Merin’s Mid-Week Musings #5

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Mid-Week Musings is a new feature here at Read and Reviewed, where I sum up my reading for the past week and introduce a topic for discussion. It is inspired by Musing Mondays over at A Daily Rhythm and her previous WWW Wednesday meme, which has been discontinued.

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The last book you loved! I’ve been caught in a string of books I liked but didn’t love. The last book I absolutely loved to pieces was The Wondrous and the Wicked (Dispossessed #3) by Page Morgan, which I finished back in June. I’ve enjoyed all of the books I’ve read since, but none of them have quite measured up. (Although, I am currently listening to This Song Will Save Your Life and AM loving that one. So hopefully it won’t completely crash and burn in the last few chapters!)

So! Please tell me in the comments what the last book was that you read and absolutely loved! Maybe I’ll add it to my TBR pile.

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No Top Ten Tuesday Today!

Hi, everyone! Just an fyi that there’s not going to be a Top Ten Tuesday post this week. I forgot to put one together in advance, and don’t have the energy to do it now. I’m back to work, and have been dealing with 27 (soon to be 28, because I have a new kiddo starting today) six year olds for the past eight school days. To say I’m tired would be an understatement!

So it’s off to bed for me. I’ll be back for Top Ten Tuesday next week!

(And if any of you want to link me to your posts, please feel free! I’d still love to see which books made your list – especially since this week’s topic sounds interesting – even though I didn’t make my own.)

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REVIEW: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

sparkunseenA Spark Unseen (Dark Unwinding #2) by Sharon Cameron
Scholastic, 2013
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]

Previous Installment: The Dark Unwinding

NOTE: Summary contains spoilers for the first book in this series.

The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron’s blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust–if anyone–to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to THE DARK UNWINDING whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure.

mythoughtsA Dark Unwinding was a surprise favorite for me, since it seemed vaguely steampunk-ish prior to me reading it, and I’m not the hugest fan of steampunk. However, I found myself enamored with Katharine and the other characters populating Stranwyne Keep, and eagerly awaited the second book in the duology. And then time went by and I never got it read. However, I used July to play catch up with some series, and decided to finally bring this one to its conclusion. And while I’m glad I read A Spark Unseen – because I did enjoy it – I didn’t like it as much as the first, and also didn’t like the sort of vague, ambiguous ending. Nonetheless, the things I liked about the first book continued into the second, and I’d definitely recommend you checking both of these books out.

There were two things I adored about A Spark Unseen. The first was Katharine, who again proved just how resourceful and strong and determined she could be. I loved that she was focused first and foremost on keeping her Uncle Tully safe, but didn’t let his needs and safety distract her from trying to locate Lane. I loved how she did things she didn’t want to do (like befriending Mrs. Hardcastle and her nosy neighbors), and wasn’t afraid to do things she wasn’t technically “supposed” to do. She really showed how strong and smart and amazing she could be in this installment, and was the cause of much of my joy while reading. The second thing was Katharine’s maid, Mary, who is just delightful. She provided great comedic relief – even when she didn’t mean to – and, just like Katharine, proved how loyal and trustworthy she could be. I’m glad we got to see so much of her and that her station didn’t detract from her importance.

I also want to give credit to the author for creating an atmosphere of suspense right from the first page of the book. Even when things appeared to be working out for Katharine, the tenseness of the writing kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat, knowing that something was going to happen to upset things. Admittedly Katharine does make some mistakes – which seemed realistic to me, considering what she’d been thrust into – but those mistakes helped to keep the plot moving and provided the background for more of the twists and turns to come about in the narrative. All in all this book had a nice sense of mystery and intrigue, and I loved that danger literally lurked everywhere.

A Spark Unseen was a nice sequel to The Dark Unwinding, and while I personally didn’t love it quite as much as the first book, there’s still plenty to like. Katharine is amazing, Mary is charming, and I loved the silly and somewhat goofy antics of some of the supporting cast. While I would have liked for things to be a bit more nicely wrapped up, I do appreciate that perhaps the author was leaving herself a bit of room to potentially revisit this world and these characters. I, for one, would definitely be onboard for that!

3.5stars

An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Bout of Books 14 Daily Progress Post

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

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I’m going to update this post daily to share my Bout of Books 14 Daily Reading Progress. As a reminder, my goal is to complete [2] books during this read-a-thon. This post will remain at the top of my blog until the end of Bout of Books 14!

