Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published:  October 18, 2011
Synopsis from Goodreads: It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live.
Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.


Maggie Stiefvater said this was her favorite book of hers that she's written. I wanted to love it so so badly like I did with all The Raven Boys books but I didn't and I feel terrible about it. Don't get me wrong though, Maggie's writing is still beautiful and the way she uses her words still amazes me. I don't dog-ear pages but I do stick little tabs in where my favorite quotes in books are. There are so many tabs in this book because as always, Maggie Stiefvater knows how to use all the words to their best potential.

It's the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
- Sean, page 1

The book is set on the fairly secluded island of Thisby. Every year in October riders sign up to join in on the deadly Scorpio Races where they will ride a water horse that will either get them to the finish line or lead them to a very gruesome death. One of the things that I liked about The Raven Boys that also applies to The Scorpio Races is that even though the books are written very factually - almost as if they were contemporary or historical novels - there's an undercurrent of magic that eventually makes itself known to the reader. In The Scorpio Races, it's never flat out explained what the water horses or capaill uisce are. Rather, it's left for the reader to infer as they progress through the novel. At first, this was one of the things that confused me. All I knew was that they were water horses who generally killed those they came across. It wasn't until I actually Googled it that I realized they were basically a kelpie.

Even though I'm only giving this book 3.5 stars, there were actually quite a few things that I liked about it. First, Thisby itself. Nowhere in the book does it give you a time period for when the novel is set which actually adds to the magic and mystery that is Thisby. But, they way I read it, Thisby felt like it was a Scottish countryside in the early 1900s-1920s. (I only say Scottish because when I Googled, "each uisce" was the term for water horses in Scottish folklore.) Even though Thisby is a fairly dangerous place to live, it actually sounded quite beautiful. The pages are filled with Thisby's salt breezes and riotous storms and hills covered with sheep and cliffs overlooking the water. As you're reading, you can almost smell the cinnamon scents from Palsson's bakery and the horse and dirt scent of the Malvern stables. I can understand Puck's sentiment when she says, "It's like my heart or something" when she's trying to explain how she feels about the island.

The characters were also pretty amazing. Aside from our main characters of Puck and Sean, every person that we encounter in this book is unique. That's something that Maggie Stiefvater is great at creating. There's no way at all that you can confuse one character for another in her books because their personalities are just so diverse and well-formed. If you've ever watched the show Gilmore Girls, you'd have a basic idea of what the characters were like in this book. They ranged from everything from quirky to terrible. Dory Maud had to be one of my favorite townsfolk. Together with her sister, Elizabeth, they ran a quirky little antiques shop that Puck says smelled always of butter in a pan. George Holly, a Gatsby-ish buyer from America who had come to Thisby for the races and to purchase horses, was another great character just because he understood the way Sean loved and cared for horses almost more than he did for people. Even the Malverns who were despicable at best were great to read just because they were written so well that hating them seemed logical. And, of course, there's Puck and Sean - both outsiders in the eyes of the town and both racing to save something that they love dearly.

"It's about wanting," I say after some considering. "The tourists always seem to want something. On Thisby, it's less about wanting, and more about being."
-Puck, Page 213

Now, the reason that I didn't like this book is because while the writing and the characters were great, it just took so sooooo long for anything to happen. So long that, for me, even the greatness of the characters weren't really even holding my interest anymore. I understand that the book isn't really even about the Scorpio Races; it's about wanting and how getting what you want comes at certain costs and not always in the way you'd expect. But, because it took so long for anything to happen, the moral didn't impact me the way it probably should have. There was just so much build up and not enough relevant action in between. For the most part, the characters wander in and out of the pages, have conversations, then leave. It also didn't help that Sean and Puck had alternating viewpoints that sounded similar enough that the only reason I could tell them apart was from who they were talking to. I just felt emotionally detached for the greater part of reading this. I didn't even feel anything when Puck stood up for herself in front of the town and vowed to race even though women never raced before. In fact, the only time I really felt something was when I thought Puffin the cat died and Puffin was only mentioned for maybe all of three and a half out of more than four hundred pages.

Maybe I'll read this again at some point. I feel like if I reread it when I'm in a mind frame to be a little more analytical about what I'm reading rather than just reading for fun, I'd get more out of it. I'm sticking to my rating for now though. However, I do really feel the need to bake a November cake. There's a recipe at the back of my copy and it sounds delicious.

Have you read The Scorpio Races? If so, do tell me your thoughts and if you liked it or not. 
There's talk about turning this into a movie too - yay or neigh? Pun intended. 
Also, have you tried baking a November cake??

