Monday, October 12, 2015

Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elemets #2) : Review

Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: ★★

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.
But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…

Let's talk a little about White Hot Kiss first (since I never did a review on it). I read WHK on a whim, hoping it would be a light fluffy read that would help me get over my reading slump post Queen of Shadows. It did the job and managed to surprise me as well. I wasn't expecting to like the story as much as I did. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for the good girl, bad boy trope. Or the opposites attract trope. Or everyone is not what they seem on the surface trope. WHK had all of that and then some. The story was interesting and enjoyable, despite being a bit predictable.

Maybe I read Stone Cold Touch a little too soon after finishing White Hot Kiss but it just didn't live up to the expectations set by the first book. The story was even more predictable this time around and there were so many moments that felt really cheesy. I don't mind cheese, if done right, but at times it's just too much. This time, it was too much, at least for me. The plot itself felt pretty stagnant throughout most of the book. It didn't seem like we were getting anywhere and certain parts just felt very repetitive. The characterizations also were somehow worse. Particularly with Layla and her friends. There seemed to be a lot of forced teenager-ness (i.e. teenagers behaving the way people think teenagers are instead of the way teenagers actually are). It just felt very disconnected.

The ending, on the other hand, might have saved this book a little. The ending is probably what convinced me into giving a three star rating as opposed to maybe two stars. There is a point in the story (within the last 100 pages or so) where things really get going. There are some developments and plot twists and it seems like all the energy that was missing in the earlier parts of the book can be found in the climax and conclusion. Yes, it was still pretty predictable, but there are also things that happen that I didn't see coming.

I'm invested enough in this series and in one relationship in particular *ahem*Layla&Roth*ahem* that I will most probably get around to reading the finale at some point, but I'm hoping that Every Last Breath is more action packed than its prequel.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn (TWATD #1) : Review

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Rating: ★★

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

The Wrath and the Dawn is inspired by A Thousand and One Nights AKA Arabian Nights from which many famous tales, such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Aladin's Magical Lamp originate. I'm all for fairy tale retellings nowadays so, of course, I was excited about this book.

First, I want to talk about the setting and culture because it's the most unique thing about this story. TWATD is a fantasy, but, unlike most fantasies which are set in medieval-esque landscapes, this one takes place in world heavy influenced by Arab culture with elements of Indian culture blended in. Everything from the clothes to the food to the castle itself. The official titles of the different people in the castle, the weapons used by the fighter, and, obviously, the names of the characters. The culture of the world is weaved into every aspect of this story. Being a Muslim Indian who is regularly exposed to both Indian and Arab cultures, this was really exciting for me. It was exciting to be able to say "I've had the food that this character is having" or "I know what this non-english word means!" or "I know someone in real life with the same name as this character." I can't think of any other book (in YA) that had the same effect. (Well, the names part aside) It was nice and refreshing to see diversity and to see in portrayed in such a profound way. This is not a book that is mostly western/white with a smattering of diversity. This is a book in which practically everything counts as diverse. I loved the cultural representation and the new elements introduced to the world of YA fantasy through this book and I hope to see more such diversity in future releases in this genre.

The story in this book was also great. I didn't find it to be particularly predictable and I, though I haven't read Arabian Nights, I don't think readers of the original story would find the book to be too predictable either. Most of the known of plot lines of the original story are covered pretty early on in the novel and there are added elements to the story that didn't exist in the original. For me, this was definitely one of those books where you get really invested in the stories and the characters.

Speaking of characters, I was being really serious when I said that you will get invested. You will get invested, so be prepared. And it's not just Shaharzad and Khalid, the main characters, but the supporting cast as well. You will get invested! Shaharzad and Khalid not only start out interesting but develop into even more fascinating characters. You get to know them as they're getting to know each other and you get to understand their characters why they are the way they are. I love when that happens!

And if the story, characters and setting wasn't enough to sell you on this book, there are also beautiful quotes to look forward to. Like,

She was a dangerous, dangerous girl. A plague. A Mountain of Adamant who tore the iron from ships, sinking them to their watery graves without a second thought. With a mere smile and a wrinkle of her nose.

Or this,

Love is a force unto itself, sayyidi. For love, people consider the unthinkable...and often achieve the impossible. I would not sneer at its power.

And that's just a little taste. There are a lot of beautiful romantic lines too! You know, the ones that sound really cheesy and lame when you say them but in context sound so beautiful and perfect. Yup, lots of that here. Oh and did I mention the food! There is a lot of food present in this book and it's described so wonderfully that it's guaranteed to at least make you hungry, if not have your stomach growling and your mouth drooling.

I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel and will most likely not be leaving The Rose and the Dagger to gather dust on my TBR shelf.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Top Five Favorite Things About Blogging

You would think that this list would be easier to make after being a blogger for over a year but somehow when I actually have to put it into words my mind decides to forget everything.

