A DNF Round-up{6}

A DNF Round-up{6}

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I don’t DNF very often, but when I do, I don’t typically review those books here, mainly because I don’t have enough to say. However, I’ve decided to start doing short DNF reflections when I have a couple of DNFs. I think DNF review/reflections can be valuable, because what causes me to DNF something might actually make someone else pick the same book up!

1. Twisted Fate by Norah Olson

Twisted Fate

source: Advanced reader’s copy granted by publisher through Edelweiss
Where I stopped: 30%

Summary:

When Alyson meets Graham Copeland, the new boy next door, she instantly feels like he’s a kindred spirit—shy and awkward like her, someone who has trouble making friends. It’s impossible to resist having a crush on him.

As usual, her sister, Sydney, sees things differently. In Sydney’s mind, Graham’s odd personality and secretive past scream psychopath, not sweetheart. Her gut is telling her to stay away from him, and to protect a love-struck Alyson from her own naïveté. But despite her instincts, Sydney is surprised to realize that a part of her is drawn to Graham, too.

And the more Sydney gets to know him, the more she realizes just how right—and wrong—she is about everything.

Perfect for fans of Michelle Hodkin, and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, Twisted Fate is an unputdownable novel, teeming with suspense.

Why I DNF-ed:

Twisted Fate sounded so great. I mean, two sisters(completely different from each other), and a new boy who they can’t quite figure out and might be dangerous(actually dangerous, not bad-boy-next-door-loser-dangerous)? I love books like that! But I got 30% in and wasn’t feeling it at all. The writing style was really throwing me off. The voices of the two sisters were good and distinguishable, but then all these other people ended up having point of views as well, and it just felt like too much jumping into other people’s heads. Plus, at 30%, I didn’t feel like anything had really happened at all. There was talk of something bad but it was withheld just to create suspense, which is one of my bookish pet peeves unless it’s done really well. In the end, though, it was mainly the multiple POVs that made the decision to set this one down easy.

 2. Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes

Source: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where I stopped: at 45%

 Summary:

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Why I DNF-ed:

Snow Like Ashes currently has a 4.05 average rating on Goodreads so clearly I’m in the minority on this one but I just couldn’t get into it at all. First, the book opens with a sparring scene which is sort of a fantasy pet peeve of mine. Why does every fantasy book have to open with sparring? I was able to overlook that since the next few chapters were exciting, but after about the 18% the story started lagging. I tried to be patient and hold out for improvement but I realized I was going out of my way to actively avoid this book so I figured it was time to DNF. The final straw came when the main character was forced into an arrange marriage, which is another one of those things I really don’t like reading about in books(though at times I can overlook it). This one’s just not for me.

3. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap

 

Source: I received an electronic advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
DNF-ed at: 15%

Summary:

 Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Why I DNF-ed:

Bone Gap is a strange little book, and most of the early reviews I read seemed to love it. I understand why. It’s sharply written and I could tell it was well-plotted, but the writing style just didn’t jive with me at all. Even at 10% I was dreading picking this book back up again. The opening was confusing and while I’m sure I would have understood more if I stuck it out, it was already grating on me. The style is very literary which I normally love but for some reason, for THIS particular story it just did not work to make me love it. I was just so, so bored so early on in the novel.

 

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Book Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denefeld

Book Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denefeld

The Enchanted

by Rene Denefeld

The Enchanted

Original Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Length: 237 pages
Publisher: Harper

Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
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the story morning glory

A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.”

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.

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I picked up The Enchanted on a whim because a blog commenter recommended it, and all I knew going into it that was one of the characters was a fallen priest and a large part of it was set in a prison. I’m glad I went in with as little background information as I did, because The Enchanted was mesmerizing. I can’t say it was a particularly pleasant read, because this book is DARK DARK DARK, but it’s a book I’m immensely glad I read.

The narrator of The Enchanted is an unnamed inmate on death row in an old, decaying prison. He does not speak, but he does observe. He observes the fallen priest, a woman who’s job is to handle last-minute appeal for death row inmates, the warden, and York, the woman’s client. Most of the characters remain unnamed for a good portion of the novel(and many are not named at all). The narrator spends his time observing and turning the prison into an enchanted place filled with horses and small men who bury in the walls, reading, and watching the woman working on York’s case.