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Published:  September 2, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads: Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from. When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive. Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

This was a strange book and I'm pretty sure I didn't like it. But at the same time, some of the writing was really wonderful. I'm not even entirely sure why I didn't like it. For the most part it just left me confused. Let me try to explain:

First, let's go through what I liked about the book. For starters, the cover art is amazing. I love the peachy sunset background with the silhouettes like paper cutouts. It's really unique and unlike any other cover I've seen. That's initially what drew me towards the book. Next, Cat Hellisen's writing really is good. The way she describes things is perfect for the fairytale setting. It's whimsical at times and dark at other times
"And that is where the storytellers write their own sugary versions of the truth. A pack of lies until they read 'The End.' But no story ever comes to an end, at least not one so neat. There are voices silenced, characters erased at the storyteller's whim. They do not tell you what happens when the children have eaten their way through the witch's treasures and face another starveling winter, when the glass slipper no longer fits the crone's swollen foot, when the beauty doesn't fall in love with her beastly prince."
- Raven, pg 85
But, unfortunately, that's just about where my liking for this book ended. For a book that's only 197 pages, a lot happened and I think that's sort of where this book fell short. Nothing was really as developed as it should have been. Particularly the characters. I never really connected with the main character, Sarah, even though the book was written in first person from her point of view. I didn't really find her likeable but I think part of that has to do with the fact that for a while, I had no idea how old she was supposed to be. If I knew she was only twelve from the beginning instead of figuring that out about a eighty pages in, I might have been more okay with her childishness.

The first thing that really threw me off with this book was the way it was represented. I bought it out of the teen department of Barnes and Noble and everywhere I read before I actually purchased it presented it as a YA novel. With that in mind, I was expecting to read a young adult novel. However, it didn't read that way at all. In fact, most of the time, it reminded me of way Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu - a middle grade retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" - was written except that I enjoyed Breadcrumbs way, way more than I enjoyed this. But even if I mentally switched to pretending Beastkeeper was actually a middle grade book, some of the themes and descriptions just got so dark that they probably wouldn't sit well with the average middle grade reader. At the same time, I feel like the average young adult reader - readers of John Green, Sarah J. Maas, Jodi Lynn Andersen, etc. - wouldn't get much out of it either. So what, that just leaves adults? Probably not. It's like the book just couldn't make up its mind about what it wanted to be and who its target audience was. And that bugged me the entire time I was reading.

The whole story is meant to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite fairy tales and I don't mean just the Disney version. This is why I wanted to read it to begin with. Obviously, there has to be a love story worked in there somewhere. Now, the whole 'beast' aspect has to do with a curse on Sarah's family - and it is a sincerely detailed curse with side effects that have side effects. Mainly, according to the curse, the day Sarah falls in love, she'll turn into a beast. (That's not a spoiler - it says that on the dust jacket.) I already mentioned Sarah was twelve (middle grade!) though she might have turned thirteen, I don't quite remember. So, when she falls in love with Alan who is an enchanted boy who might be hundreds of years old and drinks whiskey (YA!), it didn't really sit well with me. Particularly because even though Sarah had met him a few times, her falling in love with him almost literally happened like a light switch. One moment not in love, next moment in love. Not my cup of tea. Also, there was no clear antagonist. Actually, you can argue that there were two but they weren't really bad, they just made mistakes - although that might have been the author's point. However, if Helisen's point was that people make mistakes sometimes and sometimes those mistakes have dire consequences, then the characters should have been more fleshed out to evoke more emotion in readers. I couldn't find it in myself to forgive either of the two semi-antagonists-who-aren't-really-antagonists even when they repented because I just thought what they did was dumb. As for the ending, I didn't like it. I might have liked it if the details of the curse were more straight forward and if I actually liked any of the characters, but I didn't so the ending was 'meh' for me at best.

All in all, I really didn't enjoy this book. I'm giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 just because Cat Helisen really is a great user of the words, this just wasn't a great representation of what she could do. Has anyone else read this? Do let me know your thoughts if you did.

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Blog Design!!

I need to take a moment to give an epic shoutout to the amazing 

Livia is the reason this blog has a whole new layout and I absolutely love it to pieces!! She has been working with me for the past few weeks to come up with this amazing wonderfulness that you see before you! Livia is extremely talented in what she does as a designer and is absolutely great to work with. She was able to take my semi-vague idea and turn it into a wonderful work of art. I had a great time working with her. She patiently answered any and all of the questions I may have had and as a result brought this little blog to new heights!

If you're looking to redo your blog layout but are hopelessly talent-less in the graphic design and HTML parts as I am, do check her page out. Everything she offers is rather affordable and you are sure to not be disappointed with her work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stop Everything!! Queen of Shadows has a cover.

Tip for the wise: Don't knowingly search for the cover reveal of a book you sincerely canNOT wait for while in the break room at work. 

All I can say is I'm glad that I was alone in that particular because maniacal smiling was involved and possibly a lot of squeeing. Why? 


Summary from Goodreads: Sarah J. Maas's New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

Expected release date: September 1, 2015

I can't handle the awesome amazing epicness that is this cover. For one thing, Celaena is in full armor - she's never been in full armor before. Her badassery has gone to a new level. Also, is that Aedion's sword? The one that was technically supposed to be Celaena's? Does this mean Aedion gets saved?? I need Aedion to get saved. Dorian too. And Chaolaena NEEDS to make a comeback!! Also, I've finally finished Assassin's Blade - Arobynn needs to go down. Like that's not an option. I don't like him - because SAM!! 