  1. Sharing my thoughts. After you read a book that really makes you feel things, you just really want to let all those feels out. Good and bad. And blogging is where I do this. Fangirling, venting, and everything in between all happens on my blog. And it feels so good!
  2. Talking to other book lovers. It's more fun to discuss those books with other people! There's something about being able to share your love for something with someone else that makes it that much more exciting.
  3. Discovering new things. Through blogging, particularly through booklr, I've discovered so many new books and series that I might not have otherwise. I've also read certain books because everyone else seemed to be loving it on booklr and this sort of peer pressure has only ended badly once or twice. I'd say that's a decent track record.
  4. Edits. I'm not too creative myself but that's okay because there are plenty of other bloggers who are and they make amazing edits for different books and characters. The edits also contribute towards me adding books to my TBR or pushing them further up on my TBR. And they make books that much more enjoyable by adding visual elements to the whole experience. Yay for edits!
  5. Looking back at my own posts. Is this a little self-centered? Maybe? But I really do like looking back at my own posts and reading my thoughts on different books. Especially if it's a book that's become a blur in my mind. Reading my old reviews kind of feels like reading old entries in my diary. "Oh! So this is what I thought about that!" and "Apparently I felt really strongly about this book that I don't even remember reading..."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Release Day Spotlight: Magical Picture Books, Magical Inspirations and Norse Mythology

Today is a big day in book releases for YA and Middle Grade fans! Normally, just one big book release is enough to get us all excited but today we get three highly anticipated releases! It's kind of overwhelming actually.

First, we have Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone: Illustrated Edition (or Philosopher's Stone depending on where you are in the world). I've been meaning to re-read the Harry Potter books all year long and almost bought the new UK paperbacks. This illustrated edition was on the very edge of my radar because, for reasons unknown to me, I was thinking that this was basically a Harry Potter graphic novel which I wasn't too interested in. But then I discovered that it was not a graphic novel but Harry Potter with pictures!! Lots and lots of beautiful pictures! (Check out some of examples here.) Basically, we're getting Harry Potter picture book edition but with all the original words and I'm so excited about it.

Coincidentally or intentionally, today is also the release day for Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. If you haven't read Fangirl and don't know what Carry On is about, you might be a little confused as what is so coincidental about this book also being released today. To sum it up, Carry On is essentially the original story (or an installment in the series) that Cath, from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, writes fanfiction for. And this series heavily resembles/is modeled after/ is inspired by Harry Potter. Of course, this book is not going to be a retelling of Harry Potter but an original story in and of itself that borrows certain elements from HP.

Finally, our third big release of the day is The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. This is the first book in his brand new series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, which will be centered around Norse mythology. I may be really behind when it comes to Riordan's other series but I have no plans to fall behind with this one. I already read the first chapter excerpt which got me even more excited about this book and I'm sure we all want to see Rick Riordan's version of Thor, right?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tumblr, Reading Slumps and Epic Feels

I've been a bit absent on this blog over the last few months. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One, I've been more active on Tumblr (which I'm a big fan of and you can follow me here) and thought that maybe I could start posting my reviews there instead so I can have all of bookish things in one place. This didn't work out for multiple reasons:

a) The Tumblr blogging format (at least the kind that I prefer) doesn't really lend itself to longer text posts.
b) The Tumblr blogging platform itself favors images more than it does text
c) Tumblr also doesn't lend itself to commenting as well as something like blogger does
d) I was lazy being lazy about the reviewing and maybe only managed to post one review on my booklr (bookish corner of Tumblr)

So now I'm back to blogger and ready to share my thoughts on all these books that I'm reading.

The second cause of my inactiveness was my reading slump. This has been the year of reading slumps for me and I don't even know why. I suffered through my biggest reading slump of all time last year but at least then I could say it was because I got really busy with school and studying that I didn't have much time to read. This year, I have no such excuse. I have much more free time than I did last year. Maybe, I just haven't been reading as many good books this year? I don't really know. What I do know, though, is that I'm back in reading mode (knocking on virtual wood right now because I don't want to jinx this) so I actually have books I can review now! Woohoo!

Some of you might be wondering where my review for Queen of Shadows is, especially after I gushed over Heir of Fire and A Court of Thorns and Roses. Haha, who am I kidding. No one is wondering that. I don't have avid followers, just sometime readers. But for the sake of my own ego I'm going to pretend there are people out there in the world actually wondering this and for those people I will address this concern. I have read Queen of Shadows (would you expect any less from me?). I have a lot of thoughts on Queen of Shadows. But I haven't written any post (except this one) compiling these thoughts because those thoughts are still brewing in my head and I need my feels to calm down a little more before I can put it all into words. Trust me, I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of different things regarding this book. The review/discussion (more probably discussion and potentially one that comes in multiple parts) is coming. It just needs a little more time because the feels were EPIC and I'm still trying to process them, even a month after reading the book.

Well, that's all for this update and I'll catch you guys on the next page.

(How is that sign off? Too cheesy? I'm trying it out for the first time.)