Waiting on Wednesday (February 19)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, which has an expected publication date of June 17, 2014.

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

This is easily my most anticipated read of 2014. I absolutely adored Shadow and Bone, and somehow I enjoyed Siege and Storm even more. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage waiting until June to find out what happens with Ravka and the Darkling (but mostly the Darkling). And can I just say how gorgeous that cover is?! I need a copy on my shelf ASAP.

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below. 3

Top Ten Books I Read In 2013

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, she posts an idea relating to books and encourages other book bloggers to respond with their own top ten lists.

This week’s topic is “top ten books I read in 2013.” 2013 was an excellent year for reading, thanks to the discovery of both Goodreads and book blogs. While it’s virtually impossible to narrow down all 217 books that I read this year to the 10 that I thought were the best, the ten below are ones that I really enjoyed reading — and ones that I’ll likely read again.

1. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
When I received this book, I stayed up all night reading it — I laughed, I cried, I highlighted poignant quotes, I had my heart broken, and I felt a strange sense of hope within all the angst and despair. It’s such a touching, important, powerful book, and I can’t recommend it enough. My review can be found here.

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I’m convinced that Rainbow writes books for me, personally. Fangirl perfectly captures what it’s like to be a fangirl and what it’s like to go away to college in true Rainbow Rowell style: it’s quirky, fun, adorable, and character-driven. My review can be found here.

3. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it completely surpassed my (already high) expectations. I don’t know how I’m going to survive the wait until the third book — I need more of my Raven Boys in my life!

4. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Crown of Midnight addressed all of the issues that I had with Throne of Glass, kept me guessing at every turn, and made me feel all the emotions. It’s such a good example of how to write a sequel since I enjoyed it a lot more than Throne of Glass, and I can’t wait to see where the series will go from there. My review can be found here.

5. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Between swoonworthy boys, magic, and inventive fairytales/mythology, this series is so enthralling. And the Darkling! (I know that I already said swoonworthy boys, but he really deserves his own special mention). Can Ruin and Rising please hurry up and be released?! My review can be found here.

6. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
The Archived has such a unique and spooky premise, and it definitely delivered on that front. I easily got lost in its world, which I desperately wanted to know more about, and the mystery aspect of it, which kept me guessing throughout the story. My review can be found here.

7. Angelfall by Susan Ee
Angelfall single-handedly redeemed angel books in my eyes, which is certainly no small feat! Its post-apocalyptic setting, amazing female lead, and brutal angels make it a step above the rest for good reason, and it’s definitely worthy of all of the hype surrounding it. My review can be found here.

8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This book both broke my heart and healed me. It’s a really moving piece on grief and loss, and I’m so, so glad that I read it. My review can be found here.

9. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy NelsonThe Sky is Everywhere is a beautiful piece on grief, love, and loss. It’s lyrical, moving and honest, and will definitely stay with me for a long time to come. My review can be found here.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I don’t even know how to describe The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s beautiful, haunting, nostalgic, creepy, and filled with so much wisdom. There’s a reason that Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, and this book is just another reason why.

What were some of your favourite reads of 2013?3

Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week she posts an idea for relating to books, and encourages other book bloggers to respond with their own “top ten” list.

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This week’s topic is “top ten most memorable secondary characters.” It was quite difficult for me to narrow this list down to just ten characters, since secondary characters are often just as intriguing as the main protagonists.

1. Rue (The Hunger Games)

Rue is sweet, adorable, and completely underestimated in the Games. She survived a lot longer than people expected her to, and her story impacted Katniss’ story in so many ways.

2. Finnick Odair (Catching Fire)

There’s a reason that the sugar cube scene in Catching Fire is remembered by most readers, but Finnick’s charming nature isn’t the only reason to love him. He’s loyal, brave, and strong, and his relationship with Annie is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read.

3. Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter)

I loved watching Neville’s transformation from a scared, forgetful boy who was constantly bullied to a strong, incredibly important young man. This transformation starts in the first book, when he shows a great deal of bravery standing up to his friends, and continues until the end of the series.

4. Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter)

Luna is one of my favourite characters in the Harry Potter world. She’s quirky and slightly crazy, but she owns it and doesn’t let anyone’s negative opinions get her down. She’s so true to herself and comfortable in her own skin, and I admire her so much for that.

5. Manchee (The Knife of Never Letting Go)

I love talking animals in books, and Manchee reminded me so much of Dug the dog from Up! His relationship with Todd was heartwarming, and many of his thoughts made me laugh. His story made me cry so much, even though I realize that certain situations were necessary for Todd’s character growth.

6. Sturmhond (Siege and Storm)

Sturmhond is witty and charming, which made me instantly fall in love with him (and made me wish more than once that he was a real person). He’s also incredibly well composed, calculating, and adaptive, which are necessary qualities given his agenda.