I'm going to leave now before I start making even less sense. I'll be fangirling in a corner if you need me.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Snow Day!! March TBR

So today was a SNOW DAY!!! In other words, I didn't have to go into work tonight. On the one hand, I get to catch up on reading; on the other hand, I spent two hours shoveling my driveway and my car out of about a foot of snow. Really now, I'm running out of places to pile this nonsense. Someone tell Elsa to stop. Anyway, I figured what better time then to post a TBR? February was a super slow reading month for me. I'm still not done with Assassin's Blade though I plan on finishing that tonight. But, weather permitting, my family and I are taking a drive down to Virginia for my cousin's baby shower this weekend so I'll have a long car ride to catch up on my reading challenges.

March TBR

http://youtu.be/1gdNIBf9hlE https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10626594-the-scorpio-races https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18782855-princess-of-thorns https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10576365-the-darkest-minds?from_search=true https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13722513-cinder https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15839976-red-rising 
Click book covers for Goodreads pages.

I already plan on bringing Beastkeeper and The Scorpio Races with my this weekend. They're both rather short so hopefully I can get through them on the drive. After that, I know I want to read Princess of Thorns and The Darkest Minds but I'm not sure if I'll get to the last two. Especially since, if I really like The Darkest Minds, I'm going to want to marathon the next two books in the series. I've heard really good things about The Darkest Minds Series so I'm definitely excited to start them. Plus, Alexandra Bracken will be at BookCon - I should read something by her before then. Same thing goes for Marissa Meyer. Even if I don't get to Cinder and Red Rising this month, they're still high on my TBR priorities so I'll be reading them soon. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Wrap-Up + Psst! I'm going to BookCon!!

To be honest, February was a really slow reading month for me. I'm now five books behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge and I haven't read anything for my fairytale retelling challenge. After reading through all the Throne of Glass books in January, I started Assassin's Blade at the beginning of February, and I'm only half way through with it. It's not because I'm not enjoying it. Actually, it's quite the opposite. But I know that once I'm done with Assassin's Blade, I will have RUN OUT of books about Celaena and her adventures until Queen of Shadows comes out in the Fall. It's just so far away and I'm just not ready to let go!!

Also, another reason why I haven't been reading too much this month is I have found a new obsession and it's name is Pinterest. Oh my gosh, I just love it so much. Now, I've actually had a Pinterest account for a while but I never knew what to do with it and I never really got the whole point of it. UNTIL NOW!! I have 13 boards already - most of which are dedicated to my favorite fandoms and that's only the beginning! Now I have a place to gather all my favorite fanart and quotes and other lovely bookish things all in neat little piles. Which is amazing because A) fanart is amazing though it reminds me of my lack of drawing skills, B) going through quotes and gifs is like rereading my favorite books without actually rereading them, and C) they're all in neat little piles! Okay, they're called "boards" but same difference - they're organized and neat and that's what matters.

Now for the epically exciting news: I'M GOING TO BOOKCON!!!!
This year will be the second year for BookCon. It's something that was previously called Power Reader Day and is a part of the BEA Convention that happens every year for book industry professionals. However, BookCon is open to the public rather than just being for the pros so anyone can get tickets. I really wanted to go last year but I heard about it too late and wasn't able to get off work or get tickets in time - which doubly sucks because Rick Riordan was there last year and well, he's Rick Riordan. 

This year BookCon will be on May 30-31 at the Javits Center in New York. I heard some good and bad things about BookCon last year. Considering it was their first year though, I'm hoping they've worked a few more kinks out this second time around. This is year they are doing it a little differently mainly because the convention will be set up over the course of a full weekend (last year it was just one day) and I have tickets for both days. I'm so excited!! So many awesome authors will be there including Sarah J. Maas, Rainbow Rowell, Marie Lu, Alexandra Bracken, Sarah Dessen, Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, Libba Bray, and Jenny Han. Those are only the ones I'm most excited to see but there are so many more amazing authors who will be there. Major publishing companies like Random House, Penguin, Candlewick, HarperCollins, Hatchette, and Simon Schuster will also be exhibiting. As of right now, it's too early to know exactly what events will be held. Last year, there were author panels, Q&As, autographing sessions, special screenings, and trivia games. 

I'm sooooo excited - did I mention that already? Because it's true I am. I have no idea how I'm going to do everything I want because I want to do EVERYTHING.

That's all I have for updates right now. Is anyone else going to BookCon? Or did you go last year? Any pointers or words of wisdom to get to do all the things? I already know I have to get there early. That's one perk of living just across the river from New York City. I can get there in just ten minutes if there's no traffic. Though I'm always expecting traffic. 

Also, one last thing: a new layout design is coming and I'm so so so SO excited for that too. 
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