Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: Ivory And Bone

Ivory And Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 5/17/16 to 5/21/16
384 pages
Rating: 


A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I am really hesitant to write this review. Really hesitant.


I guess you can say that I read this because of the hype. I honestly did not read the blurb carefully, all I saw was a prehistoric setting and that's what got me hooked. So I guess, my disclaimer is that I didn't know this would be solely focused on relationships (and that is totally my bad).

Kol is part of a clan, one that has a serious lack of women. They are on the constant lookout for other clans, so when another family makes their way up north for a visit, there's a huge celebration. And of course, Kol is captivated by "you", Mya, even though "you" kind of aren't. But then you are! Later. Oh and then there's this huge backstory between "your" clan and another clan, in which another girl named Lo wants revenge.


I promise there is more to that then the paragraph above. Maybe.

I'm really disappointed with how this turned out, sadly. First off, the novel is written in second person. I honestly did not mind it in the beginning, but I think after awhile, it started to get on my nerves. It did not help that this was the first published book that incorporated second person, so I just wasn't used to it. (Fun fact, I wrote a short story in high school that was in second person. It wasn't that good though hahahah).

But more importantly. Nothing happened. I was BORED. Kol meets Mya, clans go hunting for mammoth, saber tooth cat tries to eat everyone (if only this actually happened, spoiler, it did not), Kol visits Mya, Mya appears a lot, marriage drama. It really wasn't until 61% did the plot reveal itself, and by then, it just wasn't enough. The synopsis (which I finally read after I finished) does mention allusions to Pride and Prejudice. And it's true, I actually can see aspects of it in Ivory and Bone, but just on the surface.


On the other hand, how is this a prehistoric fantasy? I didn't even know this was classified as such, until I talked about the book with MC @ Blame It On The Books. At most, I could say it's alternate history, but this wasn't a fantasy at all? Maybe I am just too used to fantasy worlds being completely different from our own, whether it is historical or in the present.

I was really looking forward to Ivory and Bone, and I have myself to blame for not enjoying this. I guess this is a reminder that I should read book blurbs more often! (Although I love going in blind).

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Down With The Shine

Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 5/10/16 to 5/14/16
355 pages
Rating: 


Make a wish…

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.

At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.

The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I'm not going to lie, this book was a fun and unpredictable read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the wishes gone wrong, and anyways, who doesn't want the Cheetos touch?


Lennie isn't exactly at the top of the social hierarchy in school, and it doesn't help that she is a suspect in the murder of her best friend. Plus, being related to a bank robber, her father, puts her in a really bad light. But Lennie has decided to change all of that, by bringing her uncles' moonshine to a party in hopes to raise her social status. Oh, and by doing so, she accidentally grants the wishes of everyone there, or the ones who ask for one at least.

And this leads to chaos. One kid grows bat wings. Another can turn anything he touches into Cheetos. And what's worst, is that no one can leave the party (except the ones that don't deserve to be there). So throughout the whole novel, we have this huge mess, but luckily it is contained.

Basically what Lennie's like the whole time
There is a lot going on in this novel. There's the above, Lennie having to hold hands with the guy she likes (or the guy that hates her...?), Lennie's best friend Dylan come to life because of her own wish, and lastly, her father hunting her down for her wish-granting abilities. All of this made for an action-packed novel, but I felt that none of it was explored, just skimmed over.

The romance was unnecessary. Or I guess, I just didn't understand it quite well? It seemed like Lennie and Dylan's brother, Smith, had a romantic history, but it wasn't really explained properly (or maybe I am making it all up). Originally, after Dylan's murder, Smith hated Lennie and wished it was her that died rather than his sister. He goes to the party, wishes something along the lines of Lennie getting what she deserved, and Lennie twists it around by mentioning something like "holding hands in hell". He then later participates in beating up Lennie after the party. But then after all that is over, and the wishes all take effect, he...acts nice and affectionate to her? I feel like I missed something between the "hate to love". Is it because of the wish, and the fact that he has to hold hands with her all the time? Or does he like her now that Dylan is "alive"?


