March/April 2014 Reading Retellings Wrap-Up

2014 Reading Retellings Challenge

It’s May! I’m sorry for the delay on this one, and also for missing the March wrap-up. I do help you’ll forgive my negligence, but I’ve been forced to take a rather long (oh, who am I kidding, it’s been four freaking months) hiatus from TNN. I do, however, have some very good news: I’ve actually got some retellings under my belt at long last. In the past week or so, I’ve read the first three books of The Lunar Chronicles (did anyone else cry actual, legitimate tears upon reaching the end of Cress and realizing that Winter won’t be out for another year?), and asfjklsjdf;akjsdf I freaking love this series. I’ll be reviewing Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress individually when I get the chance, but in the meantime, tell me what retellings you’ve been reading in the comments below! Good luck for May!

Love, Sam

February 2014 Reading Retellings Challenge Wrap-Up

2014 Reading Retellings Challenge

Good morning! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful February; I can’t believe it’s already over! Time seems like it’s been flying lately, and I’ve (once again) failed to read any retellings. Instead, I’ve been lost in a 600-page biography of Tsar Nicholas II and his family (Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie if you’re interested). I also have not had time to do anything blog-related other than the book tours I signed up for earlier in the year, so hopefully in March I can come back from my much-too-long hiatus and rejoin the fun.

In other news, we got EIGHT INCHES OF SNOW AND NO THAT WAS NOT A TYPO. It was so beautiful and I was so sorry to see it go. I’m honestly not looking forward to spring, especially not where I live as it’s terribly humid and muggy during the warmer months.

Anyway, I hope you’ve been more successful in your reading endeavors than I have. Link up your retelling reviews in the comments, and good luck for March!

Blog Tour: The Polaris Uprising by Jennifer Ibarra

Displaying ThePolarisUprisingTourBanner2.png

Good morning! I hope you all have had a great week. Today I’ll be participating in the blog tour for the fabulous first installment of Jennifer Ibarra’s new series, The Polaris Uprising. Take a look!


Displaying Polaris.jpgGenre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Synopsis: In less than seven years, eighteen-year-old Ryla Jensen will succeed her father as the president of Neress, a nation where all citizens are cared for from the moment they’re born. Fed, sheltered, even educated—every need of theirs is met.

The only price they pay is their free will.

Groomed since childhood to take on a role she’s not even sure she wants, Ryla’s only escape from the pressures of duty is her sister, Alanna. But when her eyes are opened to the oppressive regime her father built, she begins to question everything she’s set to inherit—and finds herself at odds with her sister’s blind allegiance to their father.

Torn between loyalty to her family and the fight for freedom, Ryla must decide just how far she’s willing to go to make a stand and risk losing the person she loves most in the world: Alanna.

Purchase Links:

Barnes & NobleAmazon

My Thoughts

I was sold on this from the first page, and a good chunk of my love for The Polaris Uprising has to do with the fantastically written relationship between Ryla and Alanna. They were both amazing characters and I had no trouble rooting for either of them. Ryla’s spark and strength were really refreshing, and her devotion to her sister was just wonderful to read. I loved their dynamic and the way they played off each other was so brilliantly done I couldn’t put the book down.

The plot was at first a bit slow, as there were many pieces to put into place before the action could get going, but once it picked up, by God you couldn’t drag me away from the page with a tractor. The author put a lot of care into the story’s progression, and it shows in the plot twists and the new revelations that Ryla and Alanna encounter.

I was expecting to enjoy The Polaris Uprising, and I certainly did. The sisters’ relationship was probably my favorite part of story, I’ll admit, but the romance was also lovely and felt very genuine, which in the world of YA one learns to appreciate very quickly. Overall, an exciting, well-written debut; I can’t wait for the sequel!

About the Author

Displaying headshot.pngJennifer Ibarra grew up on a steady diet of books, Star Wars, and other fantastic feats of the imagination. Her debut novel, The Polaris Uprising, is the first book in a trilogy and mixes dystopia with family drama, romance, and political intrigue.

She lives in Silicon Valley, where she does marketing for a tech company and spends her time running, cooking, baking, and keeping up with celebrity gossip.

Find Her:

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

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Prizes:

25$ Amazon GC, Signed ARC + Swag
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This promotional post was organized by Xpresso Book Tours.

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Blog Tour: Undying by Valerie Grosjean

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Good morning! Today I’m participating in a blog tour for Valerie Grosjean’s fabulous debut novel, Undying, the first in her exciting new series! Take a look!


18596439Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Zombies

Synopsis: This is a story of love . . . and zombies.

When eighteen-year-old college freshman Christian discovers his dormitory is crawling with the living dead, he knows he has a problem. But once he learns the whole country is overrun by the flesh-eating horde, he must race to protect what matters to him most.

