefight
**Post-Apocalyptic Chicago! It's entirely made of steel.  
**Team Effort! David joins up with Reckoners who hunt Epics. Each character has a role on the team, i.e. Prof - Leader & Megan - Point Man, etc.
**Edge of Your Seat Action! The whole book, man - it's just action upon action.
**Twist & Turns in Plot! Oh, the twists...I didn't see them coming...SO GOOD.
**Trilogies! THREE BOOKS!!!

Cover Envy: The U.S. cover, I believe, is supposed to be David. While the U.K. cover is Steelheart. I could take or leave either cover. I guess the Gollancz cover uses color in an interesting way - with Sanderson's name. That's kind of cool.
Plot: In an Alt-USA, Calamity appears in the sky (a red star), and select individuals start developing super powers. These individuals, known as Epics, are NOT the superheroes of old, though - they're all regular Magnetos and begin to take over cities, killing millions in cold blood. The Epic called Steelheart claims Chicago, turning the city to steel and casting it into a perpetual night. It is said that nothing can kill Steelheart - he has no weakness. That is...until 8-year old David witnesses Steelheart bleed. 10 years later, David wants revenge on Steelheart for killing his father. He'll do anything to join the Reckoners - a group of humans who hunt down and assassinate Epics.
You can see how, in a different world, Superman could be a villain.
Villain: Steelheart is Superman gone wrong. I think it's kind of brilliant how Sanderson named his villain Steelheart, which is remindful of the Man of Steel
World Building: Brilliant. Love how Epics have categories of powers as well as weaknesses, which makes them vulnerable to defeat (if you can find the weakness, which can be as random as killing an Epic with a bow & arrow specifically or while running). VV SO INTERESTING - there's a whole religion around Superman (at least, I think the stylized is the Superman), which consists of people who believe that one day real heroes will arise to defeat the Epics and save humanity.
I could now see the pendant he wore. It was small and silver, with a stylized symbol on it. I thought I recognized that symbol from somewhere. It reminded me of my father. - Steelheart  
Review: This book is just loads of fun from start to finish. The most intense chapter is the opening chapter - but then it goes into a slow building crescendo of a story that is carefully plotted throughout, culminating in an epic climatic scene. It's very clever, imaginative, with likable characters & great writing. It even has some intriguing thematic elements on "what it means to be a hero". Read it!

Firefight (Reckoners, #2)
Genre: YA Science Fiction > Post-Apocalypse; Fantasy > Superpowers
Setting: Post-Apocalyptic Manhattan
Copyright: 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Hardcover: 416 pages
Axie's Rating: 5 out of 5
They told David it was impossible--that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart--invincible, immortal, unconquerable--is dead. And he died by David's hand. 

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there's no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs. 

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David's willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David's heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic--Firefight. And he's willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers. 
Gollancz cover

Cover Envy: Eh. More of the same. 
Plot: Non-spoiler plot: Off to New York City (Now Babylon Restored) to take down the High Epic Regalia. 
“Oh, you’re dangerous. Just not in the way that they—or you—think. You’re dangerous because you make people believe you, David. You make them listen to your crazy ideas. - Firefight
Main Character: I really like David. Like I said above, he's a huge nerd - he spends all of his time researching Epics & is super awkward in social situations. But he has so much heart - it really shines throughout the series. He's the perfect character to lead the reader through this world.
Love Interest: I have a #girlcrush on Megan. She's prickly, distrustful, powerful & yet deeply yearns for hope.
Favorite Secondary Character: Prof. He has so much character growth throughout the series. This book was devastating for him.
Villain: Regalia. What is her hidden agenda...?
Writing: Branderson wonderful. That's right. I combined his first and last name.
Review: THIS BOOK SETS UP THE LAST BOOK SO GOOD. ALSO I LOVE DAVID AND MEGAN FOREVERRRR.

Recommendations: I haven't read it, but Vicious by V.E. Schwab seems comparable since they both deal with heroes/villains with super powers.

Dream Casting: Following this exciting movie news, in which 20th Century Fox picked up the film rights for the first two books in the Reckoners' series, here's my dream cast for the film:


Henry Cavill as Steelheart. I think it would be really intriguing to have the villain played by Cavill who played Superman - a quintessential hero.

