Review | Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

15839984Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

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Cruel Beauty had been on my radar for a while, as I can never say no to retellings, and Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales (in part because I wanted a library like the one in the Disney version). Unfortunately, I’m still on the fence about this one – I think I liked it, but I’m also still kind of confused about what happened?

Things I liked:
Gorgeous and lyrical writing. I loved Hodge’s word choices – whether used in vivid descriptions or as the names of characters.
Flawed, wicked characters. Nyx, in particular, is angry, contemptuous, and not particularly likeable, but her actions definitely reflected her situation. And the Gentle Lord has a penchant for deceiving those who make bargains with him, making for some interesting curses.
The mythology. The addition of Hermetic magic and Demon Princes was intriguing, and put an interesting spin on the Beauty and the Beast tale.

Things that didn’t work for me:
The mythology. It was interesting and ambitious, but it felt like Hodge was trying to do way too much at once, and it ultimately left me confused.
The world-building left a lot to be desired. The magic system, in particular, was not very well-developed, and I can’t help but feel that it could have been stronger if a new religious system was put into place instead of relying on the Greek Gods.
The romance. There was so much and the story was quickly bogged down by a love triangle that I was not invested in.
The ending. Nyx had a lot of revelations, but unfortunately, I didn’t; I honestly don’t know what happened or why, and I can’t really be bothered to re-read it to find out.

Overall, Cruel Beauty was beautifully written and ambitious, but the confusing nature of the story and the overwhelming romance made it difficult to enjoy at times.

Waiting on Wednesday (December 23)

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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 The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, which has an expected publication date of May 3, 2016.

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

This sounds so good – it was pitched as a Hades and Persephone-style romance in the context of Indian mythology, which sounds really intriguing! Plus the cover is gorgeous.

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

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Top Ten Books I’d Love Santa To Bring This Year

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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 you wouldn’t mind Santa leaving under your tree this year.” I think I’ve been a pretty good girl this year, so hopefully Santa can work some Christmas magic and put at least one of these books under my tree!

Already Released:

Rainy Day (Re)Reads:

2016 Releases:

Which books are on your Christmas wish list? Leave me a list or a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post in the comments below.

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Review | The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

23310763Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?

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After seeing that adorable cover, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart quickly found its way onto my wish list. I went in expecting a cute story and lots of banter, and while that’s exactly what I got, I was strangely disappointed.

Since I love lists, here are some things I liked:
– Bex and Jack have open and honest conversations about sex. I loved how the discussion centred around making it comfortable and enjoyable for both parties, and emphasized that you’re not defined by the number of people that you’ve slept with.
Diversity. This book touched on a wide range of topics – from sexuality to mental illness – and the characters located within its pages were just as diverse.
Parents are present. They’re not conveniently absent; they pay attention to Bex and Jack’s comings and goings, and deal out appropriate punishments for breaking ground rules.
The romance is cute. There’s banter and fluff and snark and lots of really sweet scenes.

… & here are some things that didn’t work for me:
– Jack came across as a manic pixie dream boy, both in his descriptions (gorgeous, hipster, rebel with a cause) and the role that he plays in Bex’s life.
The characters aren’t particularly memorable. Sure, their interactions were cute, but a few days later, I find that nothing really stood out to me.
Everything was far too smooth. The main “conflicts” of the story were easily resolved, and centred around secondary characters who weren’t developed enough to make it compelling. To add to this, the “mystery” surrounding Jack was far too easy to solve, and didn’t cause the tension that I had anticipated.

Overall, I really wanted to love this, but unfortunately the manic pixie dream boy-esque love interest & unmemorable characters outweighed the positive aspects.

Review | More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

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More Happy Than Not was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year, so when my hold finally came in, I immediately dropped everything to start giving it a read. If it weren’t for the fact that I needed to go to work, I would have devoured this in one sitting… but, as it stands, More Happy Than Not was beautiful and heart-wrenching, and I can’t wait to read it again.

Having recently re-watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between it and More Happy Than Not – especially since the relationships and characters took centre stage, not the idea of memory erasure. That being said, I was still completely surprised by all of the twists and turns that the story took, so any expectations that the movie gave me did not dampen my reading experience.

The structure of More Happy Than Not and Aaron’s narration were what really made this story for me. Although it’s told in a linear fashion, each chapter can be viewed as a memory. Aaron’s voice captured my interest immediately; it’s raw and honest, confused and realistic. We get to watch him fall in love, make mistakes, and desperately try to find happiness – even if that happiness means giving up a part of himself.

Aaron’s relationships with Genevieve and Thomas add much-needed lightness to the story, from Trade Dates and rooftop movies to comic books and banter. They truly cared about Aaron, and were an excellent support system.

