Month: April 2015

What I Read: March 2015

I really fell out of the habit of doing these monthly wrap-ups, but I want to get back to them–I have fun looking back at what I’ve read each month, and I hope you do too! It also gives me a chance to include mini-reviews on my blog, since I don’t post full reviews of everything I read here (I do put reviews up on Goodreads for each new title I read, so if we’re not friends yet, we should be!).

Check out the books I read in March 2015!

Champion (Legend #3), by Marie Lu (hardcover, 369 pages). Three out of five stars. My husband bought me this trilogy for Christmas and while I felt it didn’t get off to quite the same high-energy start as some other YA trilogies like Divergent, it definitely had more staying power. I did feel like there were some elements that were a little rushed, but the action scenes (parkour!) totally made up for that.

The Glass Magician (The Paper Magician trilogy #2), by Charlie N. Holmberg (paperback, 222 pages). Three out of five stars. This was an okay middle installment, but it bugs me that everything resolves itself so EASILY for Ceony! Still, I’m eager to read the conclusion to the trilogy later this year.

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant (V #1), by Joanna Wiebe (hardcover, 272 pages). Two out of five stars. Where do I start? This book was so bad I couldn’t look away.  There’s clunky writing, a boring love triangle, plot twists that do NOT surprise in the least, and more slut shaming than a Taylor Swift song. I do think there’s a REALLY interesting plot premise hidden underneath, so I’d like to skim the sequel and see what happens next, but I can’t in good conscience recommend this book. (Unless you’re interested in an example of how NOT to write YA fiction.)

The Red Magician, by Lisa Goldstein (ebook, 188 pages). Three out of five stars. As far as YA historical fiction/magical realism goes, this was surprisingly fun to read, if a little light. I think it would definitely appeal more to pre-teens than to adults.

Check out the books I read in March 2015!

Garden Spells (Waverly Family #1), by Sarah Addison Allen (hardcover, 304 pages). Four out of five stars. A friend lent me a stack of Sarah’s books and this one hooked me right away with the magical garden. It’s light, sweet, and hard to put down. (But luckily, you can read it one sitting!)

The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen (hardcover, 276 pages). DNF. I put this one down pretty quickly. Weirdly, the main plot device (spoiler alert: our heroine’s a binge eater of both candy and trashy novels) sparks two very different reactions in me. On the one hand, it doesn’t seem dark enough to support all the shenanigans that ensue–what’s wrong with enjoying a nosh and a book? On the other hand, if we’re going to treat it that seriously (like, serious enough to hide a fugitive in your closet to avoid the secret getting out), then I feel like it got a weirdly light treatment, considering–again, if you’re taking it in that serious of a light–that Josey is basically a binge eater, and that’s an eating disorder just like anorexia. No matter how I look at it I don’t like it, and beyond that, I couldn’t connect to the characters at all. Anyone else read this? Did you feel the same?

The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen (paperback, 292 pages). Four out of five stars. This was really sweet and magical. A little predictable, but it was a good light read for a rainy day.

Lost Lake, by Sarah Addison Allen (hardcover, 296 pages). 3.5 out of five stars. I enjoyed this, but I felt like the plot twists were a little too predictable and the “shocking reveal” wasn’t that hard to guess at. It just seemed like a way to create drama between the MC and her love interest, but it wasn’t necessary. Still sweet, just not as awesome as Garden Spells.

Check out the books I read in March 2015!

The Queen of the South, by Arturo Perez-Reverte (paperback, 464 pages). Three out of five stars. I have to hand it to this book for having one of the best opening lines ever. That said, while this novel was interesting, it wasn’t the sort of page-turner that I simply couldn’t put down.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (paperback, 339 pages). Five out of five stars. This was an AMAZING book, in terms of plotting, prose, characters–everything. I loved it. I couldn’t put it down and yet I wish I hadn’t rushed through it so fast. I would recommend this to everyone.

Hausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum (hardcover, 336 pages). Two out of five stars. In terms of prose and a fractured timeline, this novel is a work of art–it’s no surprise the author is a poet. But in terms of “enjoyable books to read”, I finished this book with a headache–I couldn’t summon any sympathy for any of the characters, and as things wound on toward the conclusion, I found myself eager to get it over with so I could read something more fun. (And I do get that the MC is not supposed to be terribly likable–but I could barely tolerate her presence on the pages!)

The After House, by Michael Phillip Cash (paperback, 194 pages). Two out of five stars. Ugh. The author couldn’t seem to decide if he was going for horror, suspense, romance, or comedy–so he cobbled them all together, and not well, either! Apparently I’m in the minority here since there are lots of five-star reviews on Goodreads, but…this was terrible. Bad writing, and no surprises in the plot twists at all.

What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations for me? I feel like I’ve read so many two- and three-star books lately, and not enough really good ones! Do you ever get in that kind of a reading slump?

 

Rocksbox #4: the boho turquoise box I LOVE

Oh, Rocksbox. After a somewhat bumpy beginning to our relationship the jewelry subscription service blew me out of the water with my fourth box, a mix of gold and turquoise boho pieces that I LOVE. New to Rocksbox? Here’s how it works: You complete a “style profile” via their site; your stylist then puts together a set of gems for you that arrives in about a week. You can keep the pieces as long as you like and if you love anything from your box you can purchase it at a discounted rate (you also get $10 in “Shine Spend” each month to put towards a purchase). Not in love? Reuse the shipping bag and the return label inside to send back your set; a new one is put together and shipped out within a few days. The monthly charge is $19 and you can refresh your set an unlimited number of times monthly; there is no option to skip a month, but you can cancel at any time.