7. Magnus Bane (The Mortal Instruments)

I love Magnus so much. He comes across as witty, charming, and entertaining, and his time as an immortal has given him many insights on what it means to live and to love. He’s easily the most interesting character in The Moral Instruments series, and I can’t wait to see where his story goes next!

8. Patrick (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

Patrick is so much more than just comic relief; he broke my heart, made me laugh, and inspired me with his unfailing optimism. He goes through some tough times, but still manages to be the light that Charlie needs in his life, which Ezra Miller captured perfectly in the movie.

9. Isaac (The Fault in Our Stars)

I loved his friendship with Gus, and how he bridged the gap between Gus and Hazel. The fact that he was more concerned about how his girlfriend would take his blindness than the actual blindness itself speaks volumes about his character, as well.

10. Tiny Cooper (Will Grayson, Will Grayson)

Tiny was definitely my favourite character in this book, since his personality was just as large as his exterior. His musical was flawless, and he’s so much fun! I need to find myself a friend like him.

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Who are some of your favourite secondary characters? Leave me a link to your post or a list of your favourites in the comments below.
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Top Ten Beginnings/Endings

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week she posts an idea for relating to books, and encourages other book bloggers to respond with their own “top ten” list.

This week’s topic is top ten beginnings/endings in books. Both of these are incredibly important: one is the first impression that you’re given of a story, the other is what will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. There have been so many times when a book has failed to capture my attention at the beginning or has let me down in terms of the ending, whether it was rushed, there was no resolution, or it just wasn’t as well-written as the rest of the book. Here are some of the books that got it absolutely right:

Best Beginnings

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“The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

3b“To say I’d been kept prisoner my entire life in an attic wasn’t quite true. It was only fifteen years out of eighteen, and I was allowed to walk in the gardens for a half-hour some days.”

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“Once upon a time, there was a girl who was special. Her hair flowed like honey and her eyes were as blue as music. She grew up bright and beautiful, with deft fingers, a quick mind and a charm that impressed everyone she met. Her parents adored her, her teachers praised her, and her schoolmates admired her many talents…

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.”

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“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.

It did not end well.”

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“You saw me before I saw you. In the airport, that day in August, you had that look in your eyes, as though you wanted something from me, as though you’d wanted it for a long time.”

Best Endings

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“The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.”

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“A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR. I am haunted by humans.”

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“For the living and the dead, she would make herself a reckoning.

She would rise.”

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“I do, Augustus.

I do.”

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“And if the Thames that ran beside them, sure and silver in the afternoon light, recalled a night long ago when the moon shone as brightly as a shilling on this same boy and girl, or if the stones of Blackfriars knew the tread of their feet and thought to themselves: At last, the wheel comes full circle, they kept their silence.”

What are some of your favourites? Leave a list or a link to your post in the comments below.
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Book Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My Rating: 5 cupcakes

I’m always wary about reading the middle book in a series, since so many suffer from the dreaded “second book syndrome.” We all know the symptoms: slow-moving plot, character regression, and an immense feeling of disappointment while reading. Thankfully, that was not the case with Siege and Storm, which was just as good as its predecessor.

Siege and Storm picks up almost immediately where Shadow and Bone left off, providing the reader with immediate action and many unexpected plot twiststhat will keep you on the edge of your seat. The inclusion of original fairy tales and mythology, coupled with exquisite food dishes, beautiful clothing, and vivid settings add even greater depth to the imaginative world of Ravka.

Alina is no longer the weak, naive girl that we saw in Shadow and Bone; she’s truly coming into her own, though the journey is decidedly bittersweet. Alina begins to hone her strength and assert herself in anticipation of a fight with the Darkling, though she struggles against the desire to attain even more power – and the repercussions that it could have for herself, her relationships, and Ravka.

Though I know that I shouldn’t care for him, the Darkling still holds the honour of being my favourite character in this series. He’s quite an intriguing and complex character: he’s power-hungry, manipulative, and could even be described as evil, though he also has touches of humanity that are difficult to ignore. To my dismay, his presence in this book is minimal, although he captured my full attention whenever he appeared in a scene – especially when showing off his dark new skills.

A new character is introduced in Siege and Storm, and he managed to win me over with ease. Sturmhond is witty and charming, bringing much-needed touches of humour to story. He’s also incredibly well composed, calculating, and adaptive, which are necessary qualities given his agenda.

And then there’s Mal. He started to grow on me towards the end of Shadow and Bone but, sadly, I didn’t like him in this book. He spends too much time feeling insecure in his relationship with Alina. I understand his reasoning – after all, she is the most powerful Grisha and he is a tracker who deserted the army – but after a while, I got tired of reading about it. Hopefully he’ll be more like his end-of-book-one-self in the sequel, since that guy was pretty adorable.

If I haven’t made it clear already, I absolutely loved Siege and Storm. It’s unputdownable and the perfect example of how to write a proper middle installment. I can’t wait to see what happens in Ruin and Rising – until then, I’ll be traipsing about in my very own kefta and trying to befriend guys that look like the Darkling.