Monday, September 30, 2013

September in Review

I cannot believe how quickly September has flown by. I did a lot of book related things this month! I've made two trips to the library and bought myself some birthday presents. I ended up reading nine books this month!

Books Mentioned:
Break no Bones - Kathy Reichs
For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfrund
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland… - Catherynne Valente
Persuasion - Jane Austen **
Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins
The Lost Hero - Rick Riordan
Demon Glass - Rachel Hawkins
Spell Bound - Rachel Hawkins*
Maze Runner - James Dashner (Audiobook)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Series Review - Hex Hall

by Rachel Hawkins

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Book One Published: March 2010
Total Series Pages: 1009
Series: Hex Hall 1-3 (Series Complete) 

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

This series is simply addictive. Once I started I could not stop! I finished this series in a week simply because they were fun engaging reads that pulled me in. I borrowed Hex Hall from my local library then had to steal Demon Glass and Spell Bound from my friend who had check them out rather than read the other books I had picked.

Sophie is such a great character. I loved her sass and her quick wit really keeps the dialogue moving. I think what I love most about her is even though she's thrown into a world she doesn't understand, she doesn't take anyone's crap. She fires right back at people who attack her and she's very loyal to her friends and family. I just love her! One of my biggest pet peeves in books is main characters who whine. Sophie kicks butt and doesn't complain about her problems. She takes her situation in hand and keeps moving.

This is not the most complex plot line in the book world and it isn't the most original. The story isn't overly complex, but it kept me engaged and interested. I didn't start reading this expecting more so I was perfectly satisfied with this story. So even though I'm gushing about how much I love it, have that in the back of your mind. I think that is what I liked most about it though.  Of course, I found things I didn't like or had problems with, but I didn't care. I just kept reading. It was a fast, fun read that was easy and mindless. There were things I could predict, but other twists I didn't expect.

Demon Glass was my favorite book in the series I think. I loved seeing Sophie's relationship develop with dad in that book. Plus I think it is the most mysterious and has the best plot twists. I want Jenna as a best friend and I'll date Archer if Sophie isn't interested.Sophie's love interests are fun and amusing. I always wanted magical powers and I'll take them even if I have to go to Hex Hall. Because even with all its faults, I thought it seemed homey like a run down mini Hogwarts in the middle of a tiny island.

This is the first series I've read in rapid sequence for a while and I've missed being so engaged and immersed in a book. I had a lot of fun reading this book. Overall, this series isn't my favorite that I've read this year, but it is one of the ones I've enjoyed the most. I would highly recommend these if you enjoy easy reads and chick-lit stories.

Rating: 4/5 

All books individually rated 4/5.

Bookish Five Fridays #2 - Places To Read

Welcome to the second week of Bookish Five Friday! This is a weekly post I started to feature my Five Favorites of something book related. This week's theme is favorite places to read! This can be areas in your house, libraries, favorite benches in the park! Wherever you love to read most. 

1) My Couch in My Room - This is my absolute favorite place to read. I have very few distractions and I can always find a comfortable position.

2) Outside- I often read either on my porch or my back deck which can be awesome, but sometimes nature distracts me. Sometimes I read in the local park as well.

3) In my car - If I get somewhere early, I like to wait and read in my car rather than going in and awkwardly standing around. I also just discovered the joys of audiobooks and have been listening to them as I drive.

4) At Work - On my lunch and during breaks I tend to wander around the building and find a comfy space to read. I'm lucky that the building I work in has several areas that well lit and have comfy chairs.

5) In Bed - I like to read in bed because it is comfortable, but I often fall asleep. Its a love/hate relationship. 

Last Weeks's Favorites - Favorite Children's Books

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Banned Books Week!

This week is Banned Books Week. This week readers celebrate the freedom to read and bring awareness to the issue of banned books. Banning books is a process that prevents libraries from having certain books in their collection.

The American Library Association explains on their Banned Book Week site, "A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice."

