Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Carol Book Tag!

Merry Christmas Y'all!

I was tagged by the lovely ladies, Fari and Kitty, over at My Little Corner For Books to do the Christmas Carol Book Tag.  Go check their blog out, it is wonderful!  This may be my last post for a week or so, depending on how present wrapping goes in the morning.  I'm off to Tennessee for another week with the family so only my phone and Kindle for internet access.

1.) "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" - Name a villainous character that you can't help but love to hate.
Good gravy, this is a hard one.  I'll always lean towards Draco Malfoy with this, mostly because he is so overly damaged. I know he is a coward but I always felt like he was just manipulated and I wanted to help him.
Only somewhat related but it cracks me up
I do have a close second and it's the Darkling from The Grisha series.  Perfect bad boy that you adore.  He has become the standard for most for their evil male leads.

2.) "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - What book do you most want to find under your Christmas tree?
I have a funny story about this song involving a bunch of fraternity guys, Southern Comfort and Mariah Carey playing over the speakers during a party.  Moving on...I'm going to have to dive into my TBR list for this one.
It has beautiful photographs. I can't help it.
It has amazing photography and is a wonderful portrait of the region that I'm in.  Also, if you are going to do a photo book, do a hardcover and that is a bit out of my price range.  Do want.

3.) "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" - Name your favorite character that had to overcome a major obstacle. Why are they your favorite?
Can I pick two?  They are from the same book.  I have to go with Mr. John Thornton and Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Their obstacles are basically self-created, be it prejudice of location or pride but I love their story and I adore the BBC mini series.  They have a perfect love story in my mind and it is because they both realize their mistakes and atone for them.

4.) "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - Which character to do you think is at the top of Santa's "Nice" list and which is at the top of his "Naughty" list?
Jeb from  Splintered has to be at the top of his "Nice" list just because he is so flipping good.  On the other hand, Morpheus is at the top of his "Naughty" list, from the same book.  I mean, they are perfectly opposite of each other.

5.) "Frosty the Snowman" - What book just melts your heart?
I have to go with Mariana by Susanna Kearsley.  All the feels.  The story of Mariana is just so sad and if I could write a cross time love story, this would be it.

6.) "Feliz Navidad" - Your favorite book that takes place in a country other than your own.
I have an entire shelf for these books on my Goodreads page.  The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning is pretty much on target for this one.

7.) "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" - What book do you read to get you in the Christmas spirit?
My mother would read The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry to my brother and I every year before Christmas when we were little.  Now that there are little babies in the family (older cousins, not me), we are passing it on and it always puts me in the right mind set for Christmas.
Also, the illustrations are magical
8.) "Sleigh Ride" - What character would you most want to spend the holiday with?
That's such a hard one!  The Weasley's would be pretty awesome to spend Christmas with.  They have a wonderful family atmosphere and are so welcoming to all.  

9.) "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Which book do you hate so much you'd sacrifice it to the fire to stay warm?
I'm one of those people that blocks out the memories of horrible books so I have to go to my 1 star list on Goodreads for this one.  Ah...yes...

My friend in high school gave me the entire series for my birthday one year before a long trip and I read them all on the 16 hour total drive.  I should have just watched the trees pass on the highway.

10.) "Do You Hear What I Hear?" - What book would you recommend to everyone?
The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden.  I cannot say enough good things about this book!

And that is all for this tag!  I feel like I'm the last one in the blogosphere that hasn't done this tag but if you haven't YOU ARE OFFICIALLY TAGGED! 

I hope everybody has a wonderful and safe holiday!  Spend time with loved ones and spread the love and joy of the season around!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge is a retelling of the classic fairytale, Beauty and the Beast.  It follows a young girl, Nyx, who was raised to be the killer of a demon called the Gentle Lord who torments her world and killed her mother.  She is forced to marry him by her father who keeps her twin sister safe at home in his palace.  The Gentle Lord tricks people into bargains and if you watch Once Upon A Time, you know that all magic comes with a price.  But there is other life in her gilded prison than just Ignifex, her husband.  A shadow moves and he may be her only hope to kill her husband and free her world of his reign.