Tyler Posey as David. Posey is a perfect David - nerdy, but also believably an action hero.

Jennifer Lawrence as Megan. Jennifer Lawrence would get a kick out of this role. It combines her two roles of Katniss & Mystique - badass female.

Looking Forward To: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson | Release Date: 2016


This is how you walk the walk.

Waiting on Wednesday: 2015 Theme | Shahrazad

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that features upcoming novel releases.

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling > One Thousand and One Nights
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Hardcover: 388 pages
Release Date: May 12, 2015
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.
A Thousand Nights
Author: E. K. Johnston
Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling > One Thousand and One Nights
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Hardcover: 304 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2015
LO-MELKHIIN KILLED THREE HUNDRED GIRLS before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.
Both of these books are loosely based off the story of Shahrazad, the narrator of the stories told in One Thousand and One Nights. In the original story, the king marries one virgin every night and beheads her in the morning. After he's killed 1,000 women, Shahrazad, the vizier's daughter, volunteers to marry the king. On their wedding night, she invites her sister into the room so that she can tell her sister goodbye with one more goodnight story. Shahrazad begins the story, but by dawn, she hasn't finished. Wanting to hear the end, the king allows Shahrazad to live one more night. This goes on for 1001 nights and the stories she tells are the stories within the One Thousand and One Nights, like "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp" and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves". 

I once joked on this blog that Shahrazad was never going to be a Disney princess b/c you can't make beheading Disney. In any case, I've had a fascination with this story every since I read The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey and Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher as a teenager. I wonder what has brought this story to the forefront in 2015 - maybe the intrigue of darker-themed fairytales? In any case, I'm excited for these two books. I will have an eye out for reviewers who are of the culture represented in these books, to see if they're sensitive to the culture. 

I think I'm going to do themed WoWs from now on b/c I think it's intriguing to see what's trending. 


What books are you waiting on?

Books 'N' Bloggers Swap!

Monday, April 6, 2015
I signed up for the Books 'n' Bloggers Swap this month, mostly b/c I like putting together book gift packages & it gives me an excuse to go shopping. Here are the details of the swap from Chaotic Goddess Swaps:

Your Swap Objective: 
Get to know your fellow book-loving partner and send them a fantastic bookish package.  

Your package must include: 
  • A book from your partner's wishlist.
  • A book you have read and loved.
  • A book you haven't read, but think looks interesting. (Can also be on their wishlist.)
  • *Optional* Other book-related goodies.  

Sign-ups close...today. Not sure if that means you can still sign-up today or it's already been closed, but def check it out if you're interested! Chaotic Goddess Swaps hosts several swaps throughout the year, so if you missed this one, you can join another in a couple of weeks! In any case, I'm super excited to participate & meet my swap partner & [go shopping].

Book Review: Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Saturday, April 4, 2015
Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle, #1)
Genre: YA Fantasy 
Setting: Arjinna, Earth > Los Angeles
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Hardcover: 480 pages
Cover Envy: I really like this cover. Love the title font. Love the Arabic(?) on the cuff she's wearing on her wrist. Love the model. She looks like Q'orianka Kilcher, who I have a huge #girlcrush on.
Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.
 
This book is extremely ambitious, and I applaud ambition. Of course it has its drawbacks - it's very slow, especially in the middle. Not much happens considering it's daunting 400+ page length. But it makes up for that with gorgeous writing and, like I said before, lots and lots of ambition.

An abusive relationship - romanticized or not? 
The relationship is abusive, both mentally & physically - there is no argument about that. Nalia is Malik's slave & when he's angry with her, he puts her in this bottle which is made of metal that is poisonous to her. Last time she was in the bottle, she almost died. Okay, abusive dude: check! Is it romanticized? The answer: Yes. It is romanticized. Malik is rich, powerful, handsome, completely devoted emotionally & physically to Nalia. In his long and tortured life, Nalia is the only one who can "cool the fire" of his soul, so to speak. He's a regular Christian Grey (except not kinky. Or at least, not that we know of).