Then, there is the wish granting ability itself. At first, I had a sense as to what the rules are. Each person is granted one wish by the wish-granter, in this case Lennie. But the ability is passed on from her uncles, and once she makes her first wish, her uncles cannot make wishes anymore. But then, it seems like Lennie has made wishes in the past? Which, contradicts with the above, since her uncles could make wishes the whole time. And then how does that last wish even work? Even though it was explained, it just felt so vague, I couldn't figure it out on my own without the explanation guiding me.

As fun as this read was, I couldn't get over a couple of these things, which prevented me from loving Down With The Shine. However, I would still definitely recommend this, especially if you aren't bothered with explanations!

Monday, May 23, 2016

BEA Recap: Chicago Edition

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Hello there.

I have been back from my trip to Chicago for more than over a week now, and to say I am happy to not be stressed out is a huge understatement. For me, going to BEA right before graduating and moving on was a huge stressor. However, that isn't to say that I didn't enjoy my time there. I still woke up at 6:00am, sat on my butt pillow, annoyed everyone tons, and made sure Shannon didn't sleep through BEA.

First, let's go over who I met and who I stayed with, because there is a lot. My roomies included Shannon, Holly, Kalli, Rashika, Nori, Mishma, and CJ. Then I met a ton of others including Amber, Nicole, Karen (and her daughter, Belle!), Emma, Erin, Sabrina (you drunks), Britt, and who even knows who else! A lot of people. I forget ahaha.


I have never been to Chicago though, so it was really nice to go sight-seeing after BEA (because apparently I had enough energy for that). On the other hands, others did not. But I don't blame them!

HIGHLIGHTS! 

Oh yes there were a ton of good things that happened, other than than the Macmillan stampede to get Heartless (which I did end up getting one!). I think it's common knowledge for everyone that 75% of BEA is waiting in lines, while the other 25% is walking around or talking. This year, it seemed like there were less books than last year, which makes sense because you can only ship a limited quantity of books as a publisher if you are not located in Chicago. But even with this, I still got about the same amount, or probably even MORE than I did so last year. And I was taking a plane too (suitcase was 47 pounds by the way, with my carry on having room to spare).

So many things happened on each day, that I'm just going to sum up what happened on each one!

DAY ONE: Not sure WHY people started lining up early, especially since absolutely nothing was happening. Even so, Shannon, I, and Karen ended up going to the other entrance. Honestly, nothing was happening on that day, that I don't even remember what I did? I know I picked up all of the Harper titles so I wouldn't have to on the other days. But that was prettttty much it.

DAY TWO: Where I picked up my most anticipated, 20 Ways To Draw A Cat And Other Awesome Animals. And got it SIGNED. WITH A UNICORN.


I also survived the Heartless stampede, got my two tickets, and peacefully made my way through the rest of the day. Holly even stood in line for me to get History Is All You Left Me, because I DON'T KNOW WHY. She is such a sweetie (and yes Shannon and Amber were there too to get my picture!)

A photo posted by Valerie (@innocent.smiley) on

Oh, and I got Metaltown for Shannon, because SOMEONE slept through their alarm, and I had to get the receptionist to do a wake up call. (It's okay I still love you Shannon, you just owe me, with love or a kidney).

DAY THREE: The last day, thank freaking god. After getting a ticket for Caraval, I immediately headed into line for Maggie Stiefvater, because apparently you did not need to wait in the autographing line early in the morning for it!


And after that, I was just cruising along. Mostly waiting for author signings. NOT waiting in the Sabaa Tahir line for A Torch Against The Night (then later on Saturday, when dropping off a couple of unwanted books, I found an abandoned copy on the hotel bookshelf!). Oh! I also took a photo with Jay Kristoff!

A photo posted by Valerie (@innocent.smiley) on


OTHER FUN THINGS:

HIGHLY ANTICIPATED BOOKS: Genima, Kids of Appetite, Vassa In The Night, Caraval, Heartless
DEEP DISH PIZZA SATISFACTION?: Eh. I liked it, kind of. The cheese was super chewy, and I am not into chewy things. AND THE CRUST WAS NOT GARLIC
THE BEAN: Apparently no one knows what the bean is. And how can I blame them when I didn't even know what Rashika or CJ were referring to? Because yes, all cities have giant silver bean like structures! (sarcasm)
FAVORITE DINNER: Sushi! At that sushi place! So specific Val!
BEST ROOMMATE: Myself obviously.