You can find out more about Banned Book Week here and here. You can also see a list of some of the most challenged/banned books here. Also I found this really cool post on tumblr that has more links about Banned Book Week and Banned Books in general. You can see that HERE! I know that is a lot of links, but it is very interesting and important to know about censorship and when books get banned it hurts everyone.

Even though I don't plan on reading any banned books this week, some books that I have read and enjoyed are on the list. Luckily my parents never censored what I read when I was younger and I was allowed to explore literature to my heart's content.

Here are some popular books that have been challenged or banned.  
                                 Thirteen Reasons Why                                                                        Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bookish Five Fridays #1- Intro and Childhood Books

This is a new feature I'll be starting here on keepcalmwithbooksandcoffee. I'm sure there are variations out there, but this is the one I came up with! I participate in Top Ten Tuesday pretty regularly and this is a similar idea. My own variation is meant to be shorter and I usually have more time at the end of the week than on Tuesdays! Sometimes it will just be pictures and other times I'm sure there will be a lot of text!

This week I will be featuring five books I remember reading as a kid. These are five books that I really remember All of these books were obsessions at some point in my childhood. Since I was a nine year old girl at one point in my life there is evidence that I was obsessed with horses. I also really liked historical fiction.

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From top left to bottom right: 

1) The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
2) My Side Of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George 
3) Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
4) Heartland Series by Lauren Brooke 
5) High Hurdles Series by Laurain Snelling

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

    By Diana Peterfreund



It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

My favorite Jane Austen book is Persuasion and this book takes that story on in a way I never imagined could work. I never read a Persuasion adaptation up until now because I simply love the original story so much. I was hopeful, but ready to be disappointed even though I'd heard very good things about this book. I am so happy that this was my first venture into Persuasion adaptations. It is brilliant!!

Even though this is an adaptions, it woks well on its own. Peterfreund has set up a society which is familiar because of the influx of dystopian style books in YA recently. Elliot North is part of a ruling minority of Luddites who have outlawed technology and most forms of advancement because of the Reduction, a virus that spread through a large part of the population after a genetic experiment went wrong. The Reduction resulted in the Reduced, a population of people who rely on the Luddites to care for them. For generations the society has relied on Reduced labor to make Luddite farms profitable. This repression has now come to a boiling point and Elliot is caught in the middle. She wants to care for the people who work for her even though her father and sister seem to foster no concern. She begins to take risks to protect the people she cares about while going against her family and her society's beliefs.

The world building is excellent. There are lots of details about the beliefs and history of this society that make it real and complete for the reader. The excellent world building is one of the reason I think this book would work so well on its own and why it worked so well as an adaptation. The rigid structure of Elliot's world reminds me a lot of Regency England and was an excellent way to separate Elliot and Kai like Anne and Wentworth were separated. There were definitely some darker elements to this book as well which I thought were well explored and not glossed over. While Kai and his friends have become rich and powerful because they escaped their situations. It is clear that not everyone is as lucky and that tensions in the North family run deeper that they first appear.

The elements of Persuasion  are beautiful weaved into Peterfreund's original story. I think she really captured Jane Austen's characters and put them in a fresh setting especially Anne/Elliot. Where Anne is trapped by Regency England etiquette and values, Elliot is trapped by the laws and religion of the Luddite Society. Both of them want and dream of more but are bound by duty and obligation. If you know Persuasion at all, you know how important letters are in that story. I thought the use of letters to introduce the reader to Elliot and Kai's past relationship was superb. It was a great way to introduce more information about the world and give the reader a back story without overwhelming us with information. I would love to have a discussion about the two settings and the differences in the characters because there is so many similarities, but also striking differences.

While I knew how the story was going to end, I really enjoyed the new setting and fresh take on the characters and how this story played out in a different setting. I'm looking forward to Peterfreund's next book, Across the Star Swept Sea, which comes out next month and takes place in this same world.

Rating - 5/5

Update: I also put up a bit of a review where I talked about the book on my Youtube channel!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List

Top Ten Tuesdays are created by: The Broke and the Bookish

These are ten books I am anticipating reading this fall! Some of them are new releases and some are just books I have sitting on my shelf. They are not in any particular order.