Okay, we've deduced that it is an abusive relationship & it is romanticized BUT is it an abusive, romanticized relationship that is supposed to be seen as a good thing? The answer: No. This relationship is supposed to be seen as very unhealthy & tragic. Malik himself is supposed to be a tragic character - NOT a "love interest"-type character, if we're talking archetypical figures, but a anti-hero character existing alongside Nalia & Raif, who more than likely will get his own redemption story as the series progresses.

Complex worldbuilding & gorgeous writing.
The main criticism for this book (beyond thematics), that I've read throughout the blogosphere, seem to be its info-dumping. This is a symptom of the "third person point of view". I was actually okay with all this word-dropping, name-dropping, info-dumping b/c it was all cushioned with gorgeous writing. Actually, I forgave a lot of the book's potential flaws (see above) b/c of the way it's written - the writing oozes passion & belief in the world of the story. There are tons of lush descriptions & atmospheric passages.
If she weren’t a slave, Nalia could stay here forever—dash herself against the rocks and kiss a surfer’s neck as he rode the waves of her, or bathe in creamy moonlight and dance with jellyfish. Sailors would look on her with longing, and lightning would strike through her heart, causing no pain, when storms raged above the sea.  - EXQUISITE CAPTIVE
Adult themes & language.
I think this book would have worked well as a new adult book, mostly b/c it was already going there with the profanity & blood & gore.
Fear is your greatest enemy. Conquer fear and you conquer yourself. Conquer yourself and you conquer the world. - EXQUISITE CAPTIVE
Plot: Nalia is the last remaining member of an (almost) extinct race of jinn. After a war in her homeland of Arjinna, she's sold to the Dark Caravan - a slave trade in which human buyers purchase jinni as slaves. Nalia has been with her master Malik since she was a child (now she's 18), granting wishes on behalf of him for his human clients, waiting until the day he'll ask her to grant his third and final wish, and she can be free to return to Arjinna & be reunited with her brother (who is enslaved by the Ifrit, a race of jinni that killed the Ghan Aisouri - Nalia's race of all-female jinn warriors). Meanwhile - Raif, the leader of the jinn revolution to overthrow the Ifrit in Arjinna, tracks down Nalia in order to help him secure a powerful weapon - one which can defeat the Ifrit forever; however, Nalia can't obtain the weapon unless she's free AND she can't be free unless freed by Malik, WHO WILL NEVER FREE HER B/C [insert spoiler]. Okay - I'm done.
Main Character: Nalia. She's a tough cookie. There's this scene in the book where she's practicing her...martial arts/meditative moves on the cliffside & each move has a name like "Diving Crane" or "Sleeping Dragon", and I kept on thinking of The Legend of Drunken Master - that Jackie Chan movie about drunken boxing. In any case, I liked Nalia. She was a very do-it-yourself heroine, who can beat you up and can pretty much grant any wish b/c she's super powerful. Also, she's a princess - so there's that. And the last of her race. 
Love Interest: Raif. I have a soft spot for revolutionary leaders. (I'm looking at you, Enjolras!) At least they have direction in life. & one of the POV's is Raif's POV, so we get into his head - we see his thoughts.
Favorite Secondary Character: Malik. I don't like Malik as a love interest. I do like Malik as a secondary character, someone whose growth is something that could potentially transcend being "tortured" to something greater.
World Building: [see above]. The book comes with a gorgeously drawn map of Arjinna, so that always helps.
Diversity: This book gets mad points for having an entirely diverse cast & for focusing on a non-Western culture. Also, it has a very inclusive feel to it - not really explainable. It just feels like all people are cool & unique - it's really chill on the social-racial aspect of it.
Recommendations: Fire by Kristin Cashore & Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
Axie's Rating: 4 out of 5. It has its flaws, but it's overall an ambitious & lush story - w/ dark themes & an evocative tone throughout.
Looking Forward to: Blood Passage by Heather Demetrios (October 6, 2015)
Blood Passage (Dark Caravan Cycle, #2)
Cover Comments: Is it just me or does the cover model look like Nina DobrevAlso, her hand looks weirdly large for her body.

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