Good luck to anyone else participating! ♥

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Monday, August 17th:
Today’s Read(s):
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Number of books I’ve read today: 0
Number of pages I’ve read today: 21

Tuesday, August 18th:
Today’s Read(s):
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Number of books I’ve read today: 0
Number of pages I’ve read today: 12
Total number of books read: 0
Total number of pages read: 33

Wednesday, August 19th:
Today’s Read(s): NONE
Number of books I’ve read today: 0
Number of pages I’ve read today: 0
Total number of books read: 0
Total number of pages read: 33

Thursday, August 20th:
Today’s Read(s):
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Number of books I’ve read today: 0
Number of pages I’ve read today: 27
Total number of books read: 0
Total number of pages read: 60

Friday, August 21st:
Today’s Read(s):
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Number of books I’ve read today: 0
Number of pages I’ve read today: 20
Total number of books read: 0
Total number of pages read: 80

Saturday, August 22nd:
Today’s Read(s):
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Number of books I’ve read today: 1
Number of pages I’ve read today: 350
Total number of books read: 1
Total number of pages read: 430

Sunday, August 23rd:
Today’s Read(s):
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Number of books I’ve read today:
Number of pages I’ve read today:
Total number of books read:
Total number of pages read:

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Bout of Books 14 :: Sign-Up and Goals

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

It’s once again Bout of Books time, and I am just sliding this sign-up post in under the wire. I did TERRIBLY last go ’round, so am hoping this time will be better. I am also trying to read some of my ARCs/e-galleys as part of ARC August (which I am likewise failing spectacularly at), so my reading list for this week will overlap exactly with the titles I already chose for that event.

Because this read-a-thon only lasts a week, I am only choosing four books to pick from, and am hoping to read two of them.

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I am currently reading Ice Like Fire, which I hope to finish soon, and listening to This Song Will Save Your Life on audio, which I know I won’t finish before the week’s done. I would also like to finish one other book during the read-a-thon, for a total of two books read.

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Because I am back to work (and have 27 students in my class, ugh), things around here are busy, so I will not be participating in any challenges or extra activities. Instead, I am going to focus my (limited) free time on reading and reading only. So here are my goals for the week:

  • finish Ice Like Fire and read [1] other book, for a total of [2] books read
  • chart my progress on my Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. (Tag will be #boutofbooksfor all three platforms.)

So that’s that! Are any of you participating in Bout of Books? If so, please link me to your posts! I’d love to cheer you on!

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Mini-Hiatus Time!

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Just as a heads-up, I will be taking a mini hiatus until next week, as I’m pretty wrapped up in beginning of the school year things. Back to School Night was last night – only 6 of my kiddos/parents didn’t show out of 24 so it was a really busy evening – and school officially starts on Thursday. This means that my time is being spent pretty wrapped up in school-related things, which is definitely cutting into my reading and blogging time. I will be returning to my regular blog schedule on Monday, August 17th!

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REVIEW: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

betweenthesparkBetween the Spark and the Burn (Between #2)
by April Genevieve Tucholke

Dial, 2014
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]

Previous Installment: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

NOTE: Summary contains spoilers for the first book in this series.

The conclusion to Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, this gothic thriller romance with shades of Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier is a must-read for fans of Beautiful Creatures and Anna Dressed in Blood.

Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world. But then, the Devil once told me that it’s easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry. The problem with River West Redding was that he’d done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet’s life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River’s other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn’t long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own….

mythoughtsI am the first to admit that the first book in this series, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, left me feeling exceptionally conflicted. I didn’t like the description of one of the characters, and didn’t enjoy reading about one of the plot twists, but in the end decided the good outweighed the bad. Between the Spark and the Burn is much the same as its predecessor. I enjoyed parts of it, and it was a very fast read. But the ending left a bit to be desired (or rather, a lot), and I once again had a hard time with the characters’ actions. That being said, just like with the first one, there were lots of things to enjoy, mostly the way the author writes atmosphere and weaves so much tension into the narrative. For me, that’s the draw of both of these books, although fans of the horror genre would probably find even more to love.

My biggest issue with these books is the main character, Violet, who tells the story. She is extremely unreliable, which makes for lots of twists and turns, but makes it hard to trust anything she says or thinks. She – once again – makes some extremely poor choices that had me yelling at my Kindle while I was reading, and the weird love triangle thing that was added in this go ’round was likewise unnecessary and irritating, at least to me. All three of the West siblings again rear their heads, and while two of them leave plenty to be desired, I liked the twist regarding Neely and can definitely say I didn’t see it coming. River continues to leave me torn in my feelings because I can’t help but like him even though I don’t necessarily want to.

Once again it’s the amazingly gothic atmosphere and time out of place feeling that makes this book an ultimate winner for me. The descriptions of the small towns they all travel through were eerily perfect and left you questioning pretty much everything. Is River involved? Is it something else? You’re never actually quite sure what’s happening, mostly because – as I mentioned above – Violet is your classic unreliable narrator. Violet and company also manage to pick up a couple of strays, full of their own twists and turns, and it definitely left me wondering what the heck was going on. It was the uncertainty in the narration that kept me eagerly reading, even when I didn’t like (or agree) with the characters’ choices.

If you enjoyed Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, you will likewise like the sequel. Be prepared for more haunting descriptions and lots of questions, though, because this book takes a while to finally come to the point. An ambiguous ending is also awaiting you, leaving you wanting more but knowing you’re not going to get it. In the end, just like with the first one, I liked this one more than not, although I can definitely see why others wouldn’t feel the same. Just like with any book, though, you’re mileage may vary!