This was such a cover bait and switch.  I adore the cover simply because it is beautiful.  However, it has no relevant meaning to the actual plot.  No staircases. No roses (but the cover led me to expect one like the movie).  That is sort of the first strike with me.  I hate irrelevant covers since all they do is draw the eye but provide no real substance.  I mean, is it *that* hard to incorporate elements of the story into the cover?  There could have been a heart here or a ballroom or anything but what is actually here.  Badly done.

So First Strike, the cover.  Second Strike...

What I expected out of this book:

Maybe I was a bit naive.  I wanted a beautiful love story where a girl sacrifices herself to save her family and her kingdom out of the goodness of her heart and discovers that there is a wonderful man hidden behind the beast.  I would have even enjoyed it if the author had explored a bit of Stockholm Syndrome or even broadened the "Lumiere" role from the movie into a deep and interesting character.  I went into this craving a slow burn romance where they both struggle with their new affections but desperately want to do what is right.  It could have been a beautiful book but...

What I got out of this book:

So much angst. I can understand a lot of it to be honest though.  I mean, her father does sacrifice her to be the bride of a demon so that she can make up for his mistakes.  I can see why Nyx would be resentful and angry about things.  But that doesn't have to be the whole book.

Also, Nyx is supposed to be the assassin of a demon.  Now, you would think that logically that would lead to her having some sort of productive training in some of the kick ass arts.  Maybe poisons or how to use a knife or something.  She would have been as prepared as possible going into this situation.  Is that what happened?  No.  All her life she has been taught to draw 4 symbols over and over until she can do it without thinking.  She can also find them when they are hidden in other drawings.

Of all the silly things to bring down an evil demon, flipping scribbles are his kryptonite?  Ridiculous.  Give the poor girl some practical skills instead of training her to doodle.  It was the silliest weakness that I have ever heard of and for it to be the real flaw for Ignifex just made my blood boil.

Another problem I had with Nyx was the insta-love.  She pretty much immediately trusts a weird shadow on the wall and within a very short time span, is following him around the castle like a cow off her feed.  

Come on girl! He is the employee of a demon!  Shouldn't you have a little bit better sense of self-preservation and be at least a little bit cautious?  She then quickly switches sides and decides that maybe her captor that has basically ignored her this entire time is the one she should be devoting her life to.  Talk about whiplash.  She pretty much goes from zero to sixty with him and it made very little sense.  One second, she wanted to kill him.  The next, not so much.

My last bone to pick with Nyx and then I'll move on.  She is easily swayed.  She never questions her fate.  Sure, she is mad about it but she never tries to take things into her own hands.  Her sister is able to manipulate her.  Her father manipulates her.  Shade manipulates her.  Ignifex freaking owns her.  She is like playdoh and whoever is "handling" her at that point is the one that she is agreeing with.  Nyx really wasn't much of a character, overall.

Third Strike:


I adore the name.  It sounds so evil and wonderful and you expect someone truly mad to go along with it.  Is that what we get?  No.  He is instead the laziest bad guy I have ever read.  He lounges around all day waiting for someone to try to make a bargain with him.  If he were truly bad, he would be out roaming the countryside making offers to people of bargains or actively trying to ruin peoples' lives.  Or, if he were in some way good, he would be out trying to subvert the evil in the world and he would at least be busy some of the time.  Every time we encounter him though, he isn't doing a damn thing.

So his fatal flaw is really laziness instead of those hearts.

And Nyx's flaw of self loathing and jealousy at first makes you sympathetic but after a while, you just get sick of it. Stop talking about your family problems and get something done.

Look, I understand that retellings can be tough in many ways.  I once had to write 2 for a creative writing project and half of the problem is that the story line is already there and it is very difficult to change preconceived notions about the plot.  You have to make your story different enough for it to be unique but still true to the original story.  I could have read this story without it being associated with Beauty and the Beast and I probably would have approached it better.  It is one of my favorite fairytales and I feel like I had some pretty high expectations for it.  This book utterly fell flat.

There was far too much emphasis on world building and ceremonies.  There were quite a few info dumps and I just couldn't get into all of the tradition and rules.  It felt like the author was trying too hard to cram a lot of information into a small book.  The gods and wine pouring ceremonies just weren't necessary to the plot.  Too many details, too much going on and too much emphasis on what the world was like instead of the characters.  