Not going to lie, I do NOT regret going to BEA. Even though it was hectic, and stressful, I managed to pull through, and it was 100% worth it. It may take some convincing to get me to NYC for next year's, but let's be honest it will probably happen.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: The Crown's Game

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
The Crown's Game #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 1/15/16 to 1/19/16
416 pages
Rating: 1/2


Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Thank you to past Val for typing up such detailed notes on The Crown's Game. But no thanks to past Val for scheduling this review beforehand. Whoops!


Well, I guess there is a reason for that. See, I liked The Crown's Game just fine, and I did not have many problems with it. However, if you haven't noticed, there is a serious amount of hype for this. Like a lot. And uh, for me, The Crown's Game did not live up to that hype (which is interesting, because I read this before the hype).

Two enchanters, Vika and Nikolai, are competing for a place beside the Tsar. Unfortunately, when one wins the game, the other dies, and there doesn't seem like there's a way out of it. Vika doesn't know about this, and her "father" tries to keep it underwraps until the last minute. On the other hand, Nikolai has known about this his whole life, and his own mentor, the sister of Vika's father, wants him to win. At first, it starts off as the two of them find ways to destroy the other during their turn, while also trying to impress Pasha. But then, Vika and Nikolai become more attracted (surprise!) to each other, and through their turns, their goal of killing each other is forgotten.

The novel itself focuses on the game (see title) and how both Vika and Nikolai use their turns to impress the Emperor's son, Pasha. Some examples include large music boxes, waterworks, and repainting all the houses on one street, with the public not believing it was magic at all. All were very creative on the author's part.

However, with saying this, how did this magic even work? It really seemed that both Vika and Nikolai could do almost anything they wanted within their own domain (elemental vs. mechanical)? Maybe the only limit was their use of magic, but even that seemed to only come into play when it mattered. 


I found Pasha to be an interesting character, more so than Nikolai. But I hated him. He had a huge crush on Vika, though she never returned his feelings. And when he realizes she likes his best friend instead, Nikolai, he throws a little fit. Being sheltered from the whole situation involving Enchanters, he didn't even believe magic existed, which is weird as he is next in line. Yet his own sister knew more than he did. I have a feeling that maybe the next book will feature a potential fight for the throne between him and his sister?

The Crown's Game is also really long, and I felt like it could have been cut down a little? I honestly thought one plotline in the novel would take on a bigger role in the overall story. But in the end, it shriveled up and disappeared, which I did not expect with the build up.

So yep, to sum up, there has been a lot of hype for this. I don't regret reading this at all, since I enjoyed it, but I didn't end up loving it. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: Stolen Songbird

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
The Malediction Trilogy #1
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
Source: Bought
Date Read: 4/21/16 to 4/24/16
469 pages
Rating: 


For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time…

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for...

Stolen Songbird was everything I wanted, but at the same time nothing I expected. I'm a fan of a good kidnapping plot (I think this is the weirdest line I've ever written, or I guess creepiest), which is one reason why I have been so interested in this series. Kind of why I decided to finally dropped everything just to read it. It was also the first time I listened to my feelings about which book I should read next. And I have no regrets.



I am actually not sure where to start, seeing as I finished this a couple of weeks ago. I felt that overall, it was a great start to a series. We meet Cécile, who even though isn't the toughest main character out there in the book world, still has her strengths. I'm always a fan of a musician, as someone who loves music, so seeing her being incredibly passionate about singing made me happy.

And there's Tristan, the prince about to be Troll king. And he has to marry Cécile because it's part of a prophecy (which seems so obviously made up) to break the curse keeping all the trolls under the mountain. Apparently, he's quite handsome compared to the other trolls, and more human-looking. This troubled me the most because not only was I expecting a Beauty and the Beast sort of story, but I also had trouble imagining what trolls normally looked like. This may not be the writing's fault, but just my own. Do they look like how we imagine trolls to look like? Why are some trolls ugly while others are gorgeous? Or are they more human-like in general?