3stars

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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State of Merin :: August 2015

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And it is with today’s State of Merin post that I bid adieu to my Summer Break! I will be officially back to work in three and a half hours (as I scheduled this to post at 5am my time), where I will be reporting for a Pep Rally-type thing to usher in the start of the new school year (and hear from our new superintendent), and then shall be ensconced in my classroom to start getting ready for the new school year. Back to School night is on Monday, so I have lots to do and not much time to do it in!

I did very little since my last State of Me update. I spent July watching lots of old episodes of Supernatural, reading some books, participating in a read-a-thon, attending a St. Louis Cardinals’ game, and – in personal news – also attended my Grandpa’s funeral. He passed away on July 18th from cancer at the age of 90, so he had a good life, and I’m glad he’s not in pain anymore. Also now he can be reunited with my Grandma, who died in 2002, and whom he always called “the love of his life”. RIP, Grandpa! ♥

In work news, I am up to 19 kiddos in my class thus far. I fully expect to have more – we always get several that are new to the school each year – but just hope the number doesn’t get astronomical. It’s really hard to make sure everyone gets what they need and provide the necessary support when you have a huge number of students. But we shall see! I have been thinking about ways I can redo my classroom to accommodate more students, but of course am limited by the actual four walls and necessary furniture. And I won’t know if my idea will work until I start moving furniture around, either. But I’ll definitely have that sorted by the end of the day today.

Anyway, that’s really all for me this month! Not too much terribly exciting going on, but with work starting back up next month’s update should be a bit more exciting.

I wish you all a very happy August!

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Ten Fairytale Retellings I Need To Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of the bloggers there at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join!

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post asked us to list either ten fairy tale retellings we’ve read or want to read. I changed it just slightly to only include ones I want to read – and as a bonus, these are all books I own as well – so here’s my list!

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Books Shown:

  1. Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
  2. The Beast Within by Serena Valentino
  3. In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
  4. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
  5. Fairest by Marissa Meyer
  6. Nameless by Lili St. Crow
  7. Valiant by Sarah McGuire
  8. Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
  9. Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
  10. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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So those are the books that made my list this week! Which titles are on yours? Please link me!

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REVIEW: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

thisshatteredworldThis Shattered World
(Starbound #2)
by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Disney-Hyperion, 2014
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]

Previous Installments: These Broken Stars | This Night So Dark

The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

mythoughtsOh, This Shattered World! You leave me so conflicted! After loving your predecessor to pieces, I had such high hopes that you would leave me feeling the same way. Unfortunately, you did not: in fact, I nearly gave up on you, and actually did set you aside for several months. I think the problem lay fully with me, though, and not you: you just weren’t These Broken Stars, and I had a lot of trouble with that. I wanted Tarver and Lilac, and instead I got Flynn and Lee. And – I have to be honest here – I just did not gel well with either of them for most of the book. In fact, I downright didn’t LIKE Lee for a great majority of the book. And yet, in the end, you sort of redeemed yourself, even though I still – after several weeks – cannot help but compare you to These Broken Stars. But this is a review for you, and you deserve a review based on your own merits, so I shall try to do you justice. Forgive me if I cannot.

My issues with this book started straight off the bat: I found the story to be slow, the characters to be unlikable, and the world the story takes place on to be depressing. Of course, it’s SUPPOSED to be depressing – you wouldn’t have rebels fighting with soldiers if everything was hunky dory – but it made me reluctant to continue reading. And while it was obvious that there was more than met the eye with both of our main characters, I actually did not like Lee at all upon her introduction. I found the way her “dreams” were weaved into the story to be slightly confusing, and she just came across as cold and calculating, which did not endear her to me in the slightest. I was slightly more sympathetic with Flynn – trying to save the only home he’s ever known and being in a tight spot with her people – but even he didn’t tug my heartstrings the way I think he was meant to.

In my opinion, the story didn’t pick up until towards the latter half of the book, and what finally saved it for me – and got me fully invested – was the reintroduction of Tarver. His appearance kicked the action up a notch, and finally made me actually want to know what was going to happen next. Prior to him, I was just slowly trudging along through the narrative. Plus things finally started HAPPENING once he showed up on the planet; things were figured out, secrets revealed, and the emotional connection between the two main characters materialized enough to get me rooting for them. But MAN was it a struggle before that happened.

In the end, I found myself liking This Shattered World, but not loving it – as I mentioned above – to me, it just did not compare at all to the amazingness that was These Broken Stars. However, I appear to be one of the few to feel this way – there are lots of glowing reviews for this book, and several folks who enjoyed it even more than the first – so definitely feel free to take this entire review with a grain of salt. I am still definitely going to read Their Fractured Light, because I want to know how the whole overarching issues with LaRoux Industries will be resolved. I just hope I like the final installment more than I did this one.

3stars

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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