And can I just say how much I loved the diversity? More Happy Than Not contains characters of different sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds, and the protagonist and other major characters were PoC.

Overall, More Happy Than Not is one of those books that will stick with me for a long time. It’s poignant, heartbreaking, and (surprisingly) hopeful, and I highly recommend giving it a read.

Review | Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

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As soon as I finished Gates of Thread and Stone, I had to go back and read the synopsis to see why I had picked it up in the first place. It turns out that the blurb was extremely misleading: I came in expecting a lot of time manipulation and the Labryinth out of Greek Mythology, and unfortunately, the latter was nowhere to be found.

The beginning of Gates of Thread and Stone held so much promise. The brief introduction to the Labyrinth (unfortunately not of the minotaur variety) was intriguing, Kai’s relationship with her brother, Reev, was extremely heartwarming and filled with fierce love, loyalty and protectiveness, and Kai’s ability to slow down time sounded really neat. Unfortunately, as soon as Reev went missing, the story started to go downhill.

While I initially admired Kai’s loyalty and determination, and found myself enamoured by her narrative voice, I quickly found myself wanting more from her. Her ability to manipulate time was scarcely seen, and the focus was, instead, on developing Kai’s physical strengths. While I understand that the ability to defend oneself is important, the story lacked a sense of urgency or a feeling of danger, in part due to its slow pace, causing these scenes to feel out of place.

Another area where Gates of Thread and Stone lacked impact was the relationship between Avan and Kai. Although Kai kept mentioning that her focus was finding her brother, the number of times that she blushed over her thoughts of Avan and fantasized about his neck was rather ridiculous (seriously, a whole paragraph was dedicated to that). Kai and Avan let their feelings go unmentioned (aloud, anyways) for almost the entire story, causing the search for Reev to be overshadowed by romantic angst.

The world-building was confusing at best, as it contained elements that ranged from dystopia to steampunk. It hinted at several different mythologies, however many of these didn’t seem to fit the story very well — such as the gargoyles, who appeared at the beginning and were never mentioned again. I understand that this is going to be a series, so the world-building will likely be elaborated upon in later books, however as it stands, I’m still not entirely sure what the world of Ninurta even was, let alone how it came to be.

Overall, Gates of Thread and Stone had a lot of potential, but its slow pace, overwhelming “romance,” and disjointed world-building caused it to fall flat.

Waiting On Wednesday (June 17)

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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 Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics, which has an expected publication date of September 29, 2015.

When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly Ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn’t right on the prairie. She’s heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can’t be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

This sounds so creepy, but so good! Even if I’ll only be able to read it during the day…

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

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Top Ten Books I Need To Read This Summer

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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 on my summer tbr.” My to-read list is sitting at an intimidating 839 books at the moment, so here are ten of the ones that I intend to read this summer:

Which books are on your summer to-read list? Leave me a list or a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post in the comments below.

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Review | Fairest by Marissa Meyer

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

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I tend not to get along with novellas, but I just had to make an exception for Fairest – after all, The Lunar Chronicles is one of my new favourite series. While you don’t have to have read the first three books to appreciate Fairest, since any potential spoilers are fairly subtle, it’s more fascinating to learn about Queen Levana’s past when you know who she’s become.

As the title suggests, Fairest encompasses elements of the Snow White story. While there is an “evil queen” with a lovely stepdaughter, I was most intrigued by how Levana’s hatred of mirrors and obsession with beauty were explored. And what Levana looks like under her veil – not really Snow White related, but the reason for why her glamour looks the way it does is just… whoa.

I have a weakness for sympathetic, complex villains, and (surprisingly) Levana fits that bill. She has an incredibly low opinion of herself as a result of her sister’s abuse, and desires attention and affection more than anything else. As a result, she latches onto the first source of kindness that was shown to her: a married guard, Evret Hayle. This is unrequited love at its finest, and through it, we’re shown the lengths that Levana is willing to go to to hold onto her twisted ideas of love, power, and hope. This glimpse into Levana’s head was both sad and slightly terrifying, and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her; while it doesn’t excuse any of her actions, it’s hard not to pity someone who has (mostly) good intentions, but accomplishes them in the most self-destructive ways possible.

Overall, Fairest was a lot darker than the rest of The Lunar Chronicles books, but just as addictive. It painted Levana as a more real character without making her likeable, so I’m interested to see if knowing her backstory will colour my re-read of the series in any way. And, of course, I’m even more excited about Winter after those teaser chapters. Is it November yet?

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Rest of 2015

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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 most anticipated releases for the rest of 2015.” This may end up being longer than 10, since my wishlist is ridiculously long, but here are some of the ones I desperately need:

Honorable mentions:

Which upcoming 2015 releases do you desperately want to read? Leave me a list or a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post in the comments below.

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