Sixteen-year-old Iris, the girl he loves, is stranded eighty miles away, alone and completely unaware of the gruesome threat surrounding her.

Christian’s plan is to evade the zombies, drive the distance to rescue Iris, and get them both to his family farm—where there are guns, fuel, and everything else they’ll need to survive. His mission seems simple: Get the girl, get to the farm, and stay alive.

Things get complicated when Christian is forced to make an unthinkable choice between Iris and his family. Someone he loves must die, and he must decide.

Purchase Links

AmazonBarnes & Noble

My Thoughts

I must say, Undying didn’t really have a warm-up chapter. I was immediately sucked into the action from the very first page and before I could manage to tear my eyes from the screen, I was almost finished. The writing put me right there alongside the characters, dodging zombies and fighting to survive and make it home, and it felt really gritty and definitely kept me on my toes.

Christian really impressed me. If and when the zombie apocalypse come, I call dibs on him, because he’s really freakin’ handy in a zombie fight. He makes some incredibly difficult choices and faces impossible dilemmas about love and loyalty, and I really enjoyed reading about his struggle with the moral ambiguity of killing/being a zombie. And while I never quite bought Iris as a love interest, I liked Christian well enough to go with it.

Honestly, I’m not usually one for horror, and I definitely didn’t pick this one up after dark, but the author did an amazing job with the fear and thriller aspect of the novel. I was screaming in the first chapter and the vivid descriptions had me flailing all over the place and shouting “GO CHRISTIAN GO” at the top of my lungs. That ability to make me so quickly invested in Christian’s wellbeing and so completely engrossed in the story is what really won me over on this one. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

About the Author

Valerie Grosjean is the author of the young adult novel UNDYING. She grew up on a Nebraska farm. After college, she married and moved to Northern California, where she lives with her husband and their two young children. Her obsession with zombie movies inspired UNDYING, her first novel and the beginning of the Undying series.

Find Her:

Goodreads | Website

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Prizes:

One signed paperback copy of Undying

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This promotional post was organized by Xpresso Book Tours.

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2014 Reading Retellings Challenge Wrap-Up

2014 Reading Retellings Challenge

Good morning! It’s the end of January, the first month of a shiny new year is over, and I hope you’ve all had a fantastic week. My area got a good two inches of snow which, while rather horrid on traffic, got me out of school for nearly four days (great timing too, considering it’s giving me a super long weekend to get over this wretched cold). I don’t know about you, but snow is one of my favorite things so I’ve had a lovely week.

Anyway, weather aside, the first month of our 2014 Reading Retellings Challenge is over! I hope you’ve found some great reads this month. I’ve had a rather rough time of it lately, so I’ve only just started my first retelling, Anyone But You by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes. Hopefully I’ll be reviewing it soon.

I wish you happy reading in February! Link up your retellings reviews in the comments!

Review: These Broken Stars

These Broken StarsHow did I get it? Bought

Genre: YA, Romance, Science Fiction

Summary: It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

My Thoughts

To be perfectly honest I have read very little this month, and I’m not being modest. Other than reading for class, These Broken Stars is literally the only book I’ve finished thus far. And that’s mostly because it’s the only book I’ve tried out in the past few weeks that’s incredibly hard to put down.

I’ve heard so many fantastic things in the past few months about Lilac and Tarver’s story that despite my reservations about the whole space thing (which I’m not typically keen on) I bought it as soon as it was released. Because of all the praise and hype surrounding it, I tried to prepare myself to be at least a little let down, but for once that did not happen. This book was absolutely incredible in every way. Lilac and Tarver were everything I hoped for and more, and the imagery and writing were just stunning. I loved Lilac’s determination and her strength of will, and Tarver constantly made me smile. The world that I read about was incredibly well-developed, with layers upon layers of social and political issues lying just under the surface, and the setting drew me in completely.

These Broken Stars also dealt with some truly terrible things. Lilac’s confrontation with the realities of this planet, the horror of so many deaths, and her struggles with the harsh environment around her, were all really powerful moments that made me connect with her even more. Tarver’s determination to survive and go home really struck me, especially his motivation to get back to his parents.

Overall, I have no complaints with These Broken Stars. It was an amazing book that reminded me just how much a fantastic story can make you feel, and I cannot wait for the next book in the Starbound Trilogy.

Aside: Can I just say how awesome it was to read about a heroine who can kick ass at mechanics/engineering/science-y stuff? I loved that underneath this spoiled, rich-girl exterior, she’s completely BAMF and it’s wonderful.

 Rating:

Five Stars

Recommend it?

100%

Purchase Links

Barnes & NobleAmazonBook Depository

Review: Jane by April Lindner

JaneHow did I get it? Bought

Genre: YA, Romance, Retelling

Summary: Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there’s a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane’s much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.