1) Days of Blood and Starlight by Lani Taylor

2) Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout 

3) The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan -

4) Antigoddess by Kendare Blake (New Release this fall

5) Scorched by Mari Mancusi (New Release this fall

6) The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente (New Release this fall) 

7) Across the Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (New Release this fall)

8) Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (New Release this fall)

9) Girl of Nightmare by Kendare Blake 

10) Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce 

I'm very excited about all of these and some of them have been sitting on my shelf for a very long time while others are brand new! I cannot wait to get my hands on them and start reading!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

By: Catherynne M. Valente 

Published: Oct. 2, 2012 
Pages: 258 
Series: Fairyland #2 

September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem. . . .

If I liked the first book in this series, (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) I adored this one. When I came home tonight I placed the order for my pre-order of the next book in this series because I am so excited to see what happens next in this fantastical world. I was in the perfect mood to read this book when I picked it up and the quirkiness of it just drew me in this time. During the first book, I sometimes felt pushed away from the world because of the bizarre elements. I don't know it was familiarity with Valente's writing or the mood I was in, but this book clicked with me so much better than the first.

September has found her way back into Fairyland after some time at home. She finds it different and without the same magic that it had before because the magic is disappearing along with everyone's shadows. Her shadow, Halloween, has been misbehaving and stealing all the shadows from the topside of Fairyland. While September is trying to reconnect with her shadow she travels through Fairyland-Below, which is a very different place than Fairyland-Above. Instead of a whimsical story about saving Fairyland, I found this book to be about one of my least favorite things. Growing up. (My favorite Disney movie was Peter Pan. I hate talking about growing up because I never wanted to do it.) However, I was able to forgive this book because luckily September is doing a much better job than I did, but I'll get back to that.

I did not read these books in rapid fire so I have forgotten some of the details about A through L and Saturday since then. However, I remembered why I loved them so much when I met their shadows. While the shadows are similar to September's friends, there are differences as well. I loved that the shadows gave Valente's characters more depth. They felt wrong because I missed their lovely counterparts, but there is also a more sinister and darker feel to Fairyland-Below. The shadows add to that darkness (no pun intended). Even so, I felt for the shadows because they have experienced everything their counterparts have, but have never been given any credit or thanks or ridicule for what they have done. Now that they have been separated they do not want to go back even though it may be endangering all of Fairyland.

There are so many strange and bizarre moments in both of these books. Unlike Alice in Wonderland, where I was frustrated at the with the strange and crazy writing, I really enjoyed the strange creatures and happenings of Fairyland. I love how Valente speaks to the reader as the story goes along and keeps me in the loop and also keeps me guessing the whole time. Elements always come back around to be important long after I dismissed them from my mind.

Something else I really love is that Valente sneaks in lessons about life in her fantastical world when I'm not even looking. September is of course older in this story and she begins to see the real consequences of what she did to Fairyland in order to save it. There are lessons pouring out of this story and many mature topics are touched on throughout this story. This time around things are more difficult because they always are as you grow up and everything is more complex. She encounters different problems and doesn't have one villain to fight at the end of her journey. Instead she has to solve many different problems that don't have black and white answers while dealing with betrayal, love and Dodo birds. September's growth between books is wonderful to see but she really blossoms into her new form throughout this book. Valente also develops her other character so September is not the only one who has matured and Fairyland becomes even more interesting and complex when you see the underside of it.

Overall I loved this book more than the first and I'm going to be busy reading the next book as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Rating 5/5

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review - Shadow and Bone


by Leigh Bardvgo 

Published: June 5th 2012
Pages: 358 pages
Series: The Grisha #1 

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him? Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

I was absolutely pulled in by the cover of this book and I've wanted to read it for ages. I started reading this book in the mornings before I would head off to work. Then, suddenly, reading it chapter by chapter was not enough. I devoured the second half of this book in one night and stayed up until 2am to do so.