Want to try a month FREE? Use my code “marthabff9” at signup (but don’t wait, because I have a limited number of invites to give out each month!).

I love this Jules Smith Double Tear Drop necklace that arrived in my latest Rocksbox!

I absolutely adored this necklace (Jules Smith Double Tear Drop necklace, $100 or $80 for members). It’s turquoise, layered, long, boho…everything I love in a spring necklace! I wear this type nonstop with tanks, vests, and sweaters. I hate to send this back, but I think I’ll have to: we’re looking at some major bills right now and so I can’t justify spending $70 on a piece of jewelry for myself. Another time, I would definitely use my Shine Spend on this piece.

This Urban Gem Aztec Open Cuff from my latest Rocksbox looks great solo, but it's also fun to layer up with other bracelets for a boho vibe.

Next up is this matching bracelet (Urban Gem Aztec Open Cuff, $60 or $48 for members). This was a little on the small side, but I have small hands and wrists, so it fit me fine. I like that you could stack this or wear it solo.

These Jules Smith Coin Earrings (from my latest Rocksbox) make me feel like a Bollywood extra (in a good way!).

Finally there’s a pair of earrings (Jules Smith Coin Earrings, $30 or $24 for members). In my feedback for my last box I requested bolder earrings and Rocksbox delivered. These make me feel like an extra in a Bollywood movie (in a good way) and aren’t too heavy.

So that’s my latest Rocksbox! Have you ever tried Rocksbox, or do you have another favorite subscription box to recommend? What jewelry pieces are you excited to break out now that spring is finally upon us?

Top Ten Tuesday: characters I’d like to check in with

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we’re talking about those characters we just can’t let go of–the ones we’d like to peek in on, days or months or years after their book/series ended, so we can see how they’re doing.

1. and 2. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice: I’m a sucker for re-tellings of this story, and I love stories that peek in on their married life.

3. and 4. Celia and Marco from The Night Circus: I loved this book so much, I wasn’t ready for it to end.

5. 6. 7. 8. Hanna, Emily, Aria and Spencer from Pretty Little Liars: I didn’t care for the last eight books in this series; I think restarting it was a poor idea and these books didn’t live up to the original eight. That said, I’d like to see a series featuring these girls as adults–you know, with juicier lies and secrets to keep!

9. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Apparently there’s a new manuscript coming out this summer, so I might actually get this wish!

10. Max from The Book Thief: I adored this book, but I always wanted to see where these he went after the story ended, since he kind of dropped out of the picture and wasn’t heard from again.

Any characters you’d check in with if you could?

Book review: ‘Treasure, Darkly’ by Jordan Elizabeth

(Thanks to NetGalley and Curiosity Quills Press for the ARC!)

Review of 'Treasure Darkly' by Jordan Elizabeth

Treasure, Darkly (Treasure Chronicles, book one) by Jordan Elizabeth. Available in paperback, Kindle or ebook format; 289 pages. Three out of five stars. Add it on Goodreads or snag the Kindle edition while it’s on sale on Amazon.

The first thing I have to say is, look at that cover! And the second thing I have to say is…look at it! If this was a hardbound book in a brick-and-mortar shop, I would want to purchase it immediately. It’s a gorgeous cover and promises unlimited steampunk adventure within.

Annnnnndddd…that’s where the three-star rating comes in. Because this wasn’t the worst steampunk novel I’ve ever read; actually, there were quite a few things about it that I enjoyed. But the girl from that gorgeous cover doesn’t really exist in the book (not as far as I can tell, anyway). It’s a steampunk story, to be sure, but it’s primarily a romance, and I was hoping for a little less of that and a little more adventure.

The setting is very reminiscent of Wild Wild West: it’s set in a fictional country much like America in the days of the OK Corral, complete with cities out east and a wild west filled with hostile natives and an army run amok in the mining towns. The setting was very well-drawn and I really enjoyed seeing the steampunk elements against a western desert backdrop, as opposed to a city.

I also felt like the steampunk aspects of the novel were really well-drawn: things were described in detail, so you had a very good idea of how they looked and worked, but the descriptions were never overdone. I especially loved the steampunk clothes, owning more than one corset and pair of ankle boots myself.

The storyline itself is where things faltered a bit. The whole “bringing back the dead” bit was very cool and I expected this to be a wild adventure romp. Unfortunately, once Amethyst Treasure enters the picture, things slide downhill. For starters, the book focuses more on the romance than on the steampunk aspects or the adventures with the dead. (The romance itself, I had trouble getting into.) And when Clark and Amethyst do get around to “adventuring”, everything goes far too smoothly for them. I think the second half of this book was definitely weaker than the first.

My other major problem with this book is that I just didn’t really like Amethyst. She’s spoiled, selfish, and not very useful. I do think her character showed some growth in the story and I’m hoping she’ll grow even more in book two, because I love a feisty steampunk gal–she just didn’t quite cut it for me in this book. I felt like she was too busy flirting and primping to be an action heroine.

So overall, this wasn’t an amazing read, but it was enough to keep me interested and make me want to pick up the sequel when it comes out, if only so I can explore this steampunk world more and see Clark in action again. I think this book would be best for someone who likes romance novels and wants to dip a toe into the steampunk genre; if that’s you, you might enjoy this more than I did. Just don’t read it if you’re expecting tons of action and intrigue, because it’s a little light on those fronts.