My Thoughts

I really, really, really wanted to love Jane. I read Jane Eyre at the end of this past November and adored it, so I was really looking forward to this. But unfortunately, I was a little bit disappointed.

Mind you, I still enjoyed it. The author obviously knew the book well and she very rigidly stuck to the original, which I appreciate to an extent. Jane was a decent protagonist and I liked the spin on her background.

But there were definitely some things that didn’t work for me.

1.) Nico

First of all, Nico? Of all the names in the galaxy, Nico? Rathburn as a surname was fine, but whether or not Nico is fitting as a “rockstar name,” I just couldn’t see it. The name sounds fake, a teensy bit sleazy, and, in my opinion, ridiculous.

Nico’s characterization also didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t buy his personality at all, and he’s nothing at all like Rochester. It felt like Rochester’s words were simply shoved into his mouth; he has none of the passion, the rawness, the haunted edge. He’s older than Jane (30-ish, I think) but he still came off to me as very two-dimensional and with none of the jaded, gruff attitude of the original man. Rochester is NOT some “emo” artist with mood swings; I kept sticking the two side by side, picturing a broad, dark man in period clothing next to a skinny 20-year-old in black with his jeans around his knees, silver chains hanging off every appendage, jagged dyed-black hair, and thick eyeliner. And I couldn’t see it in the character.

2.) Marriage

Okay, this was really bizarre to me. Jane and Nico (God, it weirds me out every time I say his name) fall in love and are in front of a priest within 3 weeks. I’m sorry, what? Not only is it unrealistic, but Jane was very sheeplike about it. “Okay, he’s throwing marriage at me. Yeah, okay, I’ll do it, whatevs.” It really weakened her as a character for me. It felt like they’d barely had time to develop a relationship before they were whipping out rings and the L-word. But oh no, the absurdity of this whirlwind affair is totally normal apparently.

What bugged me the most was the fact that the more stretched-out timeline in the book was cut down to under a month, while Jane’s relationship with St. John is giving what adds up to about a year of development, and that was just for them to become more-than-friends and go to Haiti together, nevermind marriage.

Also, Nico is apparently offering to propose to Bianca/Blanche within a week or two of knowing her through a photoshoot, and this isn’t thought odd at all? Jane seems to think it’s perfectly normal for things like that to happen so quickly, which would explain why she’s so willing to marry a guy she doesn’t have much of a relationship with after like a month.

It all just felt very unbelievable to me and I couldn’t buy into it at all.

3.) Plot Problems

I’m really grateful to the author for doing her best to keep the plot as close to the original as possible, but in some ways that was a bit of a let-down. For one, some social situations in Jane Eyre just wouldn’t work in modern society. The issue of Jane having to leave because of her employer’s impending marriage isn’t the same problem now as it would’ve been. Originally, Jane had to leave because a new wife meant Adèle had to go away to boarding school; it would’ve been inappropriate otherwise. Obviously that would be sort of weird to basically say, “I’m the new wife, kick the stepkids out now” in today’s world, so the author chooses to say that Jane has to leave because Bianca “doesn’t like her”. And she’s really adamant about it. It felt like a very flimsy excuse to me and it also brought up the issue of Bianca’s character, which Nico fails to address.

The plot as a whole, while comfortably familiar, took very few risks and felt too much like the author was just plugging in solutions she’d come up with. Obviously I knew the original plot, so I was expecting to know the gist of it, but there were no surprises or unexpected twists that made it new and refreshing and exciting, which took some of the fun out of it for me.

In conclusion…

I did enjoy reading this, as a Jane Eyre fan, but it just didn’t work for me. Jane was the only person with any real depth, although Nico had a few moments, and it didn’t quite pull it off. Not to say that it’s a bad book, but I think it could’ve been better. I will say that I am still a fan of the idea of it, Rochester being a rockstar and Jane his nanny.

(Aside: I’m a terrible person for saying this, but I was very disappointed that Nico wasn’t blinded in the end. I loved that scene in the book; it was so bittersweet and romantic and I just wanted to hug Rochester, but instead Nico just has a messed-up hand that can be fixed with physical therapy. Laaame.)

Rating:

Three Stars

Recommend it?

Sure.

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble | AmazonBook Depository

ARC Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

DefyHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Scholastic Press)

Publication Date: January 7, 2014

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Summary: A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

My Thoughts

I must say, I enjoyed this book. Alexa is a fantastic protagonist, and I love that she refuses to be a damsel in distress. She kicks everybody’s asses and saves everybody and she refuses to just lie back and do what the men tell her. I. Love. Her. She is my spirit animal and if I could call on a fictional character to have my back in a fight with the mafia, I would choose Alexa. Every time.