At the beginning of this book I was honestly concerned that I wasn't going to like it. Alina is sort of typical when it comes to YA characters at the beginning of this book. She crushes on someone who doesn't notice her, she discovers a new power no one else has, and she is thrown into a new life that should be amazing but she is worried that she isn't good enough to fit in. I think we've all watched this scene play out 100 times. So at the beginning I was understandably unimpressed. Things changed as this story moved forward.

First of all, unlike many stories where the villain is a physical person looking to take over or ruling over a world, the Shadow Fold is the main cause for concern. A huge expanse of land is covered in complete darkness and strange (very frightening) creatures inhabit it. Alina's country is cut off from the sea and many resources by the Shadow Fold. At the beginning of the novel Alina is planning to cross with her unit of soldiers and her best friend Mal. Of course as they cross there is trouble and Alina exhibits a power she didn't know she had. BAM! Alina is taken to work with the Darkling who is powerful but mysterious and told she is the key to saving the world. (This is the part I thought sounded unoriginal)

It is not all bad though! Actually I ended up really liking this story and I am very excited for the sequel. While the setup isn't exactly original, where this story goes is fantastic! The scenery in this book made up for a lot of the other problems. I have to say that Leigh Bardvgo knows how to use description. I often found myself playing out a movie with settings and characters for this book where I could see exactly what was happening as I read. The richness of the detail was complete, but not overwhelming. There are surprises galore about the characters that will turn your world upside down and I never saw them coming. Bardvgo does a wonderful job of making you believe in or suspicious of characters just before she throws you for a loop. I loved every moment.

As I mentioned, I was reading this in the morning in bits and pieces when I had time before I went to work. Usually only a chapter at a time. If there had been a lull in the action, I would have quickly put this book down and moved onto another until I had time to sit down and read it. Instead this book fit my purposes so well that I had trouble putting it down to go to work. I was satisfied with Alina's character development. Her growth as a character was explosive near the end of the novel so I am excited to see what comes in the next book. One thing I wanted to know more about was the magic. Sometimes I felt like instead of being immersed in the magical world I was floating on the surface.

Overall I was satisfied by the end of this book. It improved over the course of the novel and became more of its own story. I understand that this is going to be a trilogy so of course there are things that will not be wrapped up at the end of this novel. There are still a lot of elements that are typical YA, but many of the elements are things I like and enjoy in the story (like a character discovering a power they don't know how to use). I didn't dislike seeing those elements, but I wanted more from this story. I hope the next book will continue to develop the world and the characters so that it becomes its own stand out story.

Rating - 4/5

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekend Reads

I try to used these Weekend Reads posts just to update readers about what I am currently reading and to give a glimpse my preliminary thoughts on what I'm reading. 

This weekend I hope to read a lot. The weather is going to be beautiful in my area and I'm planning on going to the library to get a library card! I am so excited to try this out! I had a library card as a child, but I haven't gone in years so I am so excited to get another one.

Currently I'm reading Persuasion by Jane Austen. I've read this before and it is my favorite Austen. I am always persuaded (wink) to read this during August because one of my favorite book blogs The Book Rat hosts a blog event called Austen in August. So once again I am reading this. I will probably finish this tonight though because I'm about 2/3 of the way through.

I've also just started Eona  by Alison Goodman and The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. I am less than 50 pages in on both though so right now I do not have any thoughts to share about them. I've read books by both authors before so I knew I would like the writing style and thus far I am not disappointed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

August in Review

I actually only read three books this month. I was in a bit of a reading funk, but I was also very busy with work and life so I only actually finished a few. I am luckily still on track to meet my goal of reading 75 books this year. In fact at the end of this month I have already read as many books as I did in the whole year last year. So that's exciting!

Books I Read This Month

1) Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
2) Return of the King - JRR Tolkien
3) Shadow and Bones - Leigh Bardugo

Books I Started This Month 
1) Eona - Alison Goodman
2) Persuasion - Jane Austen

Total Number of books I've read this year: 51