The Enchanted goes to some dark and despairing places, though it’s also filled with a sense of wonder. It’s enough to create a strange feeling of dissonance at times, as the book explores both the very worst of humanity while also appealing to a sense of hope. I’m not a newbie when it comes to dark books or stories–I grew up on them, and I think I have a pretty strong constitution and what I can handle. That being said, some scenes in The Enchanted are stomach-turning. There’s a great deal of sexual abuse, both mentioned and more graphic(though very little is portrayed on the page, the aftermath of such events are written about in length), murder, a detailed cremation, and general brutality.

That being said, underneath all that brutality is a sense of truth and the complexity of human nature. The Enchanted somehow manages to delve into the stories and intricacies of the death row inmates and how they got there, in many ways humanizing them, without ever letting them off the hook for what they did. It’s a fine line to walk, one I expect was done so well since the author has experience working with such populations. At times the events described in The Enchanted are nothing short of nightmares, and then followed with a passage that so clearly portrays a character just yearning to be known, which is a huge theme of the book.

Other than the unnamed narrator, York is the death row inmate the book spends most of the time focused on. York, unlike so many inmates, is ready to die. He doesn’t want a last-minute appeal. He doesn’t want anything to save him, which is ironically the same characteristics that leads to the lady being hired to his case. The lady visits the places and people of his past, as many as she can find. It’s a brutal journey and harsh journey, and through it there’s so much in the book about death, life, and waiting to die. York may be the death row inmate who’s ready to be sent to a death via lethal injection, but he’s not the only character who’s ready or waiting for something.

I originally gave The Enchanted 4 stars, but as I began writing this review I realized that was more of my reaction of feeling unsettled than the actual merits of the book. A few days later, I can say that while brutal, The Enchanted is a truly excellent book and one I’ll probably remember for a very long time. I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach reading it again, but I most likely won’t have to as the story has already buried itself deep into my mind.

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The Enchanted is highly unsettling and at times disturbing, but also contains a great deal of wonder and awe at life. While I hesitate to recommend it broadly because of some of the more disturbing elements, I definitely do recommend it for readers who can stomach the tough and gritty, because there’s a lot to be found for it in the end. 5/5 cupcakes.

5cupcakes

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Book Review: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Book Review: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys

by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys

Original Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Length: 240 pages
Obtained Via:Bought
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Standalone
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the story morning glory

Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna’s new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can’t know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical,  Uses for Boys  is a story of breaking down and growing up.

 

howwasit

So, reading this book was an experience. I’ve been thinking about this book quite a bit since I finished, which I suppose is a point in its favor because it is thought-provoking. I believe I understand the ambition behind this book, but I’m not so sure how I feel about the end product. I suppose you could call Uses for Boys a character study of Anna, but I’m not sure it always goes deep enough for even that. There is an attempt to explore and delve into Anna’s life and how it came to be, but at 240 pages it doesn’t really feel thorough or satisfying.

The book starts off with an eight-year-old Anna, and then proceeds to give snippets of her life from that point forward, though the bulk of it is concentrated in the later teen years. Through Anna’s eyes, we see her mother try and find solace in men and build a family, but it never quite works. Anna’s mom dates, then the guy leaves. Sometimes they get married, move in together, and then the guy leaves, but the leaving is the constant in the equation. Anna watches it all, watches her mother throw affection at men and then delve into her character, all the while it’s Anna that craves that affection.

As Anna grows up, she ends up turning to guys for the affection she wants. It starts with a boy feeling her up on the school bus–Anna doesn’t object but it’s also obvious she’s not 100% what’s going on–but then it spirals from there. First it’s Joey, who comes over after school. Then it’s Todd(which is a horrible non-consensual encounter), then Josh, who Anna moves in with. I felt like Uses for Boys started to explore a lot of different ideas in the middle of the book–how Anna can’t differentiate between love and sex which comes from a place rooted in childhood, struggling with money, the aftermath of sexual assault, etc. –but it never follows through with any of them. That was the most frustrating part, because Uses for Boys had a lot of potential.