If your characters and plot are strong, then the world will build itself.  Like the Harry Potter books and Lord of the Rings, there is a time and a place for explanation but it has to be done sparsely and concisely so that you can hang onto your readers.  A lot of this may have been solved by a map or simply better descriptions.  Things frequently got over-explained.  Editing could have been better for this and the idea of  "Don't tell me, show me" got overlooked.

Overall, I really did not like this book, mostly because I found myself rolling my eyes throughout it.  I didn't enjoy the plot, the main character was just a silly little girl and the danger was never real in my eyes.  The world building was far too complicated and I wanted at least one strong character to crop up.  That never happened.

 Would not recommend.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: Guilt Trip by Maggie Farrell

Alright y'all...I know I went AWOL for a week or two but I have a really good reason!  I was down at the beach and didn't have a lick of internet access besides what was on my phone.  We spent the entire week eating good fried food, walking on the beach, collecting shells and generally having a nice relaxing time.  Oh, and....

Yup! I got engaged over the weekend.  He proposed at the beach Saturday morning while we were on vacation and it was perfect.  Everybody I know is really excited but apparently I have been remiss in my upbringing as a Southern Lady as I do not have a date, location, caterer, cake and wedding colors already picked out and on deck.  Ah, well at least I have some ideas.  The color pink is already off the table as well as there is a requirement of bourbon and or scotch to be at the reception.  I think I can accommodate both fairly well.

Moving onto a book review.  This isn't a wedding blog, it's a book blog!  Time to get back into the rhythm of things and I have lots of books coming your way!

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through the Goodreads group, Lovers of Paranormal.

I've honestly been in a bit of a reading slump as far as Read 2 Review stuff goes.  It has been hard to find a really good well thought out book that was intriguing enough to keep me happy with it.  This book broke all my expectations and blew me out of the water!

Guilt Trip by Maggy Farrell is sort of an unassuming book at first.  It is about a young girl who is suffering from Survivor's Syndrome after she escapes a car wreck and her mother does not.  As a way to take her mind off things, her father takes her on a holiday while he photographs the geologic features of the English moorlands and judges a photography competition.  Melissa has been struggling to cope with the events of the last year and is medicated to take the edge off the hallucinations and nightmares that plague her.

Melissa thinks it is just another symptom cropping up when she starts to recall memories that aren't hers but when they start to involve the older yet attractive landlord of the hotel, she realizes that something much more than nightmares is going on.

The cover itself isn't all that thrilling but as I understand it, it is a depiction of some interesting limestone cave features that are somewhat prominent in the book.  I loved that this book included so much as far as geology.  It helps place the setting well and adds to the spookiness of the book.  The pitch black of a cave is a great location for some of the action.

Melissa is a wonderful character to read, mostly because it is so easy to sympathize with her.  She is a victim from the beginning and plays the role well.  I mean, her mother died right in front of her.  I can understand how that would torment you and follow you around everywhere.  Melissa pushes her father away to some extent in order to protect him from her sad realities and instead becomes attached to a much older man.

Luke is somewhere in the range of 35 and she, I believe, is 16.  Yes, it's creepy.  Yes, it is a bit of insta-love but it really works in this context.  He is also the landlord so it adds some more of that forbidden nature to the relationship and local people keep saying that she reminds them of someone else that Luke was somehow connected to.

That's another well written aspect of this book.  There is a small town feel with small town gossip.  While people talk among themselves about rumors and scandal, they do not let outsiders in and that contributes to the thriller feel.  There are closed doors and whispers behind backs that make up a decent portion of the story.

And the plot twists.

This book cannot be predicted in any way.  In the middle of it, you are sort of going "Alright, so x, y, and z are going to happen" but it was so different that what I expected.  It had me flipping pages back and saying "No way!"  It takes a lot for a book to catch me off guard in such a way that it makes sense but this was perfectly done.

So overall, 4 out of 5 stars.  Some aspects of the story could have been written better but it was a great read.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Reader Problems Tag

I have been tagged by Izzy over at The Reading Izzy to do another tag! I love stuff like this because it makes us explore our reading habits and what we read.  I know I've put a weird emphasis on that in a few posts but I think it is tons of fun.  Y'all go check out Izzy's Blog!