I would classify Tristan and Cécile's relationship as hate-to-love, or I guess "pretend-to-hate-to-love". I did not mind Tristan, but it seems like all trolls in general had the whole "I'm better than a human" attitude, and they were quite haughty about it. But over time, Tristan grew on me. He put up this image of what he wants others to see, because politics. But once I saw through all of that, I approved.

Stolen Songbird reminded me a little of The Winner's Curse, where there is more world-building and politics rather than action. There were many reveals that kept me on the edge of my seat, and wanting more. Luckily I have the second book on my Kindle! (But I probably won't get to it until later, haha). Either way, I do want to mention that the hype did get to me a little bit, but I still very much enjoyed this!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

An Innocent Life #9: Hello, It's Been Awhile


Hi! I am alive! For now. I took a well needed hiatus because it was the end of the semester and I had a couple of things (major) I needed to wrap up. And now that's done! Hopefully. Every time I say I'm finally free, it bites me back in the butt.

A photo posted by Valerie (@innocent.smiley) on

I am SO CLOSE to finishing The Raven King! The reason why I haven't read it all at once. Well, that is due to papers, yay.

I'm hoping to finish it tonight? Though I am really tired. I cannot wait for this series ender to wow me. Also, this is the first series I will have finished since 2014. Whoops.

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Sorry guys I have nothing for you in regards to links! I have been NONEXISTENT when it comes to commenting and blogging, as you know.


The semester is over.

My undergraduate career is over.

Maybe. 

So I may have agreed to receive feedback for my Linguistics paper on Indonesian, because apparently my professor thinks it would be good idea to submit it to the undergraduate journal. After she looks at it first.

So technically, I may not be done. But I will pretend that I am done. Ha.

Also, BEA IS ALREADY NEXT WEEK! How did time pass by so quickly? Have I packed my room? No! Have I packed for the trip? No! Am I going to be busy for the next few days? Yes!

(Again, I know I say this every time, but if you know a book will be at BEA and you want it badly, just message me and I'll see what I can do.)

BUT OKAY freaking out now because it actually still hasn't hit me that I am done with classes and papers (technically) and I no longer work as a research assistant. Which means I will no longer be listening into babies' lives and family drama. I have seen pretty much all 46 babies grow from 6 months to 18 months, and now I'M DONE. Maybe I'll come back to Rochester 5 years from now and stalk all of them.

Speaking of Rochester. I really only have 5 days left. I'm leaving for Chicago on Tuesday, and I graduate on Sunday, so it's just scary to think I will be moving! I am excited! And also sad because I liked Rochester other than the cold. Can you believe it's still only 60s here? *sobs* But hey I'll be in Florida by next week so it's all cool.

And with that, sorry for the absence! For people going to BEA, I WILL SEE YOU. Maybe.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Themis Files #1
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 4/18/16 to 4/22/16
320 pages
Rating: 1/2


A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I've been drawn to this book since last year, because who DOESN'T want to read about the makings of this mysterious stone giant? Doesn't it remind you of that movie, The Iron Giant? Well it did for me, and I really loved that movie, so of course I had to pick this up at one point or another.


The prologue introduces us to a young girl who discovers the an enormous stone hand, illuminated by glowing carvings. Fast forward to the future, and this girl, Rose, is now a well known physicist. By luck, she's been asked to lead the project on researching the hand, and also finding the rest of the pieces. And putting it together, and seeing how it works, or whether it works for that matter.

Sleeping Giants is told through interviews, a couple of journal entries, and recorded phone conversations between the mysterious interviewer, and a number of other characters. Although I loved how everything came together, and we got to know more about the events that were taking place, I felt that I would have liked it better as prose? There were a countless number of times where I felt left in the dark, and I wouldn't find out what happened until it was reported or the interviewer asked about it. This led to a weird pacing, as there were many time jumps between certain events.

Like I mentioned before, there were many characters. Although there were the main four, a couple more were introduced to put everything in perspective. But I just couldn't wrap my mind around all these characters.

But other than that, the plot completely pulled me into the story. Where the heck did this giant come from? How is it so powerful? What sort of technology is it? And more importantly, what the heck happened at the end there? I'm going to need that second book, because I need all my answers.

Overall, I enjoyed Sleeping Giants, even though it doesn't live up to other adult science fiction novels I have read in the past. It definitely satisfied my "Iron Giant" feels.