I will say it was a bit heavy on the romance, especially the love triangle situation, but that’s partly due to the fact that I would much rather see her fighting than making out with a guy, just because she’s so awesome at it. I would have found it more interesting if the animosity between her and Damian was real, or if Rylan was less of a Jacob Black clone. As it was, the love triangle annoyed me, especially because it seemed to transform Alexa into some starstruck idiot “discovering her newfound femininity.” And (slight spoiler), I was a bit bummed that there was no “OH MY GOD YOU’RE A GIRL WTF IS THIS” moment. Apparently Alexa is really shitty at pretending to be a boy. And apparently it’s not like anybody caught a glimpse of her lady bits; they just went “oh that’s a effeminate looking guy, must be a girl” and then went quietly about their business while allowing Alexa to keep believing she was the best fake boy to ever fake boy.

And when Damian is an ass (which, let’s be honest, is like once a page), Alexa takes none of it. She demands answers and is rightly furious at what he does, and although she does lose steam rather quickly, I still loved how feisty she is. By the end of that book, everybody and their mom knows not to mess with Alexa Hollen.

Also, SHE SAVES PEOPLE. There was no girl-plays-miniscule-role-in-actually-killing-bad-guy. Nope. This girl kicks the bad guy’s ass herself and becomes a national hero. It’s like Mulan except with a really not-cool king instead of an old emperor who is basically a Chinese Dumbledore.

Serious note: I was impressed with the inclusion of “breeding houses”. Rape is a really difficult and sensitive topic but I think the author approached it very well and it made me root for Alexa to succeed even more. Just the thought of what those girls were going through in that place is horrific, and it instantly made the plot so much more real and urgent for me. BUT, with that being said, I’ve heard other opinions and I know that not every reader will see it in that light. I can certainly see where it would come across as offensive, so just be aware of that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Alexa was an great protagonist and I’m very excited for the next book in the series!

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Absolutely!

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

ARC Review: Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton

Witch FinderHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Hodder Children’s Books)

Genre: YA, Fantasy/Paranormal

Synopsis: London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.

My Thoughts

I fell in love with Witch Finder from the cover alone. I mean, it’s freaking GORGEOUS. And also I love reading witch stories, so I was really excited to get approved for this one.

It actually turned out even better than I thought it would. Ruth Warburton has a lovely way with words and Luke and Rosa just gave me a lot of feelings. I loved Luke’s conflict over what he’s sworn to do; it was written perfectly and he did some things that I was rather surprised by. He’s not immediately torn with grief over his task of killing this upper-class witch, nor is Rosa a glowing beacon of virtue winning him over with the sheer purity and goodness of her heart. They both have faults and weaknesses and they had splendid chemistry together. The romance between them felt so sweet and genuine and I had to allow myself a few fangirling moments while reading.

There are some heavier issues in this book that I did not expect, such as abuse and financial problems, which really enhanced the story to me. The “villain” role, while a bit shallow in this book, has clear potential as a deeper character who has a legitimate reason for what he’s doing, and I was especially pleased by this because I hate typecasted antagonists who are bad just for the sake of being bad. It’s such a cop-out and it drives me nuts when authors do that.

I also really love the fact that Rosa does not just lie down and take everything that’s thrown at her—she’s a brilliant, strong character who, although having moments where she is powerless and defeated, really comes into her own by the end of the book. Luke, of course, made me want to throw myself off a cliff and paint rainbows everywhere simultaneously. He’s not fearless but he’s not a pushover either; I loved his protective side and the way he interacts with Rosa and the conflict he feels.

Overall, I loved this book. It was sweet, brilliantly written, and the ending came far too soon.

Rating:

Five Stars

Recommend it?

Absolutely.

Pre-order it:

Amazon | Book Depository

Other books by the author:

A Witch in Winter            A Witch in Love             A Witch Alone

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesdays is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish, with a new Top Ten prompt every week. Check it out!

Pawn

1. Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion, #1) by Aimee Carter

Splintered

2. Splintered (Splintered, #1) by A. G. Howard

The Nightmare Affair

3. The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1) by Mindee Arnett

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of A Creative Life

4. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of A Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

Huntress

5. Huntress by Malinda Lo

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The Archived

8. The Archived (The Archived, #1) by Victoria Schwab

Some Quiet Place

9. Some Quiet Place (Some Quiet Place #1) by Kelsey Sutton

These Broken Stars

10. These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman

You have no idea how hard it was to narrow it down to ten. NO. IDEA. I was looking through my wishlist on Goodreads and I was just like, “Shit, how do people do this?” But I managed it, and I am absurdly proud of myself. Somebody give me a medal.

Meanwhile it’s Christmas Eve. AHHHHHHH!!! Happy holidays, my loves!

Love, Sam