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?
Well, 20,000 is a lot more than I have on my TBR.  I think the actual number is somewhere in the 300 range which feels a bit excessive sometimes.  I have a kindle so some of my choices regarding books take price into consideration.  If I just bought a book that was over $7, the next book I buy is usually less than $3.  The bigger factor, however, are the reviews.  I look at my friends' reviews and the overall star rating as a good indicator of the quality of the book and it has only failed me a few times.  I notice frequently that the classics have fairly low ratings but I read those mostly based of reputation.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?
I am fully 100% committed. I always finish what I start.  I have a few compulsions in my life and a good number of them are based on books.  If y'all could only see my notes from high school and college, you would see just how neurotic I can get.  (I may be exploring this in a later post)  It drives me absolutely up the wall if I do not finish a book.  I can walk away from them for a short time but if there is a bookmark in them, it is pretty much a guarantee that one night I will stay up until it is finished, just to get it over with.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads reading challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?
This goes back to the compulsions.  I make it a point to always be ahead on challenges like this.  I'm one of those people that sees the ETA on my GPS as a time to beat and I'm always early for everthing.  This year, I put 60 books down for my challenge which I thought was a fair and reasonable goal and I'm almost at 100.  In theory, if I was behind, I would basically lock myself in a room and read as much as possible. I couldn't just not beat the challenge. 

4. The covers of a series you love do not match. How do you cope?
Kindles are extremely handy for this reason.  Once you have a book open, you don't really have to look at the cover if they are hideous or don't match and then you can stash them in a bookshelf when you are through.  The biggest problem with this is that you also don't get to enjoy the pretty covers as much.  I value consistency in my covers. I could never understand it when the style changes halfway through a series.

5. Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?
Goodreads is great for bonding.  No matter what book it is, I don't care if it is the best seller of all time, there will be at least a few people that don't like it.  The opposite is true as well.  Goodreads helps you connect with these rare few and commiserate a little bit.  I don't believe in bashing books because people put a lot of time and effort into them but if I am just confused as to why people like it so much, I'll reach out to the Goodreads world.

6. You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?
It takes a lot for a book to make me cry in public but on the rare chance that it does, I'll switch out for another book (hopefully a funny one) so that I can compose myself.  If I know a book will be sad, I try to read it out of public eye so I don't make a fool out of myself.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a synopsis on Goodreads? Cry in frustration?!?!?!?
I re-read. I re-read series even if there isn't a new one coming out any time soon.  The biggest problem I have, and this is the only time I break my "If I start something, I'm going to finish it" rule is if/when I stop caring about the characters from the first book(s).  If I am not thinking about the characters, I don't feel compelled to learn more about their lives.  Or if I got spoiled, I won't pick up the next book.

8. You do not want anyone—ANYONE—borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?
Ugh, this used to be a big problem for me.  I HATE it when people crack the spines of books when I would lend them out.  It makes the book weaker and more prone to falling apart.  I used to dread getting school books passed down from my older brother since there were always drawings from his friends in the margins and the spines were broken.  I had a friend (frenemy?) in college that broke the spines on all of the books in a series and I haven't let anybody but my boyfriend borrow books since.  I'm possessive and a bit of a hoarder with books.  So if someone asks, I usually just say that the book is on my kindle or that I don't lend books.  One person ruined it for the rest of y'all.

9. Reading ADD. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?
If I'm in a slump over reading, I usually do one of two things.  I either pick up a classic or an old favorite or I binge watch a series on Netflix.  Both help me cleanse the palette in a way and get me out of a perpetual grump cycle that I can get into.  Classics are familiar and often live up to the hype so I never regret reading them.  I re-read a lot of my older books and the reason I started Once Upon A Time was to get over a few books that had left me mad that they wasted my time.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?
One at a time.  Otherwise, it would drive me bonkers.  If I had more than one book that I was looking forward to, I would rush through one just to get to the other.  I don't want to rush my books because I'm too eager to get to another one.

11. After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?
It depends on what is going on in my life.  I'll usually start reading them within a couple of hours or days.  I rarely have a book that sits for more than a week.  I've had a few shoulder surgeries/back procedures and and if one is coming up and I am in anesthesia recovery or in physical therapy icing joints, it takes me longer to get to a book.  I'm always a little bit too ambitious about my focusing abilities after sedation or whatever.

This was so much fun.  Thanks to Izzy fog tagging me!  Since I want to hear everybody else's take on this, I'm tagging a few more people:

ParanormalBlogger at Paranormal Book Reviews