It’s also a very stark book, which works for the subject matter but also leaves so much unsaid that it feels like too much is left unsaid. Uses for Boys is very frank in its portrayal of sexuality, which I expected from reviews I had previously read. I would hesitate to call it explicit because it’s not written at all in a way made to titillate, but it is graphic and again, stark. I did think that Schmidt did a good job of portraying Anna’s isolation in most of these scenes–she’s physically with someone but it’s very clear that she’s still lonely and set apart.

While there were many things that contributed to my lower rating, I think the biggest factor was the writing style. At first it made sense because it’s in first person and Anna is eight years old, but as the story continued it never reflected Anna’s changes, and it was very repetitive. It’s a stylistic choice more than a critique of skill, but it completely didn’t work for me for this particular story. It grated on me as I continued to read and I thought those words could have been better suited to actually exploring Anna’s situation further in-depth.

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Uses for Boys had so much potential, but utterly ended up not impressing me. There were a few good parts and I certainly thought the idea of the book was important in YA, but the writing style and the lack of consideration to certain topics made this one just okay for me. 2/5 cupcakes.

2cupcakes

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Top Ten Books I Read in 2014 {Top Ten Tuesday}

Top Ten Books I Read in 2014 {Top Ten Tuesday}

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which features (you guessed it!) top ten lists on a given topic each week. This week’s topic is. . . .Top 10 Books I read in 2014.
Eep! I’ve read around a 140 books, so I have a lot to pick from, but I’ll try and keep this list somewhere in the reasonably close to “ten” category. The first three are in order but after that it’s a free-for-all in terms of where I would place each of these books if I had to rank them.

1. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet

Good Omens

How did I manage to make it to 2014 without ever reading this book? It’s so fantastic and I feel like this book was just written for me because it contains everything I like. It’s seriously witty & well-plotted and just such a fun book.

2. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give you the Sun

I haven’t been quiet about how I’ll Give You the Sun is my favorite new release of the year. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever read a book as perfect as this one. Noah and Jude just captured my heart. I liked how messed up everyone was, but it wasn’t done in a melodramatic way like those type of characters sometimes are–they felt like real people who had serious flaws and made BIG BIG mistakes but were still trying to do better.

3. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

tell the wolves im home

Tell the Wolves I’m Home holds the honor of being the only book to make me cry this year. This book is a beautiful coming-of-age book and it’s beautifully written as well. I remember just highlighting quote after quote.

4. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves

I don’t always love historical fiction, but I do enjoy reading it on occasion and this book reminded me why. Even though it was a tough read at times I felt like Talley really transported me to the time period without skating over the horrors of the past. I read some really awesome debut books this year, but this was one the best.

5. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

A Separate Peace

Since I’m not in school anymore I don’t read as many classics, but when I DO pick up a classic I want it to be one I’ll love. I read A Separate Peace in one sitting and just LOVED it. It reminded me a lot of some modern YA boarding school books.

6. Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Sang to the Monster

If you’ve visited my blog before, it’s likely you know that Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a top 5 book of all-time for me. If forced, I would rank it above every book on this year’s list except maybe Good Omens. I didn’t love Last Night I Sang to the Monster quite as much as that, but I still once again fell in love with the words and the story. One thing I love about Saenz’s books is that even when they’re sort of dark and dealing with tough topics, I always finish the book feeling. . . reaffirmed, I guess, in life. They make me feel hopeful.

7. Dangerous Girls/Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Dangerous GirlsDangerous Boys

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Dangerous Girls and Dangerous Boys. I’m putting these together because I loved both of them and I’m not sure which one I liked more. I don’t tend to like a lot of mysteries, but Dangerous Girls just felt so real and visceral. Dangerous Boys isn’t as much of a mystery, but it still has that same dark thriller vibe and it made me shiver more than once.

8. Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas

Heir of Fire

AHHHH. It’s been a long time since I loved a high fantasy series as much as I love Throne of Glass, and despite the slower start, Heir of Fire ended up being my favorite book of the series so far. I’m so glad this series has more books coming!

9. Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress

Another wonderful sequel that made my list. Cress is probably my favorite of the Lunar Chronicles heroines so far and I adored this book and everything about it. The romance(all of them), THORNE, Iko, the intrigue, the setting. . . marvelous(I’m not sure I’ve ever used the word marvelous seriously before).

10. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Open Road Summer

If it wasn’t for Lies We Tell Ourselves, Open Road Summer would be my favorite 2014 debut. I’m glad I listened to the hype and decided to pick this one up because I loved it. There’s just so many good things buried in this book. I loved the emphasis on friendship AND the swoony romance, and how those two factors didn’t have to compete against each other.

11. Winger by Andrew Smith

Winger

So I couldn’t stop at 10. What can I say, I read some pretty great books this year. This book was so delightful and funny and also heart-breaking. I’ve never had 500 pages fly by so quickly. The voice felt authentic and while the main character was on the younger side for most of the YA I read, I found that didn’t bother me in the slightest.

12. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Monsters of Men

You didn’t REALLY think I’d have a best books of the year list without at least one Patrick Ness book, did you? I finally finished the Chaos Walking trilogy this year and I wanted to hit myself over the head with an omnibus for putting it off so long. Monsters of Men is not a feel-good book, but it was a perfect ending to the trilogy and my favorite of the three.

 

LET’S CHAT: Read any of these books? Any on your TBR list now?(I hope so!). What are the best books you read this year?

 

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Book.Blog.Bake. Turns Two! + Giveaway

Book.Blog.Bake. Turns Two! + Giveaway

2years

My blog is officially a toddler instead of a little baby blog! Who would have thought 2 years ago that I’d still be blogging? I certainly didn’t. My original plan was to blog for 6 months before deciding to keep going with this new hobby or quit. And when six months came around, I was still in love with book blogging, so I ended up going self-hosted and purchased my own domain name.

And now it’s once again December which means my blog has reached another milestone in terms of time! It’s so weird to think of how nervous I was about this new endeavor in December 2012. I was excited, but also anxious. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to connect to anyone in the book blogging community, that people would think I had no reason to talk about books so much. It took me over a month just to get comfortable using twitter, and now it’s my favorite social media platform.

Anyway, enough reminiscing. I could go on and on about all the wonderful bloggers I’ve come to know and welcomed me, but I’d be afraid of leaving someone out, so with that said. . . time to celebrate! And on this blog, that means a rare giveaway. I’m giving away a box of books to ONE winner! Since I’m shipping myself, this giveaway is US only. Sorry, international readers. I hope to be able to host an INT giveaway in the future.

My giveaway policy can be found here, but here’s the highlights:

  • Number of eligible entries determine odds of winning
  • Winning entries are verified. Entries that don’t follow the rafflecopter prompts are disqualified.
  • MUST be 13 years old or older to enter. For those under 18, MUST have parental permission to enter & share information.
  • No purchase necessary, giveaway automatically void where prohibited by law
  • Winner will be announced here on the blog + twitter
  • Sad this has to be said, but I take privacy very seriously! Once goodies have been sent on their way to the winner, I automatically delete all personal information including name & address.
  • Winner will have 48 hours to reply to notification before a new winner will be drawn.
  • Giveaway ends JANUARY 5th.

So what’s in this box of books? This is what’s up for grabs:

  • Hardcover of SWEETHEARTS by Sarah Zarr
  • Paperbacks of SLOPPY FIRSTS and SECOND HELPINGS by Megan McCafferty
  • Paperback of EVERY VISIBLE THING by Lisa Carrey
  • Paperback of THE LOST by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Hardcover of EVE by Ann a Carey
  • ARC of BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE by Tiffany Schmidt
  • ARC of THE WINTER HORSES by Philip Kerr
  • Signed ARC of INDELIBLE by Dawn Metcalf
  • Signed ARC of CHASING BEFORE by Lenore Appelhans(#2 in The Memory Chronicles)
  • ARC of FAR FROM YOU by Tess Sharpe
  • ARC of FREE TO FALL by Lauren Miller
  • ARC of THE WOLF PRINCESS by Cathryn Constable
  • Audiobook ARC of LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell
  • A signed paperback of EASY by Tammara Webber

I’ll probably also throw in some signed bookmarks & bookish things of that nature.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hooray for two years!

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